Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Advice for that Marine getting out…Stay in the reserves!

October 13th, 2012 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

Everyone in the service comes to that point where you have said “has it stopped being fun?” should I pull chocks and go into the first CivDiv.  For me it was at the ten year mark in my career while stationed in Kansas City on recruiting duty.

My goal in life was to fly for a major airline and now was the time to leave the Marine Corps and take that chance since all the airlines were hiring.  I pretty much set myself up for that career wise by not doing any of the mandatory educational schools that all junior and senior officers must complete for promotion.

So I guess it was no big surprise when I was passed for Major on that board in 1998.  I had applied to a few different airlines and was only waiting to hear back from them on a job.

Not knowing where your next paycheck was coming from is a bit disconcerting, but I had planned to have some fun until I found a job and had saved a bunch of money so I could live for almost two years with no employment at all.  That was the life of a single guy.

As it turned out, the day I signed my DD 214 to get out, was the day I was hired by a Major International Airline.  So I literally stepped out of my Marine Corps Cami’s to a blue suit to fly the friendly skies.

I was blessed no doubt in a lot of things at that point in my life.  One thing I wish had happened though was to have a mentor to sit down with me and explain my options as a Marine Reservist and the number of jobs available to guys willing to drill.  I didn’t have that and figured I had closed that Marine Corps chapter in my life.

Here is the deal for all you reading this and thinking about getting out with 7 to 10 years of active duty.  Don’t give that time up and stay a part of the reserves whether it’s in the Corps or another branch of the service.  I’ll explain why here for you and I apologize to all the Enlisted guys who read this because I’m not savvy on the process you go through.

For Marine Officers, if you entered through the PLC program, that time counts towards your retirement.  So my two summers at Quantico for OCS was worth about 50 points each summer which is a “SAT” year with the reserves.  You ROTC/USNA guys are hosed on this I think.  With that being said, my ten years active duty along with two years in reserves with PLC meant I only had eight years to cross the finish line and retire later on at age 60.

Now with no mentor to guide me, I choose to keep my commission and not resign it.  OK, something they don’t tell you.  You only have twenty years from the day you are commissioned to reach retirement, that’s a federal law.  If you are promoted to LtCol then you can go onto 28 years and Col somewhere around 30 or more (yeah, more PFT/CFT’s as the old guy! Ha!).

A person who resigns their commission can always go back in later but their clock has stopped for that maximum 20 year law.  A guy like me who kept his commission active and stayed in the IRR (Inactive Ready Reserve) has to maintain “Satisfactory” years in the Reserves. The secret problem is you must do something to achieve points to have a “SAT” year in the reserves. That means you have to join an SMCR unit or IMA det or do Marine Math coloring books MCI’s to score enough points to stay in active in the reserves.  You get 15 membership points a year for just being a part of the Reserves so you only need 35 other points to have a good reserve year of 50 points.  This is valid for every branch as well.  Are you tracking with what I’m saying?

In my case, I did nothing for five years.  9-11 had happened and I felt the urge to join back up.  It was easy to get me going but I had a rude awakening.  Five years of my 20 years total commission time had burned up putting me at the 15 year mark with only 12 SAT years towards retirement.  I could only go five more years which would put me at 20 years as a commissioned officer with only 17 SAT years for retirement. Guess what, the Corps can give you a waiver for an extension but that is not guaranteed and most likely the Corps would say “Thanks for playing, but you don’t pass go and collect a retirement” especially in the day and age of the big draw down.

So my advice to you is once they drop you into the IRR, you take a year off and do MCI’s on your own time have a good year point wise with the Corps.  Then go look for a job with your PSR (prior service recruiter) and stay active.  Because here it is 2012 and I’m still playing in the reserves with 21 SAT years (so I could retire) and a mandatory drop dead date of 2016 for retirement.

Did you know you can get promoted in the Reserves???

I have to laugh looking back on my life.  Somewhere in 2000, my cell phone rang “Captain Bell?” me thinking it was my airline crew schedulers trying to reach me, I replied “No, you have First Officer Bell, I think you are looking for the other Bell. “

He says no, he’s looking for Captain Bell, United States Marine Corps.  I chuckle and realize it was me he was looking for, hell I felt like Obi wan Kenobi from Star Wars…General Kenobi, oh yeah that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.

“You got him, what can I do for you?”

“Sir, this is SSgt Robins from the Reserve Majors promotion board here in Quantico and they asked me to call you.  You have a date gap on your fitness reports and we were wondering if you could fax them up to us?”

“No SSgt, pretty sure all my fitreps were all up to date when I got out.  What date gaps are you looking at?”

He says, “From Sept 98 to present.”

“Oh” I reply, “that’s easy, I got out and haven’t done anything in the reserves, so no fitreps to send you.”

“Sir, could you fax us a letter to that affect?”

I was actually on my way to fly out for Cancun Mexico and didn’t have time to play around, for something I didn’t feel I was going to use anyway.

“SSgt, are you going to go back and report to them what I say?” the voice on the other says yes.

“Ok great, I want you to go back and tell the board to go Pound themselves ( I don’t recommend doing this by the way, but at the time felt I had nothing to lose).  If I wasn’t good enough to promote to Major on active duty, what the hell do I need it in the reserves where I’m not even doing anything?”

He became very serious on the other end of the line “Sir, I can’t tell them that”

“Sure you can SSgt.  Am I still a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps?”

“Yes Sir…”

“Great then go back in there and tell them word for word that Captain Bell just told them all to pound sound.”

He wasn’t sure if I was being on the level with him I’m sure “Sir, are you sure you want me to repeat all that to the board?”

“Sure am SSgt, besides when is the last time you were able to curse at stuffy senior officers before?  Go have fun on my account because it really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.  So have a great day and thanks for calling.”

Six months later I was promoted to Major in the United States Marine Reserve.  That blew me away.  I often wondered if being flippant with the board worked in my favor or what actually happened that day when the SSgt went back in that room among some really bored guys.

Fast forward, I’m now a Major and work my way back in the reserves Nov of 04 on recruiting duty.  I then volunteered for a billet over in Iraq leaving Aug of 2005.  The Chief of Staff calls me into office while over there with the bad news that I was passed for LtCol.  I explained that I wasn’t surprised considering I only had one fitrep written on me as a Major by another Major so I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to waste the boards time on my package.  He acknowledged that and told me to put one in next year, because I was doing great things on this combat tour.  At the time, I wasn’t sure I was even going to stay in.

I did put that package in that next year and was selected to LtCol on May 22nd of 2007 and pinned it on June 1st of 07 (how’s that for fast?)  So I guess God looks after drunks, idiots and airline pilots after all.

That is the story of how Taco Bell made it to retirement years.  I just wish someone had taken the time to coach me on how all this reserve stuff works.  I could be ready to retire with 28 or 30 good years (PLC time included) vice the 23-24 years I will have when it’s time to hang up my uniform again.

Bottom line is don’t throw away that time you have built up and find a reservist to take you under his/her wing to tell you what options you really have and go for the retirement!

I hope you have a great career

Semper Fi,


Here are some good links to check out…

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: I am an IRR Marine, how do I request to join the Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMA)?

A: Contact your local Prior Service Recruiter (PSR).


Q: How long is my IMA tour?

A: Your initial tour is 3 years. We can submit 1 yr extension request to Reserve Affair, they will grant extensions on a case by case basis not to exceed 5 years.


Q: How do I reenlist in the Individual Ready Reserve or Request an Extension?

A: You must contact the IRR Career Retentions Specialists at 1-800-255-5082 or 816-843-3374/ 3376. You will have to submit a written request, a verified height and weight statement, possibly a certified CRCR (Career Retirement Credit Record), a full physical or Annual Certification of Physical Condition.


Q: How many points do I need to complete a satisfactory year?

A: 50 points are required in order to complete a satisfactory year.


Q: What are membership points?

Each member of the Marine Corps Reserve is awarded 15 membership points for each anniversary year completed.


Q: Can an IMA Marine be involuntarily transferred to the IRR for unsatisfactory participation?

A: Yes. Per MCO P1001R.1J (MCRAMM), Operational Sponsors may submit a request to CMC(RA) for an IMA to be involuntarily transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) due to unsatisfactory performance or inability to maintain billet proficiency. This request should be based upon a relief for cause and endorsed by an officer in the OpSponsor’s chain of command with court-martial convening authority over the IMA.

Q: What is the maximum amount of regular drills I am authorized?

A: You rate 48 regular drills per fiscal year.


Q: How many drills per day can I complete?

A: Only 2 per day; A 4 hour period is 1 drill. 1 drill is equal to 1 point


Q: Where can I check how many drills I have completed?

A: You can verify your drills via Marine Online. Marines must manage their drills carefully to ensure consecutive drills are reported to also accommodate the anniversary year requirement.


Q: Who and Where do I turn my drills into?

A: You turn them in to the RSU; via fax (858-577-4564) or e-mail


Q: How long does it take to get paid for drills?

A.  The MOBCOM web site states 5-7 businesses days.


Q: How do I request Annual Training (AT) orders?

A: A request must be received from your section SNCO in writing at least two weeks prior to your orders starting.


Q: When do I get paid my Initial Partial Payments for Annual training?

A: Your first IPP payment is reported half way through your orders and your final IPP payment is paid off once your travel claim is submitted and settled.


Q.  What should I do once my AT orders are complete?

A.  The marine has to complete a travel claim within 5 business days to close out the orders.


Q.  What should I bring in to complete my travel claim?

A.  Your original orders and lodging receipts.


Q: How long does it take for me to get a travel claim settled?

A: Depending on the type of Travel Claim it can take 8-15 business days.


Q: How do I activate Government Travel Card credit for upcoming orders?

A: Your card should be activated upon issuance of your orders.

If your card has not been activated call Government Travel Card Coordinator cell phone at (816)813-3889


Q: When are fitness reports for Reserves due for Reserve Marines?

A: Fitness Reports are due:

SGT                                SEP

SSGT                              SEP

GYSGT                           SEP

1STSGT/MSGT              SEP


WO/CWO                       OCT

MAJ                                SEP

LTCOL                            JUN

COL                                JUL


Q: Where do I check if my latest fitness report has posted?

A: You can go to https://www.mmsb.usmc


Q: Where can I update my current personnel information?

A: You can use Marine Online to update any personnel information and also update your Career Retirement Credit Record.


Q: What is a Career Retirement Credit Report (CRCR)?

A: The CRCR is the document that records the retirement credit points in MCTFS by anniversary year and it reflects a reservist’s entire career.


Tags: , , , , , ,