CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa -- As the Corps continues to draw down, today's Marines need to stand out amongst their peers now more than ever.
Staff non-commissioned officers see the shrinking Corps as an obstacle they must navigate to continue their military careers. According to Pentagon personnel statistics, due to sequestration and other budget cuts, the Corps may have to reduce its numbers to 174,000 by the end of 2017. Meaning, the few will become even fewer.
There are resources provided by the Marine Corps to keep the SNCOs in the fight, enabling them to lead and mentor junior Marines. Resources such as career planners, career counselors and Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy are just a few ways Marines can seek information to enhance their careers.
“The current trend I see with staff non-commissioned officers is not utilizing the career planners provided and getting passed up for promotion due to their (official military personnel files) not being complete or having the right paperwork needed,” said Gunnery Sgt. Deundrey Dunn, the career planner for III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “They believe that the career planner can’t tell them anything except to raise their physical fitness test and combat fitness test scores, but that’s not all we do. We sit down with them and go through the files to see how they stack up against their peers. If the Marine is lacking in some aspects, we can catch the blemish, so the Marine can work on that deficiency improving their odds for promotion.”
The OMPF is an administrative record containing information about the Marine's service history such as date and type of enlistment/appointment; duty stations and assignments; training, qualifications, performance, awards and decorations received; and disciplinary actions, emergency data and administrative remarks.
The career planner is a liaison between the Marines, their commands and Headquarters Marine Corps. Their job is to let Marines know what their options are for re-enlistment and to help prepare their records for promotion.
Two years before a Marine believes they will be eligible for promotion, they should take a hard look at their files and begin making audits and taking corrective action, according to Dunn.
One deficiency may be professional military education, according to Gunnery Sgt. Mark Francis, an instructor at the Okinawa Staff Non-Commissioned Academy on Camp Hansen, Japan. These education programs focus on developing leadership, warfighting and staff abilities of the nation’s armed forces through resident and non-resident courses.
There will be new professional military education requirements to be eligible for promotion beginning Oct. 1, 2016, according to Marine Administrative Message 521/14. For example, staff sergeants will not be considered eligible for promotion if they have not completed either the resident Career Course at one of six staff academies or the Career Course Seminar Distance Education Program. The distance education program is currently only held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, but will expand across the Corps in increments.
“When the students come to the courses we teach them information to take back to their units to help better their junior Marines, and hopefully they do that after they leave the course,” said Francis, from Poughkeepsie, New York.
Paying attention to your qualifications is paramount in the current Marine Corps environment, according to Francis.
“The current trends that I see with SNCO’s missing the cut for promotion or re-enlistment is not being in height and weight standards, not being PME complete, and lacking proficiency in their jobs,” said Francis.“The biggest tip I can give SNCO’s is to stay committed to your Marines. If you’re not committed to your Marines that’s a big hit on yourself.”
It is getting increasingly more competitive to achieve the next rank, according to Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Henry, the director of the Okinawa Staff Non-Commissioned Academy. Therefore, documentation is key.
“Marines should start documenting Letters of Appreciation, Certificates of Commendations and Navy Achievement Medals early in their careers, so when the time comes for the board to look at your files they can see what you have achieved in your career,” said Henry, from Riddleton, Tennessee. “It makes the process easier for the board knowing they are promoting someone that is going to strive at the next rank.”
Career counselors at Quantico, Virginia, created a website to help SNCOs diagnose and address common issues the counselors see throughout the fiscal year. For access to this website visit https://www.manpower.usmc.mil.
For more information on PME classes and course availability visit http://www.mcu.usmc.mil/sitePages/Home.aspx.
For more information on new professional education requirements see Marine Administrative Message 521/14 http://www.marines.mil/News/Messages/MessagesDisplay/tabid/13286/Article/171753/updated-enl-pme-prom-reqrs-by-gde-and-announcement-of-cmd-sponsored-lcpl-ldrshi.aspx
To speak with a career planner, contact your command to schedule an appointment.