Mo's Manic Monday - Stripe

Posted: Monday, July 07, 2008 by Travis Cody in

Welcome to another Manic Monday with Morgen. Don't forget to cruise by MM HQ at It's A Blog Eat Blog World. Today's theme is Stripe.

Our nation's Flag has 13 Stripes, representing the original 13 colonies. Since I was about 7 years old, I wanted to serve that Flag. I wanted to be a Marine.

But things sometimes happen, and the dreams of our youth go unrealized. My knees got wrecked, and my dream of becoming a Marine never happened. I never stopped wanting to be a Marine though. I never stopped wanting to serve my country and my Flag.

Here's a little bit of information about the Stripes enlisted Marines wear on their sleeves, and how they earn them.

Promotion to ranks lower than Corporal are decentralized, meaning that they are awarded based on time in service and time in grade. These promotions can be delayed based on poor proficiency reports and bad behavior. A good Marine who does his duty, trains hard, and abides by the Corps values he learned in boot camp generally can count on these promotions.

Promotions to the noncommissioned officer ranks of Corporal and Sergeant are competitive promotions because there are only so many vacancies in each grade above E-3. Promotions to these ranks have time in service and time in grade requirements, as well as composite score points. These include scores on physical fitness tests and rifle range qualifying, as well as marks for duty proficiency, good conduct, and a number of other criteria. Some other avenues that an enlisted Marine has to compile points include self-education bonus points and points for good performance as a Drill Instructor, Recruiter, or in Marine Security.

Promotion to ranks higher than Sergeant have the added requirement of a promotion board convened by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The individual Marines do not appear before the board, rather their records are reviewed and evaluated based on specified criteria such as current and past assignments, military awards and decorations, and proficiency reports.

Marines can be promoted "below-the-zone". This means that outstanding Marines can be considered for promotion one year prior to normal eligibility. This is sometimes called the "5% list" because only 5% of Marines can be considered in this way based on outstanding ability and career potential.

Marines can also be promoted for meritorious service, up to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. Enlisted Marines may also earn combat meritorious service promotions.

The rank of Private has no insignia and is classified as E-1 on the pay scale. This is the lowest rank in the Corps. Privates just out of boot camp are basically trained Marines and are focused on the physical, mental, and educational training required to build upon the basic training with which they graduate boot camp.

After 6 months time in service with 6 months time in grade, a Private is eligible for promotion to Private First Class. A PFC is classified as E-2 on the pay scale. This promotion is as close to automatic as they come, provided that the Marine does his job to the best of his ability and doesn't get in trouble.

Promotion to Lance Corporal, pay grade E-3, is another decentralized promotion relying on time specific criteria. Marines, regardless of Military Occupation Specialty (MOS), are eligible for promotion to Lance Corporal with 9 months time in service and 8 months time in grade. Lance Corporals often serve as fire team leaders, in command of up to 4 other Marines.

Corporal is the lowest grade of noncommissioned officer (NCO). Promotion to Corporal, grade E-4, requires 12 months time in service and 8 months time in grade, as well as the necessary composite score points. Corporals serve as squad leaders.

To qualify for promotion to the NCO rank of Sergeant, grade E-5, a Corporal must have 24 months time in service and 12 months time in grade, as well as the composite score points and positive efficiency reports. Sergeants may serve as squad leaders but most often serve as section heads and instructors.

To be considered for promotion to the NCO rank of Staff Sergeant, grade E-6, a Marine Sergeant must have 4 years time in service and 24 months time in grade. He must also complete and pass The Marine Noncommissioned Officer (MCI) Course, The Noncommissioned Officer Basic Nonresident Program, or The Sergeants Nonresident Program/Sergeants Distance Education Program. Staff Sergeants usually serve as platoon sergeants and are often the senior tactical advisors to platoon commanders, and often handle administrative issues and general training for the platoon.

Promotion to the staff NCO rank of Gunnery Sergeant, grade E-7, requires 6 years time in service and 3 years time in grade. A Staff Sergeant must complete Senior Noncommissioned Officer (SNCO) Career Nonresident Program/SNCO Career Distance Education Program. A Gunnery Sergeant serves as company logistics coordinator and operations chief, with a junior Gunnery Sergeant often serving as platoon sergeant for weapons platoons. Gunnery Sergeants may be informally referred to as Gunny. Eligible Gunnery Sergeants must indicate whether they wish to be considered for promotion to Master Sergeant or First Sergeant.

Promotion to the senior NCO rank of Master Sergeant, grade E-8, requires 8 years time in service and 4 years time in grade, with completion of The SNCO Advanced Nonresident Program/SNCO Advanced Distance Education Program and The War fighting Skills Program. Master Sergeants are occupational specialists providing technical leadership. Master Sergeants may be informally referred to as Top. Master Sergeants are on track to be promoted to Master Gunnery Sergeant.

Promotion to the senior NCO rank of First Sergeant, grade E-8, requires 8 years time in service and 4 years time in grade, with completion of either the SNCO Career Nonresident Program/SNCO Career Distance Education Program or The SNCO Resident Course, and The SNCO Advanced Nonresident Program/SNCO Advanced Distance Education Program, and The War fighting Skills Program, and The Staff Noncommissioned Officer Advanced Resident Course. A First Sergeant has command responsibility and is on track to be promoted to Sergeant Major.

Promotion to the senior staff NCO rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant, grade E-9, requires 10 years time in service and 3 years time in grade. Master Gunnery Sergeants maintain their specialty MOS, which allows them to continue their role as providers of technical military leadership. They may be informally referred to as Master Gunns or Master Gunny. Master Gunnery Sergeant is one of the two highest enlisted ranks, shared with Sergeant Major but with different responsibilities.

Promotion to the senior staff NCO rank of Sergeant Major, grade E-9 requires 10 years time in service and 3 years time in grade. A Sergeant Major serves as the senior enlisted Marine in a battalion or higher echelon unit, assisting the unit commander with administrative matters such as discipline and morale. Sergeant Major is one of the two highest enlisted ranks, shared with Master Gunnery Sergeant but with different responsibilities.

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is the senior enlisted Marine in the Corps. The rank and billet is unique to the Marine Corps and was established in 1957. The SMMC is the senior enlisted advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The first was SMMC Wilbur Bestwick. There have been a total of 16 to hold the rank, including the SMMC Carlton W Kent who currently has the billet.

I wanted to be a Gunnery Sergeant. But I didn't get a chance to earn any stripes.

However I have come to know that honor can still be found in the act of service, and not just in the type of service. So I honor the people who put on the military uniforms of my country. And I envy their stripes just a little bit sometimes, even as I serve to the best of my ability and in the way that is best for me.

Wrecked knees can't take that away.


  1. Great post! The USMC certainly has more NCO ranks than the UK equivalent, the Royal Marines.

  1. DrillerAA says:

    Great post.
    I am sorry that you were unable to live that dream because I think you have the right stuff.

  1. Excellent post, Trav! Like minds... I went with Air Force!

  1. Roger says:

    Awesome post!

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post... and I see you honored Matt, our favorite marine!

    Happy MM!

  1. the teach says:

    I wish you had had your dream, Travis. My nephew is getting out of the Marines this month, he went to Iraq and stayed for 6 months, he made it to Corporal. I don't think he was too happy in the Corps but he did his duty. He had a dream too and went into the Marines but wasn't happy in the end... oh and BTW I agree with drilleraa! :)

  1. Anndi says:

    You rock.. you know that?

    Love ya bro!

  1. those marines sure do have great uniforms, don't they!

    smiles, bee

  1. Mo says:

    That's a great post on "stripes"!
    Of course, I can't think of military stripes without thinking about the ^ and v discussion of the masculine and feminine from "The DaVinci Code" where the ^'s equal the masculine member... the more ^ you have, the higher in rank.
    manic mo

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    What a promotion system! Thanks for the info as I always admired Marines.
    I see you are a Raiders fan... My first team is Pats, then Browns and then Raiders. Cannot wait for the season to start :o)

  1. sounds like the process in promoting faculty members, except with more grades. In academia, at least at the college level, there is Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. But we don't get neat patches to illustrate one's grade.

    This is actually something I want to book mark. The information on the grades and the rules for advancement may come in handy in a story one of these days.

  1. Matt-Man says:

    Nice job, Trav. Have a great Monday, and a great week. Cheers!!

  1. Not playing this week, but wanted to comment. Excellent Travis. You are indeed a very patriotic individual and I like that very much. Have a great MM sweetie. :)

  1. Sherry says:

    Great post. I never had the desire to go into the military myself. I'm either too stubborn or too rebellious or simply way too chicken. I probably couldn't even carry all the stuff you have to pack on to be in uniform. Ah, well, they're probably very glad they didn't end up with me :)

    Hope your Monday is terrific.

  1. Trav, this is a great post. I'm a little biased though. I'm all for the USAF. Can not help it I'm a former member. My Dad was USAAF in WW2 I have had different family members join the Army and Navy as well as the Air Force. I think that the important thing is that we all serve our country. some by bing in the military and some by the way they live their lives.
    That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Hugs and Blessings.

  1. Bond says:

    Excellent job much information, so well put out there.


  1. Akelamalu says:

    A very informative post Trav.

  1. very cool post Trav

  1. Steven says:

    You know, I can always count on you to edjutate me!

  1. Travis says:

    Anthony: I didn't know that. Perhaps I should do a bit of study.

    Drilleraa: Thank you Sir. I appreciate that.

    WT4W: My stepdad was in the Air Force!

    Roger: Thanks!

    Lois: Yup. And I believe he got his promotion to PFC too!

    Teach: cousin is thinking that one hitch is enough for him too. Although he still has time to change his mind. He's spent most of his 4 years on 3 tours in Iraq.

    Ann: One does one's best.

    Bee: The best, IMHO!

    Mo: Well, when the irreverant part of me takes hold, I often think of Good Morning Vietnam. "hat does 3 up and 3 down mean to you? End of an inning." Bwahahahahahahaa!

    Ivanhoe: I'm hoping there's nowhere to go but up for my Raiders.

  1. Travis says:

    Charles: I've used existing military rank structure in stories before...not exact copies though. It's a good place to begin.

    Matt: Monday wasn't too shabby. And I have this Friday off! YAY me!

    Sandee: Right back atcha darlin!

    Sherry: It's not for everyone.

    Mike: I've got military service pretty far back in my history too.

    V: I knew most of it, but some of the senior NCO tests were a bit new to me. I enjoyed doing the research.

    Akelamalu: Thank you my dear!

    Sarge: Thanks Sarge!

    Steven: One does one's best!

  1. Hey, nice stripes! :)

  1. Jeff B says:

    You'd have done a hell of a job my friend. I wish you could have put the uniform on.

  1. Linda says:

    Great post, Travis. I can't say that the Marines was ever one of the branches of service that I ever considered as I was raised an Air Force brat and natural progression being what it is - that's where I ended up! I always did think the Marines had better uniforms, though!

  1. Travis says:

    CWM: Some of the best!

    Jeff: Thanks.

    Linda: I won't hold it against ya!

  1. Dana says:

    Now that was fascinating - I had no idea about the ranks and what they meant!

    :snog snog snog:

  1. jennifer says:

    I have wondered who Matt was when I saw his pic on your side bar. Any details about him would be appreciated. :)

    You are an Honorable person Travis and to use a cliche, Sounds like you have bloomed where you were planted. In this day and time, with the war being so controversial, it is good that there are people like you who want to show such respect for our military. I am with you 100%.

    How brave these men and women are who voluntarily enlist when our country is engaged in war.

    Thank you for YOUR sevice Trav.


  1. Dixie says:

    Have I told you lately that I love you?

    Excellent post my dear friend... I'll be posting some pics of my vacation soon. In the meantime, thank you so very, very much for honoring my son.