SAN DIEGO ― As America’s military struggles with recruiting and the services offer various financial incentives to get people to join, the Marine Corps’ second-in-command warned Tuesday that new devil dogs should not to expect a hefty cash payment if they enlist.
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith told attendees of the annual West naval conference here that recruiting remains a “strategic challenge,” but that the Marines are going to address the problem their own way, via a route that doesn’t involve stacks for those who join.
“Your bonus is that you get to call yourself a Marine,” Smith said. “That’s your bonus … there’s no dollar amount that goes with that.”
The service’s position stands in stark contrast to the Navy, which is offering maximum enlistment bonuses of up to $50,000 and has lowered entrance exam scores in the past year to attract more recruits.
The Air Force is offering up to $60,000 in bonuses, while the Army also has offered tens of thousands in extra dollars for new recruits in recent years.
Instead, Smith said, the Marine Corps is focused on retaining the people it has and plans to implement policies that would allow some Marines to stay at a duty station for six years instead of the standard three before they transfer.
“What if we did that, and let you and your spouse work in the same place for six years?” Smith said. “We don’t call that homesteading anymore, we call that being smart.”
“Let’s do talent management first, then training,” he said. “Talent management does not mean that every Marine that comes in goes on to become a master sergeant. "
The Marine Corps is seeing particular gap in the five to nine-year mark, Smith said.
“We’re going to retain, not recruit, our way out of the problem,” he said, questioning the wisdom of spending time and money to make a Marine, only to send them on their way and out of uniform after four years.
While new recruits won’t be getting big payouts from the Marines, recruiters are now eligible to receive hundreds of dollars in monthly bonuses if they stay in the grueling job for six months or more, according to an all-Marine message released in January.
Canvassing recruiters and staff noncommissioned officers in charge of recruiting substations will receive the additional bonus pay if they extend their three-year tours by six, nine or 12 months.
Unlike the other services, the Marines hit their enlisted recruiting mark for fiscal year 2022, but just barely, signing up 28,608, active-duty enlisted Marines, making its goal by just eight bodies.
Among Reserve enlisted personnel, the Corps hit it exact goal of 4,602 troops.
Marine Corps times reporter Irene Loewenson contributed to this report.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected].