QUANTICO, Va. -- Just months after the Marine Corps announced the creation of a new cyberwarfare family of military occupational specialties, the service is once again giving another highly specialized community its own MOS.
Officials here at the Marine Corps Information Operations Center told Military.com they planned to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations. With a new career field that will allow MISO Marines to continue through the rank of E-9, officials said they also plan to grow the ranks of the community to more than 200 Marines in the near future.
MISO, known in the Army as psychological operations, or PsyOps, focuses on influencing the mindset and decision-making of a target audience that may consist of enemy militants or a local civilian population.
It's a skill set the Marine Corps is leaning into in future planning and strategy documents. The Marine Corps Force 2025 strategy includes plans to grow MISO to 211 Marines by 2024, said Col. William McClane, the commanding officer at MCIOC.
The current effort to turn MISO into an MOS has been under discussion for several years; Military.com first reported that briefings were underway on the topic in 2016.
"[Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] speaks a lot about adversary … perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and how that's important," McClane said. "The understanding of the cognitive dimension, how to affect and change behaviors and adversary target audience decision-making where you may not even have to fire a shot -- you may be able to influence your adversary and reach that end state without doing that."
While MISO or PsyOps capabilities are not new to the battlefield, McClane acknowledged that reviews of recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused military brass to realize more effective use of the skill set could have yielded different outcomes.
"I think that's a good assumption, absolutely," he said.
As the Marine Corps looks to the future, troops may also find themselves fighting in increasingly complex battlespaces and in a broad range of environments.
"It all depends on the target audience, how they receive communication," McClane said of the methods that might be employed to influence mindsets and decision-making. "It might be different in parts of Africa versus eastern Europe."
A New Career Path
For Marines, MISO is currently a free, or additional, MOS, meaning troops come from other specialties to spend time in the community. Typically, a Marine deployed with a MISO element and then returned to his or her original unit, with no option to continue in the field, McClane said.
"There was no real return on investment," he said.
What's worse, McClane said, officials noticed that a number of MISO Marines would opt to leave the service soon after their tour, preferring to practice their MISO skills in the civilian sector rather than returning to their original military job.
For the Marine Corps, this meant not only that MISO Marines couldn't develop further in their skill sets, but also that the time and money invested in these troops -- reportedly more than $600,000 per Marine including clearances and a specialized training course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina -- would not yield long-term gains.
Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.
While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022, McClane said.
The roughly 60 Marines who already have MISO as a free MOS have the first opportunity to join the new full-time career field, officials said. And they estimate some 35 will make that decision.
Cpl. Anjelica Parra, 21, a Motor Transportation Marine who has the free MOS, said she knew right away she wanted to make the move once it became an option.
"I wasn't really relied on heavily [in Motor T] as I am now coming to this MOS," she told Military.com. "It's a different playing field, because as a corporal I'm looked upon and relied on to act as a lot higher than what my rank is. I have to hold myself to a higher standard."
Parra said she had to develop her communication skills in order to brief more senior Marines on the capabilities of MISO and enjoyed the other challenges that came with the job. She looks forward to deploying as part of a MISO element with a Marine expeditionary unit in the near future.
For those not in the community, a Marine administrative message will come out soon with details on how to apply, said Maj. Jonathan Weeks, commander of the MISO Company at MCIOC.
"Those that are successful in this type of a job are going to be your self-starters, the people who are able to think and act independently and have the ability to think outside the box and create solutions," he said. "Those who have a sense of the Marine Corps planning process and how stuff works."
Enlisted Marines in the rank of corporal and above are eligible to apply, officials said.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.