A leatherneck with Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, patrols through poppy fields in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The Corps has extended retention bonuses for enlisted MARSOC operators in an effort to keep experienced troops. (Cpl. Kyle McNally / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps has extended retention bonuses for senior enlisted personnel with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in an effort to retain the most experienced operators and support personnel.
The Critical Skills Retention Bonus for gunnery sergeants and above who have served at least 19 years will now be available through Feb. 28.
The bonus, which tops out at $50,000 for four additional years of service, is intended to retain those with significant operational experience who can train younger counterparts at a time when the command is growing rapidly. Currently at about 2,600 personnel, plans call to ramp up to 3,625 by 2016. That includes Marines, sailors, reservists, and civilian personnel.
"Building inventory requires a balanced approach of training newly minted operators at MARSOC while retaining our most experienced operators to lead them," according to Maj. Shawn Haney, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
This is the second time the incentive — unveiled in February 2011 — has been extended. The first was in April 2012 when it was extended through Sept. 30, 2012. It has again been extended, from Oct. 1 (retroactively) through the end of February, as officials try to hit retention targets. At that point it could be extended further if needed, or expire.
With more MARSOC Marines coming online, there is a need for more experienced veterans to show them the ropes.
"Our staff NCOs are a vital asset and they represent our maturity, experience, continuity, and they are our key mentors who will bring MARSOC into the future," said Maj. Jeffrey Landis, a MARSOC spokesman at Stone Bay aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. "Because we are deployed around the globe with a variety of mission sets, our SNCOs possess a breadth of experience and valuable lessons learned — we use their feedback to quickly effect change and enhance our command's operational agility.
"As experienced officers and staff noncommissioned officers return from operational deployments, we are capitalizing on their experience and knowledge as mentors during Missions Rehearsal Exercises and as instructors in the MARSOC Leader's Course."
Increased demand for special operations forces has stretched thin the SOF community across the services — not just MARSOC. Senior operators are key to maintaining skills honed through years of battle.
"The demand for SOF right now is essentially outpacing our growth, and we know that our senior staff NCOs are a key to maintaining SOF proficiency during this demand," Landis said.
But many of the most experienced Marines begin feeling the draw of school, civilian work or other pursuits as they near retirement eligibility at 20 years of service.
"CSRB helps counter lucrative wages available in the private sector to highly experienced SOF operators," according to Haney.
Each year about six to nine gunnies take advantage of the retention bonus by signing on for an additional two, three or four years. For two years, Marines receive $18,000 and for three years, $30,000.
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