Marine Corps plans to give some officers temporary promotions

by Vern Evans

The Marine Corps is seeking the authority to promote some officers to the rank of lieutenant colonel and colonel temporarily, in a bid to fill jobs with a shortage of leaders.

These officers would receive the pay and wear the rank insignia commensurate with the higher grades while they occupy particular billets, according to a March 29 Marine administrative message.

“This pilot program would temporarily promote qualified Marine Corps officers with critical skills while they are filling key billets,” Marine spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Eason said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times on Friday.

The Navy secretary, Carlos Del Toro, would designate which billets are eligible for the Marine Corps’ spot promotions, according to Eason.

The Army and Navy already have similar programs, called brevet promotions and spot promotions, respectively.

Marine majors and lieutenant colonels would be eligible for the promotions in fiscal year 2026, according to the Marine administrative message.

“This pilot, like other Talent Management initiatives, allows the service to better leverage Marines’ talents and incentivize retention,” said Eason, referring to the Corps’ plan focused on keeping experienced Marines from leaving the service.

Enlisted retention has increased since the Marine Corps rolled out the Talent Management plan in 2021, but officer retention dropped slightly from fiscal year 2019 to 2023, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

In a statement to Marine Corps Times in January, Eason attributed that dip to the cutting of certain jobs, the now-rescinded COVID-19 vaccine mandate and some officers delaying departures ­until the economic uncertainties of the pandemic had diminished. The officer retention rate now is trending back to pre-pandemic norms, the spokeswoman said.

To be eligible for the spot promotions, both majors and lieutenant colonels would have to be eligible for permanent promotions in fiscal year 2026 but have been passed over for those promotions, according to the Marine administrative message.

The message specifies that majors can receive spot promotions if they hold the military occupational specialty 0102, or manpower officer. These officers “plan, coordinate, execute and/or supervise the functions of administration (general administration, operational administration, manpower administration, and personnel administration) in their respective commands and organizations,” according to the Corps’ military occupational specialty manual.

The message doesn’t specify the military occupational specialties that lieutenant colonels must have in order to snag temporary promotions to colonel.

The spot promotions would last as long as the officers occupy the qualifying billets. Once the officers leave those billets, they would return to their previous ranks, unless they have entered other qualifying billets or have secured permanent promotions, according to the message.

One key difference between spot promotions and frocking — the practice of giving a service member the uniform and title of a higher grade before a promotion — is that frocked troops don’t receive the pay commensurate with the higher grades.

Although Eason said the Corps has just sought the authority to perform spot promotions, the Marine administrative message describes how the promotions “will” work and declares the selection boards will convene in early May at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

“More information will be provided at a later date,” Eason said.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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