Marines offering pilots $280,000 bonus to fly fighter jets versus commercial planes

Marines offering pilots $280,000 bonus to fly fighter jets versus commercial planes Marines offering pilots $280,000 bonus to fly fighter jets versus commercial planes
Corey Dickstein Stars and Stripes The Marine Corps is offering some of its aviators bonuses of up to $280,000 to remain in the service... Marines offering pilots $280,000 bonus to fly fighter jets versus commercial planes

Corey Dickstein
Stars and Stripes

The Marine Corps is offering some of its aviators bonuses of up to $280,000 to remain in the service as the service looks to improve pilot retention, an issue the military has struggled with in recent years.

The Marine Corps’ fiscal year 2020 aviation retention bonuses target Marine captains and majors who fly certain fighter jets, tilt-rotor aircraft, cargo planes and helicopters in an effort to offer incentive to keep pilots from moving into commercial aviation. The bonuses are available for pilots of the F-35 Lightning II, the F/A-18 Hornet, the AV-8 Harrier, the MV-22 Osprey, the C-130 Hercules, the UH-1 Huey, the AH-1 Cobra and the CH-53 Stallion, said Maj. Craig Thomas, a Marine spokesman.

It marks the third consecutive year that the Corps has issued aviation bonuses. The fiscal year 2020 bonuses offer longer contracts and eligibility for more pilots, including ones with more than 14 years of service as a commissioned officer, Thomas said Monday. They no longer include an option for a lump sum payment, and weapons system officers will no longer be eligible for the bonuses, he said.

Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, the Corps’ deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, said in a statement that the Marines need to retain its best aviators to ensure it can meet its operational needs. The new round of bonuses should “provide increased stability for our aviators to meet mission requirements and increase … lethality,” he said. “It adds one more positive benefit when Marine aviators weigh their options whether to continue serving or move on from the military.”

The largest bonuses are being offered to pilots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the MV-22 Osprey, according to data provided by Marine manpower and reserve affairs. Marine pilots of those aircraft who have less than 11 years of commissioned service are eligible for an eight-year extension that includes a $35,000 per year bonus, worth $280,000 overall.

More experienced Osprey and F-35 pilots can sign contract extensions from three to six years, worth $75,000 to $210,000, depending on their length of commissioned service.

Pilots of the F/A-18 Hornet, the AV-8 Harrier and the C-130 Hercules are eligible for extensions between three and six years, worth $75,000 to $210,000, depending on their length of commissioned service.

Helicopter pilots who fly the AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey and the CH-53 Stallion are eligible for extensions between three and six years, worth $45,000 to $150,000, which also depends on the length of their commissioned service.

The bonuses are only available to Marines on active duty. To be eligible, Marines must be recommended by their commanders and they must submit an application for the retention bonus by April 1, 2020, according to the Marine’s forthcoming announcement of the program.

Marine aviators who accepted bonuses in fiscal years 2018 or 2019 might be eligible for the newest bonus if they apply for the 2020 program prior to their 2-year anniversary of signing their contract or April 1, 2020, whichever date comes sooner. However, aviators who accepted a lump sum payment are not eligible, according to the announcement.

“Marines usually stay in uniform because they enjoy being a Marine and serving with their fellow [Marines],” Rocco said. “I hope our aviators see this expanded bonus program as a genuine effort to keep their talent and leadership in the squadrons to continue flying and mentor the next generation of aircrews.”

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