The current unemployment rate is at just 3.9 percent, and employers across the nation are struggling to find good help. That includes Uncle Sam, which is doing what the corporate world is doing—offering hiring bonuses. The United States Army has long offered such incentives, but this month announced the largest bonus ever for new recruits. Up to $50,000 is available to qualified individuals who sign on for a six-year active-duty enlistment. That is a sizable boost—in the past, enlistment incentives for full-time soldiers could not exceed $40,000.
The Army said it had to increase the incentives as it is increasingly competing for the same talent as the other U.S. military services as well as the private sector. To that end, the Army needed to generate interest in the current employment environment.
"We are still living the implications of 2020 and the onset of COVID when the school systems basically shut down. We lost a full class of young men and women that we didn't have contact with, face-to-face," Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who leads the U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) in its mission to fill full-time and part-time vacancies in about 150 different career fields in the Regular Army and the Army Reserve, told the Associated Press.
"This is an opportunity to entice folks to consider the Army," explained Brig. Gen. John Cushing, who serves as the deputy commanding general for operations under Gen. Vereen at USAREC. "We've taken a look at the critical (military occupational specialties) we need to fill in order to maintain the training bases, and that is where we place a lot of our emphasis."
What will be largely unchanged is that career-based incentives will continue to range from $1,000 up to $40,000 for select occupations the Army needs to fill right now or may find difficult to fill because of the specific qualifications required.
These can include well-known Army careers in the infantry and special forces, but also lesser-known occupations such as radar repairers, signal support systems specialists, and motor transport operators. The total incentive package for a new recruit will still be based on a combination of incentives offered for the selected career field, individual qualifications, length of the enlistment contract, and the ship date for training.
In addition to those career-based bonuses, the Army is continuing to offer "quick ship" bonuses for those who are prepared to head to Basic Combat Training within 90 days. Incentives will range from $2,000 to $9,000—and the sooner a recruit is available to "ship," the higher the bonus.
Skills and Abilities
Those looking to jump from airplanes can expect to get paid extra as well, as there are incentives for signing up for Airborne or Ranger schools. According to the Army, "opting to jump from airplanes can get a recruit $10,000, while becoming Ranger qualified can bring up to $20,000."
Certain skills are also in demand, and those who speak a foreign language can also expect a bonus as part of the Army Civilian Acquired Skills Program, which offers incentives worth up to $40,000 for certain career paths requiring language skills.
The combination of these various incentives can provide a new recruit up to $50,000, the new maximum.
"We want to promote the value in serving your country, but at the same time, we're not oblivious to the compensation piece," said Gen. Vereen, who added that there are several other options that may make the Army more attractive in the current employment environment, including duty station of choice and even two-year enlistments.
"We know this generation likes to have the opportunity to make their own decisions, so now they can choose where they want to be assigned after training. We didn't have that last year," Vereen continued. "We also have opened two-year enlistments for 84 different career fields. Many people are apprehensive about long-term commitments right now, so we think having a shorter option will help give them some time to see if the Army fits their life and goals."
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.