Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Re-Enlisting In The Marine Corps Is Going To Get Harder

If you’re a Marine trying to decide whether to stay or go next year, don’t think on it too long. You just might miss the boatspace. After a stellar year of recruiting and retaining Marines, re-enlistment competition will get tougher in 2009. Blame it on the return of “boatspace caps” for enlisted military occupational specialties. Boatspaces are the number of re-enlistment opportunities available within a given MOS, and limits are set for each MOS based on the needs of the service. The caps were suspended for fiscal 2008, as the Corps worked to ramp up total end strength. Now, the caps are back for fiscal 2009, and space is limited. Once the spots are gone, they’re gone, officials say, and waivers will be precious exceptions save for certain high-demand jobs. In fiscal 2008, the Corps focused on the aggregate number of Marines retained across the service. The idea was that overpopulating certain occupational fields wouldn’t hurt the Corps, because of the plan to grow to 202,000 by the end of fiscal 2011. Marine leaders and career planners went on a retention rampage. Midway through the year, however, officials were forced to cancel re-enlistment bonuses for 21 jobs because of the even higher-than-expected response rate, said Capt. Patrick Haines, the Corps’ first-term alignment plan officer for the enlisted retention section. “At the unit level, they’ve done an awesome job,” he said. To date, more than 16,000 Marines — first-termers and careerists — have re-enlisted in fiscal 2008, and there’s still three months to go. That’s 4,000 more than re-enlisted in all of 2007. All that action has helped spur a slowdown for fiscal 2009. Marine administrative message 367/08 details the guidelines for next year’s first-term re-enlistments, including:

* First-term Marines re-enlisting in their primary MOS may submit requests immediately. Once approved, the authorizations also may be executed immediately.

* Not all re-enlistments must be four years. Two-year contracts are available for some but carry no re-up bonuses.
Even so, the return of boatspace caps means that procrastination is a risky proposition. “There are definitely MOSs that are going to hit 100 percent,” Haines said. First-term Marines whose contracts end after fiscal 2009 generally are not eligible for early re-enlistment this year. That may be waived for some Marines working in 13 high-demand, low-density specialties, including jobs in the intelligence, reconnaissance and linguist fields as well as aircraft maintenance and avionics Marines trained on MV-22 Osprey, KC-130 Hercules and EA-6B Prowler aircraft. First-term Marines whose re-enlistment packages are approved generally have 10 days to seal the deal before the offer expires. Expired offers or extension requests must be re-submitted — and may not be available later, because of the boatspace caps. Failure to execute the terms of the re-enlistment deal or changes in status can lead to the Corps taking any bonus money back. First-termers whose contracts expire between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 may be extended to May 31, 2009, if they are planning to apply for a lateral move to an MOS that needs Marines. The extension is designed to offer manpower officials enough time to process the lat-move request. Other specific rules for first-termers are detailed in the MarAdmin. Career Marines may submit for re-enlistment up to one year before their current contracts expire. Once approved, careerists have 30 days before the deal is void.
Despite the boatspace caps, the Corps wants to keep its best Marines. The Quality Re-Enlistment Program authorizes additional boatspaces for first-termers in closed occupations, under a certain set of unwaiverable guidelines. These QRP spots are designed for first-termers in fast-filling or closed specialties who have exceptional performance records and wish to remain in their primary MOS instead of taking a lateral move. The Corps can only go over the boatspace cap in any individual MOS by 5 percent, so even the number of QRP spots is limited. The opportunity is open only to corporals and sergeants with the recommendation of their commanding officer. “Exceptional record” criteria include: pro/con scores averaging 4.5/4.5 in service, a first-class Physical Fitness Test, no history of assignment to weight control or the body composition program and clean criminal and nonjudicial punishment records. In other words, this opportunity is for the cream of the crop. Monthly QRP boards will meet to select Marines competing for the spaces available. Board members include staff NCOs and officers from Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va. QRP requests must be submitted by the last day of the month to be considered the following month, and commands may submit recommendation letters, special qualifications and other relevant documentation to help sway the board.

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