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Recruiters Sgt. Jonathan Gomez and Staff Sgt. Charles Bernal stand outside of a recruiting station in Jamaica, N.Y., looking for potential devil dogs to join the Corps’ ranks.

NEW YORK – Recruiters Sgt. Jonathan Gomez and Staff Sgt. Charles Bernal stand outside of a recruiting station in Jamaica, N.Y., looking for potential devil dogs to join the Corps’ ranks. – Photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton
In 2007 the Marine Corps announced it would “Grow the Force” to an end strength of 202,000 by 2011. It’s 2009, and the corps has reached its goal – TWO years early.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Since the onset of the Global War on Terrorism, many Marines have spent more time overseas in combat operations than at home in the span of one enlistment.

To offset this reality, in 2007 the Marine Corps announced it would “Grow the Force” to an end strength of 202,000 by 2011 and it has done so two years earlier than anticipated.

According to Reserve Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps, Manpower Plans Division, initial planning for Grow the Force began in December 2006 with the intention of improving deployment to dwell ratios to 1-to-2. This would ensure that for every seven months a Marine is deployed, he or she would be home for at least 14 months.

The commandant also planned to prepare the Marine Corps for the Long War by developing three Marine Air Ground Task Forces and building capacity so the Corps can train and respond to crises other than warfare.

Throughout the planning phase considerations were made for personnel, equipment, infrastructure, recruiters and instructors to support the additional accession and training requirements for new Marines Corpswide.

The combined efforts of recruiters and career retention specialists accelerated to full speed in 2008, resulting in unprecedented new enlistments and retention rates.

“The Marine Corps grew by over 12,000 Marines in fiscal year 2008,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman, deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “This historic growth can be attributed to three factors: quality recruiting, historic retention levels and reduced [loss of personnel].”

A photo of a recruiting station in New York

NEW YORK – There are 14 substations that fall under Recruiting Station New York, and three Officer Selection Offices. – Photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton

All recruiting efforts, officer, enlisted, regular, reserve and prior-service enlistments Corpswide, fall under the direction of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

Last fiscal year, officer selection teams accessed 1,900 second lieutenants for 100 percent of their assigned mission and reserve recruiting goals were also achieved. In fiscal year 2008, MCRC also achieved 100 percent of its enlisted ship mission, 95 percent of which were tier one high school diploma graduates.

“We accomplished our recruiting mission, achieved the commandant’s quality standards and exceeded Department of Defense quality standards,” Coleman said. “It is imperative that we maintain our high standards both for our recruiters and those who volunteer to serve in our Corps.

“The Corps must continue to be comprised of the best and brightest of America’s youth.”

In order to support Grow the Force efforts, the recruiting command focused on advertising, increasing the number of recruiters in the field and ensuring recruiters had all the resources necessary to succeed.

“The byproduct of adding recruiters is that the Corps is not going to lower its standards or the quality we bring in,” said Col. Rodman D. Sansone, operations officer for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

“In fiscal year 2008, the Marine Corps reenlisted 16,696 Marines including 8,423 first term Marines,” Coleman said. “This achievement represented the highest retention rate among the eligible first term population. [It] contributed to exceeding the annual milestone in our end strength increase plan while maintaining all quality standards.”

Sgt. Xavier Ramirez speaking to a man on the street

NEW YORK – Sgt. Xavier Ramirez is one of the 75 recruiters serving in New York and one of the 3,000 recruiters serving in the Corps. – Photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton

More than 14,700 Marines have reenlisted since the beginning of 2008, ensuring that the 202K growth continues to be supported by the retention of quality Marines.

Due to the historic amount of Marines opting to continue their service in the Marine Corps, officials have been able to reduce the fiscal year 2009 ship mission. “So far this fiscal year, the recruiting command has accessed over 12,000 applicants,” Sansone said.

These applicants represent over 103 percent of the total force mission fiscal year to date.

Coleman said the continued retention success remains attributable to two themes. One is that Marines are motivated to “stay Marine” and secondly, they understand that the Corps’ culture is one that rewards proven performance and takes care of its own.

The Marine Corps’ active duty end strength currently stands at more than 200,700 and is expected to reach the 202K goal by October.

There are currently more than 25,000 Marines deployed throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Corps at its 202K goal, these Marines and their families can look forward to spending more time together between deployments.

Leaders have recognized the sacrifices that have been made by the individual Marine and their family.

“They have shouldered our nation’s burden and done so with amazing resiliency,” Coleman said.

Sustaining the 202,000 end strength will enable the Corps to train to the full spectrum of military operations and improve its ability to address future challenges.

“[This will] enable us to increase the dwell time of our Marines so that they are able to operate at a sustained rate of fire,” Coleman said.

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