Selections to sergeant major and master gunnery sergeant are down modestly compared to last year, according to the results of the latest E9 selection board.
In all, 71 Marines were selected to sergeant major and 167 to master gunnery sergeant, according to Marine administrative message 615/13, signed Nov. 19. Last year 82 sergeant majors and 190 master guns were chosen.
Allocations — 71 for sergeants major and 169 for master gunnery sergeants — also were down from last year, when there were 82 and 191 allocations, respectively.
The slight downward turn is likely just a blip due to the number of senior enlisted Marines who retire in a given year, not part of a discernible trend. Despite the drawdown, the senior enlisted community is unlikely to shrink significantly, manpower officials have said.
That’s because it is largely tied to structure, which will be cut only modestly, and the E9 community is small compared to the junior enlisted ranks. Cuts at the top do little to help the service reach its drawdown target of 176,000 Marines by 2018.
Between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013 when the drawdown was in full swing, for example, the number of Marines selected to master gunnery sergeant actually rose slightly from 187 to 190 Marines.
Senior enlisted Marines have been hit by the drawdown in another way, however. For years it was common practice to allow them to extend their careers past 30 years of service in order to complete one final choice assignment.
That practice was abolished once the drawdown kicked in because it contributed to promotion stagnation. Because the Marine Corps only promotes to vacancies created when a Marine is promoted or retires, E9s who extended their careers via waivers slowed promotion to that rank, and that contributed to stagnation down the line, to gunnery sergeant and beyond.
The promotion backlog resulted in frustratingly long times to pick up rank for some senior enlisted Marines. In the worst of cases, entire military occupational specialties were closed to promotion. Staff sergeants trying to pick up gunny in the 0369 infantry unit leader MOS, for example, were shut out in 2011. The field opened back up in 2012, however, as force-shaping measures — including an end to extended careers for senior enlisted Marines — began to take effect.■