Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Perry, the motor transportation chief with Motor Transportaion Platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, briefs his Marines on the CrossFit workout they will conduct on the flight deck of the Gunston Hall in June. More staff sergeants will have the opportunity to make gunnery sergeant in fiscal 2014. (Sgt. Richard Blumenstein / Marine Corps)
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Revisions to the fiscal 2013 gunnery sergeant selection board criteria have produced modest gains in the number of allocations this year. That is good news for staff sergeants and below.
The Gunny board is scheduled to convene April 24 and conclude in mid-June.
Overall, 38 more staff sergeants will be promoted to gunnery sergeant, according to an analysis of figures in Marine administrative message 148/13, signed March 22. That's because there are 45 additional slots in 30 military occupational specialties and seven fewer allocations in four MOSs.
The increase is due to a slight widening of the “in-zone” promotion window by manpower officials. That window determines who is eligible for promotion and is widened or narrowed to account for changes in manning levels at various grades, according to manpower officials.
“Allocations are based on a 12-month projection of losses and gains for each [primary MOS]. As changes occur … that affect the grade strengths, then allocations are adjusted up or down as needed,” according to written responses by Maj. Shawn Haney, a manpower and reserve affairs spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
The changes bring the total number of Marines in-zone for promotion to 1,814. Another 2,724 Marines are considered above zone, some of whom can also be selected for promotion. They are competing for a total of 1,371 allocations.
That is a brighter outlook than in 2012 when there were only 1,290 allocations for promotion to gunny. In one extreme case, the 0369 infantry unit leader MOS was frozen, with zero allocations for promotion, despite infantry being one of the largest career fields. That effectively stalled the careers of staff sergeants in that specialty, who had no hope of picking up rank.
Earlier this year, manpower officials predicted that despite the drawdown, force shaping tools — especially the monetary incentives to leave uniform early — would help clear logjams in overpopulated ranks and MOSs, thus restoring upward mobility. With 68 allocations in the 0369 MOS this year, their efforts seem to be having an effect.
While there are only 81 more allocations than a year ago, including the 38 just announced, that should still produce a trickle-down effect that will provide some relief for more junior Marines. The overpopulated staff sergeant rank has been identified as one of the key choke points responsible for slowing promotions further down the ranks.
So, with 38 additional staff sergeants set to make gunny at the next board, 38 more sergeants should expect to make staff sergeant. And while lance corporals and corporals will still be subject to cutting scores, it's possible those scores could drop as the staff sergeant logjam clears, meaning more of them could pick up rank faster. At the very least the additional allocations, amidst the drawdown, will help prevent promotions from slowing even more.
The increase in allocations for the fiscal 2013 board does not signal any change in promotion opportunity, defined by manpower officials as the percentage of Marines eligible for promotion who will actually be selected.
“Standard selection opportunity for promotion to [gunnery sergeant] is 75 percent,” Haney wrote. “If the allocation is increased, the number of Marines in the promotion zone will be increased to maintain the 75 percent selection opportunity.”
Marines who are still below zone for promotion should not become complacent, manpower officials have repeatedly warned.
“As zones and allocations are subject to change prior to or during boards, all Marines are reminded of their responsibility for the completeness and accuracy of their records,” the MARADMIN reads.
A below-zone Marine can suddenly find himself in-zone for promotion, even after the board convenes, if the in-zone windows shift and allocations are increased. If his record is incomplete or he has not taken all required professional military education, he will scuttle his chances at the board. Getting passed over could jeopardize one's career.
“As a reminder, Marines ‘eligible for selection' missing evidence of required PME will be briefed as ‘not fully qualified' for selection,” according to the MARADMIN.