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Retention Bonuses Still Available

Sgt. 1st Class Roger Dey, 103rd Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - 04.01.2010 For Soldiers looking to re-enlist deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan has been a great opportunity to receive additional, tax free bonus money to continue their service.

During the past few years, there has been ample bonus money available for Soldiers who choose to re-enlist in the Army, but the trend for huge bonuses appears to be coming to a close.

With the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard all at or near their authorized end-strength, an abundance of Soldiers remaining in service, significant changes to re-enlistment bonuses are expected to take effect soon.

Based on past experience, Soldiers expected April to be the month that would bring reductions to deployment bonuses for active duty troops. However, Master Sgt. Richard Culley, United States Forces Iraq retention sergeant major, says there has not yet been an announcement to that effect.

"We can refer to the bonus message that is out currently, and that is status quo," he said. "There is a tax-free deployment bonus under the Selective Re-enlistment Bonus Program."

According to Military Personnel Message 09-222, issued in October, active duty Soldiers meeting bonus eligibility requirements in accordance with Army Regulation 601-280 who are deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq or Kuwait, in any military occupational specialty are currently authorized a re-enlistment bonus based on rank and length of re-enlistment. Additionally, Soldiers in specific MOS' in critical units, such as Special Forces, may receive a higher deployed location bonus.

However, Culley predicts that budget tightening will affect bonuses soon, with theater deployment bonuses being the first feel the pinch. He anticipates that MOS bonuses will remain, but the dollar amount attached to them will probably decrease.

The feeling that these changes aren't too far down the road is shared by Army Reserve Career Counselor Sgt. 1st Class Michael G. Moore and Sgt. 1st Class Lloyd Bowers, an Army Guard career counselor.

Although reserve component Soldiers aren't eligible for theater bonuses, they can still receive a tax-free, lump sum bonus if they re-enlist in a critical MOS, Moore said. Moore recently received word that Army Reserve bonuses are going to remain unchanged into the near future. However he anticipates that, at some point, the Reserve, which rates critical MOS' on a three tiered system, will see a downward trend in the amount of bonus money available.

"The tiers will not change, just the money amount," he explained.

Bowers said he doesn't expect as much of an impact on Guard MOS bonuses, which were cut from $15,000 to $5,000 last year.

"I think our incentives folks at the National Guard Bureau saw the direction things were going. They leaned forward so we wouldn't have to eliminate a bonus," he said. "I've yet to see any indication from our incentive folks in D.C. that it is going away."

For now, money is still available for Soldiers who decide to stay in the military, but that can always change, Bowers said.

"The only factual information you can take away is what is in policy guidance right now, with the disclaimer that everything is subject to change," he added.

With that in mind, Culley encourages Soldiers who are considering re-enlistment to do it sooner rather than later.

"You have money in your hand right now," he said. "You have a pretty good idea of what you want to do when you stay in, so you might want to hurry up and raise your right hand."

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