During the course of its data gathering, the committee was impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of the small unit leaders whom the committee members had the opportunity to meet and interview. Although it is obvious that the Marine Corps selects superb Marines for these positions, the committee did not find evidence that a consistent approach is used across the Marine Corps to select leaders at the company or squad level.2 The committee did not formally review the Marine Corps selection processes for small unit leaders, but it recognizes the importance of the selection of leaders to conduct enhanced company operations (ECO) in hybrid engagements. Further, hybrid environments often demand from these leaders “nonkinetic” response options such as the sophisticated judgments that are needed to “win the hearts and minds” of the population and deny the adversary sanctuary.
Leaders in the Marine Corps tend to be identified empirically (by what they do) in their units, rather than scientifically, through tests. However, small unit leaders are more junior in rank and have had less time in the Corps for demonstrating their leadership skills. For this reason, a science-based evaluation of leadership traits may offer some value. Validated psychometric instruments may be a suitable means to adopt immediately, while longer-term research might explore potential contributions of neuroscience-based measures.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Assess the pros and cons of establishing a Corps-wide process for the selection of squad leaders and company commanders. Such a process does not need to be centralized, but any form of implementation should be undertaken consistently across the Marine Corps. Continue to monitor progress in the development and validation of psychometric and physiologically based indicators that may have mid- and long-term potential to enhance selection.
The Corps has successfully employed a range of technologies to help train small unit leaders. For example, immersive training technology helps small unit leaders develop their decision making skills. But such systems are limited in number and may not be sufficiently available for a long enough period of time to support the development of expertise that is needed to improve decision making. Also, the current rate of lesson plan development and implementation for training is far too slow to be effective against an adaptive enemy: the committee heard