Labor shortages aren't just hitting the private sector during the pandemic. The military has been affected, too, though the US Army is now offering a carrot it hopes will bring in more recruits. An enlistment bonus of up to $50,000—the Army's biggest ever—is now on the table for newbies who embark on certain career paths and agree to a six-year active-duty enlistment, reports NBC News. "This is an opportunity to entice folks to consider the Army," Brig. Gen. John Cushing says in a release. The Army hopes to use the financial incentives for jobs that are hard to fill or that it has a special need to fill at the moment, especially those that keep training bases up and running.
In the past, the most a recruit could hope for in terms of a bonus was $40,000. Now, officials have tacked on "critical accession" payments, as well as "quick-ship" bonuses if the recruit agrees to head off to basic training within 90 days. The example the release offers is someone who signs up to be an air and missile defense crew member, which comes with a $40,000 career-based incentive. Currently, that role also comes with a $9,000 critical accession bonus, and if the recruit packs up for basic training within the next 90 days, they can tack on an extra $1,000 quick-ship bonus to reach the $50,000 maximum.
That cap will admittedly be difficult to reach, as it's for the most elite positions, such as signals intelligence and Special Forces, notes the AP. Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who heads up the Army's recruiting division, tells the outlet that recruiters have faced big challenges over the past two years, as the pandemic has prompted school shutdowns—"we lost a full class of young men and women that we didn't have contact with, face to face"—and a competitive job market that's been luring young people who might otherwise consider the military.
The Army hopes the bonus revamp could help reverse that trend. "Money isn't always the first thing that they talk about, but it does come into play," says Sgt. 1st Class Mary James, an Army recruiter since November 2020. Vereen similarly acknowledges the temptation of a bonus, especially for young adults just entering the working world. "We want to promote the value of serving your country first," he says. "But we also know that, this generation and I guess human nature, you know, it's all about compensation, too." (Read more US Army stories.)