The Marine Corps plans to send 54 more athletic trainers out to units across the force next year in an ongoing effort to prevent serious injuries.
Marine leaders are forging ahead with a proposal to invest millions annually on experienced athletic trainers. In the next 11 months, 18 certified trainers will be sent to the 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th Marine regiments. Thirty-six more will join logistics units and aviation groups.
The Marine Corps has had athletic trainers at boot camp and other entry-level training schools for the last 15 years. But last year, the service did something new -- pushing a dozen trainers out to the operating forces, where they're now teaching injury prevention and working with Marines on light duty.
The trainers' presence is "leading to an expedited return to readiness," Col. Stephen Armes, director of the service's Force Fitness Division, said.
"The actions the [athletic trainers] are taking are having a direct and positive impact on the physical readiness and resiliency of the Marines and their units," he added.
Six commands were each assigned two athletic trainers last year: Marine Air Group 14 and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th Marine regiments. That means there are now trainers at Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms in California; Hawaii and Japan.
Some spots have been easier to fill than others, Maj. Gen. William Mullen, head of Training and Education Command, said this week.
"We're having problems getting some folks in Okinawa, as you can understand," he said. "Hawaii is very popular. California is very popular, though Twentynine Palms is not as popular. ... But the ideal is to get them to each regiment, logistics group or that kind of thing."
The plan comes with a hefty price tag, which Mullen acknowledged is a challenge. When the move to add dozens more athletic trainers was introduced, Armes estimated it would cost the Marine Corps $8.6 million a year.
"What I'd like to see as a groundswell from the operating force and other folks who are benefiting from these athletic trainers saying, 'We need more of this,'" Mullen said. "And we're starting to see some of that."