The Marine Corps is offering huge bonuses to retirement-eligible critical skills operators in an effort to keep them in uniform for at least several more years. (Marine Corps)
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Senior Marine special operators are now eligible for even more generous bonuses. At a time when cash is drying up for most jobs, gunnery sergeants or above with Marine Corps Special Operations Command can take home tens of thousands of dollars for re-enlisting.
Under a change to the fiscal 2014 Critical Skills Retention Bonus Program, E-7s and above with at least 19 years of service, but fewer than 25, are eligible for a lump-sum payment of $50,000 if they agree to serve four more years in the 0372 military occupational specialty, according to Marine administrative message 286/14, signed Monday.
Another message released the same day, MARADMIN 285/14, announced details of the FY15 Critical Skills Retention Bonus Program. Marines meeting the same requirements will be able to take up to $40,000 next year for a four-year commitment. They can also opt for a $24,000 bonus in return for a threeyear commitment, or $14,000 for a two-year hitch.
The amounts are substantially larger than the CSO bonuses offered to E-7s and above earlier this year. Those payments topped out at $18,000 for a three-year commitment.
“The intended effect of the CSRB program is to induce an otherwise retirement eligible Marine to not retire as a result of being offered this bonus due to the critical shortage of personnel within the senior enlisted 0372 community,” said manpower officials.
As the command grows, some ranks remain underpopulated. The 0372 MOS at the master sergeant rank, for example, is at just 61 percent of the desired manning level.
“Further, it’s important to remember that the CSO operational tempo and lifestyle is very difficult on families, and many of the operators view the bonuses as helping to address compensating quality-of-life concerns for their loved ones,” manpower officials added.
In part, it comes down to the service competing with private companies that offer a more stable lifestyle and substantial salaries — a problem that has also challenged the service as it works to build its cyber command. Marines in both communities are often lured away by six-figure salaries in the civilian world, where their skill sets are highly marketable.
Like most bonuses, if a Marine fails to complete additional obligated service, the bonus will be recouped at a prorated amount. Exceptions are made for reasons that are outside of the Marine’s control, such as death, injury or illness.
Senior enlisted Marines are not the only operators eligible for generous bonuses. The North Carolina-based command has continued working to grow its cadre at a time when special operations are playing an increasingly prominent role in U.S. security operations abroad. Under the FY14 Selective Retention Bonus Program, lance corporal CSOs can take home $40,250 for re-enlisting. Bonus amounts increased to $46,000 for corporals and $50,500 for sergeants and above, according to Marine administrative message 319/13, signed June 28, 2013.
Manpower has yet to release details of the FY15 Selective Retention Bonus Program, which is expected this summer.
The Corps spends millions each year in bonuses to keep its CSOs and Marines in other high-demand, low-intensity jobs, like 0211 counterintelligence/human intelligence specialists or 2336 explosive ordnance disposal technicians.
MARSOC is authorized to grow its population of operators to a force of 844, although that plan is temporarily on hold in keeping with fiscal guidance from the Defense Department.■