Jerry C. Bennett, a retired master gunnery sergeant, pins his son's gunnery sergeant chevrons on his collar during a 2010 promotion ceremony for the Bennett twins at Marine Air Control Group 28, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.. Terence and Terrell Bennett, identical twins, were promoted to gunnery sergeant on the same day. (Marine Corps)
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Promotion opportunity at this year’s gunnery sergeant selection board is up, according to a recently released Marine administrative message.
There are now 73 more allocations open across 104 specialties, meaning about 1,068 staff sergeants will pick up rank at the board set to convene April 28, according to Marine administrative message 137/14, signed March 24.
When the gunny board was first announced March 5, there were just 995 allocations in 101 specialties. Formerly closed specialties now open are 0848 Field artillery operations chief man 6338 Aircraft avionics technician, F-35; and 4341 Combat correspondent.
Despite the slight increase, however, the number of Marines selected to E-7 will remain far below last year, when 1,390 made the cut. That was about 30 percent more than will likely make the cut this year. More MOSs also remain closed, with 38 still shuttered compared to just 18 last year.
Despite fewer overall allocations, the chance of picking up rank among staff sergeants in-zone for promotion should remain about the same as last year, when 30.4 percent made gunny. That percentage should hold steady throughout the drawdown as the service continues to trim about 5,000 Marines per year through the end of 2017, when the Marine Corps will reach its steady state of 174,000.
Officials are working to maintain the selection opportunity near 30 percent by using force-shaping measures — largely voluntary — and altering in-zone promotion eligibility windows based on time in grade. By shrinking the in-zone window, they can reduce the overall number of Marines considered by the board, keep the percentage tapped for promotion relatively high, and prevent staff sergeants in any one military occupational specialty from stagnating.
Voluntary programs to lure Marines out of uniform include Voluntary Separation Pay and the Temporary Early Retirement Authority program, which offer Marines either cash incentives to leave uniform early or waivers that allow them to receive retirement benefits without serving a full 20-year career.
While manpower officials are candid that promotion prospects will remain tough throughout the drawdown, force-shaping measures in place are preventing promotions from grinding to a halt. In some cases, they have credited programs like VSP and TERA with opening MOSs previously closed to promotion.
There were zero allocations for promotion to 0369 infantry unit leader in 2012, for example, but it reopened in 2013 and remains open for 2014.
Adjustments to allocations are routine leading up to promotion boards as manpower planners gain a better hold on the number of vacancies left by current Marines leaving uniform or picking up rank. The latest statistics for the gunny board are likely very close to final figures, although last year, they climbed slightly again as the board got underway.