Reductions were made to the Bonus Extension and Retraining program effective Feb. 20. They are similar to changes made in the Enhanced SRB program. (Al Grillo / The Associated Press)
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A force alignment incentive that encourages soldiers in overstrength specialties to retrain and re-enlist in priority specialties has been scaled back by the Army.
Reductions to the Bonus Extension and Retraining program took effect Feb. 20 and are similar to changes made in the Enhanced SRB program on that date.
Among the changes affecting both programs is the elimination of the ETS (expiration term of service) option that was aimed at soldiers whose enlistments expire before Oct. 1, the end of fiscal 2009.
• http://www.armytimes.com/projects/careers/army/enlistmentbonusupdates/2009/03/">BEAR program updates
Before the Feb. 20 elimination of this option, the ETS category featured bonuses of $2,000 to $18,500 for soldiers who retrained and reclassified in 10 critical skills from the field artillery, air defense, aviation, signal, public affairs, transportation and quartermaster career management fields.
These bonus levels were introduced in January and have not changed. However, there have been adjustments to the specialties and eligibility zones.
The Army normally opens a fiscal year with a strong menu of incentives for soldiers who are nearing the end of their enlistments in the hope that many of them will stay in service.
That approach worked well this year, with nearly 36,000 soldiers re-enlisting between October and January.
"We've done very well this year, so now we're focusing on specific requirements," said Master Sgt. Michael Beaupre of the military personnel management directorate of the Office of the G-1 at the Pentagon.
Bonuses under the newly revised BEAR program range from $2,000 to $16,000 for certain categories of privates, specialists and sergeants who reclassify to a critical skill and who extend their service from 12 months to five years or more.
The revised program also has an option for soldiers who reclassify to special critical skills, which primarily are specialties in the special operations, military intelligence, signal, medical and ordnance career management fields.
Lump-sum bonus payments remain at $3,000 to $27,000 for special critical skill soldiers who successfully complete reclassification training.
Soldiers who participate in the BEAR program can have up to 24 months of previously obligated, extended service forgiven provided they re-enlist for the Regular Army (or needs of the Army) re-enlistment option within 90 days of completing reclassification training.
To qualify for the BEAR program, soldiers must have at least 17 months of service.
There are three eligibility categories: Zone A for soldiers with 17 months to six years of service, Zone B for those with six to 10 years, and Zone C for soldiers with 10 to 14 years of service.
Army policy restricts soldiers to one re-enlistment bonus per zone.
Soldiers in the ranks of private first class through staff sergeant must show an "N/N" or "N/Y" in their current rank and MOS on the in/out chart issued Jan. 30 by the Army.
There are two major exceptions to the eligibility rules:
• Sergeants first class may request entry into any Special Forces specialty, regardless of the in/out calls for their current MOS.
• Soldiers in other ranks may request entry into the Special Force career field (CMF 18), MOS 21P (prime power production specialist), 35L (counterintelligence agent), 37F (psychological operations specialist), 38B (civil affairs specialist) and 89D (explosive ordnance disposal specialist).