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ARLINGTON, Va. — Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway is asking Marines to stay in the Corps.

More than 50,000 active-duty noncommissioned officers received an e-mail from Conway on Wednesday calling them to continue serving their country, said Corps spokesman Lt. Col. T.V. Johnson.

“In a larger Marine Corps, we will need the leadership, savvy and determination that experienced Marines like you provide,” Conway wrote. “Now, more than ever, your Marine Corps needs you.”

The move comes shortly after Conway announced that he wants all Marines to be given the opportunity to go to combat, and ordered commanders to look for ways to send Marines who haven’t yet been to combat zones into the fight.

In the e-mail Wednesday, Conway said that the Corps will need experienced NCOs as it increases from 180,000 to 202,000 by fiscal 2011.

He mentions that he has authorized new incentives to entice Marines to stay in the Corps, but he does not say what those incentives are.

The proposed Department of the Navy budget for fiscal 2008 increases special pays by $259 million for Marines to increase the size of the Corps and expand its special operations, a Navy spokesman said on Thursday. Funding for Selective Reenlistment Bonuses would increase by $158 million, offering re-enlistment bonuses for up to 3,700 additional Marines.

“Other special pays increase as the size of the force grows, the College Fund is expanded, and Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP),” the spokesman said. “AIP will be used to encourage Marines to extend on active duty while remaining in an assigned billet for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In his e-mail, Conway wrote Marines can find more information on incentives to stay in the Corps by going to their commanding officer, first sergeant or career retention specialist for more information.

“You are elite among the nation’s warriors,” Conway said. “America and your Corps need you now, and I ask you to re-enlist — or to extend your commitment — to help us defeat this enemy and see us through the crisis.”

Conway acknowledges that many Marines who received the e-mail have “sacrificed a great deal.” Nevertheless, he asks Marines thinking about leaving the Corps to reconsider, saying their experience would be valuable to Marines still in the fight.

“You are part of a new generation of Marines — carrying the battle-tested colors of our Corps,” Conway said. “You have carried them with pride and with honor; I ask you to carry them with me for just a while longer.”


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