The Army is offering ever larger bonuses to soldiers reenlisting under its selective retention bonus program to fill critical career fields with the right talent beginning Sept. 9, according to MILPER message 19-261.
There have been six bonus messages this year, but the latest one is significant in that it raises the maximum bonus up from about $72,000 to roughly $81,000. The new bonus levels are also tailored to encourage longer reenlistments, even for soldiers in career fields that don’t reach the maximum tier.
“If a soldier wants to reenlist only for three years, they’re actually going to get less money under this new bonus message than they would under the old bonus message,” Sgt. Maj. Mark Thompson, the senior Army career counselor, told Army Times. “We’re still giving them an incentive, but they’ll get more if they give more.”
The Army is offering the maximum reenlistment bonus to qualified soldiers in communities such as cyber ops, intelligence, Special Forces and explosive ordnance disposal. But soldiers in other jobs are getting their potential bonuses raised as well.
“A good example is a tier-three 11B Infantryman,” said Lt. Col. Junel Jeffrey, a spokeswoman for the Army’s assistant secretary of manpower and reserve affairs. “Previously, a one-year reenlistment would’ve meant $2,100 and up to $6,500 for five years. Now the one year still has a $1,200 bonus, but a five-year bonus is now worth $8,300.”
Similarly, according to a service release, a cavalry scout sergeant on the old message would get $7,800 for a six-year reenlistment, but the new message will give the same soldier $9,900.
There are more than 700 variations of bonuses on the new message, according to Thompson, depending on rank, length of reenlistment, additional skill identifiers, location requirements and more. Because of the large number of caveats, soldiers looking to reenlist should visit their career counselor.
The bonuses are also an opportunity for some soldiers to retrain into a new job. Retraining into the 89D EOD tech career field, for instance, can earn tier 10 bonuses if a soldier is a private first class or specialist, so long as they make it through the schoolhouse.
Although retention is at a historic high — with 82 percent of eligible soldiers having already reenlisted this fiscal year — the Army still needs to fill certain fields, the service said in the release.
Big bonuses are a cost-effective way to retain and retool talent without resorting to bringing in fresh recruits.
For instance, a soldier in the 18X Special Forces series of career fields with 6-12 years of total active federal service at the rank of staff sergeant or sergeant first class qualifies for tier 10. If they reenlist for 60 months or more, they could receive the $81,000 lump-sum bonus.
Special Forces soldiers without the 6-12 years of service can still qualify for tiers 8 and 9, which means they can garner up to $58,300 and $72,900 in bonuses.
Some bonuses are locations-based, though. A 17C cyber operations specialist with the right additional skills could earn tier 10 bonuses, but only if they’re re-upping to work with a cyber protection brigade or the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. Non-location dependent cyber operations specialists can still qualify for tier 9 bonuses.
Sergeants in the 35P cryptologic linguist career field also qualify for tier 10 bonuses.
Soldiers can receive more than one selective retention bonus throughout their career, but the total combined payments under the program cannot exceed $200,000 over their career, according to the MILPER message.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.