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Marine Corps sweetens deal for active-duty pilots

By Lance Cpl. M. Daniel Sanchez | | September 21, 2007


As the Global War on Terrorism continues, retaining experienced service members has become increasingly more important.

The Marine Corps has even offered reenlistment bonuses as high as $80,000 for those enlisted military occupational specialties in high demand. Now the Corps is reaching out to its active-duty aviators.

According to Marine Administrative Message 551/07, which came out Sept. 17, the Aviation Continuation Pay program is offering as much as $20,000 a year for Marine captains and majors who choose to remain within the ranks during fiscal year 2008.

This is an overall increase of $2,000 from the previous year’s pay and one of two major changes made for the new fiscal year.

“Captains and majors are the focus (of the Corps) because they are the heart of the operational squadron,” said Maj. Dan Smith, the aviation officer planner with Officer Plans Section, Manpower& Reserve Affairs out of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

“The vast majority of squadron billets are held by captains and majors; sufficient numbers of officers in these ranks ensures continued success of the aviation community and the Marine Corps,” added the Lexington, Ohio native.

The annual payment amounts will be based on two factors: the length of the retention contract and the aviators’ MOS.

Active-duty pilots have the choice to sign a short-term contract, which will obligate the Marine to 13 years of commissioned service or a long-term contract for 16 years. Marines signing short term contracts must be captains and have at least 2 years left before hitting their 13 years commissioned service mark, while long term contracts call for captains, majors and majors-select who have at least three years until they reach 16 years of commissioned service.

Another change from the 2007 program comes in the form of individualized bonuses based on primary MOS’ instead of the more general categories of fixed wing and rotary/tilt rotor aircraft.

For example, with the short-term option, AV-8B Harrier pilots are eligible to receive $10,000 annually, while F/A-18 pilots will receive $7,500, and with the long-term contracts the same fields will receive $20,000 and $15,000 respectively.

Fixed-wing MOS’ eligible for the pay are 7509, 7543, 7523, 7556 and 7557. Rotary wing/tilt rotor fields are 7532, 7564, 7562, 7565, 7563 and 7566, and naval flight officer MOS’ 7525 and 7588.

Before aviators can collect on these annual payments they must meet a few requirements.

In addition to being in the previously mentioned MOS’, aviators must also, “be within a year of completing any active duty service commitment for undergraduate aviator training and any additional obligations from the financial assistance program (and) be qualified to perform operational flying duty,” according to the administrative message.

Pilots must also be entitled to aviation career incentive pay, have no more than 13 years of commissioned service for long-term contracts or more than 11 years for short-term and agree to remain on active duty as an aviator for the length of the ACP contract.

Lastly, captains who have failed to be promoted to major are not eligible.

All requirements must be met prior to Sept. 15, 2008 and interested aviators must submit an Administrative Action form (NAVMC 10274) or standard naval letter, in the message’s outlined format, by Sept. 1, 2008 to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Officer Plans Section.

It costs more than $1 million to train a pilot in flight school and once the pilot is designated as a naval aviator or naval flight officer, it costs millions of dollars to train them to be fully combat capable and qualified, said Smith. That’s why it is important to keep as many of them in the Corps as possible.

MarAdmin 551/07 can be found by going to www.usmc.mil.

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