October 18, 2004
Re-enlistments high as fiscal year starts
By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer
More than 1,380 first-term Marines have raised their right hand and re-enlisted in the career force just one week into the new fiscal year, a manpower official said Oct. 8.
Add in the 2,400 first-termers who manpower officials say are approved for re-enlistment but haven’t yet signed on the dotted line, and the Corps is more than 66 percent of the way toward meeting its re-enlistment goal of 5,703 first-termers.
In addition, 751 more leathernecks already in the career force have either re-enlisted or been approved to re-enlist, said Lt. Col. B.J. Fitzpatrick, head of the enlisted retention branch of Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va. That makes a decent-sized dent in the career force re-enlistment goal of 5,003 Marines.
The strong showing this early in the year suggests Marines are not unhappy with being in the Corps and that, so far, operations tempo and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not yet taking a toll on retention.
“The initial indicators are encouraging,” said Fitzpatrick.
Typically, Marines rush to re-enlist at the start of a new fiscal year because competition can be fierce in some jobs with limited boat spaces.
A year ago, re-enlistment rates were also healthy. About two weeks into fiscal 2004, the Corps had re-enlisted or approved about 70 percent of the Marines needed to meet its recruitment goal of 5,962.
The demand to stay was similar in fiscal 2003. By Oct. 11, about 3,500 first-term Marines had been approved for re-enlistment, or about 58 percent of that year’s recruitment goal of 6,001 leathernecks.
But despite the strong start, 2005 has retention officials worried, as they expect that any effects the high pace of operations and the war in Iraq will have on retention will be felt this year.
Fitzpatrick said he is pleased about the first week’s success, but is reluctant to paint a retention picture that’s too rosy.
“I’m always concerned,” he said. “I’m really just paying good attention right now.”
The Corps met its 2004 retention goals for both the first-term and career force populations. In fact, the service met 137 percent of its career force mission, surpassing the goal of 5,628.
Also, manpower officials are trying a new sales tactic this year. In addition to holding the perennial re-enlistment “road shows” across the Corps to spread the word, manpower officials are also making room in the tent for spouses and family members. The thinking is that if they can get spouses and family members on board, the Marines may not be too far behind.
“The more people you can tell what’s going on the more we’re making that strong family team who can make more informed family decisions,” Fitzpatrick said.
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