Active-duty Army recruits can reap an unprecedented benefit of more than $100,000 in bonuses, college funds and extra pay for accepting high-demand jobs in priority units, the Army announced yesterday.
Beginning July 13, the Army offered new incentive pay of as much as $14,400 -- or $400 a month for 36 months -- to soldiers who enlist for three or more years as infantrymen, mechanics, medics and a wide range of other career fields, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The soldiers must also agree to join "priority units," which Army officials said means units that are reorganizing or preparing to deploy overseas.
Soldiers who qualify for the pay remain eligible for cash enlistment bonuses of as much as $20,000 -- as well as either a loan repayment program of as much as $65,000 or Army College Fund of as much as $70,000 -- raising the total in possible extra compensation to $104,400.
"There has never been a time when we offer as much as we do now," said Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith.
The Army is struggling to overcome recruiting shortfalls as the near certainty of an Iraq deployment -- coupled with a competitive job market -- makes American youths and their parents less supportive of military service.
As of last month, the active-duty Army had shipped 47,121 recruits to boot camp out of a target of 80,000 for fiscal 2005.
The steady increase in incentives has raised the cost to the Army of each new recruit from about $12,000 two years ago to $15,000 now, Army officials say.
Senior U.S. military leaders often stress, however, that monetary incentives alone will not solve the recruiting problem.
"This is not about money and benefits; this is about message," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a briefing Wednesday. "If we let our young folks know how much we appreciate their service to their country -- there are thousands and thousands of young men and women out there who want to serve this country," Pace said.
Army leaders have appealed for months for President Bush and other senior U.S. leaders to speak out in promotion of a nationwide call for youths to join the all-volunteer military.