Marines Who Volunteer for Special Duty Assignments Can Earn Thousands with New Bonus

Marine instructors with Drill Instructor School.
Marine instructors with Drill Instructor School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island instruct and mentor candidates during close order drill practice on Parris Island, S.C. April 17, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Marines will be eligible for a new payout of up to $10,000 if they volunteer to serve as recruiters, drill instructors or embassy guard detachment commanders.

New voluntary supplemental incentives, or VSIs, are available to enlisted Marines who opt to serve in some of the Corps' most demanding special duty assignments. Marines volunteering for their first three-year special duty assignment tour will be eligible for a $10,000 payout. Those opting for a second two-year SDA will earn $6,700.

The VSIs will be paid out on top of other special pays and incentives recruiters, drill instructors and Marine security guard detachment commanders earn. That could leave a recruiter pocketing an extra $23,500 over a three-year tour, while drill instructors would earn up to $20,800, and MSG detachment commanders up to $15,400.

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"These jobs are challenging and are critical to the Marine Corps mission," said Col. Raul Lianez, the branch head for Marine Corps Manpower Military Policy. "We recognize the talent and commitment those selected bring to the challenge of these duties. Our incentives reward their decisions and efforts in support of the Marine Corps."

The Marine Corps announced the details for the new VSI, along with fiscal 2021 incentives for type-1 screenable billets and other select duties, in a service-wide message issued last week. The $10,000 VSI signals the value the Corps places on qualified Marines volunteering to take on temporary duties outside their primary military occupational specialties, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman.

The new incentive, combined with other special pays and bonuses, "is a considerable motivator for Marines who are facing a range of career and assignment options," she said.

"Marines choosing to volunteer for a special duty assignment are essentially choosing a pay raise of up to 21% to apply their talent and energy while serving in the assignment," Carlock added.

Marines can opt to take the VSI in a lump sum or paid out over the course of their SDA tour. There's no penalty for either option, meaning Marines will earn the full $10,000 or $6,700 payment whether they take it all at once or over time.

VSI becomes payable within 30 days of Marines starting the duty, following graduation from their SDA school, Carlock said. Analysis shows that volunteers are more likely to graduate from SDA schools and successfully complete their tours, she added.

The Marine Corps is currently in the volunteer period for fiscal 2022 SDAs. Marines can volunteer for an SDA year-round, but are encouraged to do so between July and December.

There's no limit to the number of Marines who will be eligible to receive the new VSIs if they complete their SDA school, but Carlock said some assignments fill up faster than others.

If a Marine volunteers for drill instructor duty but assignments for that year are full, for example, they can reapply during another fiscal year volunteer period, request to be considered for another SDA, or withdraw their package.

"HQMC does not direct-assign volunteers to SDAs they did not request," Carlock said.

Marines who volunteer for one of the three duties not only receive better financial benefits, but also enhance their careers.

"When promotion boards consider 'best and fully qualified' to arrive at selection decisions, the completion of an SDA can be viewed as advantageous as compared to those that have not completed such duties," Carlock said.

SDA volunteers also get greater certainty in their assignments, she added, since Marines can request specific class dates and -- in some cases -- locations.

The VSI isn't the only new perk for Marines serving on SDAs. Starting in fiscal 2021, which began Oct. 1, the Special Duty Assignment Pay is a flat monthly rate of $150 per month. That doubles the SDA pay for MSG detachment commanders from the $75 per month they received last year.

The Marine Corps is also offering special incentives for other select duties, including type-1 screenable billets that include jobs the Marine Corps used to consider special duty assignments, such as combat instructor, MSG watchstander and Marine Corps Security Force Regiment guard duty.

Full details on the special pays available for each position can be found in Marine administrative message 628/20.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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