CAMP PENDLETON — On Tuesday, officials from the Marine Corps headquarters prepared hundreds of Camp Pendleton Marines for a drawdown.
Nationally, the Corps will shrink from 202,100 to 182,100 Marines over the next four years as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. Although Marine bases on the East Coast would be hit the hardest, Camp Pendleton stands to lose 2,300 Marines by the end of 2016.
“Everyone needs to understand that competition is going to get a bit tougher as we have the drawdown,” said Col. Bill Tosick with the Manpower Plans, Programs and Budget Branch, which has briefed Marines throughout the U.S. about the drawdown.
Tosick advised Marines to “be the best Marine you can be every day” to avoid being cut. Among other tips, he said Marines should go online and verify their records are correct, have an up-to-date picture with their records and consider applying for another position if their field is saturated.
Tosick said the national drawdown — cuts of about 5,000 Marines each year for the next four years — would mostly be accomplished through attrition. The Marines will also slightly reduce recruiting and promotions, according to Tosick. He contrasted upcoming plans to the 1990s drawdown, which primarily relied on slashing recruiting efforts.
According to Tosick, the drawdown in the 1990s was unpopular with many in retrospect because there were fewer new Marines, causing a glut of high-ranking officers.
“We’re not going to do that this time,” Tosick said. “We’re going to make sure we maintain healthy ascension throughout the drawdown.”
When possible, he said the drawdown will use voluntary separation. Some Marines will be given the option of retiring or leaving their contracts early with benefits.
“We would like to do nothing but voluntary separation,” Tosick said.
Because voluntary separation and attrition likely won’t yield enough cuts, Tosick noted some Marines would be forced to depart or retire before they would prefer. And re-enlisting may be difficult for many.
However, he sought to reassure Marines in the audience, especially long-term officers.
“We will not break contracts and we will not change the policy for those we’ve traditionally allowed to make it to retirement eligibility,” Tosick said. “For those staff sergeants and majors, we still plan on allowing you to make it to retirement eligibility.”
Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale, who has served for more than 30 years, said the presentation was informative.
“I won’t be affected by the drawdown,” Christovale said. “But I know this helped a lot of people who are nervous about it.”
“It’s a good reminder to do the best you can,” he added.
One Marine brought up the threat of further cuts to the military, called sequestration, during the Q&A session of the presentation. Deep cuts would be triggered across the government, including the pentagon, if Congress can’t agree on a federal budget by year’s end.
Tosik noted it was unlikely, but if further budget cuts come to pass, he said the military would need to put together a new a plan for a drawdown, which is set to begin this fall.