Okinawa, Japan --
Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, you feel your heart beat and you take a deep breath, your hands are shaking from both excitement and nervousness. “Sign here,” you hear a voice in front of you say. “Congratulations on your next four years with the Marine Corps.”
“I remember having to sign that contract the very first time,” said Sgt. Micheala Restuvog, the career planner with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion. “Every time a contract gets pulled out, my heart starts beating for them. Like, oh my God, are you ready?”
Re-enlistment is quite a big deal in the Marine Corps, there are many elements that go into the process even before a Marine sits down with a career planner.
Every fiscal year, the U.S. Congress meets, and based off the needs of the Marine Corps and the Commandant’s planning guidance, they propose a number for how many Marines they want to retain. The number is then distributed to the three Marine Expeditionary Forces, and disseminated among its subordinate units.
It is then the job of the commanding generals to create a Fiscal Year Retention Campaign Plan that communicates to their leaders the importance of retention and its strategy.
“Re-enlistment is a major event in the career of an enlisted Marine,” said Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General. “The purpose of the command retention strategy is to encourage Marines to pursue or continue a career in the Marine Corps.”
One big change to the retention plan this fiscal year is units now have number goals, whereas in years prior, units would be given a percentage goal to meet.
“But retention in the Marine Corps is more than just maintaining numbers,” said Restuvog. “We want the best Marines, both tactically and technically.”
She explained, the best way to make sure the Marine Corps retains these Marines is by proper mentorship, leadership, and just getting to know your Marines and how you can help them.
“It’s a matter of trying to figure out where it went wrong for them, or where everything’s going right,” said Restuvog. “Showing them what the Marine Corps has to offer, and finding what best fits their needs.”
Being stationed in Okinawa has its challenges, specifically being away from family for so long, made more difficult because of COVID. It’s up to leadership to show their Marines the opportunities they have and a good example of what the Marine Corps can be for them.
“I wasn’t planning to re-enlist, I was going to go to school for engineering,” said Cpl. Luis Abreufiallos, a supply non-commissioned officer with G-4 Sustainment, III MEF. “But I wanted a taste of something else in the Marine Corps to see what it could give me. So I got orders here to III MEF and ever since then, with the leadership around me, seeing how they compose themselves, I’ve really learned more about myself and the Marine Corps and just enjoyed it a lot more.”
He explained that because of this and the stability of being in the Marine Corps he knew that he wanted to re-enlist.
Last fiscal year, III MEF greatly surpassed their retention goals. Restuvog said that she thinks this is partly because of COVID and as Abreufiallos said, being in the Marine Corps gives people stability in their lives, but also mainly because of the leadership and career planners we have here in III MEF who spent numerous hours teaching Marines what they need to know to make well informed decisions about their careers.
Some advice that Restuvog has given Marines that she’s helped reenlist is, “Not every unit is the same, you’re never going to meet the same leadership twice, and to take whatever leadership concepts you like and all the ones you don’t like, and you put them in your toolbox, and that’s what makes you the leader you are.”
“Seeing my Master Gunnery Sgt., how he works, he sets the example,” said Abreufiallos. “It makes me excited to go back to a normal unit because I can take everything I’ve learned here [at III MEF] and pass it on to my Marines.”
Those leaders being shaped every day are the ones who will pave the way for the re-enlisting Marines.
“I would say the Marine Corps always surpasses their numbers,” said Restuvog. “The leadership has played a wonderful and successful role in helping Marines and giving them that mentor/mentee relationship.”
She stated the Marine Corps as a whole has done a phenomenal job of trying to keep Marines in, and will continue to do so.