Support our mission

ARLINGTON, Va. — Marines under the age of 18 can no longer deploy to combat zones or otherwise operationally deploy.

The move follows a recent Defense Department order to each branch of the service to make sure that those under 18 did not take part in combat, Defense officials said.

A review was prompted by French media reports in February that the United States had sent troops under the age of 18 to Iraq, despite ratifying a United Nations protocol banning participating nations from sending children to war, Defense officials said Wednesday.

“Those reports suggested potentially inappropriate assignments among the U.S. and U.K. that, however small, would be a source of concern — hence the reminder to the services,” officials said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

At the time the Defense Department ordered the review, no Marines under the age of 18 were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Kerry Cerny, a human resource specialist at Military Personnel Policy.

As of the review, the Marine Corps had 310 Marines under the age of 18, of whom 14 were assigned to units that could deploy, Cerny said.

To comply with the Defense Department-ordered review, the Corps has mandated that Marines under the age of 18 can no longer operationally deploy, Cerny said.

Under the Corps’ old policy, Marines younger than 18 could still deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan as long as commanders took “all feasible measures” that they would not directly participate in combat, Cerny said.

That meant Marines under the age of 18 could still do convoy operations, maintenance and other noncombat jobs, he said.

Now Marines under 18 cannot go to war zones or go with Marine Expeditionary Units when they spend several months at sea visiting various countries, Cerny said.

The new restrictions do not apply to training missions, according to a recent MARADMIN (Marine Administrative Message). The new policy is outlined in MARADMIN 272/07 at:

The Navy has also tightened its procedures to make sure none of its 70 sailors under 18 go to war, said Navy Personnel Command spokesman Mike McLellan. “Effective last week, all orders written on sailors under 18 now chop to the Enlisted Distribution Branch Head for a final check to ensure the member is not being ordered to an operational unit,” McLellan said in a Wednesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The Army and Air Force have their own policies to make sure servicemembers under the age of 18 do not go to combat

“Since early 2003, Army policy has been not to assign or deploy on permanent or temporary duty orders soldiers outside the United States its territories and possessions until they reach 18,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty in a Monday e-mail to Stars and Stripes. The Army has about 950 active-duty soldiers under the age of 18 as of the beginning of April, Hilferty said.

Meanwhile, airmen under 18 are listed in the Military Personnel Data System as ineligible to deploy, Air Force Personnel Center officials said on Tuesday.

“Prior to deployment, unit commanders, Unit Deployment Managers, and base Personnel Deployment Functions are all charged with checking the eligibility of members and eliminating anyone with a nondeployable DAV [Deployment Availability] code from processing,” officials said in a Tuesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The Air Force currently has 85 active-duty airmen who are younger than 18, officials said


around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up