AL ASAD, Iraq --
“Will work for reenlistments!” should be the new slogan of career retention specialists. The Corps is utilizing every asset, such as bigger bonuses and offering first choice duty stations, to keep experienced Marines in, ensuring America’s 9-1-1 force grows at a steady pace.
To accomplish the new end strength goal of 202,000 Marines over the next five years, career retention specialists are fighting an uphill battle to retain approximately 2000 more Marines than in past years. The total number of Marines that reenlisted last year, before the new end strength goal, was approximately 13,000. This year’s goal is a little more than 15,000.
“Some people have mixed opinions about retention, but I think it’s going rather well,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Richardson, the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 29 career retention specialist. “We’ve been meeting the mission requirements that have been assigned to us. A lot of people think it’s been tougher meeting mission in the last few years because of the wars. Some people are tired of deployments and are getting out, which makes it difficult to encourage them and give them the incentives they want to stay in.”
Although high deployment rates deter some Marines from reenlisting, the Corps is pulling out the stops on incentives to show the Marines they’re valued.
First term Marines have several incentives attracting them right now. They include everything from bonuses to hand picking their next duty station in most cases. The new selective reenlistment bonus program, which are military occupational specialty bonuses, have sweetened the deal for many Devil Dogs.
“First term Marines reenlisting get first choice in their duty station preference,” said Richardson, a Gulfport, Miss. native. “Headquarters Marine Corps just came out with fiscal year ‘08 school seat incentive for the high risk personnel course and jump school now. Those are enticing for the first term Marines.”
In most cases, retention comes down to what the Corps can do for an individual. After serving four years, most Marines look for reasons to stay in. It is the CRS’ job to show that person what the Corps can do for them.
“As a career retention specialist, my job is to remind Marines of the things they know the Marine Corps can offer them and the benefits of staying in,” said Richardson.
Some of the current incentives the Corps is offering are the military occupational specialty specific bonuses, which have reached an all time high, according to Richardson. Special duty assignments are available and even new reenlistment zones for Marines who have been in more than 14 years.
Stateside career retention specialists continue to keep a solid level of Marines in the Corps, but where CRS’s are spending the majority of the Corps money is on its deployed Marines.
“I think being deployed, Marines are more apt to reenlist because of the tax-free bonus and this year since every single rank in every MOS rates a bonus Marines are more likely to reenlist while deployed than when they are stateside,” said Richardson.
Since January 2007, at the beginning of their deployment, MALS 29 had 108 Marines reenlist. An example of giving Marines the right incentives was in July when the monitors for several job fields made a retention assist visit to Al Asad. During their two day stay, the monitors negotiated duty station preferences with first term Leathernecks to sweeten the pot. On top of that, Marines were pulling in whatever their MOS bonus was and also the assignment incentive program, which was another $10,000, all tax free. During the month of July a total of 54 war fighters reenlisted.
Incentives can help persuade Marines teetering on the fence of civilian life or another term of service. However, to some service members the money they get for a new contract isn’t what’s important; it’s the experience of the last term of service.
“Some Marines are going to tell you they don’t plan to reenlist, so you just talk to them and ask why,” said Richardson. “Find out what they want from the Marine Corps and why they joined in the first place. Air wing Marines generally have five year contracts and it’s a long time from when they join to the time they reenlist. It’s easy to forget why they joined, or forgot what it was like to receive their Eagle Globe and Anchor that day. Then, reminding them why they’re in convinces them to stay.”
Recruiters and career retention specialists continue hooking, jabbing and taking names to make a bigger Marine Corps. The Corps has not loosened its policies either; even though the Corps’ end mission stresses quantity of Marines now, by retaining experienced Marines quality will not be sacrificed.