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Many Take Army's 'Quick Ship' Bonus

John C. Davis III, 24, of East Baltimore is leaving for basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., shortly after working out with Staff Sgt. Brian Grotz. The bonus prompted him to sign up quickly.
John C. Davis III, 24, of East Baltimore is leaving for basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., shortly after working out with Staff Sgt. Brian Grotz. The bonus prompted him to sign up quickly. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

"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."


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