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First term Marines have the most opportunities to reenlist as riflemen, and there are 139 quotas, or boat spaces, available. Unlike career Marines, first term Marines must compete with other Marines for boat spaces within each military occupational specialty. Once all the boat spaces are filled, a Marine must find a new MOS or separate from the Marine Corps.

Photo by Sgt. Jacob Harrer

Don't miss the boat to reenlist

18 Apr 2013 | Sgt. Jacob Harrer 1st Marine Division

It’s time to reenlist. There are more than 800 boat spaces still available this year, but first term Marines must act quickly to claim the jobs of their choice.
Many opportunities also exist in the more specialized fields such as intelligence, reconnaissance, explosive ordnance disposal, and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. Riflemen and counterintelligence specialists have the most boat spaces available, with 139 and 85 quotas remaining for the fiscal year. Those quotas are shrinking daily as Marines continue to reenlist.
First term Marines are those still serving in their initial enlistment from recruit training. Unlike career Marines, first term Marines must compete with their peers to be able to reenlist for specific jobs.
Each fiscal year, Headquarters Marine Corps calculates boat spaces, or quotas within each military occupational specialty, available for first term Marines, said Staff Sgt. Jasen D. Kerr, the career planner for Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. There are usually fewer boat spaces available than the number of eligible Marines in each MOS.

In addition to boat spaces, bonuses exist for certain MOSs on a first come, first serve basis. The Marine Corps offers bonuses of up to $69,750 for first term Marines reenlisting as MARSOC critical skills operators or counterintelligence specialists.

Marines who wait too long to reenlist can lose out on thousands of dollars in bonus cash, or even worse, “miss the boat” if their MOS closes out, said Kerr, a native of Jefferson, Md.  When all boat spaces are taken, a Marine may have to find a new MOS or lose out on the chance to remain active duty.

The Marine Corps has been reducing its manpower and will continue to draw down over the next few years, Kerr said. This is a big difference from four or five years ago when the Marine Corps was increasing its forces to the peak of 202,000 Marines in 2010. At that time the Marine Corps offered generous bonuses and open boat spaces across a wide variety of MOSs.

In contrast, today’s career prospects are much more competitive. Budget constraints and reduced manpower mean fewer bonuses and boat spaces.

To ensure the Corps retains the highest quality Marines, Headquarters Marine Corps has implemented a tiered ranking system for first term Marines— the First Term Alignment Plan Quality Comparison. The system generates a score for each first term Marine in the fiscal year based on several factors such as physical fitness test scores, rifle range scores, proficiency and conduct marks, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt levels and meritorious promotions.

Once the system generates scores, it ranks Marines in four different tiers, with the first tier being the top 10 percent of Marines and the fourth tier being the bottom 10 percent, Kerr said. To be fair to outstanding performers who may not have the highest scores, the quality comparison allows commanders to make recommendations which Headquarters Marine Corps accepts in lieu of the calculated score.

The tiered system helps the Marine Corps determine who to accept for reenlistment when multiple Marines compete for a boat space.

It’s more challenging to reenlist now than in the last decade, but the standards are reasonable for any Marine who puts in the effort, said Sgt. Jessica L. Bauerlien, a student in the Basic Career Planners Course at Recruiters School, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Bauerlien, a native of Manchester, Md., recently reenlisted while deployed to Afghanistan, landing a job where she is able to help many Marines with their career decisions. She said she is very happy with her decision, and the Marine Corps gives each Marine the opportunity to succeed.

“If you’re a good Marine, the Marine Corps will keep you,” Bauerlien said. “You need to be physically fit, you need to be combat ready and you need to be going above and beyond.  It’s not just for the Marine Corp. It betters yourself as well. Anything that you have to do for the Marine Corps is also going to help the individual.”

Kerr recommends Marines plan for ahead in order to have a successful future, regardless of whether they intend to stay in the Corps.

“Whatever decision Marines make, whether to stay in or get out, they need to be taking a step forward,” Kerr said. “If they are getting out of the Marine Corps and going into a position where they have less income, less benefits and less opportunities, there’s no excuse for it. There’s no reason to punish yourself when you separate just because you may be unhappy with your current unit or your current billet. It’s easy to reenlist and get a new job or get a new duty station and change your environment for the better.”

Tomorrow’s Marine Corps will offer new opportunities that may not have been available to Marines during the past twelve years. With the war in Afghanistan winding down, Marines will have more chances to see other parts of the world through the Marine Security Guard program and with Marine Expeditionary Units, Kerr said.

Whether traveling the world, training for a dynamic new job or building a successful career, the Marine Corps offers first term Marines unique benefits that cannot be matched in the civilian sector. However, these Marines must act soon or they may miss the boat.

1st Marine Division