Editor’s Note: This story, including the headline, has been updated with more details from the Marine Corps on the waiver process. Marine officials say they're not making it tougher for those who haven't made staff sergeant within 12 years to remain on active duty, as first stated.
Marine sergeants trying to get another look at staff sergeant can now apply for a waiver to remain in uniform before hitting their 12-year limit.
The Marine Corps updated its rules for sergeants who've been passed over for promotion twice or are approaching the end of their 12-year window to make staff sergeant. Instead of limiting waiver applications to just those who've served a dozen years and have already been considered for promotion two times, sergeants can now apply for the waivers earlier in their careers.
That could allow them to extend their service contracts to 14 years earlier on. The change was announced in Marine administrative message 408/19.
There are still eligibility restrictions, first announced last year, so going to 14 years as a sergeant "is the exception not the norm," Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Virginia, said.
It also affects a rather small population. Of the 7,779 sergeants with an end-of-current-contract date that will hit next fiscal year -- between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 20, 2020 -- Carlock said 118 sergeants could be eligible to request additional service.
That requires a favorable endorsement at the O-6 level and allows the sergeant to stay in until the 14-year mark.
Those Marines must meet height, weight and fitness standards, be up-to-date on their professional military education requirements, and not be on a permanent limited-duty status, the MARADMIN states.
The message spells out service limits and high-year tenure rules for every enlisted rank from corporal to sergeant major and master gunnery sergeant. Anyone who doesn't pick up rank within the set time limits faces separation at the end of their contract, or will be transferred to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve.
"Establishing and applying service limits for each grade is a critical element of the Marine Corps Enlisted Career Force Controls (ECFC) program, whose purpose is to balance the inventory of Marines by grade and MOS to meet career force requirements," the message states.
While the service limits and high-year tenure policies set guidance for when Marines face separation, those who hit the caps or are passed up for promotion twice can still apply for a reprieve. The final decision about whether they'll be allowed to remain in uniform is "based on the needs of the Marine Corps," according to the message.
The Marine Corps previously eased its service limits for sergeants trying to make staff sergeant. In 2018, the service limit was extended from two passes for promotion or 10 years in uniform to 12.
"This basically allowed sergeants that were at nine years and zero passes to request a 36-month reenlistment vice a 12-month extension," Carlock said.
The waiver extending the service limit to 14 years was announced in Marine administrative message 696/18.