What the Heck is a Cutting Score?

A promotion ceremony (USMC photo by Cpl. Bruno J. Bego)

Bruce served in the Air Force for eight years, so I easily fell back into the pattern of military jargon. But I’ve had to learn a few new things. “October cutting scores released,” read the headline in Marine Corps Times. A what score?? As the primary driver in promotion process (from lance corporal to corporal and from corporal to sergeant), I wanted to learn as much as I could (even though the chart’s font size menaces 50-year-old eyes).

Every member of the armed forces, regardless of rank or service, enters the service with a specific career field. In the Army and Marines, that designation is called the MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty.

Some career fields ring a bell, such as a refrigeration mechanic or radio repairman. Other sound downright martial, such as rifleman or field artillery man. Sean works with computers. The Marines have sent a lot of new enlistees through tech school for this high-demand field. He has lots of similarly-asked company in his “shop” on Oki, and units have limits on the number of promotions to grant.

Rifle training (USMC photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)

The lower the cut score, the easier the promotion. (At this level, once a Marine makes his cut score, promotion is pretty much automatic, except for extreme circumstances.) Right now, “high” cut scores hover in the 1900s (for a rifleman, for example); the lowest was a 1446 for a landing support specialist. (So what do Marines do? They get off boats, onto launches, and onto beaches. This guy gets stuff off the launch and onto the beach.) Most cutting scores, right now, are in the 1700s.

Sean’s cut score stood in the mid-1600s in October.

A fairly complicated formula determines the cut score (drill instructors, recruiters, and a few others receive bonus points):

  • Rifle score: all Marines (with a few exceptions) must requalify on rifle every year. “Every Marine is a rifleman.”
  • Physical Fitness Test: another annual test that includes a three-mile run, pull-ups, and crunches. The requirements for “class 1” go down a bit at age 27, a good thing for our relatively “old” lance corporal.
  • Combat Fitness Test: the annual test that includes a combat carry, an ammo-can lift, a sprint, and other tasks.
  • Average proficiency marks: his job evaluation.
  • Average conduct marks: how he comports himself, both on and off the job.
  • Time in grade: how long he has been a lance corporal.
  • Time in service: how long he has served in the Marines. (These two are pretty much one in the same at this point, but they begin to differ as Marines advance in rank.)
  • College and other courses: I’m not sure his college degree counts here, or if he has to take new classes to earn points.

Combat Fitness Test (USMC photo by Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston)

Lance corporals generally serve a year in that grade before even becoming eligible for promotion. Sean is about to reach that point. I have no idea when he’ll pin on corporal; I’ll be watching the monthly charts until he does.


Posted on October 18, 2012, in III MEF, Marine Times Newspaper, Military Parent, Okinawa, US Marine Corps and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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