Corps wants separated Marines to come back
WASHINGTON — Marine Corps officials want fewer deployments and increased dwell time for active duty servicemembers, and they’re looking at Marines who have already left the force to help.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said officials this month will begin a major push to contact Marines who left the Corps in the last four years and encourage them to serve again.
“We’re saying to them … the job isn’t done,” Conway said in a press conference Friday. “We are in a period of national crisis, and your ability to come in and hit the ground running is something we’ll find useful.”
The effort mirrors a letter sent earlier this month by Conway to more than 50,000 active-duty noncommissioned officers, asking them to re-enlist.
The Marine Corps is trying to increase its active-duty end strength from 180,000 to 202,000 by fiscal 2011.
Conway said officials are still aiming for a schedule of seven months deployed, 14 months at home, but admitted right now some Marines are spending as little as five months at home before heading out again.
“We believe we’ve got to do something about the tempo or else we’re going to lose great Americans who want to stay,” he said. “Families need to feel like they’re given proper consideration.
“Quite frankly, in seven months home you can’t have a baby, you can’t lead a normal lifestyle. We think with 14 months back you can.”
Officials haven’t laid out exactly what incentives will be provided for returning Marines, but Conway said for now “everything is on the table.” Shorter enlistment rates, returning without rank penalties, and bonuses are being discussed.
Conway said he expects more recruiting and retention incentives to be unveiled in coming months.
But, he also emphasized the Corps will not drop its recruiting standards — specifically mentioning increasing the number of lower-aptitude recruits or high school dropouts — to help grow the force.
“We’re going to have to be driven off those standards before we start to lower them,” he said.
Marine Corps officials are also petitioning the Defense Department for extra pay for Marines whose tours in Iraq are extended beyond seven months. In January, two Marine infantry battalions and a Marine expeditionary unit in Iraq were extended for six to nine weeks as part of an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq.
Currently, Pentagon regulations provide for troops whose mission is extended longer than a year to receive an extra $1,000 for each month after the first 12. Conway said he’d like to see Marines who expected only to spend seven months in country to receive similar consideration.