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ARLINGTON, Va. — Potential recruits who want to serve shorter terms in the military can do so under a new program called National Call to Service, which offers short-term enlistment opportunities instead of the standard hitch.

Under the program, which went into effect Oct. 1, recruits can sign up for a 15-month active-duty service obligation that kicks in after their basic training, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Maj. Sandra Burr.

For their commitment, those signing up for the short-term enlistments can select one of the following rewards:

• $5,000 bonus paid after finishing the 15 months of active duty

• $18,000 in student loans, to be repaid after finishing 15 months of active duty

• 12 months of full Montgomery GI bill stipend

• 36 months of one-half Montgomery GI bill. The current rate is about $900, which would earn the recruit about $400 a month.

After the 15 months, troops can re-enlist on active duty to transfer to the reserves for two years. After that, they can remain reserve or transfer to the individual ready reserve for the rest of the standard eight-year obligation, Burr said.

The active and inactive reserve commitment time for all branches must add up to eight years, and the new short-term enlistment plan follows suit.

What is different, however, is that while in the individual ready reserve, the members will have an opportunity to join other national service programs such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, and have the time served there could toward their eight-year total obligation.

Before Oct. 1, the minimum enlistment periods for the Air Force or Marine Corps was four years active duty and four years of an inactive reserve commitment, meaning they can be called back up in the event of war at any time within that commitment period.

The Navy has a two-year option for some in the Seabee community, and offers a three-year term. The Army offers enlistment options of two, three, four and five years.

On Dec. 2, President Bush signed the plan into law. It took the services until October to finalize plans.

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