Up to six hundred Marine sergeants without spouses, kids or other dependents will receive the Basic Allowance for Housing, a cash transfer typically reserved for higher-ranking troops and troops with dependents.
The “highly deserving” sergeants will receive the allowance at a rate for troops without dependents, according to a Marine administrative message Friday. These sergeants will get money that could enable them to move out of the barracks and into housing off base.
The Marine Corps has authorized the allowance for 200 sergeants in the southeast United States; 200 in the western part of the continental United States; 100 in the National Capitol Region; and 100 in Hawaii, according to the message. The authorization is only for Marines who are permanently assigned to the continental United States and Hawaii.
Sergeants will get considered for the extra cash only if they “display maturity, financial responsibility, and a history of excellence in the performance and conduct of their duties as determined by their commanding officers,” according to the message. Installation commanders must serve as the final approval authorities for the requests.
Previously, the Basic Allowance for Housing in the Marine Corps largely had been reserved for Marines of the rank of staff sergeant and up, and Marines with dependents. That sometimes creates an incentive for young Marines to get hitched, a phenomenon the 2022 Netflix romance film “Purple Hearts” used as its premise.
Sergeants who request the allowance under the new initiative must complete on-base training on estimating affordable rental costs, completing rental applications, understanding what’s included in rent and having roommates.
Once they have received the entitlement, they can retain it through a permanent change of station to elsewhere in the United States.
A sergeant receiving the allowance can lose it if “the Marine’s continued off-base residency is not in the best interest of the Marine Corps” or if the Marine is reduced in rank, according to the message. If that happens, or if a sergeant becomes eligible for the allowance by getting married or otherwise gaining a dependent, a slot may open up for another sergeant to start receiving the allowance.
The new initiative comes as Marine leadership is emphasizing quality of life in an effort to retain more high-performing Marines.
“In the future world of recruiting challenges, we cannot lose a 12-year intelligence professional or artillery Marine because we could not provide access to pediatric care or a high quality chow hall,” then-Commandant Gen. David Berger wrote in a planning document in March.
Marine leaders have said they are aware that housing, in particular, needs to improve.
The Marine Corps is looking into better ways to manage barracks, according to a planning document from February, and formally pledged in June to provide barracks that meet basic standards of livability.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Saturday to correct that sergeants will receive the rate for troops without dependents.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.