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Marine Corps Enlisted Promotion System

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Enlisted Marines are entitled to correspond directly with the President of the selection board considering their case for promotion. Personal correspondence may include, but is not limited to, letters to the President, copies of award certificates, school completion certificates, MCI’s, photographs, third party correspondence (letters of recommendation or explanation), etc.

Other individuals may also correspond with selection boards concerning an eligible Marine; however, this correspondence must be forwarded to the individual concerned for his or her approval/endorsement prior to submission to the board. Unsolicited letters (i.e., third party letters, copies of fitness reports, etc.) to selection boards will not be accepted unless endorsed by the Marine concerned. Correspondence not endorsed by the Marine will not be forwarded to the selection board.

The members of the board discuss and score each record, and then make a determination as to whether or not the individual should be promoted (remember, the board is told in advance exactly how many in each MOS can be promoted that year).

The Marine Corps then takes all the selectees (without regard to MOS), and assigns them a promotion sequence number, which is assigned according to seniority. For example, if it's the E-7 list, the Marines will give the lowest sequence number (0001) to the E-7 selectee with the most time-in-grade as an E-6. Each month, for the next 12 months, the Marines will then release the sequence numbers of those to be promoted during that month. This ensures a smooth promotion flow for the following 12 months (when the next board will meet and do everything all over again).

Below-the-Zone Promotions

Commanders can request that the promotion records of especially outstanding Marines be considered by the promotion board "below-the-zone." That means one year before the Marine would normally be eligible to be considered by the board for promotion. The selection board may select a maximum of five percent of the selections from the below zone, based on the Marine’s outstanding ability and career potential that completely justifies selection and advancement ahead of qualified Marines in the promotion zone. A selection from the below zone is based on the criterion that the Marine is so outstanding it would be against the best interests of the Marine Corps to not select the individual at this time.

Selection boards are obligated to select from the entire eligible population those Marines considered to be "best and fully qualified" to perform the duties and assume the responsibilities of the next higher grade. Selection boards are reminded that a selection from the below zone is, in essence, equivalent to a meritorious promotion and due care should be used in recommending these Marines for promotion to the next higher grade.

Meritorious Promotions

In addition to the "normal" promotion system, commanders can promote a very few, outstanding Marines via the Meritorious Promotion System. Marines can be promoted up to the rank of E-8 under this system. Promotions to the rank of first sergeant (E-8), however, cannot be made by meritorious promotion. Additionally, meritorious promotions to Master Sergeant (E-8) are limited to Marines in the Drill Instructor and Recruiter of the Year Programs.

There are no Time-in-Grade (TIG) requirements for meritorious promotions, but those promoted under this program must meet the minimum time-in-service requirements:

  • Private First Class (E-2) - No TIS requirements necessary
  • Lance Corporal (E-3) - No TIS requirements necessary
  • Corporal (E-4) - 6 months TIS** Sergeant (E-5) - 18 months TIS
  • Staff Sergeant (E-6) - 4 years TIS
  • Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) - 6 Years TIS** Master Sergeant (E-8) - 8 years TIS

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