Active Duty vs. Reserves + Coping with Disappointment
April 21, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

US Marine Corps: Active Duty vs. Reserves: My partner wants to be an active duty Marine but his only option may be to join the reserves. Mefites, what is your expierence with active duty vs. reserves, and how can I help him cope with his disapointment?

My partner is an applicant for the US Marine Corps. This has always been a dream of his and he has spent that last six years working to meet their eligibility requirements (GED +15 college credits). He is at the end of the eligible age for enlistment and the Gunnery Sergeant at his RSS pulled him aside last week and told him that if he was willing to join the reserves they would have no problem getting him to boot camp before he ages out. He’s a) disappointed that active duty might not be in his future but is b) willing to do anything to be a Marine.

1) Mefites: what has been your experience in regards to active duty vs. reserve in the Marine Corps?
2) How do you help your partner deal with tremendous disappointment? I want to help him explore all his options, but I don’t want to belittle his feelings of disappointment and I also want him to feel good about all the work he’s done to even be able to be an applicant.

Please do not direct me to any Marine Corps websites, discussion boards or support groups. I have spent the last week scouring them for relevant information, and I have spent many more months on those particular sites doing research for myself.

I want to hear from you guys.

E-mail contact option:
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
I was active duty Army, not Marines, but this is pretty basic stuff.

If his dream is to be in the Corps, he should take that Sergeant's advice and go reserves. They're still Marines, and once he's made it through basic, things like reenlisting to go active duty become more possible. Once you're in the military, retention is usually a big goal of theirs, and retention officers will go to lengths to get you what you want to sign back up.

Let me say that again: if his dream in life is to be in the corps, and a recruiter has said "we can make this happen by putting you in the reserves," he should go to the reserves. I mean when your choice is between "fulfill your dream in life" and "don't fulfill your dream in life," you take option A.

Regarding disappointment: it just takes time and understanding, IMO. It sounds like you're doing well so far.
posted by kavasa at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Bottom line: a Marine reservist is still a MARINE. Once he's completed boot camp and whatever schools he's going to for his rate or MOS, he'll have more options. (Depending on his performance and recruitment for various fields/MOSs/rates, he may well find an opportunity to go active.)

Given that your future jar-head is just about to age out, I think this is a great deal. Don't forget that just because he'll be a reservist that he won't be activated or deployed. It's the real deal and takes just as much commitment and sacrifice, in many cases much more, as/than regular active duty.
posted by snsranch at 2:29 PM on April 21, 2012

Here's the thing about the reserves. In order to join the reserves, you have to do literally all the same things that someone has to do to join the active duty branch. You go to the same boot camp, you have all the same training, it's just that after that is all said and done, you don't go live on a military base and do military work full time. Maybe knowing that will be a good start for him?

And I agree completely with everything snsranch said.

Good luck to your partner, tell him AskMe said congratulations. And if you need anything, MeMail me. My husband joined the Army National Guard. I watched him go away to training, he came back, we got married, and now he's deployed. Anything can happen. :)
posted by Night_owl at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband is Army but he went from Reserves to Active Duty by filling out some paperwork. He did 3 years in the reserves and now they're sending him Active Duty, he could have petitioned sooner to go active, but he wanted to finish college, so now not only is he going active, he's going to OCS so when he gets active duty he'll be a 2LT. So going to the reserve to active route is definitely doable, go for it!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:56 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't try to get his hopes up on going active through the reserves. There are five times as many active Marines as reserves, and all of the services are about to get cut deep.

Why did he want to be in the Marine Corps in the first place? Was it because he needs the job or because he wants to be able to say "I stood in the same line as Dan Daly and Pappy Boyington and R. Lee Ermey"? I suspect it's the latter. By completing basic training, he will be in that line, just as much as any Marine, from Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos (who's been on active duty since 1970) to Drew Carey (USMCR, 1980-86).
posted by Etrigan at 3:41 PM on April 21, 2012

FWIW: About my female co-worker's recent second husband (the only good one); I met his brother at their dinner party; the only background I got on the guy (and I didn't ask) was that he is disappointed he didn't make the Marines when he was within age, and to definitely not mention that or anything near. Apparently he failed out somehow. That's the big thing and the background about him, many years later. He is reasonably successful otherwise, but that remains a shameful point to him. (Not really to anyone else.) Then in the brief time I talked with him, and he was a stranger to me, he brought it up, as one the first points to know about him.

I know someone now who was active duty and now is in Reserves. He is a Marine with a huge capital M, and Marine stuff all around his house and car. And I know assorted others who were in all of the services, active and reserve. Marines seem to have much more pride.

Imho, if your partner can get right into the Reserves, he should. He will then have some possibility to go Active. But even if that doesn't happen, he can have pride that he is and always will be a Marine.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:03 PM on April 21, 2012

(Hmm, I can note here that I applied and went through the written test and the one-day first orientation on base for one of the Services; I was accepted and the recruiter just badgered me and my parents for me come and finish the paperwork. But a family emergency prevented it then and I was never really free to take it on. I never talk about it and that is buried in my mind, but it hit me after I pressed Post for the above. Because, I'm disappointed, too, many years later, but at the time my family came first, of course.)
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:16 PM on April 21, 2012

I am active USN, but I have personal and professional experience with both USN and USMC reserves. The advice I would give personally is to get the foot in the door and go reserves. You get the bootcamp and can honorably wear the EGA, grunt, yell Hurah, and do all those marine things.

Once in, scour openings for active positions, though the MOS will really determine where he can go. There are many types of orders that will let him go active for a few years, but again if he is grunt e-1, just volunteering what whatever is out there will be the best course of action. As mentioned before, the Marines (and other services) are going through a significant drawdown, so it may not be idea to get the dream location. Bottom line, if a recruiter Gunny is saying something, I would trust him - I have no idea of the recruiting quotas and I doubt anyone here does..
posted by aggienfo at 4:34 AM on April 22, 2012

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