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Doing whatever it takes to progress

24 Jul 2009 | Lance Cpl. Kel Clark

Private to private first class: six months; private first class to lance corporal: nine months; lance corporal to corporal: nine months; corporal to sergeant: nine months. These are the minimal requirements for time-in-grade in order to qualify, or rate, a composite score for a promotion to the next rank. But what if a Marine could bypass all of that and go from private to sergeant in under two years? Is it even possible?

It is very possible, but only if the Marine works for it. Those Marines who work for it and receive these early promotions are known as meritorious Marines. These Marines are promoted to the next rank before the required time period they need at a specific rank.

The way most Marines receive meritorious promotions is to go on a meritorious board in front of senior Marines, convincing the board why he should be promoted.

“(During a meritorious board), Marines conduct physical fitness tests, drills with a noncommsissioned officer sword, alpha and charlie’s inspections, and a question and answering session with the squadron’s sergeant major and three staff noncommissioned officers,” said Gunnery Sgt. Charles Peoples, the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron squadron gunnery sergeant.

Preparing for a meritorious board can require countless hours of studying Marine Corps knowledge and making sure uniforms are in tip-top shape. Bearing is another important factor to the board. Having confidence is important when speaking in front of senior personnel.

“I first went on a (meritorious) board because my chain of command saw the separation in my character and work ethics compared to peers in my unit,” said Cpl. Charles Jackson, a travel clerk with the Installation Personnel Administration Center aboard the Air Station. “The board itself took sacrificing a lot of time with my family, but they helped me get through it. I even had my two-year-old son help me. I would use him as the senior member on the board and would practice reporting in to him.”

Jackson has been meritoriously promoted to lance corporal and corporal, and he’s done it all in the 21 months he’s been in the Corps. He is slated to receive a meritorious promotion to sergeant next month from winning the Meritorious Sergeant’s Board at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“Going on a board allows Marines to display their hard work to other Marines, other than the ones they work with and who nominated them for the board,” Jackson said.

Another factor that can assist Marines in getting promoted on the board are on-duty accomplishments, such as taking Marine Corps Institutes exams, receiving awards and becoming the Marine or the Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter.

“I have been on other boards, but no matter how many I go on, I always feel nervous, wondering if I’m going to forget something or if the (Marine) next to me came more prepared than me,” said Lance Cpl. Shannon Ihrke, an IPAC outbound clerk.

Ihrke received the Marine of the Quarter award for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron this quarter. She said her next goal is to pick up meritorious corporal at the next board she is on.

Jackson also received Marine of the Quarter and Marine of the Year when he was a lance corporal and received NCO of the Quarter twice for H&HS.

“Although I was excited about becoming the Marine of the Quarter (for H&HS), it is only a stepping stone for me, preparing me for my next stage,” Ihrke said. “I want everyone to understand when you are there in front of the members of a board, always remember: it is not about you or what you did to help yourself, but it’s about what you’ve done to help your fellow Marine.”

Jackson is one of many meritorious Marines who were able to meet their goals, setting the stage for other Marines to achieve.

“Meritorious boards are direct reflections of a Marine’s leadership,” Peoples said. “They are conducted to find one Marine for his outstanding contributions to his Marines. The Marines are representatives of not only their units or of H&HS, but the Air Station also.”

“There are two types of people in this world: those who do and those who watch other people do,” Jackson said. “Your gifts and talents will make room for you to progress. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to give you what you know you deserve. You have to go out there and get it.”