Corps Reaches Out to Former Marines

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2007 - The Marine Corps is reaching out to former Marines in its effort to grow the service, the Marine commandant said today.

Marine Gen. James Conway said in a media roundtable that the increase of 27,000 Marines by fiscal 2011 will allow Marines to spend more time at home between deployments. He also said the corps will maintain the current quality of recruits.

Part of the effort to grow the force is to contact noncommissioned officers who have separated from the service and offer them the option of coming back in. Conway is sending a letter to every Marine who has gotten out in the last four years. "It'll say that, 'You may have already served your nation, but the job's not done,'" he said.

Everything is negotiable: four-year enlistments, two-year enlistments, airborne school, other military schools, and so on, Conway said. He added that NCOs should be able to come back on active duty with their former ranks. "We don't have a lot of feedback yet," Conway said. "It's still in the early part of the process."

The corps will grow to 207,000 Marines by 2011. Conway said the service will begin recruiting an extra 5,000 per year beginning this year without reducing standards. "We think 5,000 a year is within the arc of the possible, and that's our focus at this point," he said.

The corps will be competing against the other services and especially against the Army, which has been slated to grow by 62,000 over the same period. Conway said the corps will probably put between 300 and 400 more recruiters on the street. He said plans call for the plus-up to be funded out of supplemental requests through 2009 and then become part of the annual budget.

Standards are important to the Marine leadership, Conway said. "We do not want to sacrifice the quality of recruits simply to make the numbers," the commandant said.

Marine recruit standard is higher than that set by the Defense Department. The DoD standard states that 90 percent of all recruits must be high school graduates. The Marine standard is 95 percent, and the service is recruiting 96 percent.

"We think the Marine Corps -- as the most prestigious service of all, with our mission, with the quality of the folks we are bringing in now -- that we need to hold to those standards," he said. "And we need to have every Marine to understand that the Marine on their flank is the same quality of individual that we always have."

DoD officials said that only about one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds qualify to join the military. "We're going to hold to our standards, and we're going to have to be driven off those standards," Conway said.

The 27,000-Marine increase will be put against those units experiencing the heaviest "deployment-to-dwell" ratios, Conway said. "We have some units that are deployed for seven months, ... and then they are home for only five months," the general said. "We start creating additional of those types of units so we're able to put these folks into rotation and reduce the stress on the force."

The Marine Corps would like to get to the point of seven months deployed, 14 months at home station. The general said aviation units, military police and civil affairs are among the most heavily stressed units.

The commandant is adamant that the corps must do something about deployment-to-dwell time. "If you want to find sky-high morale, go to a unit that is getting ready to go, is there or is just back," he said. "Now, that said, we believe as an institution that we have got to do something about the tempo or we're going to start to lose some great young Americans who otherwise might want to stay."

Families have to feel that they have been given proper consideration. Seven months at home is not enough time to have a normal life, he said. "We've had some great young Marines who have deployed two or three times -- Iraq, Afghanistan -- and they are now in (shoreside, non-deployable) billets. I think when those folks get ready to come back, if the leadership hasn't done something about this tempo, (the Marines) are going to face a fork in the road.

"The Marine in the family may say, 'It's my job. I've got to do it.' But the spouse in the family may say, 'Uh-uh, I've been there. I've done that, and I demand more.'"

Growing the force is more than simply going out and hiring more people, Conway said. There are infrastructure concerns, training schedules and billeting arrangements. Marine Corps experts are working on these issues now, he said.

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