2008: The U.S. Marine Corps is offering a $4,000 bonus for captains (rank O-3
of ten officer ranks) who will stay in when their contracts expire this year.
Normally, the marines lose about 500 captains each year. This is a major loss,
as it takes at least four years of service, training and experience to create a
captain. The hope is that the bonus will persuade 300 captains to stay in. This
is necessary because the marines are expanding from 186,000 troops, to 202,000
over the next three years. They also have the largest number of combat
experienced captains since the early 1970s, and they want to keep these
officers in, as their battlefield knowledge will stay with them throughout a
20-30 year career. This can save lives, because this experience is invaluable
as these officers train and lead troops in the future.
Army is having trouble hanging on to captains, and last year offered $20,000
bonuses to 7,000 captains, to get them to stick around. Captains have been leaving the service at higher than
wanted rates for nearly a decade now. There are several reasons for this.
First, there are better opportunities in the booming civilian economy. These
captains have been in the army less than ten years, and are far enough away
from the 20 year mark (when they are eligible for a half-pay pension), to be
able to leave without feeling much fiscal pain.
the war, and the constant trips overseas. Captains usually have families, with
young children, and wives who are overwhelmed when left alone with the kids.
The kids are only young once, and even with Internet access, there's a lot you
miss if you're away.
still a generation gap between the junior officers (the captains are the most
senior of that lot) and the generals. The younger officers have had it with the
"zero tolerance" and political correctness crap. Actually, a lot of
that has been ditched because of the wartime conditions. But there's still the
feeling that your boss will hang you out to dry if the media makes a fuss about
something you didn't do, but someone thinks you did.
It can takes
six years of service for someone to become a captain, if you take a sergeant
and put them through Officer Candidate School. Most officers come from West
Point or ROTC, in which case it takes about eight years. That's not just a lot
of time, but a lot of money. It's cheaper to offer big bonuses to keep these
junior officers in uniform.