The Marine Corps will now allow some Marines to opt out of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel promotion boards in the hopes of allowing Marines to pursue more diverse career paths.

The change will take place for the fiscal year 2024 promotion boards, according to an administrative message released Wednesday.

Traditionally, Marines have been given two opportunities to be promoted. If they fail to be selected for promotion on a second attempt, their careers are over.

“Our current promotion model incentivizes officers to pursue conventional career paths that enable them to complete milestone billets and education on an established, rigid schedule,” Marine Corps Commandant David Berger wrote in his recent Talent Management 2030 document. “Officers are, in turn, disincentivized from pursuing unconventional career experiences or education that may yield long-term benefits, but which takes them off track for key billets.”

The MARADMIN allows Marines who are in-zone or above-zone for promotion, but who previously were not eligible to promote, to opt out of the promotion board, giving them an extra year to hit those career milestones.

In an effort to totally overhaul the Marine Corps’ manpower system, Berger has introduced the opt out system to ensure the Corps is retaining the best Marines.

“Even a small deviation in the timing of assignments can have significant consequences (e.g., an extra 6-12 months in school might mean a major misses the opportunity for a key fleet billet before their lieutenant colonel promotion board),” he wrote. “But because those Marines delayed command or other promotion related opportunities to gain those experiences they were often passed over for promotion and their experience and knowledge was cut out of the Marine Corps.”

Marines who wish to opt out must “not have previously failed selection for promotion to the grade requesting exclusion,” must be within height and weight standards and cannot be the subject of any ongoing investigations, pending legal matters or have any in-grade adverse materials, according to the MARADMIN.

“The basis for the request is to allow an officer to complete a broadening assignment, advanced education, another assignment of significant value to the Marine Corps, or a career progression requirement delayed by the assignment of education,” the MARADMIN adds.

Examples of broadening assignments and qualifying advanced education are utilization tours associated with the Corps’ graduate education program, foreign professional military education, a congressional fellowship, the commandants’ National Fellows, tours with industry, full-time resident graduate or doctoral education, Olmsted Scholar, and equivalent service institutions and/or resident civilian education programs, foreign area or regional area affairs and personnel exchange program, according to the MARADMIN.

The deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs will make the final decision on all opt out requests, the MARADMIN said.

The decision will be based on “consideration is in the best interest of the Marine Corps based on the statutory guidelines, MOS strengths, and the needs of the service,” the MARADMIN said.

In the future, the Marine Corps may extend the opt out program to other boards, Maj. Jordan Cochran said in a press release.

Manpower and Reserve Affairs, “is exploring options to apply Opt Out to other future, non-statutory boards,” Cochran said Friday.

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