With force reductions coming, some Marines may face uncertain futures

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A Cherry Point Marine watches a Harrier in flight in the file photo. With a planned reduction in the total number of Marine Corps personnel coming in the next four years, a lifelong career in the Corps may be bleak for some Marines.

Havelock News file photo
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 01:37 PM.

With the Marine Corps planning to reduce its forces by 20,000 over the next four years, the prospect of a lifelong career in the Corps is a bleak one for some Marines.

"I’ve seen a lot of good Marines that have never (gotten in trouble) and because they can’t pick up staff sergeant in 10 years, they’re getting forced out," said Lance Cpl. Richard Dennery, a military policeman stationed on Camp Lejeune who is still waiting to hear back about his re-enlistment package.

Dennery is talking about the recent Marine administrative message that gives Marine sergeants 10 years to reach the rank of the staff sergeant — where they previously had 13 years — or face involuntary separation from the Corps.

"For the people that invested in this, that put their life into it, it’s heartbreaking," Dennery said. "The Marine Corps is a business and so they have to cut numbers, but it’s heartbreaking and my heart goes out to the people that wanted this forever."

With the conflict in Afghanistan winding down and Operation Iraqi Freedom coming to an end last year, the Marine Corps simply doesn’t need such a large force, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Antonio Hardy, a II Marine Expeditionary Force career planner who assists Marines with their transition out of the Corps.

As a result, the Corps has had to find ways to entice people to leave their ranks; and while separation is inevitable for some Marines, with that separation comes a lump sum incentive pay of tens of thousands of dollars. It’s just one of the many tools Marine Corps leaders are using to trim their force of Marines from the current 202,100 to 182,100.

"The needs of the Marine Corps are changing," Hardy said. "In 2006, we were giving everybody a $10,000 (re-enlistment) bonus, at the very least. We were trying to get up to 202,000, because we thought we were going to have two wars going on at the same time ... Now we’re trying to go down, so we have to create programs to give people an opportunity to leave."

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