Reserve soldiers build a bridge during training. The Reserve wants to bring onboard thousands from active duty. (Spc. Bradley Miller/Army)
Bonuses still out there
Soldiers can get lump-sum payments of up to $72,000 with the fiscal 2014 update of the Tiered Selective Re-enlistment Bonus program.
Among major changes as of Oct. 1, the Bonus Extension and Retraining program will be rescinded. The BEAR program gave soldiers the chance to re-enlist, retrain, reclassify and receive a bonus for their new military occupational specialty.
All BEAR agreements entered into before Oct. 1 will be honored when soldiers complete training in the reclassification MOS, according to Army retention officials.
With the phase-out of BEAR, soldiers may be eligible to receive a lump-sum bonus when they complete training if they are eligible to re-enlist for training and reclassification into an MOS included in the Oct. 1 SRB changes.
Bonuses and reclassification opportunities are drying up during the drawdown, reflected in the new SRB options and the revamped in/out reclassification calls issued by Human Resources Command in early September.
The SRB chart issued in February lists bonus opportunities in more than 200 combinations of MOSs, career fields, special skills and language, while the chart that tookeffect Oct. 1 lists 120 combinations.
Career fields with MOSs that are overstrength or balanced, and not generally eligible for incoming reclassifications, include infantry, field artillery, air defense, aviation, communications and information systems, electronic warfare, several language-dependent intelligence specialties, adjutant general, medical, mechanical maintenance, transportation, supply and services, and electronic maintenance and calibration.
Assignment-specific options include bonuses for select combat arms, combat support and combat service support soldiers who re-up for the Ranger duty, airborne units and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
The Army has retained the deployed category option that allows all re-up-eligible soldiers to re-enlist for a Tier 1 bonus while serving in Afghanistan, Iraq or Kuwait.
To qualify for the SRB program, soldiers must comply with retention standards, as reflected in Army Regulation 601-280, and have at least 17 months but no more than 14 years of active service, and be in the ranks of private through sergeant first class.
The Army Reserve wants to recruit as many as 8,000 soldiers as they leave active duty this year as part of a “fundamental shift” in how the component fills its ranks.
This focus on capturing transitioning soldiers is taking place as the active Army cuts 40,000 more soldiers and the Reserve struggles to fill critical shortages in the midcareer noncommissioned officer and officer ranks.
“The Army Reserve, coming into the past couple years, looked at what our requirements are in terms of readiness and strength, and we believe there’s greater opportunity for transitioning active-component individuals than we’ve actually set the conditions to capture,” said Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, director of Army Reserve human capital. “It’s a fundamental shift in how … we [recruit] into the Army Reserve.”
In addition to trying to attract soldiers fresh off active duty, the Reserve also wants to recruit almost 4,000 prior-service soldiers and transfer more than 5,000 soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve into drilling units. This brings the Reserve’s total prior-service recruiting mission for fiscal 2014 to more than 13,000 soldiers.
When it comes to officers, the Reserve’s goal is to recruit 600 officers who are transitioning from the active Army this year and transfer 1,550 officers from the IRR.
In all, the Reserve’s prior-service recruiting goals for the year make up more than half of its total recruiting mission.
The push to recruit experienced soldiers is something Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Reserve and commanding general of Army Reserve Command, has emphasized.
“We’re going to have a lot of active-component soldiers that will leave active duty, and these are combat vets. These men and women are incredibly professional, incredibly sharp and talented,” Talley recently told Army Times. “This is a great opportunity for us to capture those soldiers to help fill our formations.”
The Reserve is critically short of midcareer noncommissioned officers and officers, while it is overstrength in the E-1 to E-4 ranks and the senior enlisted and officer ranks.
The Reserve has 56 percent of its authorized sergeants first class, 78 percent of its staff sergeants and 87 percent of its sergeants. On the officer side, it has 56 percent of its authorized majors and 79 percent of captains.
The 21 percent shortfall in captains is equivalent to about 3,200 officers, Smith said.
Regular Army officers and enlisted soldiers who have six but less than 15 years of service, and who do not qualify for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority —also called the 15-year early retirement plan — and who are involuntarily separated from active duty generally qualify for Involuntary Separation Pay, provided they agree to serve in the IRR for at least three years. Separation pay is calculated by multiplying 10 percent of a soldier’s annual basic pay by the soldier’s years of active service.
In fiscal 2013, the Reserve’s initial goal for recruiting soldiers who were transitioning from active duty was 4,250 enlisted soldiers, but the component managed to beat that to end the year at about 5,000, Smith said.
This year, in light of the Army’s accelerated drawdown, the Reserve asked for “a larger transition mission,” Smith said.
This year’s goal is 5,000, with the ability to go up to 8,000, she said.
As for officers, the Reserve is trying to recruit 600 this year; last year’s goal was 300, and they recruited 458.
To meet its prior-service recruiting goals, the Army Reserve has implemented a number of initiatives and is offering a few perks. They include:
■MOS training. Soldiers transitioning from the active Army who decide to join the Reserve will receive military occupational specialty training. Priority MOS positions offered by the Reserve include psychological operations specialist, horizontal construction engineer, civil affairs specialist, corrections specialist and bridge crew member.
■Transition assistance teams. The Reserve has placed transition assistance teams — each made up of two NCOs and a civilian specializing in helping connect soldiers with prospective civilian employers — at 11 active-duty installations across the U.S. and one at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. These teams, at such places as Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Drum, N.Y., will augment the reserve-component career counselors who are already stationed at every post.
Every soldier leaving active duty meets with a reserve-component career counselor to hear about what the Reserve or National Guard is offering, Smith said. However, these soldiers often don’t sit down with the counselor until they’re outprocessing.
The transition assistance teams will engage with transitioning soldiers earlier in the process, sometimes even as early as 12 months before a soldier’s expiration term of service date.
“What the Army Reserve is trying to focus on is shifting to the left our engagement with active-component individuals,” Smith said. “We’re trying to start the conversation and the education process earlier in the soldier’s transition.”
■Promotion opportunities. Soldiers who transition into the Army Reserve could see their promotion opportunities improve, Smith said.
The Reserve has found about 50 percent of soldiers leaving the active Army are E-4s, she said.
“For us, that’s good, because we’re short E-5s and E-6s,” she said. “Many of [these specialists] have had a deployment. They’ve been in positions of responsibility. There’s plenty of opportunity for promotion to E-5.”
■Chance to go warrant. The Reserve also is offering opportunities for NCOs to become warrant officers.
“We’re looking to add a warrant officer hiring forum,” Smith said. “An individual who is transitioning who’s already an E-5 or E-6, and they’ve decided to not continue in the active Army or perhaps they’re in an MOS that’s overstrength, we are looking at transitioning them into our warrant officer program.”
■Focus on officers. To catch active Army officers who are leaving the service, the Reserve is partnering with the National Guard and its Silver Siege program, Smith said.
Through Silver Siege, the Guard and Reserve will place captains alongside the reserve-component career counselors, who typically are NCOs, so they can speak to transitioning active Army officers, Smith said.
“We have a great need. There’s a great opportunity [for officers] not only in our operational units but also in our generating force units,” she said. “Observer/controllers, exercise directors, those are some of the skills we need officers to do.”
Army Reserve leaders call this year’s prior-service push their “stretch mission,” Smith said.
“When you look at the draw down, some of the uncertainty about what’s going to happen, and discussions about force-shaping, we believe this is a year to stretch and push that transition mission and try to contract as many of the active component folks as we can,” she said.
— Jim Tice