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For sergeants, it's still up or out at 10 years

Oct. 21, 2012 - 10:18AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 21, 2012 - 10:18AM  |  
A Marine holds his promotion warrant. The Corps will retain its 10-year time-in-service limit for sergeants.
A Marine holds his promotion warrant. The Corps will retain its 10-year time-in-service limit for sergeants. (Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps will continue through fiscal 2013 its new 10-year time-in-service limit for sergeants, one of several measures enacted last year to help shed 20,000 personnel from the active-duty force.

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The Marine Corps will continue through fiscal 2013 its new 10-year time-in-service limit for sergeants, one of several measures enacted last year to help shed 20,000 personnel from the active-duty force.

Officials announced the plan Oct. 2 in Marine administrative message 548/12.

The Marine Corps uses service limits to manage and shape its end strength as part of the Enlisted Career Force Controls program, which is adjusted as needed and affects everything from selection board opportunities to meritorious promotions.

Prior time-in-service policy allowed sergeants to stay until they reached 13 years. The change is designed to put hundreds of younger noncommissioned officers in zone for promotion to staff sergeant and speed the departure of those who have been passed over. As the Corps draws down, officials have been clear that only the best performers will move up.

Consider the most recent staff sergeant selection board, the results of which were announced at the end of August. Thanks, in part, to these new up-or-out limits on sergeants, the staff sergeant board evaluated approximately 5,400 Marines overall down from about 8,300 the year prior. And the selection rate among those considered in zone for promotion jumped from 64 percent in 2011 to nearly 80 percent this year.

Making staff sergeant is a key hurdle for sergeants with career aspirations. Those selected to staff sergeant are pretty much guaranteed service long enough to reach the 20-year military retirement, provided they continue to perform well enough to re-enlist and stay out of trouble.

How it works

Sergeants whose re-enlistment contracts take them beyond the 10-year limit are allowed to stay in the service until they reach their end-of-active-service date, or EAS, even if they fail to get promoted to staff sergeant. "All existing service contracts for sergeants will be honored regardless of [time-in-service] constraints," officials wrote in the Oct. 2 MARADMIN.

Under Marine Corps policy, a sergeant in good standing that includes no prior punitive reductions is guaranteed at least one shot at getting considered by the staff sergeant selection board. Some sergeants may get two chances to get promoted before reaching their 10th year. If they don't advance, they will have to leave when their contract ends.

Sergeants who have not had their first "in-zone" look by the selection board can get extended beyond the 10-year limit, but just long enough to get consideration in their military occupational specialty.

All in-zone and above-zone sergeants who are not picked by the staff sergeant selection board are classified as "not selected for promotion." Sergeants who've failed at least twice to get promoted will be separated at their EAS date or seven months after the board reports, whichever is later, according to the MARADMIN.

Sergeants who got their first pass, but have less than 10 years of service, "will be extended until seven months following the next annual promotion board to allow an opportunity for an additional promotion selection board," the message states. But those with more than 10 years who are passed over for promotion will have to leave at their EAS date or seven months after the board reports out, whichever is later.

Waivers are available, but only for "extenuating" circumstances, the MARADMIN says. A few passed-over sergeants will be allowed to stay up to 13 years. They include Marines in critically short MOSs or those deemed by their commanders to be necessary for an upcoming deployment.

The Marine Corps also can waive the limit for Marines who are screened and selected for a special duty assignment and who successfully graduate from their SDA school. Those sergeants, however, would be re-enlisted only up to 12 years of service so they can fill that special duty billet.

Service limits

The Corps' time-in-service for enlisted Marines:

Corporal: 8 years

Sergeant: 10 years

Staff sergeant: 20 years

Gunnery sergeant: 22 years

First sergeant/master sergeant: 27 years

Sergeant major/master gunnery sergeant: 30 years

Source: MARADMIN 548/12

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