Soldiers only have two weeks to take advantage of Army’s new re-up bonuses

Sgt. Angel Cruz, (right) multichannel transmission system operator- maintainer, with 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, recites the oath of reenlistment February 15, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. (Courtesy photo)

If you’re in the first term, and an 11B eligible for reenlistment, you have less than two weeks to decide before the $2,000-plus-bonus incentive disappears for good.

The Army is tweaking its selective retention bonuses for the third time this year as it works to retain 9,000 more soldiers than it than initially planned, according to The Army Times.

The latest bonus initiative takes effect May 24, giving soldiers exactly two weeks to take advantage of existing initiatives — or two weeks to wait until jobs become eligible.

One significant change under force shaping removes numerous specialties currently eligible for bonus under today’s system.

“One of the big things with this is we’ve got 22 MOSs that are coming off the bonus message, for force shaping,” senior Army counselor Sgt. Maj. Mark Thompson tells the Times.

But it’s not all bad news. According to the Times, 35 other military occupational specialties were added. The biggest hit, in terms of manpower, comes to the infantry, or 11B, Thompson said.

Earlier this year, E-1 through E-4 infantrymen without additional skills or qualifications were eligible for between $2,100 and $6,500, depending on their re-enlistment term, the Times reports.

Under the new, force-shaping initiatives, the Army is shifting incentives to higher-ranking 11Bs, dropping the skill level 1 bonus and shifting it to a smaller bonus for sergeants first class.

Typical with change — there are always caveats.

Infantrymen with certain special skills, as well as those serving in airborne or Ranger units, are still eligible for bonuses at multiple ranks.

And, Thompson adds for the Times, any soldier with a fiscal year 2017 separation date who signs up for Airborne School or Ranger selection, completes schooling and gets assigned to one of those units, will be eligible for the re-enlistment bonus offered for the new assignment.

“We need more airborne-qualified soldiers to go to airborne positions in Special Operations Command and the Ranger regiment,” Thompson, adding another caveat tells the Times. “But it really does depend on their grade.”

In its latest attempt to increase its numbers post sequester, the Army has put into action an evolving strategy to get its active duty end strength up to 476,000 by the end of September — that’s 16,000 more than what was planned for this year before then-President Obama signed the latest National Defense Authorization Act in December.

According to the Times, 2017 kicked off with huge bonuses to extend contracts, but now shifted focus toward reenlistments.

Currently, the plan is a “little off-glide,” Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey.

The total mission is at 71 percent, which is lower than what officials had hoped for, with about three and a half months to go, Thompson tells the Times.

Thompson reminds soldiers to check in with their career counselors to help determine all their options.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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