News: No such thing as a guaranteed reenlistment
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
QUANTICO, Va. - Changes are coming to the Marine Corps as the force gets smaller in the years ahead. There are no official numbers of what the end state will be, but one thing Marines can count on is that the Corps will not stay at 202,000 for much longer.
With that information in mind, Marines who have the desire to stay in uniform and continue to serve their country need to be proactive about ensuring they are not only eligible for retention, but competitive with their peers as well.
“It doesn’t take much to look in the news, read the Marine Administrative Messages and look at where we are going from the manpower perspective,” said Maj. Matthew Reis, commanding officer, Headquarters Co., Headquarters and Service Battalion.
Every reenlistment package is routed through a chain of approving authorities, from the Marines’ officer in charge to the Marines at Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments 6, who are the enlisted retention experts for Headquarters Marine Corps.
In past years the path to reenlisting was easier. The Corps had a need to retain more leathernecks than usual to grow the force to its current size. Now with looming cuts on the horizon, there will be more emphasis on retaining the highest quality Marine possible.
“Staying in the Marine Corps is highly competitive right now, whether you’re a first-termer or a careerist,” said Lt. Col. Michael Landree, the section head of MMEA-6.
Every year the Corps releases the retention guidelines for that fiscal year. All information for fiscal year 2012 enlisted retention efforts has been published in MARADMIN 370/11. There are no hidden tricks in the process, no loopholes to be exploited.
“There is no secret behind being competitive for reenlistment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Bryant Lodge, the assistant operations chief for MMEA-6. “The same things you do for a promotion, you should do for a reenlistment.”
One thing that can easily bar a Marine from reenlisting is missing or outdated information on their basic training record. It is up to the individual to ensure their BTR is correct.
“What [HQMC] sees is what is in the system and what we submit up there,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Brown, a career planner for H&S Bn. “Your work ethic is captured by your chain of command when they submit the package up [the chain] but the biggest thing they can see is your training information.”
Having up to date information isn’t always helpful if a Marine has invested little time over the course of their career into having the highest fitness test scores, rifle range qualification or belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program they can.
“The Corps is always going to want to retain its best and brightest,” Reis said. “So if you’re a Marine on your first contract, of course you got a tan belt, you went through boot camp. You got a pair of boots and four sets of cammies too. So three years later, using MCMAP as an example, if you’re still a tan belt, what have you done to make yourself competitive?”
Another thing to consider is who the competition for those reenlistment slots are. The boat spaces are divvied up by military occupational specialties and those Marines compete against each other. For example the 0111 administrative specialist field had only 211 spaces available and more than 400 reenlistment packages. To ensure that only the best 211 are retained, a board was convened at MMEA.
“They are quite similar to a promotion board,” Lodge added. “Who has the highest physical fitness test, general technical (GT) score, what professional military education have they done, what is their MCMAP belt? Then we go around the panel and we vote based on their performance record who will be retained.
“It’s a fair board, it’s based totally off of record so there is no bias in it,” Lodge continued.
Another thing Marines need to examine while submitting their reenlistment package is if they have any negative paperwork that could put them in jeopardy such as nonjudicial punishment, courts martial or other problems. They are not always a bar to staying in, but will bring closer examination from MMEA-6.
“It all depends on how that Marine has rebounded,” Lodge said.
“So if you do happen to make a mistake early in your career, you have time to try and rebound as much as you can because that can go a long way toward your retention.”
For more information on ways to be as competitive as possible, Marines are encouraged to stay in touch with their career planner and read the MARADMIN’s on force retention.