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11-07-06, 01:08 PM
November 13, 2006
Captains eligible to receive ACP bonus

By Trista Talton
Staff writer

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — For the first time, aviators who are captains can collect up to $18,000 a year if they agree to stay in the cockpit.

Before the bonus went into effect Oct. 1, only majors were eligible for Aviation Continuation Pay.

Captains who want to stay have two options:

• The “short-term bonus.” Captains can sign a contract for the number of years it takes them to get to 13 years of commissioned service and receive an annual bonus of $10,000. Those officers must be at least two years away from completing 13 years of commissioned service. Naval flight officers can receive $3,000 a year for that commitment.

• The “long-term bonus.” Captains receive $18,000 a year if they agree to stay to the 16-year point. They must be at least three years away from completing 16 years of commissioned service to apply. NFOs can get $7,000 annually.

Maj. Dan Smith, aviation officer planner at Manpower and Reserve Affairs in Quantico, Va., said the bonus is being offered to captains because pilots and naval flight officers are transitioning into newer aircraft, such as the MV-22 Osprey and F-35 Lightning II. It takes time and money to train these aviators, and the Corps wants to keep them around.

“This year, when we looked at it, we realized now was the perfect time to begin to allow captains to be eligible,” Smith said. “We have a desire to increase the ACP paygrade in order to lock in our experienced aviators.”

At the same time, ACP for majors is dropping from $18,000 to $15,000 annually.

“When it comes to majors in aviation, we have historically retained a high percentage of most majors,” Smith said. “As such, we’re able to start to decrease the annual payment.”

The Corps has used ACP as a retention tool to ensure it has the right number of aviators and paygrades for years. As requirements have changed, so has continuation pay.

In fiscal 2005, for example, 130 aviators applied for and received ACP. The Corps saw a jump in the number of Marines signing up for the bonus that year because it increased the amount of money for rotor-wing pilots. The bonus for rotor-wing pilots leapt from $7,000 a year to $18,000 a year.

During last fiscal year, 240 aviators received the bonus pay.

The latest change is already making a difference, Smith said. Since Oct. 1, the Corps has received 50 ACP applications.

“Forty-eight of them have been from captains,” Smith said.

According to MarAdmin message 475/06, captains must be within a year of completing any active-duty service commitment for undergraduate aviator training and any additional obligation from the financial assistance program.

Captains must not have previously failed to select for promotion to major. The message states that ACP will be terminated for captains with two failures to select for promotion to major.

Captains must also be qualified to perform operational flying duty and have no more than 13 years of commissioned service for long-term contracts and no more than 11 years of commissioned service for short-term contracts.

Contracts must be submitted by Sept. 1.

Aviators who are not eligible for ACP include those who are undergoing transition from a ground military occupational specialty to an aviation MOS, majors with more than 13 years, commissioned service and aviators under a current officer service obligation for interservice transfer.