Tank Marines Get the Chance to Leave the Corps Early as Units Shut Down

U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks
U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks with 2d Tank Battalion, 2d Marine Division (MARDIV) depart on railroad cars during a farewell ceremony on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July 31, 2020. Marines with 2d Tank Battalion bid their final farewell after nearly 80 years of service to 2d MARDIV in accordance to the future redesign of the Marine Corps. (Patrick King/U.S. Marine Corps)

Marines whose jobs are going away as part of a force-wide reorganization that includes getting rid of tanks will get the option to leave the Corps earlier than planned.

Enlisted Marines and officers in tank-related military occupational specialties will be eligible for early-out programs, the service announced this week. The programs will allow those in four specialties to leave the Marine Corps early if they desire: armor Marines; senior-armor staff noncommissioned officers; main battle tank repairer/technicians; and tank officers.

The move is part of a 10-year force-wide redesign announced by Commandant Gen. David Berger earlier this year. The Marine Corps is folding its tank battalions and getting rid of the heavy-armor vehicles as it prepares for lighter, naval-based missions.

Read next: Marines' Combat Fitness Test Canceled for Year as Virus Cases Spike Again

The measures are part of a "surgical reduction in personnel and realignment of specific capabilities and units," Col. Christopher Escamilla, the branch head for Marine Corps Plans, Programs and Budget, said in the announcement.

"These redesign efforts will enable the Marine Corps to reinvest time, money, and resources into higher priority areas, which includes emerging technologies and significant changes in force structure to deliver a Marine Corps the nation needs by 2030," Escamilla added.

Officials did not immediately respond to questions about how many Marines will be eligible for the early-out programs. More details are expected in a forthcoming service-wide message.

Marine officials said in May that about 1,300 personnel would need to move into new fields or other branches of the military if they wished to remain in uniform as their missions are cut. Aside from tankers, some infantry units, bridging companies, law-enforcement missions and aircraft squadrons could also be affected by the changes.

Several tank battalions and other units have cased their colors. At least one law enforcement battalion is also preparing to be deactivated this month.

The Marine Corps will remain faithful to its personnel and their families by "maximizing opportunities for continued service for those in a military occupation slated for divestment," Maj. Craig Thomas, a spokesman for the service told Military.com in May.

Tankers approved for the early-out programs won't be able to separate sooner than one year out from the end of their current service contracts. They must also be eligible for honorable or general under honorable conditions discharges.

"Marines approved for this program will be considered to have completed their full active service commitment," the announcement states, adding that they'll still be responsible for completing Reserve or Individual Ready Reserve requirements.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Marine Corps Plan to Ditch Tanks Could Burden the Army, Experts Say

Story Continues