VILSECK, Germany — Soldiers who join Special Forces can get an extra $1,000 a month, while current SF troops are eligible for up to $150,000 in re-enlistment bonuses as the Army moves to add 2,300 Green Berets over four years.

The benefits of joining the U.S. Army’s elite were outlined to troops at Vilseck on Monday by recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Eric Brown.

Brown, whose last mission involved working in a small team of mountaineers, said SF troops automatically get paid $375 more a month than other soldiers but that rises to as much as $1,000 extra a month based on qualifications. For example, airborne-qualified troops get another $150 a month, while SCUBA-qualified troops get $225 extra a month. And SF soldiers can get another $200 a month for learning a foreign language, something that is a mandatory part of their training.

Brown said he re-enlisted with Special Forces last year in Kuwait for three years and collected a $30,000 tax-free bonus. Since then, the cap for re-enlistment bonuses for most troops has increased to $40,000 but senior SF soldiers can get up to $150,000, he said.

Brown did not give a reason for the increased bonuses but it could be related to a drive to add 2,300 SF soldiers over four years, which was first reported on the Department of Defense Web site.

As part of the plan, the Army’s five regular Special Forces groups and two National Guard groups will increase their strength from three battalions (and 1,800 total soldiers) per group to four battalions (and 2,200 total soldiers) per group, according to Special Operations Command public affairs officer Maj. Jim Gregory.

The first new SF battalion will stand up at Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 5th Special Forces Group, Gregory said Monday.

It takes two years to train an SF soldier, Brown said.

Soldiers ranked E-4 and above can volunteer for SF if they can meet a range of requirements that include passing an SF physical, having a General-Technical score of 100 or higher on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and scoring 229 points for the 17- to 21-year-old age group on the Army Physical Fitness Test, he said.

One potential SF candidate at Monday’s briefing was Staff Sgt. Derek Fenstermacher, who trains soldiers to use robots to counter roadside bombs at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center.

The 34-year-old former Army Ranger said he’s considering whether to apply for SF or Officer Candidate School. The attraction of SF for Fenstermacher is working in a small team, he said.

“In a small-team environment you do missions couldn’t do otherwise,” he said.

Another potential recruit, Pfc. Daniel Bredeweg, of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment, is keen to join SF once he gets promoted. The 23-year-old is promotable after August but will have to wait until his unit gets back from a 15-month tour to Iraq to sign up.

The young soldier has the physical attributes SF recruiters look for with 285 points on his last PT test, but could he see himself eating insects or snakes during survival training?

“I could do it. I’ve eaten a lot worse at this Chinese place where they gave us some ungodly stuff. I didn’t like it, but I ate it,” he said.

Candidates who meet the requirements can attempt to pass the difficult 24-day SF Assessment and Selection (SFAS) course, Brown said.

“Make sure you don’t quit because SF does not want quitters. In the first week 100 to 200 people quit,” he told the potential candidates.

The few candidates who pass the SFAS go through a wide variety of intense training — including airborne school, the Warrior Leaders Course and a foreign language course — before they can qualify to wear the Green Beret, Brown said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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