Army Guard restructures recruiting, retention bonuses
By Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 27, 2009) -- Since 2005, the number of Army National Guard enlistees has grown due in large part to enlistment bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $15,000.
But that will change March 1 as the Army Guard restructures the way it pays out those bonuses.
"About 78 percent of people that joined the Army National Guard over the last three years received a bonus of some kind," said Army Col. Michael Jones, commander of the Army Guard's Strength Command, which oversees recruiting and retention issues. "That will be reduced to about five percent going forward."
A drop in the number of bonuses being paid is a result of several factors.
"We had to scale back on some of the bonuses we were offering due to some funding challenges and trying to live within the appropriations we've been given," said Jones, who added that the funding for those bonuses has been affected by the country's current economic environment.
Because of that, rather than providing enlistment bonuses across the board, bonuses will be linked to specific career fields or units within the Army Guard.
"Going forward, the five percent of Soldiers that will receive a bonus will be targeted toward very critical skills (military occupational specialties) or units that are sourced (meaning) they've gotten their alert that they are going to be deployed," said Jones.
Critical MOSs include medical, military intelligence and transportation, among others.
The change in the bonus structure will also affect those who are considering re-enlistment in the Army Guard.
"Our retention bonuses will vary as well," said Jones. The standard re-enlistment bonus has been $15,000 for an additional six-year commitment, but "that will be paired back to $5,000 for units not deploying and if you are deploying, that will be paired down to $10,000."
But while these financial bonuses are scaled back, other opportunities may be available for Soldiers.
"We're looking at things that are non-monetary," said Jones. "For example, the ability to go to Air Assault School to earn that qualification badge."
In addition to Air Assault School, the option of going to Airborne School or other specialized schools or training may also be made available.
"A lot of Soldiers would say, 'Hey, I'd pay $5,000 to get to go to Air Assault School. I don't ever get to do that.' (We're looking at) things ... that a Soldier truly wants to earn and have that on their record."
Jones said recruiters will also continue to tout the tuition assistance and Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits offered by the Army Guard.
One recruiting program that has not been affected is the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), which pays $1,000 to Guard members for referring someone who enlists and $1,000 when they ship to basic training.
"G-RAP has been one of those amazing stories of where you develop a strategy, you fund it and it absolutely comes to fruition the way you wanted it to be," said Jones. "Right now, the amount of money for G-RAP ... will remain intact."
(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy serves with the National Guard Bureau.)
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