More bonuses sought for U.S. Army reservists
ARLINGTON, Va. — If Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly has his way, Army reservists will soon have access to a more generous set of bonuses, including the new lump-sum bonus for soldiers who re-enlist while deployed to Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan now only available to active-duty soldiers.
In a Tuesday meeting with Pentagon reporters, the chief of the Army Reserve said that he “will be sending forward a package in the next couple of weeks” to Army leaders.
Helmly said he wants to extend the active Army’s skills-specific Selective Reenlistment Bonuses, or SRBs, to reservists.
SRBs are bonuses offered to qualified active-duty soldiers who re-enlist for continued duty in certain military occupational specialties (MOSs). They are based on specialty, grade and time in service, and can be lucrative for soldiers in understaffed MOSs.
The same kinds of bonuses could help the Reserve with its own understaffed MOSs, such as military police, Helmly said.
“I believe by applying a focused SRB process [to the Reserve] you begin to attack the higher-skilled MOSs where [the Reserve are] having problems,” Helmly said.
Helmly also wants to offer monetary incentives for experienced soldiers to join undermanned reserve units.
Such soldiers are not only proven commodities, but the Reserve’s failure to work harder to attract soldiers fresh off their active Army contracts has cost the Reserve enormously over the years, he said.
“The active-component soldier leaving active duty ... has already active duty. They have acculturated themselves to Army values. They’re disciplined; they’re trained in some skill,” Helmly said.
Meanwhile, “today, it costs an average of $105,000 to recruit every nonprior service” soldier into the force, Helmly said. “Out of that, we have a first-term attrition rate of about 35 [percent] to 37 percent.”
With prior-service soldiers, “You’re not going to run a 37 percent attrition rate,” Helmly said. “You’re probably going to run less than 5 percent. Yet, there’s no bonus for active-duty soldiers to join the Reserve in selected units.”
Helmly said he also will ask Army leaders to expand a tax-free, lump-sum bonus worth at least $5,000, that went into effect in late December for soldiers deployed to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
The bonus, which is calculated using a soldier’s base pay, years of service, and length of reenlistment, is currently available only to active-duty soldiers.
As of Thursday, 529 soldiers had taken the bonus, according to Lt. Col. Franklin Childress, a spokesman for Army personnel issues.
“It’s a very popular program,” Childress said in a Thursday telephone interview. “It appears to be doing what it is intended to do,” which is to encourage combat-experienced soldiers to stay with the Army.