CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- As the Marine Corps lets a few notches out on its belt to swell its ranks from today’s 187,000 leathernecks to 202,000 by the year 2010, retaining quality first-term Marines is priority one.
It can be a challenge, however, as Marines are subjected to harrowing deployment schedules that could make even the saltiest World War II island-hopping vet wince, said Gunnery Sgt. Paul T. McCrimmon, unit career planner for Regimental Combat Team 6.
“I’ve seen Marines with two one-year deployments under their belt with only three years of service,” McCrimmon said. “Some of these Marines have made three, four or five combat deployments. It’s made them take a second, hard look at their re-enlistment options. Some of these guys, it’s not impacting their decision (to re-enlist or not) at all. They want to stay Marine, they’re proud to be a Marine, they want to stay and do their job, but they just want to see their wife and kids for a little bit.”
Despite the burden of their nation’s defense weighing on them, nearly three dozen Marines with RCT-6 swore the oath of enlistment administered by Col. Richard L. Simcock II, commanding officer, RCT-6, in a ceremony at the Chapel of Hope here July 9.
One of these Marines was Cpl. Fernando D. Garcia, a 22-year-old Hollister, Calif., native. Garcia, an amphibious assault vehicle mechanic, said he struck a compromise between his parents who were not enthusiastic about his re-enlistment, and his desire to stay Marine. As a term of his “re-up”, he will receive orders to Marine Corps Base Camp Delmar, Calif., where he will become a mechanic on the Corps’ newest amphibious vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.
“I saw the EFVs when I was in (AAV mechanic) school, and I really wanted to go to the EFV program. I couldn’t go, but I still thought they were pretty cool,” he said. “I wanted to go and try out the new stuff this enlistment.”
Going to Camp Delmar means he will be stationed only a few hours away from his family while simultaneously helping to break new ground in the Corps’ amphibious history by maintaining the newest addition to the arsenal.
Sgt. Ryan K. Siler, an artillery section chief with T Battery, 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, said he had not decided until recently to make another commitment to the Marine Corps.
“(Re-enlisting) wasn’t really on my scope yet when I first got here, but as the months ticked along I came into the zone for re-enlistment eligibility. I had to decide if I wanted to take off the uniform and put on a pair of shorts and put a beer in my hand, or keep the uniform on. Why take off something that fits?” he said.
Siler, a 22-year-old St. Louis native and Oakville High School graduate of 2003, will receive orders to Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, Va. When he graduates, he will be posted at one of the scores of U.S. embassies around the world as part of the embassy’s security team.
He said his family backed him up all the way.
“They think it was a smart move financially, but they saw the kind of person I am now that I’m a Marine,” reflected Siler. “They love the fact that I’m a Marine, and the way I carry myself instead of being some young punk out in school.”
In addition to their duty station preferences, these two Marines received over $70,000 in tax-free bonuses for signing on for another four years. The total for all the Marines at the ceremony rang up at an eye-popping $1.1 million. While that means an average bonus of approximately $30,000, the largest single bonus paid out was more than double that.
While he expects many more re-enlistment applications to come across his desk before RCT-6 goes home, McCrimmon said Marines waiting to deploy before they re-enlist may want to give it a second thought. While not paying taxes on the bonus is a nice perk, there are other things to consider.
“Duty station preference is filled on a first come, first served basis. The individual Marine has to decide which is more important: tax free bonus or duty station preference. If he wants to go to that smaller command but there’s only room for five Marines, and five people try to get that slot before he does, he’s not going to get it,” McCrimmon said. “It depends on what he’s trying to accomplish.”