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Although fewer Marines were selected for promotion to gunnery sergeant in fiscal 2014 than in the preceding year, staff sergeants in zone for promotion this year actually had a better chance of picking up rank than they did in 2013.
Results of the fiscal 2014 gunnery sergeant selection board show about a 19 percent drop in the number of staff sergeants earning an extra stripe, compared to fiscal 2013. With the downsizing of the Marine Corps, however, there were fewer staff sergeants in zone for promotion, and of those, 56.6 percent made the cut, compared to just 52.2 percent in fiscal 2013. That percentage, called selection opportunity, is a better indication of the competition for promotion.
All told, 1,138 staff sergeants were selected by the FY14 board, 264 fewer than last year, when 1,398 were chosen, according to an analysis of Marine administrative message 284/14, signed June 13.
Despite increased competition to stay in uniform, Manpower officials expect that selection opportunity will hold relatively steady over the next few years. Selection rates won’t return to pre-drawdown levels. In 2011, for example, 64.6 percent of in-zone staff sergeants were selected for promotion.But by offering cash and other incentives to leave the service early, officials at Manpower & Reserve Affairs hope to prevent selection rates from dipping further.
The cash incentives include Voluntary Separation Pay for those with 6 through 14 years of service and the Temporary Early Retirement Authority program for those with 15 but fewer than 20 years of service. VSP offers a one-time cash payment, while TERA offers a retirement pension, but at a reduced rate that is determined by the Marine’s final rank and years of service. Both help create promotion opportunities for more junior Marines in a system that only promotes to vacancies. In other words, a more senior Marine must pick up rank or exit the service for a more junior Marine to move up. Consequently, healthy promotion prospects for Marines competing to make gunny trickle down corporals and below.
Incentives like TERA and VSP have helped open military occupational specialties like 0369 infantry unit leader, which in 2012 was closed to promotion. It reopened in 2013 and has remained so since.
The service has also worked to clear promotion backlogs by no longer allowing non-competitive Marines who failed selection to the next highest grade more than once to remain in uniform through retirement if they made it as far as staff sergeant. The policy contributed to staff sergeant becoming one of the most overpopulated ranks and a choke point for career progression. A similar practice for majors also was rescinded.
Despite manpower officials’ best efforts, some jobs still remain closed for promotion to gunny, including 38 MOSs this year ranging from 0261 geographic intelligence specialist to 6174 helicopter crew chief, UH-1.