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Corps outlines automatic-promotion incentive for first-term Marines

Sep. 7, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Marine special operators practice breaching onboard ship at night. Corporals who laterally move to the critical skills operator MOS are eligible for a noncompetitive promotion to sergeant.
Marine special operators practice breaching onboard ship at night. Corporals who laterally move to the critical skills operator MOS are eligible for a noncompetitive promotion to sergeant. (Staff Sgt. Robert Storm / Marine Corps)
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For frustrated lance corporals and corporals in slow-to-promote or closed military occupational specialties, there is a means to pick up rank and potentially save your career — make a lateral move into one of nine in-demand fields and receive an automatic promotion.

That’s right: an automatic promotion.

This incentive is part of the Marine Corps’ Intended MOS Promotions program for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.By lat moving, first-term Marines re-enlisting into one of these MOSs can pick up the minimum rank required for that particular job, provided they meet all other criteria. Doing so could provide a reprieve for so-called “terminal lances” and corporals whose careers have stalled because their fields are overpopulated and dogged by impossibly high — or completely closed — cutting scores.

Details were announced Aug. 29 via Marine administrative message 429/13. The eligible MOSs are:

■ 0211 Counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist.

■ 0241 Imagery analysis specialist.

■ 0372 Critical skills operator.

■ 0689 Cyber security technician.

■ 2336 Explosive ordnance disposal technician.

■ 3044 Contract specialist.

■ 4133 Morale, welfare, recreation specialist.

■ 4821 Career retention specialist.

■ 5821 Criminal investigator CID agent.

A move into one of these nine jobs could help career-minded junior Marines secure a path to retirement despite the Corps’ ongoing drawdown, which aims to cull at least 20,000 from active duty by 2017, dropping the Marine Corps from a wartime high of 202,100 personnel to 182,100. With Congress struggling to come to a compromise on sequestration, even deeper manpower cuts could happen that would further toughen competition to remain in uniform.

Interested, re-enlistment-eligible Marines should request to make a lateral move as soon as possible, officials say.

“The number of Marines who can apply is based on the [First Term Alignment Plan] boat spaces for each respective MOS. When boat spaces are filled, the MOS(s) will be closed,” said Maj. Shawn Haney, a spokeswoman forManpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va.

Marine officials were unable to provide figures for how many FTAP boat spaces remain open in each of these nine eligible MOSs. But it’s safe to say thousands are eligible for at most only a few hundred slots. When last year’s program was announced, there were more than 500 vacancies across nine in-demand MOSs.

What you need to know about lat moves and noncompetitive promotions:

Eligibility. All lance corporals and corporals up for re-enlistment in 2014 are eligible to apply provided they meet all other requirements. For example, 0211 counter intelligence/human intelligence specialists must be U.S. citizens able to obtain top-secret security clearance.

Marines also must meet time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements before they can be noncompetitively promoted. Most first-term Marines up for re-enlistment are likely to meet time-in-service requirements, but they may have to wait to pin on rank if they don’t yet meet time-in-grade requirements.

For a lance corporal to be promoted to corporal, he must have at least 12 months in the Marine Corps and eight months at his current rank. To be promoted to sergeant, a corporal must have served 24 months in the Marine Corps and 12 months in his current rank.

Additionally, Marines must be current on required professional military education.

To obtain a noncompetitive promotion once a Marine has re-enlisted, his command must forward signed papers along with a request for promotion authority to Manpower and Reserve Affairs. The Marine will pin on his new rank on the first day of the month after he re-enlists and satisfies time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements.

Once promoted, Marines immediately receive pay and other benefits commensurate with their new rank. However, they will be administratively reduced to their previous rank if they fail to successfully complete the required MOS school. That’s important to bear in mind when considering particularly difficult schools with high washout rates, such as Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

Why move. In addition to better upward mobility and a better prospect for weathering the Corps’ manpower drawdown, lateral moves can bring large bonuses.

For example, 0689 cyber security technicians — one of the jobs eligible for noncompetitive promotions — receives the highest payout at $60,750 for Zone A sergeants with between 17 months and 6 years of service. Other jobs like 0372 critical skills operator pay between $40,250 and $50,500, depending on rank.

Additionally, jobs like those with MARSOC that may require skills like foreign language proficiency can result in additional monthly payouts. The lowest payout for FLP is $100 a month, for example. Those with a high degree of proficiency in multiple languages can take home up to $1,000 extra each month. Up to $500 can be earned for a single language.

Another advantage of moving into a high-demand, low-density job — particularly one in the intelligence and cyber fields — is the possibility of lucrative civilian employment after the Marine Corps. That’s one reason the service has struggled to retain Marines in the 0211 intel and 0689 cyber specialties — the lure of six-figure jobs in the private sector, where companies are eager to protect their assets and networks from foreign and domestic hacking attacks.

Companies ranging from banks to petro chemical companies and even Coca-Cola have been targets in recent years, and they are willing to pay big to protect their infrastructure and trade secrets.

Securing a career and retirement. No matter which job a Marine moves into, his career survival ultimately depends on performance, according to Marine officials. “Despite the initial noncompetitive promotion,” Haney said, “remaining career prospects are based upon the Marine’s individual performance.”

That said, most of the nine career tracks eligible for the Intended MOS Promotions program are considered high-demand, low-density, meaning they serve a critical function but are difficult to keep stocked. As a result, most do provide quick promotion times and a good chance of reaching a 20-year retirement.

For junior Marines, making a lateral move early in their service can be a good idea, according to career planners. By moving into a field like intelligence, where promotions come quickly, Marines can alter the trajectory of their career and obtain job security, Gunnery Sgt. James Waldvogel, a career planner at Camp Pendleton, Calif. told Marine Corps Times in August. Compared to other MOSs, the time needed to pick up sergeant and staff sergeant can be offset by months or even years. Some MOSs are so overpopulated that even those fortunate enough to be selected for promotion can wait more than a year to pin on rank.

For now, once Marines hit staff sergeant, they are permitted to stay on to 20 years and obtain a full military retirement, even if they prove noncompetitive for promotion. That 20-year guarantee was an important part of the commandant’s desire to “keep faith” with Marines and their families as the manpower drawdown is carried out, but Marine officials have acknowledged that it may be unsustainable. A similar good-faith guarantee for nonpromotable majors was rescinded this summer because manpower officials have struggled to hit manning targets in the officer ranks.

That makes a lateral move now into a quick-to-promote MOS potentially more appealing. Even if staff sergeants are not guaranteed a 20-year retirement in the future, making staff sergeant in a quick-to-promote specialty would likely get them to at least 15 years of service — and that would make them potentially eligible for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority program, which allows those with between 15 and 20 years of service to leave the service early with a pension, albeit at a reduced rate

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