$150,000 bonus offered for some Special Forces

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 28, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is putting more re-enlistment cash on the line for an elite group of senior noncommissioned officers who offer the Army’s most sought-after skills.

The new Critical Skills Retention Bonuses posted by the Army this week includes 17 eligible specialties, including Special Forces soldiers in all categories who can take what equals the Army’s biggest bonus ever: $150,000 if they sign up to re-enlist for six more years.

That is the same maximum bonus the Army offered senior Special Forces NCOs in its last Critical Skills Retention Bonus, or CSRB, list, which had been in effect since May 2005.

For other skills sets, bonuses have doubled — in some cases, from $50,000 for the maximum six-year re-enlistment to $100,000, in a lump-sum payment.

In the past, NCOs with some 15 years of service were considered “lifers” who didn’t need cash incentives to stay in the service.

Moreover, as they climbed the leadership pyramid, the Army needed fewer of them in each MOS.

But with two active combat zones to staff, the Army found that where personnel are in high demand and short supply — such as Special Forces — seasoned leaders are extremely vulnerable to poaching by private contractors.

Companies such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy are attracting Special Forces soldiers, Arabic language specialists, and intelligence analysts away from the Army with huge salaries and other tempting benefits.

Forced to compete, the Army developed the Critical Skills Retention Bonus list for its senior NCOs.

The list is good news for three groups of active-duty NCOs whose specialties have been added: satellite communications systems operator/maintainers, Arabic dialect cryptologic linguists, and civil affairs specialists.

But the list holds bad news for senior NCOs who serve in five military occupational specialties, or MOSs, that no longer qualify for re-enlistment bonuses: divers, satellite communications operators, imagery analysts, unmanned aerial vehicle operators, and Arabic dialect voice interceptors all expired as of Feb. 1.

In addition to the Special Forces, the old list had another 12 additional qualifying Military Occupational Specialties and a consistent bonus formula: $20,000 for two years, $30,000 for three, $40,000 for four, and $50,000 for a five-year re-enlistment. There was no six-year re-enlistment bonus on offer.

The old list also specifically targeted E-7s, or sergeants first class, with between 20 and 25 years of service.

Only one specialty, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), had a bonus for E-8s, or first sergeants and master sergeants.

The new list is much more complex, offering a chart with a variety of bonuses carefully tailored by rank and time in service. For the complete list, go to stripes.com

It also expands the ranks who qualify for bonuses. At the top there are now E-9s, or sergeant major, the highest rank an enlisted soldier can earn and the enlisted equivalent of a general officer.

And the list also now includes E-6s, or staff sergeants, for a few select specialties, like human intelligence, or “humint” collectors, who are so sought after that as E-6s, they can qualify for a $50,000 bonus with as little as six years of Army service — but only if they sign up for six years. There are no bonuses at all available for shorter re-enlistments.

Arabic dialect cryptologic linguists and explosive ordnance disposal specialists who are E-6s, meanwhile, can earn up to $100,000 for a six-year reenlistment.

See the Army's Critical Skills Retention Bonuses posting here.

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