Contributor, In Military Education
With the amplified effect of multiple sequestration cuts and downsizing corresponding to the scaling down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many service members have found themselves in a tough spot. Early outs, delayed and decreased opportunities for promotion and in some cases even forced separations. While serving as a Corporal in the Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) I even witnessed a Sergeant, who had been recently awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his commendable performance as a Corporal filling the billet of Platoon Sergeant, forced into the IRR because his MOS did not match his billet, though he had plenty of OJT and was more than capable of doing his job. In a perfect world he would have been able to move to a billet where he could utilize his original MOS, or receive training in the correct MOS for his billet, but there were no opportunities for him to do either.
In an example closer to home, I recently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with an active duty air contract as a pilot. Despite accepting my commission in June, my projected class date for post-OCS active duty training (The Basic School at Quantico) is in April of 2014. In the past, it was possible to go on PTAD and assist with officer recruiting as a new Lieutenant, though this no longer happens for most. In rare instances like mine, where I was already enlisted and going through Officer Candidate School (known in the Corps as the Simultaneous Membership Program) it used to be possible to affiliate with an SMCR unit regardless of authorized T/O strength while waiting for TBS. This stipulation was in MCO 1001R.1K under 4001(2), which outlined transfer eligibility for officers in the SMCR. Unfortunately, as of FY13 this section has been canceled, and many new Lieutenants are in the same situation as I am: OCS and degree complete, but expected to do nothing for anywhere from 6 months to a year. Though a different situation, there are also many Marines who have found themselves in the IRR who may now desire affiliation with the Marine Corps on a part time basis. Though opportunities are less plentiful than in the past, there are still some out there for newly minted Lieutenants and for Active/Reserve Marines in the IRR.
Marines in the IRR desiring to continue their affiliation with the Corps on a part-time basis while attending school or working a civilian job should contact a Prior Service Recruiter for more information. A local reserve unit may be able to assist in this process, particularly if you already have contacts within the unit and wish to join that unit as a drilling reservist. An enterprising Marine will research MCO 1001R.1K, known as the Marine Corps Reserve Administration Management Manual (MCRAMM), which is the definitive source for all things reserve. IRR Marines can “try out” an SMCR unit, and after a short period of drilling, may elect to return to the IRR with no obligation to the SMCR. Status as a drilling reservist entails one weekend a month (which may be extended and include Fridays and even Thursday nights, though this is the exception, not the rule) and two weeks in the summer. Marines can also investigate opportunities like Reserve Counterpart Training (RCT) orders, which are limited active duty for reserve Marines not to exceed 29 days a year, and Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) programs, which permit all yearly drills to be done at once in fulfillment of specialized reserve duties. For Marines in a status like mine where you are ineligible for paid orders for various reasons, you can still affiliate with an SMCR unit and earn retirement credit on an official basis! This is known as “Associate Orders”, and more information on this process can be found in the MCRAMM, and will likely also be available through a Prior Service Recruiter. Associate orders, as they are unpaid, do not entail the same type of obligations as SMCR orders, but do require coordination with command.
Believe me, I am not encouraging Marines to join the reserves if they have decided their time to leave the service has come – but reserve service offers Marines utilizing their GI Bill an excellent way to continue to accrue time towards a reserve retirement, and remain involved in the Corps while a full time student. The reserves offer access to Tricare select, some extra cash for the occasional weekend, and access to other resources which can aid a struggling student. As I said before, if you have interest in this program, contact a Prior Service Recruiter for more information.
Bio: Bradley Hood is a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant in IRR status with 5 years of prior enlisted experience. He is a recent graduate of American Military University, and currently is working towards a Master’s degree in Military History through Norwich. Bradley lives with his beautiful wife in historic NJ.