Captain Grose's Adjutant pages

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THE ADJUTANT RETENTION PROBLEM

 

 
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I received this paper on email and thought it brought up some eye-opening points. Many non-Adjutants think it is just whining and will keep thinking that as their administators leave the Corps at the cyclic rate, bleeding the Marine Corps of an important support asset.


Issue:

Fact:  There are about 120% of needed 1st and 2nd lieutenant 0180s in the Marine Corps today.
Fact:  There are about 79% of needed captain 0180s in the Marine Corps today.
Fact:  0180s are atritting about two times faster than other MOSs at the end of their initial commitment.

Discussion:

The following are reasons the adjutants within the 1st FSSG feel 0180s are leaving the Marine Corps at a rapid rate.

YOUR INITIAL DRIVE TO BECOME AN ADJ

You are getting 2ndLts that have the MOS 0180 as their 5th, 10th, or even 24th choice of MOS—rarely is it in the top three for anyone.  This, we believe, is due to:

 a.  Advocacy (no one “sells” the MOS or seems enthusiastic about it)
 b.  Reputation (“ too close to the flagpole,” “shuffle paper,” “the longest hours with no appreciation”)
 c.  Perception of a non-combat arms choice...when almost all SPCs have combat arms MOSs

Bottom line is that there are few of us that chose this career path, and perhaps even if there were an advocate or SPC at TBS for this field, the MOS would still be low on people’s list.  The perception is that this MOS is for bottom feeders, when the opposite should be the case—Adjs need to be smarter, more persistent, and more dedicated than other officers in the unit are.  We become the go-to guy/gal on any and all matters pertaining to the Corps--Fitreps, promotions, protocol, etc., ad nauseam.

PREPARING YOU TO BE AN ADJ

Expectations.  You are expected, with six months in the USMC, to know all.  Most Adjs walk in to their job not even knowing what the role of the S4 is.  Or the difference between a NAM and NCM.  Or that 0151s are different in their capabilities than 0121s.  Yet you are expected to be the duty expert on your battalion and MOS.  Preparation to meet this expectation is nonexistent.

Education.  PA school, to put it bluntly, is a paid vacation.  It teaches punctuation and the standard naval letter format.  For those who have no experience in the USMC, they are unsure what concepts to really focus on and what questions to ask.  The average graduating grade is about 95%, which tells us that they are teaching what people already know and it is TOO EASY.  Therefore, when a new adj gets to their 1st Bn, they are completely unprepared for the job at hand.

Old Role of an Adj: Four years ago, before consolidated admin, it was true that you could put basically any 9916 in a Bn Adj position and it would work (0180s out of school were/are no better than any untrained 9916 anyway).  You were not any better off using a school-trained 0180 in that billet, due to 1.  Inadequate training at PA school and 2.  The job description of a Bn Adj: managing the CO’s schedule, processing paperwork, awards, and fitreps, and serving as the legal officer.
 

New Role of an Adj: Today, with consolidated admin, while the personnel diary reporting function has physically moved to a higher level, the adjutants are actually required to have a GREATER knowledge than before!  Manpower moved to the adjutant shop.  The Bn Adj now is expected to intelligently answer questions on very specific personnel issues and diary.  Lastly, the actual tracking, collection, and submission of this information now falls upon the Adj shop in the absence of a personnel shop.  And all these additional responsibilities without additional people or additional training.

Our recommendation is that the Adj school focus on the following five areas:

 a.  A FULL legal course
 b.  Manpower and operations
 c.  In-depth MCTFS concepts and diary reporting
 d.  OJT/shadowing another Bn Adj in the area for a few days
 e.  Time management and real-world applications (i.e. SIR/PCRs, NJPs, protocol, etc.)

THE JOB ITSELF

Hours.  The job chews you up and spits you out.  Most Adjs work 12 hour days, with no lunch and no “thanks for your hard work” at the end of a day, let alone a formal award at the end of a tour.

As one Adj here in the FSSG put it, “When others are getting off of work at 1630 and you still have three hours work to do; when you've processed the second NAM for the same officer in less than six months and you've received no recognition; when you've just taken on your fourth collateral duty in the middle of planning the Ball, Change of Command, or a retirement ceremony; when you've done all this and receive no job satisfaction in return, it's no wonder that we are leaving the Corps in droves.”

Rank.  The T/Os used to show the Battalion Adj billet as requiring an 03 fill.  Due, I am sure, to grade shaping and the unavailability of Capts, the decision was made at higher HQ to now make this a Lt billet.  So you are now a boot 2ndLt in a Bn staff full of captains and Company Commanders that far outrank you.  Your XO’s support, or lack thereof, makes or breaks you.

Additionally, you are expected, as the junior person on the staff, to take on numerous collateral duties.  These collateral duties take up so much time that you have less time to spend on your actual, fit-rep defined job.  You want to do a good job, so you do not complain and, as a 2ndLt, do not put your foot down and say “You are setting me up for failure, Sir.  I cannot take on this additional duty of (voting/ CFC/ FAO/ Visa/ Savings Bonds/ MWR/ Social officer/etc).”  As a result, our job becomes even more difficult to manage than before.  Instead of excelling in doing a few things well, we just keep our head above water doing a multitude of tasks.

Solution?  The responsibilities given to a Marine by their Reporting Senior is something that HQMC obviously cannot affect; however, the rank and experience level can be affected.  We strongly believe that the Bn Adj needs to be of the same rank as the other battalion staff sections, usually captains and sometimes 1stLts.  The difficulty lies in the availability of the grade.  If we had all the captains we needed or wanted, this dissertation would not be taking place.  Perhaps one answer is lat-moving people into the 0180 field as captains.  Also, within the FSSG, we try to always train new Adjs as legal officers under a seasoned Adj before they take a battalion on their own.  This may be a recommendation for other units as well.

CAREER TRACK

Opportunities.  Because the MOS is so short, an Adj does NOT have the same opportunities as other Lts in other MOSs.  We do not have the opportunity to command a company.  We have been told point blank by senior personnel at HQMC that we will not be considered for a lat move due to MOS shortages.  All the “good deal” schools or training seats are never offered to us (even if we request, plead, and fight) because the Adj is “irreplaceable” and “we cannot gap that billet for that long.”

Career Progression.  Next, as a 2ndLt looks at their career path progression, it looks like this:

a.  Bn Adj  18-24 months 2ndLt  
b. Group Adj/G1A/Ass’t Adj 12 months 1stLt  
c.  B-billet @ OSO or MCRD 3 yrs Capt  
d.  G1A/MSC Adj  18-24 months Capt  
e.  Formal School  12-18 months Capt  
 f.   ????????????????      

Basically, you feel you are destined to be a staff officer for life, working primarily manpower until you retire.  And retire as a major, as it is rumored that promotion to LtCol is very low and promotion to Col is impossible.

One Adj adds to this: “Being an Adj actually wouldn’t be that hopeless—you could put up with the rigors of the job—if you knew that you had a future and you were able to expand your horizons.”

THE JOB MARKET IS GOOD

Need I say more?

Conclusion:

This paper mainly speaks of the woes of being an adjutant.  Truth be told, there are many good sides.  The majority of the Adjs within the FSSG are actually proud of their role in the small picture—the Battalion or Group.  But they are not happy enough to stay in the big picture, the Marine Corps.  We do not see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.”  There is little job satisfaction and no long-term goals to achieve.

So what can HQMC do about this???  How can they retain more officers, specifically Adjutants, after their initial commitment?  More thoroughly train Adjutants in useful areas during their MOS schooling.  Give them more opportunities to deploy, serve in a command billets, work in a ‘B’ billet, or lat move after their initial tour.  Delineate a strong, clear career path for Adjs.  In short, help us see that we have a future as officers in the Marine Corps and set us up for success with good schooling and the right rank in the right billets.


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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