Welcome Back! You've had your first meeting or even the first few meetings with your Recruiter. You've studied the potential MOS's and taken an ASVAB test. You've decided whether to go on Active Duty, or be a Marine Reservist. That's a lot. Good Job. Onwards.

The bottom line is that you want to negotiate the best deal that allows you and the Marine Corps to benefit. Here are two lists of questions that you need to ask.

For Active Duty Enlistees:

1. What cash incentives (if any) are being offered and what are the conditions to qualify? There may be a "Combat Arms" bonus. Or, there could be a bonus if you enlist to be a truck driver. It depends entirely how the MOS at the entry level is staffed. IF they are short on Marines in that skill, a bonus is often offered if you will agree to perform those duties for a specified period of active duty.

2. Is there a choice of Duty Station option? Ever been to Hawaii? Do you want to travel overseas? Which coast would you like to live on?

3. What are my MOS options? You know what you want. The recruiter knows what the needs of the Marine Corps are and what your test scores indicate. The idea is to meet on common ground.

4. What are the minimum and maximum periods of Active Duty contracts and how does that affect enlistment incentives?

5. What is the timeframe for decision making? This is important! Your recruiter has to get you scheduled for Boot Camp, then Marine Combat Training, then your MOS school. Each has specific start and end dates. It is possible that you would have to sign "right now" to get in the system in time to get your perfect contract. Or, conversely it is possible to have to wait a few weeks or months to get all the gears to mesh. When or if the recruiter says that time is short, it's not a hard sell tactic. It is simply the system inexorably moving forward.

6. What happens if you get off track? If you are injured in training, will that void any part of your incentives or MOS deals? It's happened in the past.

For Marine Reserve Enlistees:

1. Is the MOS you want available at the local Marine Reserve Unit? If it is not, what MOS's are there at the unit?

2. What is the total initial active duty requirement? You get the same training and must meet the same standards as your active duty counterparts. But, by law, you can only be on active duty for training purposes X number of days. So, you may have to go to boot camp and MCT (Marine Combat Training) one summer and your MOS school the next summer.

3. Ask about any and all incentive programs that may be available for this unit.

During this Q&A, take notes. The recruiter will notice. Make sure to note the things that are negotiable and non-negotiable. Be sure to list the things you must do to qualify for the program you are enlisting for.

Finally, schedule a follow on interview. The way to do this is count the days or weeks between now and when you must decide. Then split the difference. So, if your recruiter tells you that he needs a firm decision in two weeks then meet him in one week. Tell him that at the next meeting you will be prepared to make a decision. This will give you time to digest everything and he will have some breathing room for writing the contract and ironing out the inevitable wrinkles.

When your contract is completed, READ IT from "cover to cover". Make sure that you understand every clause. Make sure that all promises are in writing and referenced. Once you've signed and been sworn in, contract changes are tough.

The next article will discuss getting ready for Boot Camp. Until then, Fair Winds and Following Seas.