As I mentioned in our Army Enlisted Promotions article, and the Air Force Enlisted Promotions article, each year, when Congress passes the Defense Authorization Act, they tell the Marines exactly how many people can be on active duty during the year. Congress also states, by law what percentage can serve in each grade above E-4.

While there is no statutory authority to limit percentages in the ranks of E-4 and below, The Marines limit this on their own. In the Air Force and Army, promotions up to the rank of E-4 are pretty much automatic, based on time-in-service and time-in-grade. In the Marines, this is true only for promotions to the ranks of E-2 and E-3. Promotions to E-4 and above are competitive, and are based on specific vacancies within MOS's (jobs).

The Marine Corps takes the number of "slots" they have for each enlisted rank, above the rank of E-3, and allocates them to the different MOS's (enlisted jobs). In other words, MOS 123 may be allowed to have 5,000 E-4s at any point in time and 2,000 E-5s, and MOS 456 may be authorized 7,000 E-4s, and 5,000 E-5s (as a general rule, the higher the rank, the fewer positions there are).

In order to promote someone (above the rank of E-3), there must be a "vacancy." For example, if an E-9 retires in a certain MOS, that means that one E-8 can be promoted to E-9, and that opens an E-8 slot, so one E-7 can be promoted to E-8, and so-forth. If 200 E-5s get out of the Marine Corps in a particular MOS, then 200 E-4s can be promoted to E-5.

The Marine Corps has 154,348 enlisted members on active duty. Here's how it breaks down, by enlisted rank:




Marine Corps Enlisted Promotion System

Enlisted Marines are entitled to correspond directly with the President of the selection board considering their case for promotion. Personal correspondence may include, but is not limited to, letters to the President, copies of award certificates, school completion certificates, MCI’s, photographs, third party correspondence (letters of recommendation or explanation), etc.

Other individuals may also correspond with selection boards concerning an eligible Marine; however, this correspondence must be forwarded to the individual concerned for his or her approval/endorsement prior to submission to the board. Unsolicited letters (i.e., third party letters, copies of fitness reports, etc.) to selection boards will not be accepted unless endorsed by the Marine concerned. Correspondence not endorsed by the Marine will not be forwarded to the selection board.

The members of the board discuss and score each record, and then make a determination as to whether or not the individual should be promoted (remember, the board is told in advance exactly how many in each MOS can be promoted that year).

The Marine Corps then takes all the selectees (without regard to MOS), and assigns them a promotion sequence number, which is assigned according to seniority. For example, if it's the E-7 list, the Marines will give the lowest sequence number (0001) to the E-7 selectee with the most time-in-grade as an E-6. Each month, for the next 12 months, the Marines will then release the sequence numbers of those to be promoted during that month. This ensures a smooth promotion flow for the following 12 months (when the next board will meet and do everything all over again).


Below-the-Zone Promotions


Commanders can request that the promotion records of especially outstanding Marines be considered by the promotion board "below-the-zone." That means one year before the Marine would normally be eligible to be considered by the board for promotion. The selection board may select a maximum of five percent of the selections from the below zone, based on the Marine’s outstanding ability and career potential that completely justifies selection and advancement ahead of qualified Marines in the promotion zone. A selection from the below zone is based on the criterion that the Marine is so outstanding it would be against the best interests of the Marine Corps to not select the individual at this time.

Selection boards are obligated to select from the entire eligible population those Marines considered to be "best and fully qualified" to perform the duties and assume the responsibilities of the next higher grade. Selection boards are reminded that a selection from the below zone is, in essence, equivalent to a meritorious promotion and due care should be used in recommending these Marines for promotion to the next higher grade.


Meritorious Promotions


In addition to the "normal" promotion system, commanders can promote a very few, outstanding Marines via the Meritorious Promotion System. Marines can be promoted up to the rank of E-8 under this system. Promotions to the rank of first sergeant (E-8), however, cannot be made by meritorious promotion. Additionally, meritorious promotions to Master Sergeant (E-8) are limited to Marines in the Drill Instructor and Recruiter of the Year Programs.

There are no Time-in-Grade (TIG) requirements for meritorious promotions, but those promoted under this program must meet the minimum time-in-service requirements:
•Private First Class (E-2) - No TIS requirements necessary
•Lance Corporal (E-3) - No TIS requirements necessary
•Corporal (E-4) - 6 months TIS** Sergeant (E-5) - 18 months TIS
•Staff Sergeant (E-6) - 4 years TIS
•Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) - 6 Years TIS** Master Sergeant (E-8) - 8 years TIS

Leadership



James F. Amos,
Commandant of the Marine Corps

John M. Paxton, Jr.,
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps

Micheal P. Barrett,
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps

As stated above, the Commandant of the Marine Corps is the highest-ranking officer of the Marine Corps; though he may not be the senior officer by time in grade and/or position of office. He is both the symbolic and functional head of the Corps, and holds a position of very high esteem among Marines. The Commandant has the U.S. Code Title 10 responsibility to man, train, and equip the Marine Corps. He does not serve as a direct battlefield commander. The Commandant is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and reports to the Secretary of the Navy.

The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps acts as a deputy to the Commandant. The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is the senior enlisted Marine, and acts as an adviser to the Commandant. Headquarters Marine Corps comprises the rest of the Commandant's counsel and staff, with deputy Commandants that oversee various aspects of the Corps assets and capabilities.

The current and 35th Commandant is James F. Amos, who assumed the position on 22 October 2010 and vacated the office of Assistant Commandant. The 33rd and current Assistant Commandant is John M. Paxton, Jr.,[94] while the 17th and current Sergeant Major is Micheal P. Barrett. Other Marine generals may be senior to the Commandant or Assistant Commandant in terms of time in grade and/or billet.

Rank structure

Main article: United States Marine Corps rank insignia

As in the rest of the United States military, Marine Corps ranks fall into one of three categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority (excluding the Air Force, which does not currently appoint warrant officers). To standardize compensation, each rank is assigned a pay grade.

Commissioned officers

Commissioned officers are distinguished from other officers by their commission, which is the formal written authority, issued in the name of the President of the United States, that confers the rank and authority of a Marine officer. Commissioned officers carry the "special trust and confidence" of the President of the United States.[18] Marine Corps commissioned officers are promoted based on an "up or out" system in accordance with the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980.

01         02               03                   04                 05                   06              07            08                     09                            010      
1ST LT   2ND LT    CAPT              MAJOR        LT COL         COLONEL    BGEN   MAJORGEN       LT GEN              GENERAL
Warrant officers

Warrant officers are primarily former enlisted experts in a specific specialized field and provide leadership generally only within that speciality.

          W-1                                  W-2                                   W-3                                W-4                                   W-5
Warrant Officer1    Chief Warrant Officer 2       Chief Warrant Officer 3     Chief Warrant Officer 4          Chief Warrant Officer 5 
Enlisted

Enlisted Marines in the pay grades E-1 to E-3 make up the bulk of the Corps' ranks, usually referred to simply as "Marines". Although they do not technically hold leadership ranks, the Corps' ethos stresses leadership among all Marines, and junior Marines are often assigned responsibility normally reserved for superiors. Those in the pay grades of E-4 and E-5 are non-commissioned officers (NCOs). They primarily supervise junior Marines and act as a vital link with the higher command structure, ensuring that orders are carried out correctly. Marines E-6 and higher are Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs), charged with supervising NCOs and acting as enlisted advisers to the command.

The E-8 and E-9 levels each have two and three ranks per pay grade, respectively, each with different responsibilities. The First Sergeant and Sergeant Major ranks are command-oriented, serving as the senior enlisted Marines in a unit, charged to assist the commanding officer in matters of discipline, administration and the morale and welfare of the unit. Master Sergeants and Master Gunnery Sergeants provide technical leadership as occupational specialists in their specific MOS. The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps also E-9, is a billet conferred on the senior enlisted Marine of the entire Marine Corps, personally selected by the Commandant. It is possible however for an enlisted Marine to hold a position senior to Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps as has been the case since the 1 October 2011, appointment of Sergeant Major Bryan B. Battaglia to the billet of Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman which is deemed the senior enlisted member of the United States military.

No insignia
E-1                 E-2             E-3            E-4              E-5            E-6            E-7                   E-8                              E-9
Private        PrivateFirst    Lance         Corporal      Sergeant   Staff          Gunnery    Master        First              Sergeant           Sergeant
                       Class         Corporal                                           Sergeant   Sergeant   Sergeant    Sergeant       Major           of the Marine
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Corps
Pvt              PFC               Lcpl              Cpl              Sgt            SSgt         GySgt        MSgt           1stSgt           SgtMaj        SgtMaj
                                                                                                                                                                                                  MarCor
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