Experience pays[MIGRATE]

By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks | September 20, 2007


Congresses’ goal to increase the size of the Marine Corps has sent it into growing pains. While recruiters work endlessly to bring in new recruits, career retention specialists focus on another challenge just as vital to the strength of the Corps.

“Why train new Marines when we already have trained and experienced Marines ready to go into the fight now,” said Sgt. Matt Nale, career retention specialist, Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “We need those Marines, especially experienced Marines, to stay in the Corps.”

The “retention war” never ends and to fight it, the Marine Corps offers loads of incentives, some in the form of money and opportunities.

So far, this has been a success, according to Capt. Patrick Haines, the first-term alignment plan officer, Headquarters Marine Corps, Quantico, Va. During fiscal year 2006, the Marine Corps surpassed its goal by more than 200 Marines.

The goal for 2008 is to reenlist 8,298 Marines on their first contract, which is about 29 percent of the total first-term population. To meet this goal, the Corps has upped its arsenal in retention.

More, and significantly higher cash bonuses are given to Marines in specific job fields for their continued service.

For example, Marines in Reconnaissance and Explosive Ordinance Disposal can receive bonuses as high as $80,000.

Other job skills are also needed, which is why any lance corporal and above who reenlisted in FY07 received a $10,000 bonus in addition to any other bonuses their job rated.

For FY08, bonuses will be flat-rate sums specific to the Marine’s pay grade on the date of reenlistment. Marines with as little as 17 months of service, all the way up to those with

more than 20 years, will receive a bonus for their continued dedication.

The even higher cash bonuses for FY08 are another attempt to boost retention. The Corps is increasing its current strength from 180,000 Marines to 202,000 by 2011, according to Marine Administrative Message 349/07 released June 7.

For specific information on eligibility and restrictions, read MARADMIN 349/07, or contact career retention specialist.

Money is not the only incentive offered to keep Marines in the Corps. Others include: First-term Marines have a choice of duty station, and all Marines can move to other jobs, request specialty schools like jump school or high-risk personnel training, or special duty assignments like Marine Security Guard or Drill Instructor duty.

Even with all these incentives, some Marines say it’s just not enough, nor will it ever be enough.

“It’s been good for where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but it hasn’t fully lived up to my expectations,” said Cpl. Ryan Maitre, who left the Marine Corps in August. “I have opportunities elsewhere and it’s best for me to jump on them now.”

Maitre said he wants to finish up college. While he could get his degree serving on active duty, he said he would like a taste of college life.

Ending active-duty service can be a risk for Marines, risks that Maitre and Nale said a Marine should be prepared for. Some risks include a more competitive job market, lack of steady income and loss of benefits.

The Corps helps separating Marines and their family members transition to the civilian world through business education, job placement assistance and resume-building classes.

“If you’re getting out just to get out and you don’t have a plan, you might want to reconsider,” Maitre said.

There are some Marines, like Maitre, with their own reasons to end their Marine Corps careers. On the other side of the river, there are some who have just as many reasons to stay in.

Marines, like Cpl. Nigel Keyes, a budget technician, MAFORPAC, are reenlisting because of their love for the Marine Corps.

“It’s simple. I love being a Marine,” Keyes said. “I get a lot of pride out of [the Corps] and I want to retire as a Marine.”

Keyes and Maitre agree, whether a Marine stays in or leaves the Corps, they should not be looked down on for their decision.

“The Corps is not the life for everyone, but everyone in today volunteered to serve their country, and that says something about their character,” Keyes said.

All these incentives are evidence at how much the Marine Corps wants to keep qualified Marines in its ranks.

“It’s a long hard fight. We need every qualified Marine we can get,” Nale said. “It’s that simple.”