Attrition: Solving the Sergeant Shortage


June 12, 2007: The U.S. Marines are feeling the strain of being ordered to increase its personnel strength 12 percent over the four years, while also supplying troops for a war. To accomplish all this, it needs more NCOs, and as a result, there are currently fifty percent more promotions from E-5 (sergeant, or squad leader) to E-6 (staff sergeant, or platoon sergeant), and nearly as many more for E-6 to E-7 (Gunnery sergeant). The increase in NCO positions means that the NCO schools have to deal with another 5,000 students in the near future.

All this is opening up more promotion opportunities for corporals (E-4) and creating shortages for units headed overseas. To deal with that, the marines are offering a $6,000 bonus for marines, with less than a year left in their current enlistment, to re-enlist for another year and complete another seven month tour in Iraq. If a marine just needs a few more months of active service to finish a seven month Iraqi tour, they are being offered $3,000 to sign up for as many additional months as it will take. This sort of thing has worked before, and will probably work again. The marines would like to keep people in longer, in order to reach the new, 202,000 strength by 2011. But many marines, like their army counterparts, only want to do one four year enlistment, then go off and take advantage of the GI Bill college tuition benefits.


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