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Enlisted promotions: Far fewer slots for gunny likely this year

First look: Slots may fall by 300 over last year

Mar. 2, 2014 - 04:57PM   |  
Recon Marines prepare for extreme hike in South Ko
Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Luckey trains with South Korean marines in Pyeongchang. Slots for promotion to gunny could fall by more than 300 this year. (Lance Cpl. Matt Myers / Marine Corps)
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Shut out in 2014

The following 41 military occupational specialties will likely be closed for selection to gunnery sergeant this year, according to an advance copy of the administrative message detailing the next board.
0161 Postal clerk
0261 Geographic intelligence specialist
0313 LAV crewman
0411 Maintenance management specialist
0619 Wire chief
0681 Information security technician
0848 Field artillery operations chief man
1391 Bulk fuel specialist
1833 Assault amphibious vehicle crewman
2141 Assault amphibious vehicle repairer/technician
2147 Light armored vehicle repairer/technician
2671 Middle East cryptologic linguist
2673 Asia-Pacific cryptologic linguist
2674 European I (West) cryptologic linguist
2676 European II (East) cryptologic linguist
2862 Electronics maintenance technician
3052 Packaging specialist
3381 Food service specialist
4133 Morale, welfare, recreation specialist
4341 Combat correspondent
5512 Member, The Commandant’s Own, United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps
5711 Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist
5951 Air traffic control maintenance trainee
5979 Tactical air operations module/air defense technician
6048 Flight equipment technician
6072 Aircraft maintenance support equipment hydraulic/pneumatic/structures mechanic
6113 Helicopter mechanic, CH-53
6123 Helicopter power plants mechanic, T-64
6153 Helicopter airframe mechanic, CH-53
6156 Tiltrotor airframe mechanic, MV-22
6174 Helicopter crew chief, UH-1
6222 Fixed-wing aircraft power plants mechanic, F-402
6223 Fixed-wing aircraft power plants mechanic, J-52
6253 Fixed-wing aircraft airframe mechanic, EA-6
6256 Fixed-wing aircraft airframe mechanic, KC-130
6283 Fixed-wing aircraft Safety Equipment mechanic, EA-6
6336 Aircraft electrical systems technician, KC-130
6338 Aircraft avionics technician, F-35
6694 Aviation logistics information management and support specialists
6842 METOC analyst forecaster
7372 Tactical systems operator/mission specialist

The number of staff sergeants selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant in 2014 is expected to drop by several hundred compared with last year, according to advanced copies of the message detailing the fiscal 2014 Gunnery Sergeant Selection Board.

The number of staff sergeants selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant in 2014 is expected to drop by several hundred compared with last year, according to advanced copies of the message detailing the fiscal 2014 Gunnery Sergeant Selection Board.

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The number of staff sergeants selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant in 2014 is expected to drop by several hundred compared with last year, according to advanced copies of the message detailing the fiscal 2014 Gunnery Sergeant Selection Board.

Manpower officials expect about 1,000 allocations for promotion to E-7, compared with more than 1,333 allocations when last year’s board was first announced. The recently obtained draft message is tentative, however, and some of the details could change with the official release of the first and subsequent messages leading up to the board in late April, manpower officials said. It was not immediately clear if the specific number of allocations might change, but in years past they have been tweaked leading up to the board. Last year, 60 additional slots for gunny opened up before the board finally convened. More than 1,390 sergeants were ultimately selected for promotion.

Despite fewer allocations, the opportunity to make gunny among staff sergeants who are considered in-zone will remain the same as last year, said Maj. Shawn Haney, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Last year, about 30.4 percent of E-6s in zone made the cut, the highest ratio in several years. That percentage is expected to hold steady throughout the drawdown.

Officials are working to maintain the selection opportunity by using force shaping measures — largely voluntary — and altering in-zone promotion eligibility windows based on time in grade. By shrinking the in-zone window, they can reduce the overall number of Marines considered, keep the percentage tapped for promotion relatively high, and prevent staff sergeants in any one military occupational specialty from stagnating.

These measures come as the service continues to draw down by about 5,000 Marines a year through 2017, when the Corps will arrive at an endstrength of about 174,000 troops. It is not clear how the proposed Defense Department budget, which foresees an end to sequestration and a final Marine endstrength of 182,000 personnel might alter the picture.

The forecast is not equally bright for all staff sergeants, however. In 41 MOSs,staff sergeants will likely be shut out for promotion, according to the draft message, which Marine Corps Times obtained Feb. 25. That number could also change before the board, but is significantly higher than the 18 specialties that were closed last year.

To maintain selection opportunity and upward mobility, and to prevent stagnation in overpopulated ranks and occupational specialties that have had significant backlogs in recent years, manpower planners are relying on programs like Voluntary Separation Pay and the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, which offer Marines either cash incentives to leave uniform early or waivers that allow them to maintain benefits without serving a full 20-year career.

While manpower officials are quite candid that competition for promotion will be tough throughout the drawdown, they note that without such force shaping measures, promotions would grind to a halt in some communities. In some cases they have credited programs like VSP and TERA with opening MOSs previously closed to promotion. There were zero allocations for promotion to 0369 infantry unit leader in 2012, for example, but it reopened in 2013. While more than twice as many specialties are closed this year, compared with last year, infantry unit leader and many more remain open.

The documents obtained by Marine Corps Times also offer some insight into promotion prospects for the junior enlisted ranks. In a system that promotes only to vacancies left by Marines who themselves picked up rank or left the service, solid promotion prospects for staff sergeants in a given MOS translate into a favorable promotion outlook for sergeants and corporals in the same specialty. Likewise, an MOS closed for selection to gunnery sergeant means that more junior Marines in the same job will have difficulty picking up rank in the year ahead.

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