Marines Training At MCB Quantico

How The Reduction In Manpower May Affect You

In the midst of budget cuts and a war that is winding down, it should come as no surprise that the Department of Defense is continuing to reduce manpower. With the Marine Corps having the smallest budget of all the services, it is even less surprising that we are getting hit hard. What does this mean for new officers, the number of NROTC scholarships, and OCS applicants? You won’t find a definitive answer here, in fact much of this information is speculative. However, there seems to be some evidence supporting a lot of the chatter going around.

Newly Commissioned Officers And The Basic School

If you weren’t aware, TBS is having serious trouble trying to manage the flood of new Lieutenants that are making their way into the Corps. Many of these officers signed on several years ago when the budget situation and outlook of the war was much different. For instance, most NROTC Marine Option Midshipman graduating today got in at least four years ago.

The solution has so far been to place new officers on hold, or more formally in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). In some instances, the holding time could exceed a year.

In addition, it has recently come to my attention that TBS is giving new officers the option to:

  1. Extend their time in the IRR, or
  2. Resign their commission

As of today, there are NO available TBS slots until April of 2015. Those who have an upcoming ship date can delay their entry further. This may be ideal for someone expecting a child, or dealing with other personal, financial, or private industry work related issues. The second option does seem a surprising at first, but when you examine the severity of the reduction it makes sense.

NROTC Scholarships – Can you still pick one up?

Although speculative, you can pretty much guarantee that the Marine Corps is going to be much more careful in determining who gets a full ride through college. When you think about it, the amount of tuition paid for a single person can range between $50k to $200k and up depending on the university. Given that Marine Officers coming out of NROTC only have a 4 year commitment, it doesn’t seem likely that the Corps is going to invest very heavily in this particular path given budget cuts.

As an example, my old unit, one of the smallest, generally gets between 3-5 Marines Options on scholarship each year. Last fall they only received 1.

OCS Applicants – Will You Get Picked Up For OCC/PLC

Can’t really say too much here, except that you are likely to see the same patterns. Traditionally, OCC graduates went straight to The Basic School with little time between the two. However, don’t be surprised if you end up in some temporary admin job waiting to pickup for real training.

Don’t be discouraged. The Marine Corps will always need new officers, and the best pool of applicants still have the chance to claim the title of Marine Officer. Things will balance out in the years to come.

Enjoy some beer while in the individual ready reserve

Enjoy Your Time In The Individual Ready Reserve

So you graduated college and got commissioned as a United States Marine Corps Officer, but what do you do if the Corps has decided to throw you into the individual ready reserve. If you were fortunate to get an assignment to The Basic School with only a few months to relax then you probably don’t have any worries. Move back home with the parents, or stay around school and keep working your day job. Sadly, that will not be the case for many new officers such as myself. With a 12+ month waiting period ahead of me there is no wonder I started this website in the first place. Fortunately, I am going to do my best to offer some advice to those who are scheduled to twiddle their thumbs for the foreseeable months.

Get a job…SIX+ MONTHS BEFORE YOU GRADUATE!

Chances are you have a desire to put some money in the back, pay off some loans, pay rent, etc. The best, if not only, way you are going to be able to do that is by getting a job. I HIGHLY encourage those of you still in school to start looking months beforehand. Even if you already have a job that you enjoy there is no reason to sell yourself short. The last job I worked at college was doing technical support. I was very happy with the job, people, and better than average $14.00 an hour. However, that did not stop me from searching for new opportunities to use my degree. I applied for a job as a computer engineer in December of 2012. It wasn’t until March of 2013 that I was contacted. A month later I did a series of interviews and two weeks after graduating in June I started as an engineer. I don’t say this to be boastful, rather I want you to understand that it takes a long time to find a good job. If you put it off the opportunities for short term employment will shrink.

Enjoy some time as a fat body

Hopefully you ended senior year in peak physical condition. If so, I would say take some time to live a little. IRR is horrible in so many ways, but it does give us some time to relax and enjoy a purely civilian life. Criticize me in the comments all you want, but I say eat fried pork and drink beer to your hearts desire. There will be a day when you need to turn the fun off and get back in some boots. DON’T SHOW UP TO TBS A FAT BODY!

Travel. Explore. Disappear.

Marines in the ready reserves don’t get much from our military status, but they do get Space-A! If you don’t know, Space-A is a way for service members and their families to travel on military flights at a low cost. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to use this great benefit, but I do know it is available. Consider getting together with some fellow graduates and taking a trip somewhere. It could be a flight across the world, or a road trip for a few days. There will not be another opportunity for you to do this for years. Who knows you might not get the chance to travel freely and without worry until you retire.

There are not a whole lot of reasons for you to be happy about being put in the Individual Ready Reserve for an extensive period of time. My hope is that you will take up a better attitude about the situation and make the most of it. Enjoy time as a civilian and don’t worry too much about TBS. The time will come when the Marine Corps becomes interwoven into your lifestyle so cherish the moments you have left with your families, friends, pets, favorite restaurants, bars, stores, and whatever else you love.

Tricare Logo red

Health Care for Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve

One of the first things you should be concerned with upon commissioning is understanding the benefits that you will receive while waiting for The Basic School. There are definitely a few small details that I was not aware of prior to commissioning that I would like to share. If you have questions about these types of things make sure you make an inquiry with the staff at your unit and get answers.

Medical Coverage

Yes, while in the Individual Ready Reserve Marines will receive full medical coverage while waiting for The Basic School. Be mindful that it can take a matter of weeks and possibly months to get your name through the system after commissioning. I believe the general time frame is a few weeks, but some problems after I commissioned held myself and many other Marine up for over a month. Once you are in the system you may enroll with Tricare and choose a Primary Care Manager (PCM).

Dental Coverage

It came as an unfortunate surprise to me when I found out that I would not be getting dental insurance while in the Individual Ready Reserve. I was insured through my university prior to commissioning and neglected to get some dental work taken care of because I didn’t want to pay the deductible. This turned out to be a sad mistake. Don’t be uninformed like I was and ask questions about anything you do not understand.

Vision Coverage

Similar to dental, there are no vision benefits while in the Individual Ready Reserve. If you have glasses, or use contacts, make sure you get any necessary prescriptions filled while you have coverage through your university/parents.

Are you married? Are you planning to get married? Kids?

While in the Individual Ready Reserve your dependents will NOT receive any health care benefits. This is incredibly important for you to understand if you are married and have children. As soon as you report to The Basic School and become Active your dependents will be able to get their IDs and signup for coverage.

Please note that the Marine Corps is constantly changing policy to better accommodate Marines and their families. The information given is a reflection of what I understand to be the policy of the Marine Corps at the time this was written.

Marine Enjoying Life

What It Means To Be A Marine In The…

If you are reading this ahead of your commissioning, I would first like to congratulate you on your accomplishments. It is not an easy endeavor making it through all of the hurdles that precede becoming a Marine Corps Officer. If you are not yet at that point, the information I am going to give will still be helpful in helping you prepare for the many week, or possibly months, of IRR time to come.

Official Definition

“The Marine Corps IRR is a segment of the Marine Corps Ready Reserve, which includes Selective Marine Corps Reserve (SMC) unit, Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA), Active Reserve (AR), and Inactive Duty for Training (IDT) Marines.”

What does this mean for you?

If you are not going directly to The Basic School after commissioning then you are going into the Marine IRR. Marines who commission from the NROTC program are most likely to be put in the IRR. Officer Candidate Course graduates generally go straight to The Basic School and don’t have to worry about this phase. I am not to sure about Naval Academy Graduates (please comment if you know). Prior enlisted Marines are given the highest priority for The Basic School because they remain on Active Duty after commissioning.

How long will I be twiddling my thumbs?

Honestly, it may be weeks, months, or over a year before you get out of IRR status. I commissioned in June of 2013 and am not scheduled to check-in to The Basic School until July of 2014. The Marine Corps will better balance itself over time and the wait will be reduced in the coming years. The Marine Corps is constantly changing and you can never be sure what is going to come.

Individual Ready Reserve vs. Active Reserve

There are quite a few differences between the IRR and AR. For one, you can expect a nice paycheck of $0 every two weeks while in the IRR. Secondly, while in the Individual Ready Reserve you will not have to report for any type of duty to include: physical training, academic training, etc. There is a chance that you could be called for an Administrative Muster, but I don’t expect you will ever see this.

Understand Your Health Care Benefits

I will not go into this too much, since I have written another post about this here. To summarize, you will get full medical coverage, but don’t expect to get your eyes checked or wisdom teeth pulled while in the IRR. There is no dental or vision coverage for IRR Marines.

Becoming an IRR Marine after commissioning is not the most exciting position to be in. The important thing to remember is that you are a Marine Corps Officer and the time will come for you to lead Marines. Stay confident and don’t be discouraged.

For more details regarding the Individual Ready Reserve see the Marine Corps Website