A guaranteed 20-year career and retirement benefits for enlisted Marines who make staff sergeant could become a thing of the past.
Historically, once Marines have made staff sergeant they have been permitted to remain in uniform whether they remain competitive for promotion or not. This policy continued during the drawdown as part of the commandant’s efforts to “keep faith” with Marines and their families. Instead the Marine Corps tried to rely on voluntary incentives to trim the force.
But the Marine Corps has now revised a parallel policy for the officer ranks, and is considering a similar shift for enlisted Marines.
“We are considering altering the policy of allowing twice-passed staff sergeants to remain on active duty until reaching 20 years,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Graham, head of the Officer Plans Section at Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Like staff sergeants, majors and former enlisted captains with 15 years of service were allowed to continue to serve through 20 years. While it was a matter of service policy on the enlisted side, officers went before formal continuation boards that allowed all of them to stay even after twice failing selection to the next highest grade. The automatic nature of those decisions ended with the release of Marine administrative message 401/13, signed Aug. 13, which states that these officers are no longer guaranteed continuation; only those whose continued service is in the best interests of the Marine Corps will remain on active duty..
It remains uncertain how many officers will be affected by the shift. A change on the enlisted side would also be motivated by the desire to retain only those Marines whose continued presence serves the needs of the Marine Corps.
In anticipation of the shift on the enlisted side, more Marines may want to opt for voluntary incentives to leave the service early on their own terms with a lump-sum payout or a reduced pension, rather than wait to see if they are cut from the ranks forcibly.