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Program allows you to put your career on pause

Go to school, start a family - or be a beach bum.Sweet new deal lets Marines take off up to 3 years

Sep. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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How to apply

If you’re interested in taking some time off to pursue a goal outside the Marine Corps, the Career Intermission Pilot Program may be a good option, depending on long-term goals, time in service and finances. To apply, first review MARADMIN 418/13 to check that you are eligible.
A sample CIPP application is available at the website for the Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs’ Separation and Retirement Branch. Click on “Separations” in the left column and then click on the CIPP agreement sample at the very bottom of the right column.
For the application, you will need to submit some basic personal information, current rotation tour date and end of obligated service date, a personal statement including your purpose for applying to CIPP, and any request to waive eligibility criteria. The application also requires a letter of recommendation from your unit commanding officer. Applications should be submitted to the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs by way of your chain of command. Commands will be notified that an application has been accepted or rejected via message traffic.
What are the benefits?

While on intermission, you are still eligible to receive the following pay and benefits:
■ Health and dental benefits for you and your dependents.
■ Allowances for travel to the destination where you’re spending the intermission and travel when returning to active duty .
■ Use of commissary and Marine Corps Exchange.
■ Use of Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill benefits (but not tuition assistance).
■ Your date of rank or time in rate will be adjusted forward one day for every day spent on the program, leveling the field for promotions.
■ You will receive 1/15th of your base pay monthly allowance.
The fine print

Eligible Marines must:
■ Have completed their first enlistment or initial minimum service requirement.
■ Be able to complete service obligation following program without hitting high-year tenure limitations or reaching 20-year retirement eligibility.
■ Meet physical readiness standards.
■ Have had no disciplinary action in the preceding two years.
■ Receive an endorsement from their commanding officer.
Those ineligible include:
■ Officers and who failed to be selected for promotion.
■ Enlisted Marines not recommended for promotion or retention.
■ Those who are executing permanent change of station orders.
■Personnel receiving a selective reenlistment or critical skills retention bonus.
■ Enlisted personnel not recommended for advancement or retention.
■ Enlisted personnel in a training pipeline.
■ Gunnery sergeants with more than 15 years of service, and all Marines in the pay grades E-8 and E-9.
■ Marines who have debts to the government, including advance and excess leave.
■ Marines who manifest symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and are still undergoing their post-deployment health evaluation and management care.
You can refer to MARADMIN 418/13 for more eligibility details.

You're a career-designated officer or maybe you've just re-enlisted.

You're a career-designated officer or maybe you've just re-enlisted.

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You’re a career-designated officer or maybe you’ve just re-enlisted. You’d love to take a few years to write the Great American Novel, travel the world surfing, pursue a college degree or start a family, but you’re not willing to hang up the uniform for good. You are, in other words, the perfect candidate for the Marine Corps’ new career sabbatical program, which lets Marines in good standing pause their careers for a few years without penalty while they pursue something entirely outside the scope of their MOS.

Called the Career Intermission Pilot Program, this de facto pause button has been in use by the Navy since 2009, after the Pentagon successfully requested it within the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Act. A Marine administrative message implementing the program for the Marine Corps was published Aug. 23 and billed as an aid to retention for ambitious Marines facing a career dilemma.

“The long-term intent of this program is to provide greater flexibility in career paths of Marines in order to retain valuable experience and training of Marines who might otherwise permanently separate,” the MARADMIN says.

Here’s the offer: Marines can get a temporary reprieve from their duties for up to three years, plus a one-time expenses-paid permanent change of station move to the home location of their choice and a small monthly stipend of one-fifteenth of their active-duty salary — around seven cents on the dollar. So a sergeant earning $2,415 each month on active duty would pocket $80 each biweekly pay period while on sabbatical, or just under $2,000 per year.

While Marines in the program are assigned to Individual Ready Reserve, they are exempted from reserve training requirements. And Marines on career sabbatical would still have access to a few key military benefits, including healthcare through TRICARE and use of the GI Bill.

There are spots available for 40 Marines per year: 20 enlisted troops and 20 officers. And most career-designated officers and enlisted troops who have completed at least one term or re-enlisted for a second are eligible for the offer, as long as they have a clean legal record over the last two years, have no financial debts to the government and don’t owe for advance or excess leave, and aren’t approaching high-year service limits or retirement eligibility.

What's the catch?

This deal does come with some strings attached, however. For every month in the intermission program, troops will incur two additional months of obligated service. A Marine who takes the maximum of three years off from active duty will owe six years of service on top of any previous service obligation.

And if any participants fail to return to their duties after their career hiatus, they could owe the government thousands of dollars: According to the MARADMIN, they will owe back the cash value of all the benefits they took advantage of while in the program, including health care, the monthly stipend and the PCS costs.

“The value of these benefits will be determined by the DoD actuary and Office of the Secretary of Defense Comptroller,” the MARADMIN reads. “Marines found ineligible to return to active duty may be subject to administrative separation.”

But by design, participation in the program should have no effect on career mobility or promotion consideration once back on active duty. Officers and enlisted Marines aren’t eligible for promotion while they participate in the program, and time spent away does not double as time-in-grade.

Participants receive an administrative note in lieu of a fitness report while on sabbatical. But Marines on career intermission should be able to return to their military field as if they never left, without any negative career outcome.

'Life/work balance'

To develop the Corps’ version, Marine officials consulted with Navy action officers as they designed program elements, officials with Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs said. Now in its fourth year, the career intermission program has been a mixed success for the Navy.

In promotional materials, Navy officials billed the program as a tool designed to meet the needs of Millenials, the generation born between the 1980s and the 2000s, which composed 63 percent of the service last year. A Navy presentation published last year lays out the top career and life priorities for Millenials: “Social enterprise and nonprofit work a large employment focus,” it says. “#1 goal: life/work balance.”

The desired outcome: “Improved recruiting and retention of top talent that would have otherwise been lost.”

The problem so far is that few sailors appear to want a sabbatical.

According to data released by Navy Personnel Command Aug. 28, 25 officers and 22 enlisted sailors have been accepted to the program in its four years of existence, even though there are spots available for 40 every year. Navy officials have been working to rid the program of any stigma that it will damage sailors’ careers, with the understanding that other services saw the Navy’s effort as a test case and were monitoring its success.

“I think that’s gonna be a lot more attractive to people if they know they’re going to be viable when it comes to promotion,” Navy Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Juan Garcia told Navy Times last month.“And I also think that the other services — and I know from hearing from my counterparts in the other services — they’re waiting to see how this plays out, too.”

The Air Force and Army have yet to adopt a version of the career intermission offer.

Who qualifies

The MARADMIN emphasizes that preference and special consideration will be given to applicants in “communities experiencing retention challenges.” A spokeswoman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Maj. Shawn Haney, said examples include intelligence and air traffic control specialties.

The Marine Corps reported in July that four intelligence-related MOSs were among the billets receiving the highest payouts in selective re-enlistment bonuses, another indicator that these specialties are in high demand. The program outline for CIPP makes clear, however, that retention perks cannot be combined; Marines receiving an SRB or critical skills retention bonus are not eligible for the career intermission offer.

A source with knowledge of the program’s early planning in 2009 said one intent was to retain female officers who were considering leaving the service to start a family. Although Marine officials did not identify that as a primary purpose, Marine Corps brass has worked to recruit and retain women and minorities, particularly those in leadership positions.

In March, Commandant Gen. Jim Amos created several groups focused on attracting and retaining female and minority officers. According to data released last year, about 6 percent of Marine officers are black and about 6 percent are women.

Marine officials said the program is not designed to be a cost-savings measure, but it does have some budget benefits. Planning documents from the Pentagon’s request for the program estimate it would save the Navy more than $27 million over its initial four-year span, with the salaries of 40 sailors on hold.

Anecdotally, the program has produced some good news stories for sailors who have taken the sabbatical offer. For instance, a Navy SEAL used the program to attend a master’s program at Harvard University and a lieutenant commander took time off to have another child and spend time with her family. Earlier this year, Cmdr. Valerie Overstreet was selected for promotion to captain after returning to active service from her intermission.

For Marines, applicants will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis, officials said. By law, the program will be available until Dec. 31, 2015.

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