Marine Corps Scraps E-8 Board After 'Irregularity' Reported

Students and faculty sing the Marines’ Hymn during Sergeants Course Class 6-13 graduation ceremony Oct. 4, 2013, at Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. (U.S. Marine Corps/Ameesha Felton)
Students and faculty sing the Marines’ Hymn during Sergeants Course Class 6-13 graduation ceremony Oct. 4, 2013, at Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. (U.S. Marine Corps/Ameesha Felton)

The Marine Corps is going back to the drawing board in its selection of first sergeants and master sergeants for fiscal 2018 after reports of an irregularity in the process prompted an investigation.

According to a Marine Corps administrative message published Dec. 15, the fiscal 2018 sergeant major through master sergeant selection board, which picks the Marines to be promoted in ranks E-8 and E-9 for the year, was able to complete deliberations on the E-9 ranks, but was dismissed before it could complete the process for E-8s.

The Marine Corps has two E-8 ranks: first sergeant and master sergeants. First sergeants act as senior enlisted advisers, while master sergeants have technical responsibilities in their job fields and fill other leadership roles. Only first sergeants can be promoted to sergeant major; master sergeants can be promoted to master gunnery sergeant.

The recent board convened on Oct. 18 and adjourned Dec. 12, according to the message. It's set to reconvene Jan. 8, 2018, with an all-new set of board members.

"Following an investigation into a potential irregularity during the conduct of the E-8 portion of the FY18 Sergeant Major through Master Sergeant promotion selection board, the commandant of the Marine Corps [Gen. Robert Neller] directed the board be reconstituted with new members, who will meet in 2018 to conduct the E-8 portion," Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com in a statement.

Neither the statement nor the message made clear what the nature of the irregularity was. But an official with knowledge of the process said the problem pertained to a specific individual and concerns regarding information being made known before it was formally authorized.

Rather than breaking any laws, the behavior in question could be described as "irregular, inappropriate, not the way we prefer to do business," the official said.

The Marine Corps holds promotion boards for all promotions to staff noncommissioned officer ranks, from E-6 to E-9. The boards consist of 21 Marines in a range of officer and SNCO ranks.

In all, 1,537 Marines were being considered for promotion to first sergeant or master sergeant, said Maj. Garron Garn, a spokesman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. They were competing for 1,003 allocated spots, of which 185 were for first sergeants.

In April, the Navy dealt with a similar situation when it was forced to scrap its E-9, or master chief, selection board after allegations of deliberations being compromised.

In June, the Navy announced it had convened summary courts-martial for two master chiefs sitting on the board who had been found guilty of discussing a sailor up for promotion outside the formal board process.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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