The Corps is continuing to invest heavily in its ground combat forces, and some Marines may be eligible for bonuses and extra kicker payments totaling nearly $90,000.
On Friday the Corps rolled out its fiscal year 2020 bonus package, which includes cash incentives to lateral move into high demand job fields from Raiders, recon and intelligence all the way to initiatives to develop infantry squad leaders.
First term sergeants lateral moving or re-enlisting into the 0365 squad leader job field can expect to pocket a $57,000 bonus. The bonus is part of the squad leader development program, and infantry Marines, machine gunners, mortarmen, assaultmen and anti-tank gunners who agree to remain in the operational forces for 48 months are eligible.
Marines sergeants wishing to move into recon, Raiders or explosive ordnance disposal can net nearly $90,000 when their bonus payment is coupled with a lateral move kicker that requires a six-year reenlistment.
Marines who accept the squad leader development program are not eligible for the 72-month lateral move bonus kicker.
Grunt 0311 corporals and sergeants are eligible for a $20,000 kicker payment when they re-up for four years and agree to stay in an operational force unit for 36 months. A first term sergeant could earn $28,000 with this option.
There’s also an early reenlistment incentive. Eligible Marines who re-up for 48-months between July 5 and Sept. 30 can pocket an additional $8,000 on top of their primary job field bonus. But, only one kicker bonus is authorized per Marine.
The Corps’ fiscal year 2020 bonus incentives are a continuation of the the Marines’ effort to modernize its ground forces and build a more lethal fighting force.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller has spent the past several years overhauling Corps’ ground combat element by equipping the force with new automatic weapons, rocket launchers, drones and tablets.
The Corps is also investing heavily in lighter body armor, a new helmet for grunts, and better hearing protection.
The ground combat bonuses also are targeting important occupations that are experiencing a bit of a manpower crunch.
According to data obtained by Marine Corps Times through a government record’s request, Marine squad leaders are only manned at 67 percent and recon Marines are staffed at 76 percent. The data is current as of February 2019.
The fiscal year 2020 bonuses are also aimed at enticing Marines to remain in or move into high demand fields that are vital to the Corps’ modernization effort to prepare its force to contend with near-peer rivals like Russia and China. Those fields hail from intelligence, cyber and aviation, among others.
Marine sergeants moving into counter intelligence and cyber defense are eligible for nearly $90,000 with the 72-month lateral move incentive. Marine sergeants wishing to join psychological operations, or PSYOPs, can pocket about $75,000 total with a 72-month lateral move contract.
According to the manpower data, counter intel, cyber defense and the PSYOPs fields are manned between 63 percent and 67 percent.
The 1721 cyber defense and 1521 PSYOPs fields are relative new comers to the Corps. The PSYOPs field used to be an additional military occupational specialty, or MOS, and became a primary MOS in 2019.
The Corps has streamlined some of the screening process for incoming counter intel Marines to help boost manning of the field.
The fiscal year 2020 bonus package also includes a $20,000 kicker for aviation maintainers and air traffic controllers.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.