Infantry Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Royal Thai marines practice an amphibious assault raid during Exercise Cobra Gold. Pacific military exchange programs are expected to increase during 2013 as more Marines find themselves deployed west of Hawaii. (Pfc. Mark Stroud / Marine Corps)
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If they haven't already, Marines will really begin to feel the effects of the drawdown by the end of 2013. However, the slowdown in promotions should begin to ease in the latter part of the year as more Marines leave the service.
Despite the challenges, the marked shift in focus — a return to the Marine Corps' expeditionary roots — brings interesting new challenges. With fewer Marines deploying to Afghanistan, more will deploy in greater numbers to Asia, Africa, Australia and even the Americas.
Marines can also expect some important new initiatives regarding boot camp, physical fitness, mentorship and other issues in the year ahead.
What's in store for 2013:
1 Cutting Marines. Marines will likely face the largest cuts of the drawdown beginning in late 2013.
During the service's buildup to 202,000 personnel during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest cohort of new Marines joined the service almost four years ago. During fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, it will be time for many of them to re-enlist or leave active duty.
Manpower and Reserve Affairs officials are looking to take advantage of this by cutting the most Marines in any one year. That will help them avoid putting undue burden on smaller cohorts in fiscal 2015 and 2016 to hit their goal of cutting 20,000 Marines by 2017.
Accompanying the manpower cuts are force-structure changes to fit the streamlined service. Among them are a host of unit deactivations and activations, including:
• Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines.
• Battery F, 2nd Btn., 12th Marines.
• Battery E, 2/12.
• 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines.
• Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362.
• Marine Attack Squadron 513.
• 3rd Maintenance Btn.
• 3rd Supply Btn.
• High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Battery Q, 5th Btn., 11th Marines.
• 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Command Element.
• 2nd MEB, CE.
• Combat Logistic Btn. 351.
Other miscellaneous units and commands will see their numbers increase or decrease as the service resets to meet the nation's security needs in the years ahead. That includes more personnel for Marine Corps Special Operations Command and Marine Corps Cyber Command.
2 Promotion forecast. For those fighting to stay in the service despite the drawdown, increased competition means selection rates are down and waits to pin on rank are longer. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Advancement opportunity should stabilize as promotion backlogs clear and upward mobility is restored, manpower officials say. They are taking action to soften the blow.
For captains vying for promotion to major, for example, manpower planners have narrowed the in-zone promotion window to keep selection rates up. While fewer Marines will be considered ripe for promotion, more than 70 percent of those who are will continue to be selected. Shrinking the in-zone window also ensures the Corps has just enough Marines to fill emptying billets. The Corps promotes only to vacancy, so that will speed time to pin on rank.
Enlisted Marines are suffering similar promotion backlogs, particularly at the staff sergeant and gunnery sergeant ranks. Last year, there were zero allocations for gunnery sergeant, meaning no matter how strong a performer a Marine was, he was not going to make gunny. That is not likely to happen again in 2013. With the drawdown now moving steadily along, some of the more shocking bumps in the road may be in the past.
Those who don't make the selection cut and come up against up-or-out limits may want to consider one of the voluntary early-out programs that will continue through 2013. Temporary Early Retirement Authority targets officers and enlisted Marines in select overpopulated jobs who have served between 15 and 20 years. Officials hope about 400 Marines will take the offer in 2013 to retire with full benefits, but at a slightly reduced pension. The Officer Voluntary Early Release program allows officers to leave the service several months early, but provides no financial incentive.
Two Selective Early Retirement Boards this year also will force out some lieutenant colonels and colonels who have served past 20 years, creating vacancies that will give younger Marines their chance at command. Those boards will cut about 60 and 51 officers, respectively, further clearing the promotion backlog and decreasing time to pin on rank.
Manpower officials are relying on natural attrition and voluntary separation incentives such as TERA and the Voluntary Enlisted Early Release Program to clear the senior staff noncommissioned officer ranks. While there are no plans to convene enlisted SERBs in 2013, Marine officials are working to encourage those at the E-9 pay grade with more than 20 years of service to head home and give younger enlisted Marines a chance to move up. That could spell more upward mobility for all enlisted Marines.
Using those programs to clear more senior billets in 2013 will have a trickle-down effect, which will improve career prospects not only for staff sergeants trying to make gunny, but also for corporals and sergeants trying to move up. Because the Marine Corps promotes to vacancy, the more Marines who are cleared higher up, the more chance there is for young guns to move up. The bottom line: While promotions for corporals and sergeants will be slow compared with several years ago, 2013 should be slightly brighter than last year.
3 Bonuses take a hit. Generous enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses, common during the Marine Corps' growth to 202,000 active-duty personnel, are taking a nosedive in 2013. While enlistment bonuses topped out at $10,000 and selective re-enlistment bonuses at $73,438 in fiscal 2012, the maximum bonuses offered now are just $8,000 and $69,750, respectively. In addition to the decline in the maximums, many jobs that offered thousands of dollars in years past no longer offer anything.
Other financial perks, such as aviation continuation pay for qualified pilots, also have dried up.
But high-demand/low-density career fields that provide the operating force with critical skills — despite their enduring chronic manpower shortages — will continue to offer substantial bonuses and ample lateral move opportunities. Those fields include 0211 counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist and 2336 explosive ordnance disposal technician.
4 Pacific focus. The Marine Corps continues to shift its focus to the Pacific after years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The arrival in Japan of the MV-22 Osprey in late 2012 marked a pivotal moment for the Marine Corps.
The service is counting on the tilt rotor to extend its reach and expand combat capabilities for regional commanders. It plans to permanently base a second squadron in Japan toward the end of 2013, but officials had made no announcement as of year's end.
The resumption in 2012 of sending infantry battalions on six-month UDP tours to Japan continues, with Hawaii-based 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, now in the first month of its deployment. The Corps plans to have at least two infantry battalions on UDP supporting III MEF, as it had done in the past, but officials have not yet announced the next battalion to go.
This spring will see the second rotation of Marines to Darwin, Australia, where about 200 infantrymen with a Hawaii-based battalion will deploy for six months, said Lt. Col. Brad Bartelt, a Marine Corps Pacific spokesman at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii. They will also venture to other countries for bilateral training, missions and regional exercises. They and other Marines deployed in the region may find themselves in some new "climes and places," such as New Zealand, which a group of I MEF Marines visited in late 2012. Other countries in the region, including South Korea, India and the Philippines, have expressed interest in new or expanded military-to-military exchanges and partnerships.
5 Longer MEU pumps. Longer shipboard deployments are becoming the norm, making the six- or seven-month cruise for Marine expeditionary units a thing of the past — due largely to a smaller Navy with fewer ships readily available for at-sea training and overseas operations. The Navy's fleet of 30 amphibious ships remains too small to support the Marine Corps' requirements, a Dec. 10 Congressional Research Service report found. Top officials in both services have agreed to accept the risk, at least for the rest of the decade, as older ships are repaired or retired and new ones take their place.
That means longer operational deployments at sea, more gaps between deploying MEUs and their three-ship amphibious ready groups, and more gaps in presence in places like the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. In fact, the new year began with only one MEU operating overseas. The Camp Pendleton-based 15th MEU, which left San Diego in mid-September for a planned seven-month deployment, is operating with the Peleliu ARG in the Central Command region. But the 24th MEU returned home in mid-December after 8½ months away. And that wasn't as long as the 10½-month deployment of the 22nd MEU with the Bataan ARG, which ended in early February.
The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 26th MEU is gearing up to deploy this spring with the Kearsarge ARG for "about eight months," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, a U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman in Norfolk, Va.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the 13th MEU is next in line to deploy with the Boxer ARG from San Diego, officials said. No word yet on whether that deployment, which will begin in late summer, will stretch to eight months or longer.
6 Changes in Helmand. The new year will bring a new command structure in Helmand province, Afghanistan, with II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), out of Camp Lejeune, replacing I MEF (Fwd.), out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., in February. Maj. Gen. Walter Miller, commanding general of II MEF Fwd., will take command from Maj. Gen. Charles "Mark" Gurganus, overseeing Regional Command Southwest, said Lt. Col. Cliff Gilmore, a spokesman for II MEF (Fwd.).
The transition in Helmand will come with additional changes. Second Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd.) out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., will replace 3rd MAW (Fwd.) early in 2013, as well. Brig. Gen. Gary Thomas will supplant Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant as the aviation component commander downrange in the change of command.
The logistics combat element also will turn over, with Lejeune's Combat Logistics Regiment 2, commanded by Lt. Col. Dwayne Whiteside, replacing CLR-15, headed by Col. Stephen Sklenka. CLR-15 deployed early last year as part of 1st Marine Logistics Group, headed by Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, but took command of the LCE when the one-star general and much of his staff returned to the U.S. last summer as part of the drawdown.
In the ground combat element, Regimental Combat Team 7, commanded by Col. Austin Renforth, will continue to oversee Marine operations in Afghanistan. The unit took over at Camp Leatherneck in October for RCT-6, headed by Col. John Shafer.
Ground operations in Helmand were overseen for most of 2012 by 1st Marine Division (Fwd.), headed by Maj. Gen. David Berger. In the fall, most of the division staff redeployed to the U.S. and RCT-6 took over managing day-to-day ground operations. Berger stayed on, spending most of his time coordinating operations with Afghan National Security Forces. Brig Gen. George Smith will have a similar role with II MEF (Fwd.), serving as deputy commander for ANSF development and security force assistance.
7 Operations in Africa. The Marine Corps will deploy another special purpose Marine air-ground task force to Africa early next year, cycling in for one that is currently there.
The next unit on deck includes about 130 Marines, primarily from 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, out of Garden City, N.Y., said Capt. Stewart Coles, a Marine spokesman. The unit will deploy in January to conduct theater security cooperation missions with a variety of nations, and also serve as a limited crisis response force in support of AFRICOM.
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos told Foreign Policy magazine in December that the Corps is in the "concept development phase" of designing a larger force that could be available soon. No additional details were immediately available, but it raises questions about what the service's future in Africa might be.
"If this part of the world is going to stay problematic, then how do you address it? Do you have to address it with large, huge forces?" Amos said in comments published Dec. 10. "I don't think so. But you gotta address it. So what we're going to try to do is build a rapidly employable — not deployable because they'll already be there — rapidly employable force that can help the combatant commanders out, and we're working on that right now, and I think we'll have that in the next 30 days."
8 More missions in the Americas. As the Corps returns to its expeditionary roots, Marines could find themselves participating in more exercises and missions in their own hemisphere.
Marines out of Marine Forces South, located in Doral, Fla., spent a couple of months during 2012 flying UH-1N Huey helicopters along Guatemala's coast, looking for drug traffickers from the sky. Similar missions could continue into 2013 and beyond in what Amos referred to as part of the global "arc of instability," a band that stretches across the globe from Central and South America, across Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
Maj. Dan Huvane, a public affairs officer with MARFORSOUTH, said counterdrug and counternarcotics terrorism training deployments are missions Marines could be carrying out in Central and South America. There are 15 riverine training engagements scheduled for fiscal year 2013. Other exercises include:
å Exercise Integrated Advance: U.S. Southern Command will host an operational exercise in February that will focus on interagency roles and missions in the event of economic or political instability in the Caribbean that could result in mass migration.
å Exercise Tradewinds: About 20 Caribbean nations will partner with the U.S. to conduct training to counter illicit trafficking activity in May. They will also prepare for humanitarian and disaster relief and will work to build relationships and improve interoperability among regional nation-states.
å Panamax: The Defense Department will host one of its largest multinational exercises, which focuses on stability and security operations in and around the Panama Canal in August.
å Partnership of the Americas: Countries from South America will team up with the U.S. to enhance multinational operational readiness in October. The 2013 exercise will emphasize amphibious operations and humanitarian assistance missions.
9 Boot camp. The next generation of Marines will see an enhanced boot camp curriculum that will make new recruits understand the service's core values from the start of their military careers.
A review board met this fall to look at the ways the physical and academic portions of the boot camp curriculum could be improved to address any gaps in the training and education new recruits receive. Murray, commanding general of TECOM, said the review board's discussions included:
• Putting more female Marines in positions of leadership during male recruit training.
• The Marine Corps' concept of "total fitness."
• Sexual assault training.
• Combat stress and resiliency.
Alarming sexual assault rates within the Marine Corps have gotten attention from inside and outside the service. Introducing male recruits to more female Marines during training will help address some of the problems, Murray said.
"What we want to do is put in positions of leadership female Marines," Murray said. "So … from the very beginning, our recruits — male and female — see a mix of male and female figureheads, authority figures, experts. I really think that will make a difference in some of the other issues we're having."
Marine Corps Recruiting Command is also working to address the issue of sexual assault, and it's happening before new recruits even get to boot camp. Since part of a recruiter's mission is to introduce future recruits to the service's core values, they'll start introducing poolees to sexual assault training in early 2013.
10 Embassy security boosts. Marines could see the slots for embassy security guard duty nearly double as Congress calls on the Corps to churn out 1,000 new guards in the wake of the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, based in Quantico, Va., now has 1,200 Marine security guards assigned to more than 130 countries. Congress is authorizing an additional 1,000 guards to be assigned to Quantico and regional commands and detachments at embassies, consulates and diplomatic facilities worldwide. The extra personnel would be authorized for three years, beginning in fiscal year 2014.
Sergeants and below train for seven weeks at Quantico's Marine Security Guard School, which can accommodate 200 students per class, said Capt. Greg Wolf, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon. There are five classes per year, leaving time between each round for instructors to complete specialized training and to take leave, he added.
Adding 1,000 new guards could mean bigger classes or more classes each year, and both of those options would require more staff, said Andrew Bufalo, a retired master sergeant who wrote a book on the ESG.
11 MARSOC expands. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command will continue its growth in 2013, with dozens of Marines expected to fill out new teams that are being established.
Initially, MARSOC had planned to grow to 48 Marine special operations teams by fiscal 2017. However, the command has been able to get ahead of that curve and now expects to be at full strength in fiscal 2014, said Maj. Jeff Landis, a MARSOC spokesman.
Currently, MARSOC deploys 70 percent of its personnel to Afghanistan, Landis said. In the future, the command wants to regionally align its battalions, with one each focused on U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Pacific Command.
MARSOC is also heavily involved in U.S. Special Operations Command's support for Pacific nations, with one MSOT persistently deployed to the Philippines, developing crisis response capabilities and coordination with forces there. It's also developing maritime spec ops capabilities with Naval Special Warfare Command to support amphibious operations and oversee maritime-based special operators.
12 Aviation modernization. Marine aviation continues its transformation. The Marine Corps' first operational F-35B Lightning II squadron — Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 — will get more of the new jets throughout the year, following its recent activation at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
A contractor is helping maintain the first three F-35Bs while the cadre of maintainers gets trained and certified. "By the end of the year, we should have all 16 here at Yuma," said Capt. Staci Reidinger, a Yuma spokeswoman. "They're going to start some of the flight operations after the New Year," which will enable aircrews with the "Green Knights" to become familiar with the local airspace and vast military training complexes in the region. It will take a couple of years for the squadron to become fully operational.
The Marine Corps continues to transition to the MV-22 Osprey, a tilt rotor that is replacing the older CH-46E Sea Knights that continue to fly from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will become the first West Coast-based MEU to take the Osprey overseas when it deploys with its amphibious ready group in late summer.
On the East Coast, Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 at MCAS New River, N.C., will continue its transition to the upgraded four-bladed UH-1Y Huey helicopter for Marine Aircraft Group 29.
13 Jungle training. Marines can expect jungle warfare training to be overhauled in 2013 as the Corps shifts its focus toward the Asia-Pacific region and plans to push more than 20,000 Marines to locations west of Hawaii in coming years.
Amos announced in September that, as the importance of jungle warfare training becomes more important, the service would "fix" the way it trains Marines over the next six months. Officials with Training and Education Command at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., are looking at the best ways to accomplish that.
Moving more Marines through the existing jungle warfare training center in northern Okinawa, Japan, would be costly if troops aren't deploying to that region, said Maj. Gen. Tom Murray, commanding general of TECOM. So, he said, they're looking at the possibility of opening a training center in the Western Hemisphere.
The jungle training overhaul won't just be about location, either. TECOM is also looking to enhance the type of training Marines will receive when they're there, and Murray said the right model for that is the Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.
There, "we train in mountain climbing, we train in cold weather, but it's not all that school's about," the CG said. "It's about small-unit leader training. … So it's really more than just mountains and cold weather. And as we develop the jungle warfare training center, it'll be the same thing."
14 Reserve realignment. The year to come will be marked by significant shifts in Marine Forces Reserve. While the Reserve's overall manpower end strength is immune to the drawdown, it will see profound structural changes to units across the country. That includes cutting an infantry regiment and battalion and an air control squadron. A wing support group and an anti-terrorism battalion will be eliminated, and two military police companies will be consolidated into a law enforcement battalion.
The Reserve will also add two civil affairs groups, an unmanned aircraft system squadron, counterintelligence/human intelligence companies and air naval gunfire liaison companies. Finally, the Reserve's Marine Logistics Group will be realigned to mimic the structure of the active component forces.
Not all reshuffling will be completed in the year to come, but Reserve officials are already setting the wheels in motion.
This summer, Marine officials began a tour of all Reserve units and identified those that would need the most assistance in the transition. In many cases, they helped Marines in those units make career decisions and retrain or relocate if they wanted to stay in uniform. In units that are dissolving, less than 5 percent of the Marines have so far opted to transition to the Individual Ready Reserve once their units are disestablished.
Despite the reshuffling, the Reserve will continue to offer strong career prospects for active-duty Marines making the transition. Corporals and sergeants can pick up $10,000 and $15,000, respectively, for affiliating with a Reserve unit. Aviators can take home $45,000 in aviation retention pay. There are also opportunities to retrain for a new MOS to fill specific empty billets.
15 General officer shuffle. Gen. John "Jay" Paxton's recent promotion and appointment as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps won't be the last movement in the general officer community in coming months. Among the changes coming:
• The outgoing ACMC, Gen. Joseph Dunford, will take over as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan in February, replacing another four-star Marine, Gen. John Allen. Dunford will oversee the International Security Assistance Force, with headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the coalition draws down forces over the next two years.
• Lt. Gen. Richard Tryon, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, is expected to replace Paxton as the head of Marine Corps Forces Command, out of Norfolk. He'll also oversee Marine Corps Forces Europe and Fleet Marine Forces Atlantic.
• Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, out of Quantico, is expected to report to Kabul early next year to serve as the operations officer for ISAF Joint Command. That post has been held by Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, another infantry officer with substantial combat experience.
It's unclear who will replace Tryon at PP&O or Osterman at Recruiting Command in the long term. Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead will become the acting commander of MCRC for several months while continuing to serve as deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
16 Women in combat. The Marine Corps is now in a holding pattern after submitting the service's report on women in combat to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, part of the Defense Department's Women in Service Restriction Review. The Corps intends to continue testing the feasibility of putting women in infantry combat roles by sending more women to the Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, but no additional volunteers have stepped forward since the first two female volunteers washed out of the course in October. The service's senior leaders continue to await marching orders from Congress as politicians on Capitol Hill analyze results of the study and decide if and how to open direct combat roles to women.
17 Physical fitness changes. By the end of the year, female Marines will need to be able to complete pullups if they expect to pass their physical fitness test in 2014. In November, the Marine Corps announced pullups will replace the flexed-arm hang on the PFT and will be a graduation requirement at boot camp and Officer Candidates School.
Commanders are now required to hold pullup training for all Marines in their units.
Beginning this month, female Marines can choose to perform pullups or the flexed-arm hang for official PFT scoring before the change takes effect next January.
Lt. Gen Richard Mills, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told Marine Corps Times in November that ongoing PFT scores and commander feedback will be important factors to determine whether the new scoring tables will need to be adjusted. As of now, women will be required to complete three pullups to pass and eight to achieve a perfect score.
"The [scoring] tables … are experimental," he said. "We're going to take a look at those over the next year and decide whether they are right or wrong. We think we got it probably about right."
There are no plans now to modify the male PFT, said Col. Sean Gibson, a spokesman for Training and Education Command.
Meanwhile, Semper Fit is in the process of developing several new High Intensity Tactical Training modules, including "Reload HITT," which will focus on correcting imbalances identified during functional movement screening, said Bryan Driver, a spokesman for Marine Corps Community Services.
Driver said the force is also working with the Embassy Security Group to customize a module for locations with limited facilities and equipment.
18 Scrutiny on hazing. Hazing in the Marine Corps will face more scrutiny in 2013, with Congress calling for the military to come up with a better way of tracking incidents and how people are punished for it. Lawmakers also want to standardize the charges levied under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in hazing cases.
There's also the possibility of new hazing regulations in the Corps. In May, Amos said the hazing order was under review, just four months after a new version was released. The order in place now is not explicit enough to guide Marines struggling to understand what constitutes a violation, he said.
Amos said then that he had seen several reports of hazing in the past 30 days, including some that were "horrific."
"To one person a definition of hazing is somebody else's jackassery, and someone's jackassery is another person's assault. So it's not clear," he said. He added that he rewrote the hazing order earlier in 2012 and "I thought I'd done a pretty good job of making sure you understood what hazing was all about. Then I listened to the testimony, and I think I failed that mission."
The hazing review was turned over in the spring to Gen. John Paxton, then the three-star commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Lejeune. He has since become assistant commandant.
19 Institutionalized mentorship. A mentorship order is slated to drop in the first half of 2013 that will help Marines coach their junior comrades on issues tied to diversity, career opportunities and ethics.
Lt. Gen. Willie Williams, the director of the Marine Corps Staff at the Pentagon, said the commandant is pushing for an order to institutionalize mentoring. It will ensure that all Marines, regardless of race or gender, are mentored appropriately to make them successful in their careers, he said.
Amos spent two months in 2012 delivering his Heritage Brief to officers and staff noncommissioned officers. That — combined with other programs, like this upcoming order — will address issues such as sexual assault, hazing and poor discipline, which brought negative attention to the service, by making ethics training and proper mentoring part of Marine Corps culture.
Murray said true mentoring is not an assignment that comes down through the chain of command, but a mutual agreement between a mentor and mentee. Good mentoring, combined with footlocker discussions and weaving ethics training into every school's curriculum, will help Marines embrace the service's core values, he said.
The mentorship order, he added, will help the Corps keep the Marines it wants, making sure they're on the path to get into the right schools and billets.
20 Base facilities. Marines and their families can expect a host of new ranges, fitness centers, youth programs and child development centers in 2013 despite a difficult budgetary period.
According to Maj. Gen. James Kessler, head of Marine Corps Installations Command, three new training ranges are scheduled for completion in 2013. The Corps plans to debut a squad battle course and an infantry platoon battle course at Camp Lejeune. An infantry squad defense range at Camp Pendleton also is expected to open.
The force also plans to open seven new High Intensity Tactical Training Centers at Marine Corps Air Station New River, MCAS Beaufort, S.C., MCAS Cherry Point, Henderson Hall, Va., Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego to accommodate the Corps' new functional fitness program.
As for families, four new child development centers at Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and Quantico will open by the end of 2013, Kessler said.
Youth and teen programs across the force also can expect changes this year.
"Our youth and teen program managers are currently developing plans to adjust the current program to better meet the needs of our youth and teen population," Kessler said.
21 Changes in your grocery cart. In 2013, your on-base stores may offer more locally produced and grown foods and more products manufactured by environmentally friendly, sustainable means. Under pressure from consumers and Congress, the Defense Department is working on new procurement policies to identify more local fresh meat, poultry, seafood and produce that could be sold at commissaries and exchanges. Such a move might result in fresher food — but possibly at slightly higher prices.
Price also has been an issue for products produced or raised through sustainable methods. Defense officials are weighing how many customers are willing to pay a little more for a product that's less harmful to the environment, which would determine both stock assortment and placement on store shelves.
22 Pharmacy co-pay increases. Troops, family members and retirees who pick up brand-name or special prescriptions at a pharmacy other than a military facility will pay $4 to $19 more for medications in 2013.
Under the new law that dictates Pentagon policy, Tricare will continue charging $5 co-payments for generics at retail stores and $0 for a 90-day prescription by mail. But co-pays for brand-name drugs at retail pharmacies will rise to $17, up from $12, and to $44, up from $25, for specialty, or nonformulary, drugs not on Tricare's list of approved medications.
Three-month refills by home delivery will increase to $13 for branded medications, up from $9, and nonformulary medicines will cost $43, up from $25.
Prescriptions and refills for medications listed on Tricare's formulary will continue to be offered at no charge at military treatment facilities.
23 Mail-order drugs mandate. As a trade-off to keep pharmacy co-payments lower than the Pentagon would like over the next five years, Medicare-eligible retirees and family members on Tricare for Life will be required to get their routine maintenance medications by mail.
Details are still being worked out, but Tricare for Lifers will need to refill their prescriptions for at least a year by mail after an initial 30-day allowance at a retail store. Waivers will be permitted under some circumstances, and beneficiaries can opt out after one year.
The pilot program is expected to last for five years.
Military retirees and eligible beneficiaries living near a military treatment facility always can pick their prescriptions up for free at a base pharmacy.