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National Guard increases bonuses

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell

ARLINGTON, Va. - The chief of the National Guard Bureau is bearing gifts of gold to some citizen-soldiers in the Army National Guard during this holiday season.

The gold is in the form of substantial increases in enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses that Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum announced at the Pentagon Dec. 16. Some of the bonuses will be increased from $5,000 to $15,000.

The increased bonuses for this fiscal year are earmarked for new Guard Soldiers who have never served in uniform, for people who join the Army Guard after serving on active duty, and for Guard Soldiers who agree to re-enlist for six years.

Blum promised many Army Guard Soldiers he met with during recent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan that he would be announcing the increased bonuses this month and that they would be impressed.

Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers make up nearly 40 percent of the 148,000 troops in Iraq, and 42,000 Guard Soldiers are serving in Iraq and Kuwait, officials reported. Another 8,200 are serving in Afghanistan. Blum said that approximately 100,000 Guard Soldiers have been on active duty at home or abroad at any given time since terrorists attacked this country on Sept. 11, 2001.

The increased bonuses represent one effort to improve the Army Guard's recruiting and retention efforts during the Global War on Terrorism and build the Army Guard back up to its authorized strength of 350,000 troops.

The bonus increases for fiscal year 2005 include:

-- An increase in enlistment bonuses from $8,000 to $10,000 for people without prior service who sign up for one of the Army Guard's "top 10" military occupational specialties, such as the infantry, military police and transportation. -- An increase from $5,000 to $15,000 for prior service people who enlist in the Army Guard for six years.

-- An increase in reenlistment and extension bonuses from $5,000 to $15,000.

Guard Soldiers will receive a lump sum for reenlisting. New Guard Soldiers joining the military for the first time and those with prior service will be given a 50-50 payment schedule.

The eligibility for receiving re-enlistment bonuses has been extended by two years. Guard Soldiers previously could not receive a bonus after 14 years of service. They are now eligible through 16 years.

Blum has also promised to double the Student Load Repayment Program - from $10,000 to $20,000.

Another effort is to add 1,400 recruiters to the Army Guard's national recruiting force - increasing it from 2,700 to 4,100 - over the next three months.

"We're in a more difficult recruiting environment," Blum told news reporters. "There's no question they when you have a sustained ground combat operation going that the Guard's participating in, that makes recruiting more difficult."

The Guard Bureau chief also said that the Guard will change its recruiting message to more accurately reflect the fact that many Citizen-Soldiers are now pulling tours of duty overseas for at least a year.

"We are correcting, frankly, some of our recruiting themes and slogans to reflect the reality of today," Blum told The Washington Post. "We're not talking about one weekend a month and two weeks a year and college tuition. We're talking about service to the nation."

(Editor's note: Master Sgt. Bob Haskell writes for the National Guard Bureau.)


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