This story has been updated to reflect Gen. Eric Smith’s title.
The Marine Corps hit retention goals early for the first time in 10 years, the service announced last week.
Over the past nine years, the Marine Corps reached approximately 97.2 percent of its retention goal. However, for Fiscal Year 2022, the service already hit 101.1 percent of its goal, said Yvonne Carlock on behalf of Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
The goal for FY22 for Marines on their initial contracts was 5,820, Carlock said in an email. For Marines with four to 20 years of service, the retention goal was 5,417.
Carlock was not able to provide retention goals for FY 2021 in time of publication. It is unclear if the retention goals for this year are higher or lower than in the past.
It was also unclear the effect of COVID-19 on retention, Carlock said in the email. The Marine Corps has separated 3,069 Marines due to refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the most recent report.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 calls for a reduced force of 175,000 Marines, USNI News previously reported. Force Design 2030 also calls for a focus on retention, going against the traditionally high turnover that is associated with the Marines.
The Marine Corps, like the other military branches, is struggling with recruitment due to a competitive marketplace. The service cannot recruit itself way out of talent challenges, Gen. Eric Smith, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said Monday. But the service can use retention to solve some of the problem.
The Marine Corps is changing how they retain, Smith said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies event. Before the service would often wait until it received all the interest for reenlistment before racking and stacking each Marine.
Now it is making the process more streamlined, with one step instead of 22, and making it more appealing for people to stay.
As an example, Smith said the service wants to be able to have conversations to figure out how it can keep Marines. If a service member says he or she would stay if they could stay in the same location for a couple more years, that could be a concession the Marine Corps makes in order to retain someone, Smith said.
But Marines should not expect to ask that they stay in the same location for 20 years, Smith said.
The Marines are also putting retention responsibility on leaders through the Command Retention Mission (CRM).
“In support of the CRM, Enlisted Assignments and Retention Branch created multiple avenues to coach and education commanders,” Carlock said in the email. “The on-the-road Key Leader engagements and multiple virtual engagements as well were used to strengthen relationships and communication throughout the Marine Corps.”
While the service started its retention campaign before Talent Management 2030 was announced, the service was able to benefit from the attention to retention, Carlock said.
Looking ahead to fiscal year 2023, the service is applying the Commandant’s Retention Program, which uses the Headquarters Marine Corps to screen Marines and pre-approve them for re-enlistment, Carlock said.
The retention team screened 24,680 and was able to pre-approve nearly approximately 2,500 for re-enlistment, she said.
“All these Marine[s] have to do is agree to reenlist, choose a unit option, and execute their reenlistment,” Carlock said in the email. “The other 20 steps in the process have been completed for them. Would we have wanted to do more than 2,500? Yes! But that was the maximum our team could process for now. We are looking at ways to increase that number.”