While it's not immediately clear why there are so many additional allocations for gunnery sergeants this year, Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford has made it a priority to replenish depleted ranks of experienced and skilled noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs, per his recently released planning guidance.
While officials could tweak the allocation number prior to the Gunnery Sergeant Selection Board convening on April 22 — and even during the roughly eight week meeting — the 1,891 figure has been described as fairly accurate. In years past, revisions have been minor.
For example, if the increase in allocations is met with high number of eligible staff sergeants, the chances at making the cut could remain constant to years past.
Potential promotion bonanza
With Maj. Thomas Dolan, spokesman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs officials, describing the 1,891 allocations for gunnery sergeant as "fairly firm," the ears of all ambitious junior enlisted men and women should be pricking up.
That's because of what manpower officials often refer to as a trickle down effect in which a promotion at one pay grade, creates a vacancy for a lower ranking Marine to fill and on down the ranks. For every newly-made E-7, there is an E-6 vacancy for an E-5 to fill. In turn there is an E-5 vacancy for an E-4 to fill. There is a less direct correlation for lance corporals who are subject to cutting scores, but it still has a positive effect on their career prospects.
But not all Marines are created equal. Opportunities for promotion — again, hard to put odds to until more information is released by officials — vary by military occupational specialty. More specialties are eligible for promotion this year, but 13 remain frozen.
An infantryman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion of the 8th Marines holds security while on patrol during the Infantry Platoon Battle Course located at Fort Pickett, Va. The number of gunnery sergeant promotion allocations for infantry unit leaders has increased for 2015.
Photo Credit: Chief Warrant Officer Paul S. Ma/Marine Corps
Other occupational specialties with large gains in allocations include motor transport maintenance and operations chiefs, and supply administration and operations specialist.
Fields that remain shut out These include many of the usual suspects: cryptologic linguists, helicopter power plant mechanics and tactical systems operators. New, though, are tiltrotor dynamic components mechanics, aviation electronic micro/miniature component and cable repair technicians, as well as several types of mechanics for fixed wing aircraft.
Marines most likely to be promoted fall "in-zone," based on their years of service and time in grade. Many considered "above-zone" are also promoted — although some among them have already been passed for promotion once and are edging closer to up-or-out limits. Those "below-zone" are rarely promoted as they typically need more time in grade to mature in their specialty and as junior leaders.
For above-zone Marines, this could be their last opportunity to secure a promotion. Missing out could mean an end to their time with the Corps.
Below-zone Marines should be speaking with career counselors and planners, plotting their course to eventual promotion, Tarver said.
Gunnery sergeant chevrons are pinned to the collar of Liza Jones during a promotion ceremony in Hawaii. More staff sergeants are expected to be promoted to gunnery sergeant in 2015 than any other year since before the manpower drawdown began.
Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Jerome Reed/Marines Corps
Manpower officials have stressed year after year that a few below-zone Marines, depending on last minute tweaks leading up to and during the board, can suddenly find themselves in-zone for promotion. If their official military personnel file and other documents aren't in order — too bad. They will be passed and find themselves one step closer to being booted from the service.
For more junior Marines, the release of the allocations for gunnery sergeant should be taken akin to a forecast, Tarver said. The breakdown of the zones and promotions per MOS military occupational specialty highlight the needs of the Corps.
Thinking of a lateral move? This is a glimpse into what jobs are hot or not, he said.
"The junior Marines, those lance corporals and corporals, this is important for them if they plan on staying in," Tarver said. "They can maybe get an idea of what the promotion tempo may be for the MOS. Year by year, the promotion tempo changes for a specific MOS."
Angling for a promotion? The advice largely has been consistent this year: master your military occupational specialty, consider a lateral move if your job is or becomes increasingly competitive, undertake volunteer work, find a mentor, be discerning when weighing a change of station and meet with experts regularly.
"Make sure you're talking to career planners and career counselors, not just when the message comes out," Tarver said. "You should be engaged with these people up to a year before [the selection board meets]."
Rules and regulations
Even the best-qualified candidate for promotion won't be considered if they foul up the paperwork.
Staff sergeants looking at a potential promotion would be well-advised to examine the fine print in MARADMIN administrative message 081/15. The list of requirements takes up several pages and "Marines are personally responsible for ensuring the accuracy and completeness" of their personnel file and master brief sheet before the selection board convenes.
Potential pitfalls for unaware or lackadaisical Marines includes having a lateral move place them in the wrong promotion zone. Others can be labeled with the wrong MOS and face being administratively deleted, the message warns, though they can appeal the decision.
Both the personnel file and master brief sheet can be requested online, the MARADMIN states officials said.
Auditing records is so important that manpower , Manpower officials ask commanders to remind and encourage their Marines to review the Corps' file on them. Those preparing for or heading out on a deployment should be extra vigilant, said Tarver said.
While overseas or underway, accessing records might prove more difficult, he warned.
But he Tarver recommends all Marines routinely check their files, particularly those that are driven to succeed.
"They should be doing it their whole career," he said. "Once, twice a year [they should] check their records and make sure everything is submitted, make sure they have a current picture. Every year, the Marines that are going to be competing [for promotions] they need to be checking their records."