Combat veteran reenlistments still high despite war

19 May 2006 | Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

What makes a first-term Marine with two combat tours, nearing the end of his four years in the Marine Corps, want to reenlist?

This is a question many career planners aboard the Combat Center face daily when dealing with Marines nearing their end of active service date as they tailor both that question and incentives to each Marine. Their mission is to retain these combat veterans and other experienced Marines despite the possibility of deployments and hardships while a conflict overseas continues.

Yet they still meet their goals and have since Headquarters Marine Corps established new mission goals five years ago. As of April 15, 1st Marine Division was at 84.4 percent of its goal for fiscal year 2006, said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Whitaker, base career planner.

In fact, reenlistments have become almost more competitive than promotions in some military occupational specialties, where bonuses, special duty and preferred duty stations are enticing Marines more than ever, he said.

“Reenlistments are extremely competitive now,” agreed Sgt. Xavisus T. Gayden, 1st Tank Battalion career planner. “When I started career planning, it was first come, first served. It’s still kind of the same, but Headquarters Marine Corps is now individually selecting Marines based on their packages.

“It takes a lot for Marines to come back and want to serve again,” said Gayden, a 25-year-old Houston native who has the highest reenlistment rate on base after already reenlisting 53 1st Tanks Marines for this fiscal year. “A lot of them are Marines who have been to Iraq once, twice, and they have seen their friends or fellow Marines be injured or killed. Those kinds of things can either make them stronger or make them want to leave. For them to come and say they still want to reenlist is hard.”

For Cpl. Richard Guerramoreno, 21, a field radio operator with Tactical Training Exercise Control Group, Headquarters Battalion, reenlisting to go to Okinawa, Japan, to see more of the world and the Marine Corps was a natural choice.

“One reason I joined the Marine Corps in the first place was to just get out there and do something different,” said the Moses Lake, Wash., native, who deployed to Iraq in May 2004. “So now I’m heading to Okinawa.”

Guerramoreno said the process to reenlist was quick once he began talking to his battalion career planner.

“The process is pretty simple; you just need to get it started. It’s very competitive,” he said. “Get your package in early because you can always say no.”

One new system to help Marines and career planners alike is the new Automated Career Retention System, or ACRS, which is available to all Marines through their MarineOnline account.

Marines must merely fill out their preferences for duty stations, special assignments and interests before meeting with their career planner to help streamline the process and help save time and effort, said Gayden.

One point career planners and reenlisting Marines stress is the importance of starting early on putting together and submitting a package.

“My best advice would be to start early as soon as you’re eligible and submit a package, even if you’re not sure,” said Gayden.

You have the choice to either get in or stay out, and submitting a package allows you to make that call instead of the Marine Corps. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Submit early and get approval so and you can turn it down later if you want, said Gayden.