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Many Take Army's 'Quick Ship' Bonus
"They have school loans, mortgages, they have family concerns," said Gordon, whose three recent recruits all took the bonus. "It's a great incentive because something like that leaves families in a good financial posture, and they feel a little more comfortable knowing their bills will be taken care of."
The way the bonus works is simple: Recruits willing to ship out within the next month will receive $10,000 upon completion of basic training and advanced individual training. Then, over the course of their initial active-duty enlistment, they will receive $10,000 in even annual sums. For a young recruit with no college education, the bonus, which is taxable, could be the equivalent of a year of pay over the course of a three-year enlistment. And the recruit can still qualify for other sign-up bonuses.
The quick-ship bonus spurred John C. Davis III, 24, of East Baltimore to sign his enlistment papers on July 27, two days after the program began. Davis received a two-year college degree in graphic design in 2005 but has been stuck in a "dead end" job without much pay, loading tractor-trailers. He will ship out Wednesday after doing regular workouts with his recruiter in Towson, Staff Sgt. Brian Grotz.
Davis will also get a $25,000 bonus for taking an Army position as a petroleum specialist, meaning he will have a year's salary in his bank account before he starts his first Army job.
For Davis, who has 4-year-old twins and relies on his mother for help, the bonuses will give him a start on finding a nice place to live and a foundation for a graphic design business someday.
"When I first heard about the bonus, I thought that I could really get my life in order," Davis said. "Pay some bills, put some money aside, help my mother. I was really going to go in anyway; I just wasn't planning to go this soon."
Sgt. Willie Thomas, a recruiter in the Woodbridge office, said the quick-ship bonus is helpful as an eye-catcher, but he thinks that it is not enough to change attitudes about the military or the Iraq war. Although his office has a sign on its door advertising the bonus, he said it is one of the last things he mentions to a potential recruit.
He says he emphasizes "Army benefits" above all else, such as a stable job, work experience and health care.
"They would have to be really interested in the Army before I would mention the bonus," Thomas said. "I don't want anyone making a commitment based on $20,000. That amount of money doesn't last a lifetime."
But James Hosek, a defense manpower expert at the Rand Corp., said that though the quick-ship bonus is a "very smart move" by the Army, it could attract people who are less motivated to be in the service.
"There's a risk of bringing people in with lesser attachment or commitment to the Army," Hosek said. "Adding money will, for some people, sweeten the deal enough to persuade them to enter."