Starting April 1, lance corporals and corporals must have 12 months time-in-grade before they can add another stripe.

Currently, lance corporals will be promoted on the first day of the quarter if they have the cutting score and will hit eight months in grade at any time during the quarter. A corporal is similarly promoted if he has the score and will hit 12 months at any point within the quarter. So a Marine could have been promoted in January though he won't hit time-in-grade requirements until March.

No more.

New quarterly composite scores become effective April 1. If a Marine's date of rank is April 2 the previous year, he cannot be promoted until May 1 even though he has the necessary points.

"The last 14 years of war have demonstrated a demand for small-unit leaders who possess the potential, motivation and maturity to satisfactorily discharge the duties of a noncommissioned officer," said Sgt.Maj. Grant VanOostrom, the top enlisted Marine at Manpower and Reserve Affairs. "Corporals and sergeants are required to exercise an ever-increasing degree of leadership and professionalism. The end state is what it has always been ... to ensure the Marines recommended for the title of NCO have demonstrated they are worthy of the next higher grade."

The changes are detailed included in Marine administrative message 055/16. They should affect a relatively low number of Marines. More than 92 percent of lance corporals with 12 months in grade don't have the cutting score needed for promotion, according to personnel data.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller wants to ensure all Marines — fast-burner or otherwise — are fully prepared for the responsibilities of a noncommissioned officer before being promoted into their ranks. The time-in-grade requirement will allow battalions and squadrons to conduct quarterly unit promotion panels that will serve as a "quality control board."

The change, addressed in the Commandant's Planning Guidance released Jan. 19, will give leaders a hands-on mentorship role with junior Marines, and ensure junior Marines are well-prepared to become leaders themselves. The unit promotion panels are meant to codify and formalize existing requirements, and aims to recognize and retain "those who possess and exhibit the leadership, talent and skills for the future force," according to the CMC's planning guidance. Neller has long used this approach within his various commands, and said the results have been strong. Now he looks to take that Corps-wide.

The change allows commanders to submit quarterly "not recommended for promotion" entries. Unless another entry is made, the Marine will automatically be eligible for promotion the next quarter. In addition, the commander can pull the "not rec" at any time during the quarter.

For more information, check out the promotion branch website at www.manpower.usmc.mil. Select "Active Marine," "Manpower Management (MM)," "Promotion Branch," then "Enlisted Promotions."

Lance M. Bacon is senior reporter for Marine Corps Times. He covers Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Marine Corps Forces Command, personnel/career issues, Marine Corps Logistics Command, II MEF, and Marine Forces North. He can be reached at lance.bacon@hotmail.com.