Linguists, such as the ones pictured here, can earn up to $40,000 when they enlist in the Army. (Michele Vowell / Fort Campbell Courier)
As bonus money decreases and the Army continues to shrink the active-duty force, the best way to earn an enlistment bonus is to speak a foreign language.
Skilled linguists in a select number of languages — including Dari, Pashto, Farsi, Arabic and Mandarin — can earn up to $40,000 when they enlist in the Army.
In addition, the Army is seeking recruits who want to go Airborne or join the Ranger community. The catch, however, is most of the bonuses target non-infantry recruits.
"The bonuses are getting fewer and fewer," said Trish Crowe, chief of the enlistment eligibility and processing division in the recruiting operations directorate at Army Recruiting Command.
In fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1, the Army is seeking 69,000 new soldiers for the active component, Crowe said. Last year's goal was 58,000. Over the next five years, the Army plans to cut at least eight brigade combat teams and trim the active force from about 560,000 soldiers to about 490,000.
The enlistment bonuses available now are outlined in a message released in September.
Incentives that have been suspended include the seasonal bonus, which pays recruits to ship to training more quickly; the Army College Fund, which offered an extra $5,000 to a soldier's Montgomery GI Bill benefits; and the Higrad bonus, which rewarded recruits who had associate and bachelor's degrees.
The incentives will be reviewed again in November by the Enlisted Incentive Review Board.
Here's a look at what's available to incoming recruits now:
Army Civilian Acquired Skills Program bonus. This is authorized for recruits in the 35P (linguist) military occupational specialty.
Recruits who are high school graduates; score in the 50th percentile or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery; and commit to serving four or more years qualify for the cash. There also is money available for recruits who score in the 31st to 49th percentile on the ASVAB.
Applicants must speak one of these languages: Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, French, Pashto, Farsi, Indonesian, Tagalog, Dari, Hebrew or Serbo-Croatian. They also must be fluent and proficient enough that they do not need to attend the Defense Language Institute, Crowe said.
Successful recruits must qualify for a top-secret clearance and will join the Army as E-4s.
Qualified recruits who scored in the 50th percentile or higher on the ASVAB can qualify for $20,000 for a four- or five-year enlistment and $25,000 for a six-year term.
Recruits who score in the lower tier of the ASVAB can qualify for $10,000 for a five-year enlistment and $15,000 for a six-year term.
Soldiers who successfully complete their training will receive a $10,000 payment and the rest of their bonus in annual increments over the period of their enlistment.
Term of Service enlistment bonus. This bonus is available to 35P recruits who score in the 50th percentile or higher on the ASVAB. It can be combined with the ACASP bonus for up to $40,000, Crowe said.
This bonus is worth $10,000 for a four-year term, $15,000 for a five-year term and $20,000 for a six-year term.
For example, a French speaker who enlists as a skilled 35P for four years qualifies for a $20,000 ACASP bonus plus a $10,000 Term of Service bonus, Crowe said.
A 35P recruit who doesn't qualify for ACASP and needs to attend DLI will qualify only for the Term of Service bonus, she said.
Interpreters and translators in the 09L MOS — permanent residents who speak Dari, Pashto, Farsi or Urdu — also are eligible for the Term of Service bonus. They can get $10,000 for a three-year commitment, $15,000 for four years, $20,000 for five years and $40,000 for six years.
Ranger bonus. This is authorized for high school graduates who score in the 50th percentile or higher on the ASVAB. However, the bonus is only available to recruits who sign up for certain MOSs. The qualifying MOSs could change, Crowe said, depending on demand and needs of the Army.
"It changes so frequently that we can't [say] a specific MOS," Crowe said.
However, Crowe expects most of the bonuses will be for non-infantry jobs.
"Infantry is not hard to fill," she said. "But they're always looking for the support MOSs."
The bonuses range from $5,000 to $10,000, and they are a lump-sum payment once the recruit completes his training and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.
Airborne bonus. The qualifications for this bonus are almost identical to the Ranger bonus, Crowe said. And the same rules apply: The Airborne MOSs that qualify for the bonus will vary depending on the Army's needs, she said. Qualifying recruits who successfully complete Airborne training can earn $1,000 for a three-year enlistment, $2,000 for four years, $6,000 for five years and $10,000 for six years. It is a lump-sum payment, and it cannot be combined with the Ranger bonus, Crowe said.
Loan Repayment Program. This is available to 35P recruits. Those who choose this incentive cannot receive any other cash bonus, Crowe said. Qualified applicants who choose the Loan Repayment Program can get up to $65,000 in reimbursement.