The Marine Corps is throwing big money at grunts, aviation maintainers, air traffic controllers and others in high-demand fields who agree to another enlistment.
Enlisted Marines in dozens of military occupational specialties will qualify for re-enlistment bonuses in fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1. Those bonuses run between $6,400 and $57,000; Marines in some jobs can stack on lucrative "kickers" or lateral-move incentives that top out at $40,000.
"Retaining our experienced and qualified Marines remains one of the Commandant's highest priorities," the bonus announcement states. "Achieving retention goals is vital for shaping and sustaining the Marine Corps' enlisted force."
This year's "kicker" programs target Marines in these categories: those who re-enlist early; those who agree to another term in aviation maintenance or air traffic control; and squad leaders who re-up. Marines are eligible for only one "kicker" bonus each.
Last year, more than 3,500 Marines took advantage of the "kickers," including 1,544 who pocketed an extra $10,000 for re-enlisting early, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. This year, Marines in eligible communities must submit their re-enlistment packages between July 5 and Sept. 30 to rate the extra $8,000 re-enlistment kicker.
"After 30 Sep 19, this Early Reenlistment Kicker will expire," the message states.
A first-term lance corporal serving as an infantry Marine who re-enlists early, for example, would receive a $14,400 bonus. That would include the base selective re-enlistment bonus, or SRB, of $6,400, plus the $8,000 early re-up kicker.
The $40,000 lateral-move incentive is for first-term Marines who agree to a six-year term in one of 14 hard-to-fill jobs. Those MOSs include: counterintel, imagery analysis, recon, critical skills operator, psychological operations, cyber, explosive ordnance technician, cryptologic cyberspace analyst, signals intelligence/electronic warfare analyst, special intelligence system administrators, Marine Corps Community Services, contract specialists and criminal investigative division agent.
Marines who make a lateral move will rate that bonus on top of the standard SRB for that MOS. Some can pocket up to $90,000 between the two bonuses.
More than 425 Marines took a lat-move bonus in 2019, Carlock said. Another 846 Marines took "kicker" bonuses for taking on a special-duty assignment, or SDA, such as drill instructor or recruiter, in 2019.
This year, the Marine Corps increased its SRB budget to $145 million from $136 million. This year, Carlock said about $20 million of that will go toward SDA incentive pay since no "kickers" are being offered in that category.
This year's incentives reflect an ongoing effort to invest in infantry Marines -- a priority in the fiscal 2020 budget. Reconnaissance Marines, special operators and explosive ordnance disposal technicians are eligible for up to $90,000 for a six-year enlistment.
Infantry Marines in several MOSs who move into the squad leader development program can also pocket up to $57,000.
Bonuses for air traffic controllers, cyber Marines and contract specialists and some other fields reflect continued competition the service faces with the private sector in retaining those Marines. Officials recently announced aviation bonuses topping out at $280,000 for continued service as the military competes with commercial airliners for pilots.
Details about the re-up incentives and MOSs that qualify can be found in Marine administrative message 380/19.