MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (September 04, 2013) – The Marine Corps has announced a pilot program that allows certain career Marines to temporarily leave active duty while retaining their grade, time in grade and full health benefits.
The Navy has had a Career Intermission Pilot Program since 2009, and Marine Corps Administrative Message 418/13, signed Aug. 23, announced that the Corps is opening up a similar program through 2015.
“The long-term intent of this program is to provide greater flexibility in career paths of Marines in order to retain valuable experience and training of Marines who might otherwise permanently separate,” the MARADMIN states.
Under the program, up to 20 enlisted Marines and 20 officers could be approved each year from 2013 to 2015 to go into the Individual Ready Reserve for periods of up to three years. A stated requirement that Marines apply for the program between six and nine months ahead of time, though, may make it unlikely that anyone will go on hiatus in 2013.
While on intermission, Marines will retain their full benefits and also receive a stipend of one-15th of their base pay.
Those who avail themselves of the program will be required to return to the service at the end of their inactive duty and serve at least two months for each month they were away.
“It’s going to take some planning and serious consideration to apply for this program,” said Gunnery Sgt. Bryant Lodge Jr., assistant operations chief of enlisted retention at the Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments Branch of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “I don’t think it’s a quick, easy decision.”
He said a Marine who wants to finish a degree or gain professional experience to bring back to the Marine Corps might consider using the program.
Cmdr. Angela Katsen, who, as head of the Navy Office of Diversity and Inclusion, managed the Navy’s CIPP from July of 2011 to July of 2013, said the most common reasons sailors have used the program have been related to family, travel and, especially, education. She said the program has gained popularity, both among sailors asking to use it and senior personnel suggesting it as a retention tool, but is still used at only about half its capacity.
“We’re allowed to have 20 officers and 20 enlisted each year, but we’ve never maxed out at that amount,” Katsen said.
She said the program is used about equally by officers and enlisted sailors, as well as by men and women.
The Navy renewed its career intermission program in 2012, still as a pilot because not enough sailors have returned from their intermissions for officials to analyze the impact on promotions and other factors, Katsen said. Only about half a dozen have taken their break and returned to active duty, but one officer was promoted shortly thereafter, in a “seamless transition,” she said.
“Four years into it, it’s already been a very positive experience.”
However, the program is not for everyone.
No Marine can participate in the Corps’ CIPP before serving the first term of service, and on the enlisted side, it’s only open to grades E6 and E7. Marines are not eligible if they can’t complete the ensuing obligation due to service limitations, mandatory retirements or enlisted career force controls.
“The program targets mid-level officer and enlisted (E-6/E-7 and O-3/O-4), as these are often the ranks that are making personal decisions regarding staying in the Marine Corps until retirement or separating to pursue personal or professional goals,” said a written statement from Manpower and Reserve Affairs officials.
Enlisted Marines in a training pipeline and officers who have not been career designated are ineligible, as are Marines under investigation or with records of disciplinary action in the previous two years, or who are indebted to the government. Aviation officers with more than a year of active duty service obligation or aviation retention pay cannot apply, and neither can Marines currently receiving a critical skills retention bonus or fulfilling obligated service as a result of a bonus. Marines may, however, opt to receive the first installment of their bonus after completing their intermission.
For those who are approved for an intermission, an allowance will be paid for travel to and from one residence.
After the hiatus, if a Marine can’t return to active duty due to physical or security clearance requirements or other eligibility issues, the Navy can recoup the value of whatever benefits that Marine received while in the Individual Ready Reserve.
The need to stay fit is one reason that, although Marines in the IRR are not required to participate in monthly drills, Lodge recommended they do so. He also noted that attending monthly drills is a way to keep abreast of Marine Corps practices. “That way, you’re not that far behind when you go back in,” he said.
Lodge said he didn’t think the obligation to lengthen terms of service would deter most career Marines, but he said any intermission should be carefully considered and used wisely.
“You need a mature Marine who knows what they’re doing, who knows their future intentions and aspirations,” he said.