New incentives encourage retention

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command take the oath of enlistment March 21, 2015 at the Powhatan Readiness Center, Powhatan, Virginia. (Courtesy Photo)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – For Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers looking to re-enlist in 2015, the Fort Pickett-based Recruiting and Retention Battalion has several new incentives to encourage Soldiers to continue their service.

“The first step for a Soldier to reenlist is to talk with their company’s retention noncommissioned officer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jay A. White, state retention noncommissioned officer. “This first step is crucial because it takes care of all the administrative verification of eligibility and makes sure that the Soldier is eligible for retention.”

According to Education Incentive Operational Message 15-002, issued in early February, National Guard Soldiers meeting bonus eligibility requirements in accordance with Army Regulation 601-280 in any military occupational specialty within the Virginia Army National Guard are currently authorized a reenlistment bonus based on length of reenlistment.

Those requirements include having a passing fitness test, being medically cleared to continue service, not being on the Army Weight Control Program or be pending any negative personnel action.

“The second step is an interview with your company commander,” White said. “Retention is a commander’s program and Soldiers absolutely need to have their commander’s endorsement to reenlist.”

Following the interview, the unit’s retention noncommissioned officer will start the paperwork on which incentive option is best for the Soldier, White explained.

There are currently two incentivized reenlistment options: a two-year and a six-year extension.

The two-year option has a one-time, lump-sum $4,000 extension bonus that is paid upon the start date of the new contract.

The six-year option is a $12,000 extension bonus paid in two installments. The first installment of $6,000 is processed at the start date of the new contract; the second installment of the remaining $6,000 is processed on the fourth anniversary of the new enlistment.

“Not every Soldier is eligible for reenlistment, but if they are, I highly encourage them to start talking with their retention personnel as soon as possible,” said White. “Soldiers can get cash in hand, right now; if you’ve got a pretty good idea that you want to stay in, I’d say do it sooner rather than later, you just never know when these incentives will go away.”

Soldiers can reenlist up to 365 days prior to the termination of their current contract and still receive a bonus.

“Financial incentives like these and robust benefits are ways that the National Guard helps Soldiers enjoy and take full advantage of their careers,” White said.

Other benefits to reenlisting include: access to reduced cost of health and dental insurance through Tricare Reserve Select, a 20-year retirement, eligibility to receive the Veterans Affairs home loan and money towards college tuition through the State Tuition Assistance Program and the Student Loan Repayment Program.

“I think the biggest reason people stay in the Guard is because of the friendships they make with people they serve with,” said White. “You can spend 20 years getting to know people; you get promoted with each other, you go to drill together, you pretty much grow up together and those kinds of relationships don’t just go away.”

Continued service to the nation and commonwealth serve as one of the top motivators for reenlistment.

“A lot of Soldiers ‘re-up’ because they strongly believe in service to the country,” said White. “We have such a unique opportunity to answer our nation’s call as well as to answer when our local communities and the commonwealth needs us.”