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The American dream can come true

By Cpl. Terika S. King | | September 25, 2007


Fifty-thousand dollars, a brand new four-bedroom home, the chance to go to exciting schools and get paid to do it, not to mention free medical and dental benefits for you and the family.

No, this is not an ad for a high-profile corporate job; it’s what the Corps is offering to Marines eligible for reenlistment.

“I like what the Corps is doing now giving everyone bonuses, opportunities to promote faster and more promotion points (for reenlisting),” said Sgt. Kenny W. Padillapaniagua, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron supply administration chief, who reenlisted earlier this year in June, receiving a hefty bonus.

Padillapaniagua, a Miami native, was on the fence when it was time to renew his contract.

“I was actually on my terminal leave for about 45 days,” said Padillapaniagua. “(My wife and I) had moved back to Miami and we realized we missed the military and the benefits. (Being a Marine) is all I know how to do and all (my wife) knows.”

Many Marines face that same dilemma when trying to decide whether to stay or go. On one hand they yearn for the “freedom” of the civilian world where exercising at dawn, having formations for hours in the sun, and taking part in the ever popular field day is no longer a part of their lives. On the other hand, there are new obstacles to overcome, such as paying for medical benefits, dealing with the politics of the civilian workplace, and the cost of living.

As a Marine reservist who has been on all sides of the situation, Cpl. Ian Mullins, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 42 administration clerk, struggles with all those issues as his time to reenlist approaches.

“I can see how staying in on active duty would give me a lot more financial freedom,” said Mullins, who resides in an area where the average cost of a one bedroom apartment is $600 per month and the Basic Allowance for Housing allotted to a corporal in the area is $955 per month.

While that may not seem like much left over to pay bills with, it’s important to keep in mind that those numbers are in addition to what a Marine would make with his base salary. With Mullins’ career as a bank teller, an entry level position he’s using as a step ladder to becoming the loan officer he’s trained to be, he finds that he is not making as much as a single corporal of Marines.

Padillapaniagua agreed that the cost of living is definitely hard to deal with after becoming accustomed to BAH and the other benefits of being a Marine.

“The cost of living (in Miami) was high. Rent was $2300 a month, and car insurance was three times more expensive there,” he said, recalling how hard it was to transition from Marine to civilian. “Having small children and trying to find medical insurance was another thing that was difficult.”

With co-pay fees and limited coverage, many Marines discover that finding medical benefits equal to what the Corps offers is not only a hassle, but an expensive hassle to boot.

“Equivalent medical and dental (care) are also hard to come by in (the corporate world),” Mullins added.

Besides financial and medical incentives, the Corps also offers a multitude of free services that are unparalleled in civilian life, both in availability and variety.

“When (my wife) was pregnant with our first baby we went to the new mom and dad classes and the baby boot camp,” said Padillapaniagua. “The visiting nurse even came to help childproof the house, and any time she had a question she was able to call (the nurse). It was good because I was doing a lot of training in the field and she was there by herself a lot of times.”

The counseling services, which range from smoking cessation to anger management, provided by Marine Corps Community Services along with the services provided by the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, such as thrift stores, low to no interest loans and financial advisement, are all free to Marines and their families.

“My wife missed the commissary and the (exchange),” said Padillapaniagua of the tax-free outlets offered to all Marines and their families.

Besides those tangible resources, Padillapaniagua and his family also missed the bond Marines and their dependents share.

“My wife loves me being a Marine. She’s made so many friends and still keeps in touch with (spouses she met in Okinawa),” he said.

The Key Volunteer Network does a lot to keep families “in the know” when their Marines are deployed or out training. Having a group of people with the same worries, and challenges often helps spouses deal with deployments and prolonged absences from their Marine.

With all these perks already built into the bargain, it’s a wonder Marines aren’t lined up for miles to submit reenlistment packages.

“You can’t beat the job stability,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher R. Hamel, H&HS sergeant major, to encourage those who may be on the fence. “Especially with the Corps increasing its numbers.”

Improvements in living conditions for single Marines, such as ability to personalize barracks rooms with posters and other decorations, giving promotion points for reenlistments and added incentives, such as SERE school, jump school, special training and bonuses have already made an impact here at H&HS.

“We’re exceeding our numbers for the fiscal year,” said Gunnery Sgt. Lloyd Clark, H&HS career planner. “All the little things are key for retention purposes.”

For those who are still undecided, Clark had one last piece of advice.

“Keep your options open,” he said. “Before you get out, do a reenlistment package. You never know if you’ll need it or not, but the Marine Corps has a spot for you.”

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