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$30,000 bonuses for former reserve pilots to return as Corps tries to fill aviation gaps

Philip Athey

$30,000 bonuses for former reserve pilots to return as Corps tries to fill aviation gaps
The Marine Corps is offering $30,000 bonuses for qualified aviators who agree to return to the active reserve component for three years in order to fill “critical aviation shortfalls," according to a December Marine message.

The bonuses are offered as the Marine Corps continues to struggle with a pilot shortage, despite improved retention rates in the field.

The current $30,000 bonus is for the active reserve aviator return to service program and gives interested pilots until Sept. 10 to apply, the late December MARADMIN said.

Officials with Marine Manpower and Reserve Affairs, in an email to Marine Corps Times, credited the pilot shortfalls to fewer pilots trained during the Marine Corps-wide drawdown in 2015, along with the “protracted time-to-train in undergraduate aviation training.”

F/A-18 Hornet and Osprey pilots and KC-130 Hercules aircraft commanders will be given priority. The program is also open to Harrier, UH-1Y Venom and CH-53E Super Stallion pilots.

To help counter the pilot shortage, in June 2019 the Marine Corps offered up to $280,000 in bonuses for qualified pilots who signed lengthy contracts to say in the Corps.

A total of 509 aviators took the bonus in fiscal 2019 out of a total of 880 offered, Marine officials said.

Only captains and majors are eligible for the most recent $30,000 offer, and to apply they must have completed all prior service obligations, have fewer than 18 years of active duty service and not previously been passed over for career designation.

Captains looking to apply must have more than 10 years of active duty service and have never been passed over for promotion to major, the MARADMIN said.

Majors who have never been considered for promotion to lieutenant colonel must have at least 12 years of active-duty service to apply, according to the MARADMIN.

If a major wants to apply who has been passed over for promotion to lieutenant colonel, they must have 15 years of active duty service to be eligible, the MARADMIN said.

In addition to the bonus the Marine Corps is sending a retention roadshow to the 2nd and 3rd Marine Air Wing, pitching both officer and enlisted members of the air wing on the benefits of the reserves.

Retention on the enlisted side of the Marine air wing has improved, Marine officials told Marine Corps Times.

In fiscal 2020 the Marine Corps has already completed 75 percent of its retention goals for Marines on their first enlistment with the air wing ― an improvement from 72 percent goal completion at this point last year.

“The retention of qualified aviation mechanics, across the entire spectrum of aviation maintenance MOSes has improved,” Marine officials said.

But even with the improved retention numbers, the Marine Corps acknowledges that it is losing valuable Marines to the civilian world.

“Marines, specifically Naval Aviators and maintainers, are leaving the Active Component (AC) to pursue employment with the civilian airlines,” a MARADMIN announcing the show and providing the schedule said.

This is not the first retention roadshow the Marine Corps has sent to the wing, Maj. Eryn L. Redmon, officer in charge of Active Reserve Officer Accessions, told Marine Corps Times in an email.

The first roadshow took place in 2018, Redmon said, and the positive feedback led to the growth of the program over the past three years.

The roadshow’s schedule includes :

  • Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California ― Jan. 9–Jan. 10.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona ― Jan. 13.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Pendleton, California ― Jan. 14–Jan. 15.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina ― Jan. 28.
  • Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina ― Jan. 28–Jan. 29
  • Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina ― Jan. 30.

“Due to the high operational tempo of the flying squadrons, we try to take the inconvenience out of stopping maintenance/operations to send the whole squadron off site by offering briefs in each squadron’s ready room when it best fits into their schedule," Redmon said.

While the roadshow is focused on keeping Marines after they end their career, Redmon encourages all Marines in the unit to show up to the briefings.

“The point, plant that seed early before the Marine has already passed that point in their decision making process sitting at" the transition readiness seminar, the major said.

Military.com first reported about the bonuses.


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