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CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — A career retention specialist in the 3rd Marine Division was recently named the Marine Corps’ Career Planner of the Year.

Gunnery Sgt. Mark McKay, a career planner for almost six years, competed against 350 Marines for the honor as top retention specialist.

McKay said his past experience as a Marine Corps recruiter is one factor contributing to his success. Time management and organizational skills are two things McKay said he learned while recruiting.

While recruiters tell potential Marines the benefits they’ll get from joining the Corps, he said he uses that experience to remind Marines why they first joined and the benefits they get for serving.

McKay listed command support as a second key ingredient to his success. “The leadership stresses that everyone is a career planner, and with that kind of leadership, it makes it easier. If (retention) doesn’t come down from the top, it goes to the wayside, and that’s not the case here.”

During his time as a career planner, McKay said he has helped re-enlist more than 2,500 Marines.

“Re-enlistments are the best part of this job,” said McKay who is also responsible for training subordinate command career planners. McKay said the biggest challenge of his job is taking care of career Marines between sergeant and gunnery sergeant.

He said that they really don’t feel the need to talk about their careers and re-enlistments, and sometimes they wait until they’re close to the end of their contract before re-enlisting.

Lt. Col. Russell Glover, the assistant chief of staff of 3rd Marine Division’s administrative section, nominated McKay for the award.

McKay will receive a Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a banquet at Quantico, Va., where he will be recognized along with the top recruiter, drill instructor and Marine Security Guard Marine.

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