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Marine Corps Enlisted Promotion System

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Meritorious promotions are not used as rewards or when a personal commendation/award is appropriate. A meritorious promotion is based entirely on the Marine’s demonstrated capability to discharge the responsibilities and duties of the higher grade in a satisfactory manner.

Combat Meritorious Promotion Program. Commanding generals may award combat meritorious promotions to Private First Class (E-2) through Sergeant (E-5) in numbers that do not exceed the quarterly meritorious promotion allocations established by the Marine Corps Commandant's Office. In the cases of Sergeants (E-5) and Staff Sergeants (E-6), commanding generals make recommendations to the Commandant's office who approve or disapprove the recommendations for combat meritorious promotion based on meritorious action and performance in combat or performance under combat conditions.

Marines recommended for a combat meritorious promotion must have demonstrated outstanding leadership to a degree rarely attained by Marines of equal grade. Such leadership performance should justify the Marine being advanced in grade ahead of all other Marines of the same grade, regardless of TIG or TIS. Determination of eligibility for promotion will be based on the command’s recommendation, combat performance, and past military record.

The recommendation for a combat meritorious promotion must be submitted within one year of the meritorious action and performance in combat or under combat conditions.

Non-combat Meritorious Promotion Program. Commanders may submit recommendations for non-combat meritorious promotion based on a single meritorious act to the Marine Corps Commandant.

Examples of acts that may qualify under the provisions of the Non-Combat Meritorious Promotion Program are:

  • The winner of a national or higher level marksmanship match (e.g., the National Trophy Individual Rifle Match; the National Services Rifle Championship; the National Pistol Championship.)
  • The winner of individual marksmanship matches in the Olympic Games, Pan-American Games, or International Shooting Union Matches.
  • The invention of a weapon or device, or the development of a new technique/process which is of Marine Corps-wide significance and produces a substantial savings in time and money on a continuing basis.
  • Commanding generals may submit a recommendation for meritorious promotion to the grade of SSgt for the squad leader of the winning annual rifle squad (super squad) competition.

Criteria for Meritorious Recommendations. Commanders, in their determination of qualifications for meritorious promotions, are guided by, but not limited to, the following:

  • Marines must have completed the required PME for the grade to which being recommended.
  • The Marine’s performance of duty, in comparison with all known Marines of the same grade without regard to MOS/OccFld, must be to a significant degree superior to that of their peers in order to merit promotion over other qualified Marines in that grade, regardless of TIG.
  • The level and type of duty performed within the individual’s MOS/OccFld, as well as outside the MOS/OccFld, must be clearly superior to that of his or her peers.
  • Superior performance on unusual assignments that reflects favorably upon the Marine Corps.

Promotion Averages

So, how long does it take to get promoted in the Marine Corps? Remember, it's dependent on the particular MOS (job) and how many vacancies (due to separations and retirements) there are in that job. On average, however, one can expect to be promoted with the following time-in-service (2001 statistics):

  • Private First Class (E-2) - 6 months
  • Lance Corporal (E-3) - 14 months
  • Corporal (E-4) - 26 months
  • Sergeant (E-5) - 4.8 years
  • Staff Sergeant (E-6) - 10.4 years
  • Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) - 14.8 years
  • Master Sergeant/First Sergeant (E-8) - 18.8 years
  • Master Gunnery Sergeant/Sergeant Major (E-9) - 22.1 years

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