- Marine Corps
- Hitting the Fleet
Things To Do When a Boot Hits the Fleet
One of the most dangerous "make or break" times in the Marine Corps comes when a newly-minted Marine hits the fleet or even earlier when they hit MOS school. They are often on their own for the first time, and that's a great opportunity to either screw their career up or start to shine. In conjunction with several other NCOs from Sgt Grit's, we've made a list of recommendations for Boots when they hit the Fleet.
- Save your money. Don't buy a car near base, they know exactly how much you make, and they will absolutely bury you with interest and hidden fees. "We Finance E-1" is a sure sign to stay away! Many commands have out-of-bounds announcements posted because of places like these that will scam you.
I heard recently that a few dealerships on the East Coast will offer to pick up young Marines and drive them to the lots - many of which are an hour or more away from base. Once they have the young Marine (or other servicemember) out there, the high-pressure sales start, knowing that the youngster feels stranded and the only way to get out of there is by buying a car... If you must buy a vehicle, buy it at home from someone you (and your folks) trust.
- Emulate your seniors, not your peers. A gaggle of PFCs will get you in trouble faster than...well, pretty damn fast. You're not in High School any more, so stop acting like it.
- Save your money. Set aside an allotment that goes into an account you can't touch. Don't make it big enough that you can't survive payday to payday, but make it significant enough that you will earn some money. I know of a few Marines that would increase their allotment by whatever amount they gained annually or after promotions - it was money they never 'saw' so they didn't miss it. I believe it's taken out pre-tax as well, so that helps reduce your tax burden.
- As a PFC, find a LCpl in your shop that you can learn from. Learn from more than one, but in addition to learning your role, learn theirs. When you are a LCpl, learn from a Cpl, etc... Even in peacetime, any one of your NCOs may not be there, and someone has to take over their duties. In combat, everyone needs to be able to take over on a moment's notice to complete the mission and save their team.
- Learn. Check out MCIs and learn from them; LCpls and below can check out up to three at a time and many of them are ACE accredited, so they will count toward college credits. Not only are some of them required for all Marines, for LCpls and Cpls they count as points toward promotion and they show your command that you are trying to learn more about the Corps and your roles. This is the kind of attention that may get you noticed and nominated for Meritorious Boards. The early ones should include
- Personal Finance
- Desert Operations
- Terorism Awareness (required)
- Math for Marines
- NCO Non-Resident Course (as a LCpl)
- Train your juniors
- Square yourself away
- Wait to get married. I know some of you are already married, but let's face reality. Junior enlisted don't get paid very well, are subject to long hours and frequent deployments, and have a HIGH divorce rate. I'd really recommend waiting until you are on your second tour or are at least a Corporal; NCO Housing is much better and you've got a little more pay at that point
- Learn the Drill Manual. Use some of your free time to drill your buddies; you don't need a whole platoon to practice facing movements and a bit of marching. I've stood in several IG Inspections where a random Marine was selected from the platoon and given a Drill Card - their abilities and the platoon were put to the test right there. The ones that shine are teh ones who put the extra work into it.
- Many shops have a weekly training period where one or several of the NCOs will train the unit on everything ranging from finance to maintenance to drill and beyond. Become an expert in what you do, and volunteer to train during one of those sessions. In addition to proving that you know your sh**, you get the experience and confidence that comes from speaking in front of a group. This helps immensely when you DO go up in front of that Meritorious Board.
- If your hours permit, go to college. For Active Duty Marines, this does not count against your GI Bill, and costs are reimbursed 100% (up to a $4,500 fiscal year cap) under the Tuition Assistance (TA) program. TA is not authorized for books or for lower or lateral degrees. Officers using TA agree to remain on active duty for two (2) years following the completion of the TA funded course.
First-time students must complete a TA Orientation Class PRIOR to using TA. At Camp Pendleton, this class is offered weekly at the Joint Education Center.
Marines must apply for and receive written authorization for TA PRIOR to enrollment through the appropriate education office. Your education officer must sign off on the form before you receive your funds.
TA for remote Marines and those assigned to other service sites is processed at Camp LeJeune for those east of the Mississippi and Camp Pendleton for those west of the Mississippi. I-I duty Marines apply through MARFORRES, New Orleans. Recruiters apply via their recruiting district or region headquarters. Reservists, however, do not rate Tuition Assistance and must rely on their GI Bill to fund college expenses.
The TA policy is contained in MARADMIN 529/02. You can find more info at http://www.usmc.mil/maradmins. When you decide to get out, you will be that much farther ahead toward your degree. MCIs and courses taken in the Corps gave me almost two years' worth of transferred credits when I decided to complete my degree.
As I stress the 'learn your role and that of your senior leader' I am reminded of a hard-charging young PFC who was in my shop at MALS-39. I'm sure PIDI remembers him as well; he was an information sponge and became one of the youngest non-NCOs with a QA stamp on the 20mm cannon, turret and feeder assemblies. He regularly taught classes to the rest of the shop and picked up LCpl and Cpl meritoriously because he studied. If I remember correctly, he even picked up PFC Meritoriously out of Boot Camp, and I have no doubt that if there were any Meritorious Sgt boards after I left, he was on them as well. Last I heard, he was a SSgt in charge of our old shop...that's not bad for a Marine with roughly ten years service.