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1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Marines in combat zone reenlist under the hand of commandant

By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle | | October 1, 2006

The Marine Corps’ top commander personally reenlisted more than 25 Marines from the Twentynine Palms, Calif.-based Regimental Combat Team 7 at Al Asad Air Base Oct. 1.

Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, personally reenlisted the Marines before he and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps John L. Estrada answered questions during a discussion with Marines and sailors aboard Al Asad. 

“I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you here for doing what you do for the Marine Corps, and what you do for our nation,” said Estrada, after the Marines reenlisted. “You are making our nation much more secure than it has been for quite some time.  You are making a huge difference in what is going on in the world today.”

One Marine who reenlisted said being exposed to enemy fire recently was the reason he decided to reenlist in the Marine Corps for another four years. 

“It changed my whole outlook on being in the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Carlos Cruz, 22, a team leader assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.  “I did everything I was taught to do in a combat situation that day and it made me realize that I wanted to be a Marine for another four years.” 

Cruz, a native of Chicago, said he was “quite nervous” about meeting the commandant to reenlist, but the experience would be a memorable one. 

Another Marine from Houston who is on his third deployment to Iraq said he reenlisted because he loved being a Marine.

“I actually found a job I like,” said Cpl. Justin Berg, a team leader assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.  “I have a college degree and have seen what it is like in the civilian world and being a Marine suits me much better.”

Berg also said a large cash bonus was also factored in his decision to remain in the Marine Corps. 

The Marines who reenlisted made a good choice to reenlist at the beginning of the fiscal year, which began today.  At the beginning of this fiscal year, the Marine Corps had a little more than 6,000 slots for reenlistment. Half of the slots were filled by the first day of the fiscal year, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Aldridge, 34, the regimental career retention specialist assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 in Al Asad.

Many of the Marines reenlisted because they were allowed to choose their next duty station and the majority of the Marines were given cash bonuses of more than $30,000, which is tax free in a combat zone, said Aldridge, a native of Longmont, Colo.

The Marine Corps’ goal is to reenlist 25 percent of the Marines who are on their first enlistment.  The deployed battalions assigned to RCT-7 achieved that goal of reenlisting Marines on their first tour before many of the battalions throughout the Marine Corps that are not currently deployed to a combat zone, said Aldridge. 

Aldridge added that many of the job fields in the Marine Corps were offering cash bonuses for reenlistment that do not usually offer one. 

“Marines realize that a future in the Corps is a great choice,” said Aldridge.  “There are a lot of Marines that get out of the Corps and come back in after an active duty discharge even though they loose their chance to receive a cash bonus and a choice of a duty station assignment.”

Only seven percent of Marines who leave active duty make more money in the civilian world after their discharge.  Last year, 639 of the Marines who left active duty after their first enlistment reenlisted after being discharged.  It is very difficult for prior service Marines to reenlist after being discharged because they have to go through another screening process and sometimes they can be denied reentry into the Marine Corps active ranks, said Aldridge. 

“Marines that are undecided as to whether or not they want to reenlist need to take a good look at what the Corps has to offer them and their families if they have one,” said Aldridge.  “A lot of Marines do not think about what the benefits, such as free medical and dental, can amount to.  They only look at the dollar sign on their paychecks and do not figure in the intangibles.”

“I know a good opportunity when I see one,” said Berg, after he reenlisted. 

Email Sgt. Seigle at seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil