Staff Sgt. James A. Arbuthnot, a technician with 2nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, trains at Camp Davis, N.C., in February. The promotion forecast is improving for noncommissioned and staff noncommissioned officers, and EOD techs are among the top MOS allocations. (Cpl. Paul Peterson / Marine Corps)
Top MOS allocations
The allocations for gunnery sergeant were announced in Marine administrative message 098/13, signed Feb. 26. Here are the top 10 military occupational specialties with the largest allocations this year:
0111 Administrative specialist: 72
0369 Infantry unit leader: 70
0491 Combat service support chief: 66
3529 Motor transport maintenance chief: 52
2336 Explosive ordnance disposal technician: 40
3043 Supply administration and operations clerk: 42
3537 Motor transport operations chief: 37
5811 Military police: 34
0629 Radio chief: 31
0659 Cyber systems chief: 28
Marine officials have released this year's allocations, by military occupational specialty, for promotion to gunnery sergeant. Compared to last year, the figures confirm increased promotion opportunity as predicted by officials at Manpower and Reserve Affairs in January.
And the good news for staff sergeants hoping to make gunny means there will be more opportunities for lance corporals, corporals and sergeants looking to move up in the next year or two.
There are 1,333 allocations for promotion to gunnery sergeant in 2013, compared with 1,290 last year. The increase of 43 slots may seem modest until one considers it against the backdrop of a drawdown that is culling 20,000 Marines from active duty by 2017.
Moreover, the increase in gunny allocations signals relief from the stagnation that had many Marines below-zone for promotion or facing high cutting scores every year. Even those selected for promotion often waited more than a year or two to pick up rank.
With more staff sergeants now set to make gunny, the fiscal 2013 staff sergeant selection board, set to convene July 17, should also see an uptick. That is good news for the Corps' 28,000-plus sergeants, more of whom could make the cut. Allocations for that board are typically announced in May.
Also, the voluntary incentives being used to encourage staff sergeants to leave the service will provide additional relief for sergeants.
In 2012, 1,500 Marines were selected for promotion to staff sergeant. That was a significant decline from 2011, when 2,739 were selected. But for those who were considered in-zone — and manpower officials significantly shrunk that window — chances at picking up rank improved.
While 8,300 sergeants were in-zone for promotion to staff sergeant in 2011, that number shrunk to 5,400 in 2012. It isn't clear how many sergeants will be in-zone in 2013, but a trickle-down effect stemming from gunny allocations means last year's stiff competition should ease.
The fates of corporals and lance corporals will continue to depend on MOS-specific cutting scores, but those Marines should also see better promotion opportunities as popular voluntary force-shaping measures such as Voluntary Separation Pay and Temporary Early Retirement Authority target overmanned specialties.
The increase in gunny allocations doesn't benefit every staff sergeant; it depends on the Marine's community and military occupational specialty. Some — like 0369 infantry unit leaders, for which there were zero allocations last year — are again open for promotion. Up to 70 staff sergeants could be selected this year to become 0369 gunnies, according to Marine administrative message 098/13, signed Feb. 26.
Other fields, like intel, saw a drop in allocations for most of their specialties. For example, there are only 15 gunnery sergeant slots for 0231 intelligence specialists this year, 36 fewer than in 2012. By contrast, most MOSs in the infantry saw an uptick. And in fields like communications, increases and decreases varied by job. While allocations for 0629 radio chiefs dropped from 59 last year to 31 this year, 0681 information security technicians saw allocations nearly double, from seven to 13.
The drawdown will continue to make competition for promotion fierce, manpower officials say. But the incentives they are offering Marines to leave the service early help ensure that allocations won't dry up or promotions grind to a halt.
"We can't say promotions will speed up, but they will definitely be faster than they would have been had we not introduced these programs," Maj. Roy Ezell, the end strength planner for manpower's Enlisted Plans Section, told Marine Corps Times in January.
The uptick in some communities is likely due to these incentives, especially Voluntary Separation Pay and Temporary Early Retirement Authority.
VSP targets Marines in overpopulated specialties who have served between six and 10 years. It offers them a lump sum of money to leave uniform, making it a useful tool to target staff sergeants and gunnery sergeants.
TERA offers Marines who have served between 15 and 20 years the option of leaving the service with reduced but significant retirement benefits calculated on their paygrade and total years of service. That has also helped target staff sergeants and gunnery sergeants.
Both are carefully targeted to Marines in overpopulated MOSs, however. In a system that promotes only to vacancy, creating more open billets is crucial to ensuring continued career prospects for those most determined to stay in uniform.