Fewer first-term Marines are signing on for a second re-enlistment compared to this time last year, prompting manpower officials to ask commanders to redouble efforts to encourage young enlisted troops to stay in the Corps. Manpower officials in Virginia are launching a push to retain more Marines in undermanned MOSs by asking commanders to redouble efforts to identify those with critical skills and encourage them to reenlist.

The Marine Corps is making The push, announced in a recent Marine administrative message, was prompted by slower progress towards re-enlistment targets for fiscal year 2016 than last year. As of Oct. 5, just over 33 percent of targeted first-term boat spaces for reenlistment were filled compared to 53 percent at the same time last year, according to Marine administrative message ARADMIN 490/15.

Manpower planners need commander's assistance to drive Marines to fill 3,953 Marines to re-enlist, so they can meet their 2016 first-term alignment plan goals. Corps officials hope to see 5,957 first-term Marines sign on for another enlistment in 2016. boatspaces that still remain open in order to reach their goal of 5,957. Currently only 2,229 requests are pending, meaning even if all were approved, the service would fall short of its goal.

What's more, mManpower planners also prefer to have like to have far more submissions than boat spaces so they can choose only the best qualified Marines.

But re-enlistment intent is on the decline across the enlisted ranks, according to the results of the 2015 EAS Enlisted Retention Survey. Of the more than 4,200 Marines who took that survey, 38 percent said they were unlikely to sign on for another term, up 7 percent since 2013. Respondents listed civilian job opportunities, a lack of job satisfaction and pay as some of the top reasons influencing their decision to leave the Corps.

Now officials are As a result of the continued need for more Marines to reenlist, officials are appealing to commanders and career planners to talk to Marines about career opportunities. Career planners will soon present a series of questions to active-duty Marines contemplating a re-enlistment in order to get a "pulse of the force."

"Enlisted retention is a function of command: each commander maintains a responsibility for identifying talented Marines and encouraging them to submit for retention and continue their service," the MARADMIN states reads.

Re-enlistment challenges

Leaders hoping to get to the bottom of what's preventing more enlisted troops from re-enlisting are tasking career planners with finding out what's on the minds of Marines up for re-enlistment.

The information career planners collect will be presented to commanders who could then be tasked with goals for filling certain boat spaces within their commands. Here's a look at some of the questions career planners will ask in order to get a "pulse of the force."

  • What are the top three factors influencing their retention decision?
  • What are the three incentives that did or could influence their retention decision?
  • What are the outside factors that make civilian life more appealing?

Commanders will receive a summary of the responses by Oct. 9. Marines' answers should provide additional insight and updated information to complement the recent FY15 retention survey.

"The intent is to provide commanders with some of the current variables that are affecting retention, in order to inform their effort to mentor, dialogue and retain talent," the MARADMIN reads.

Marine officials say the re-enlistment slowdown does not indicate a retention problem. They say they remain confident they will hit overall retention targets.

Pay, benefits and career opportunities are strong, and Marines join and stay in the Corps because they want to serve, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman. Carlock provided responses on the Marine Corps' enlistment assessment from the command's enlisted plans and retention sections.

As the Marine Corps gets closer to its drawdown goals, the urgency to re-enlist has slowed, she said. Marines are no longer competing for drastically fewer and fewer boat spaces each year.

"During the recent drawdown years, the Corps had larger numbers of Marines applying for a shrinking number of available spaces and that certainly affected the pace of retention," Carlock said. according to joint written responses from Manpower and Reserve Affairs' Enlisted Plans and Retention sections, provided by Yvonne Carlock, an M&RA spokeswoman.

U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31 stand in formation on the flight deck aboard the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), in Fremantle, Western Australia, June 25, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/Released)
U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31 stand in formation on the flight deck aboard the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), in Fremantle, Western Australia, June 25, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/Released)

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 stand in formation while off the coast of western Australia.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Brian Bekkala/Marine Corps

The drawdown will take the Marine Corps to 182,000 Marines by the end of 2017, with the service now at about 184,000. As manpower officials get closer to that goal, they are focusing on Now, their focus is wholly on retaining the right Marines in underpopulated military occupational specialties.

"The current challenge is to attain and maintain the proper balance in rank and MOS," she said. "This requires that we take a more active approach to the retention process."

"The below information is intended to assist commanders in this effort by providing a summary of the general state of FTAP retention in the Marine Corps and to highlight key MOSs that require additional command focus."

The information in the MARADMIN, "is intended to assist commanders in this effort by providing a summary of the general state of FTAP retention in the Marine Corps and to highlight key MOSs that require additional command focus."

Opportunities for Marines

For Marines still thinking about re-enlisting, their ability to get the assignment they're hoping for largely depends on their MOS.

Seven specialties in particular are considered slow-filling MOSs. Those are likely to be the primary targets of the push by commanders to scrounge up more submissions for re-enlistment. Manpower officials plan to monitor remaining boat spaces in slow-filling MOSs, and will assign a specific retention mission for each force-level commander by Nov. 15.

In some cases, the MOSs provide generous re-up bonuses or healthy promotion prospects. Many also provide skills that will easily transfer to civilian jobs. They include:

  • 0211: Counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist
  • 0241: Imagery Analysis Specialist
  • 0651: Cyber network operator
  • 0689: Cyber security technician
  • 2336: Explosive ordnance disposal technician
  • 3521: Automotive organizational technician
  • 3531: Motor vehicle operator

Some of those could spell opportunity for Marines since in many cases they overlap with specialties that are critical to Marine operations and thus offer handsome incentives to reenlist.

While the bonus budget was down to $56 million this year compared to half a billion in 2008 and 2009, 55 jobs remained eligible for cash at the start of the year with the intention of giving payouts to 3,600 Marines — 300 more than in fiscal 2015.

Jobs that still offer handsome payouts include up to $56,000 for counterintelligence/human intelligence specialists and cyber security technicians. Similarly cyber network operators receive up to $30,750 and explosive ordnance disposal technicians up to $51,000.

Junior Marines in ground combat arms can also expect to enjoy healthy retention incentives as the service works to retain combat experienced squad leaders -- corporals and sergeants -- under the Squad Leader Development Program that provides those willing to reenlist while agreeing to remain squad leaders by moving into the newly-created "squad leader" MOS for four years up to $20,500.

So while Manpower officials enlist the help of commanders to shape the force with the right Marines in the right ranks and right MOSs, there remains healthy opportunity. That is particularly the case in the services the so-called HD/LD jobs and slow filling MOSs where Marines can cash in to remain in uniform.

Marines in faster-filling MOSs could face tougher re-enlistment competition. As the overall speed of first-term re-enlistments lags behind last year, a large number of jobs remain highly competitive. Those include 51 specialties designated as fast-filling MOSs, meaning in many cases they received more submissions for re-enlistment than available boat spaces even before reenlistments officially opened on Oct. 1.

Marines hope to submit in one of the fast-filling specialties will be subject to re-enlistment boards, meaning only the most competitive will be selected to fill the spot, rather than offering re-enlistment on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Some MOSs — including administrative specialist, machinist, MV-22 tiltrotor crew chief and aviation operations specialist — have already been closed completely, according to the MARADMIN.

For Marines who are shut out of an MOS and still hoping to re-enlist can still make a lateral move into a more in-demand job thoughbecause it is fast filling and they didn't submit for re-enlistment quickly enough, all hope is not lost. Or they can try to stay in their current MOS if they are exceptionally qualified by receiving a request by their commander for the Quality Marine Identification program. The program authorizes retention of Marine beyond the strict boat space caps if they are anticipated to have an exceptional career.

All Marines hoping to remain in uniform and who have not submitted for re-enlistment yet should do so as quickly as possible. Manpower officials would not reveal the entire list of MOSs they predict will soon fill, but did say that another 26 are on the verge of becoming fast-filling. Water support technician and basic aviation ordnance Marine were likely candidates, officials said.

That could shut out remaining Marines in those jobs.