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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps is offering a $4,000 retention bonus for captains in the hopes of retaining between 250 and 300 captains this fiscal year, Corps officials said Monday.

The Corps plans to add 979 captains to its ranks as part of its efforts to expand to 202,000, according to Manpower and Reserve Affairs officials.

It takes about four years to create a new captain, and the Corps typically loses about 500 captains each year, officials said.

By offering the retention bonus, the Corps hopes to retain enough captains to allow it to get the rest it needs through new commissions and allowing Reserve captains to come back to active duty, officials said.

The Corps hopes that most of the eligible captains opt to sign contracts by Nov. 30, but the official deadline is Sept. 15, 2009, according to a recent Marine Corps Administrative Message, or MARADMIN.

The message lists which Military Occupational Specialties captains must be in to be eligible for the bonus.

As company commanders, captains are critical middle-managers for the Corps, said retired Marine Maj. Robert Jordan, now at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md.

A Marine battalion typically has about four companies, so if the Corps loses four captains, it affects a battalion’s worth of Marines, Jordan said on Monday.

That leaves either a first lieutenant or a chief warrant officer to fill the vacuum — but not all MOSs have chief warrant officers, Jordan said.

Also, Marines have gone through a lot of training by the time they make captain, and by the time officers make captain, the Corps expects them to go on to major and lieutenant colonel, he said.

In short, the loss of a captain translates into lost efficiency, which you just cannot have in the military, Jordan said.

"In the military you’re talking about lives," he said.

For more information, go to MARADMIN 611.08 at: www.usmc.mil.

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