Reservists can stay longer, leave faster
Marine Corps Reservists can stay longer, leave faster
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. —
Recognizing that the sudden change from military to civilian life can be a bit of a shock for Marines and employers alike, the Corps is giving reservists the choice to stay in longer or get out quicker ? along with benefit extensions to help smooth their transitions.
Reservists can now remain on active duty for an extended period of time even through their activation period.
More than 20,000 activated Marine reservists will demobilize over the next few months, according to Marine Administrative Message 257/03 dated Jan. 17.
“Our intent is to deactivate as many people as possible and recognize the numbers of people who may not have many options outside the military, such as the availability of school or work,” said Lt. Col. Linda L. McGowan, mobilization policy officer with Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “Our mission is to take care of our Marines.”
After demobilizing in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, many Marines may have left the Corps out of frustration over the process, Marine Corps officials surmise.
The new policies are designed to reduce that frustration.
Reservists opting to stay in can either fill a billet at the same command or fill a gap at another base determined by manpower planners.
“We don’t want to push them out of the Marine Corps,” said McGowan.
Meanwhile, those eager to return to civilian life now have fewer obstacles.
To hasten the deactivation process, Manpower has reduced paperwork. As long as their physical exams are up-to-date, reservists are no longer required to undergo a full physical before leaving. Moreover, they’re not required to attend Transition Assistance Program briefs, which are mandatory for separating active-duty Marines.
Additionally, a limited continuation of health-care benefits, a streamlined deactivation procedure and flexibility in using accrued leave make for a smoother departure than in previous demobilizations.
Manpower authorized the extension of Tricare benefits for deactivated reservists. Reservists with less than six years of cumulative active-duty service will receive 60 days of health care; those with more than six years will be eligible for 120 days of coverage when they leave active duty. The Tricare extension also covers the Marine’s family members.
Manpower is attempting to deactivate reservists as quickly as possible as many employers look forward to their employees’ return and reservists eagerly await resuming civilian life.
The Mobilization Support Battalion processed nearly 130 reservists last month. The MSB’s processing center administers medical status, pay and travel claims ? and reservists are usually out of the Marine Corps within a week, said Maj. Michael J. Bontell, battalion adjutant for MSB.
“It was a big responsibility being back in the Marine Corps, and definitely a big honor to have represented the Corps while at war,” said Sgt. Chris Merkle, a platoon guide for G Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment.
He spent four months serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and had “some interesting experiences while in Iraq.”
Merkle plans to rejoin Fed-Ex, where he worked as a driver before being called back on active duty. “My job has been very supportive of me while I was gone. I even got promoted … twice!”
By Sgt. James S. Goff ,
Unit: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton