Promotion prospects are improving for enlisted Marines, with significant upticks in the number of staff sergeants recently selected to gunnery sergeant and the number of allocations for sergeants to make staff sergeant later this summer.
The changes create a trickle-down effect that should help noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Marines pick up rank more quickly — despite the active-duty drawdown.
The increases in promotions and allocations confirm predictions by Manpower and Reserve Affairs officials that promotion stagnation would ease. It may partly be a result of voluntary cash and retirement incentives that encourage some Marines in overpopulated specialties and ranks to leave the service, although Maj. Shawn Haney, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman, said officials there “cannot directly attribute the increase to performance of the incentive programs.”
The bottom line, however, is that the promotion logjam is easing.
A total of 2,955 sergeants, across 143 specialties, could be selected for promotion to staff sergeant at the next board, set to convene July 17. That is 1,382 more allocations than last year according to a Marine Corps Times analysis of Marine administrative message 290/13, signed June 13. In fact, there are more available slots than there were in 2011, before the drawdown was in full swing, when about 2,700 made the cut.
What’s more, only seven military occupational specialties are closed for selection to staff sergeant, compared to 35 in 2012. When the fiscal 2013 staff sergeant selection board was announced in late May, it was thought that eight MOSs would be closed, and that number could change again before the board convenes.
Selections of gunnery sergeants are already up. Results of the fiscal 2013 gunny board, which were approved June 18, show 1,394 staff sergeants were selected among those who were in- or above-zone. That’s higher than in 2011, when just 1,291 in- and above-zone Marines were selected. In fact, the promotion opportunity for staff sergeants — 30.4 percent — was the highest it’s been in three years. Last year, just 27 percent of in- and above-zone staff sergeants made the cut to gunny — 1,039 in all.
The new figures are an encouraging sign for many junior Marines whose careers have become frustratingly stagnant either because of impossibly high cutting scores or hyper-competitive selection boards. The start of the drawdown saw the promotion backlog balloon and even those who were selected for promotion often waited well over a year to finally pin on rank.
Among the most bloated ranks was staff sergeant. Marines who make staff sergeant are typically allowed to stay in uniform through retirement — a minimum of 20 years. Commandant Gen. Jim Amos has continued that policy through the drawdown in an effort to “keep faith with Marines.”
The increase in staff sergeant allocations could eventually signal lower cutting scores for corporals and lance corporals, many of whom have been frustrated by scores that have made promotion unlikely or, in some cases, impossible for several years.
To alleviate the backlog, manpower officials rolled out a series of voluntary force shaping measures including Voluntary Separation Pay and Temporary Early Retirement Authority. Each is carefully targeted to overmanned MOSs and ranks, and offer thousands of dollars to leave uniform early.
Voluntary Separation Pay is for select Marines with between six and 10 years of service. Payouts are calculated based on rank and years of service and can top $100,000 for some. Temporary Early Retirement Authority allows Marines who have served between 15 and 20 years to leave the service early and still receive a pension at a slightly reduced rate.
Manpower officials have said they intend to offer incentives for the duration of the drawdown.