With the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act by former President Barack Obama in December, the Army’s required end strength was significantly increased, sparking a need for incentives to retain Soldiers.

Sgt. Maj. Matthew Quick, Army Forces Command, Command Career Counselor, said the Army was originally on course to reduce the force from 460,000 Soldiers to 450,000 by the end of this year.

“They stopped the downsizing and increased the end strength to 476,000. That’s where our shortfall comes into effect,” he said.

The Army plans to fill the shortfall through recruiting efforts, which is responsible for 6,000 Soldiers; the officer corps, responsible for 1,000 and reenlistments, which will account for the remaining 9,000 Soldiers.

“This is a historic, never-asked-to-be-done thing of the military. For six years we had been downsizing, now we stopped and increase,” Quick said.

The Army introduced several measures to assist in retention efforts because of this need to keep such a large number of Soldiers. The key retention incentives are:

Soldiers serving in balanced or shortage military occupational specialties could have their retention control points affected. Promotable Soldiers in the grade of E-4 will have an RCP of 10 years and promotable Soldiers in the grade of E-5 will have an RCP of 15 years. See Military Personnel Message 17-007.

Soldiers may be eligible for a higher bonus with a $13,000 kicker based on their expiration term of service date. See MILPER Message 17-014 for details.

Soldiers in any military occupational specialty with an early date before Oct. 1, may be eligible to extend from 12 to 23 months and receive a $10,000 bonus incentive.

A Soldier’s individual reenlistment opportunity window opens 15 months from their ETS date and now continues through that date. The 90-day window restriction has been suspended, which allows Soldiers to reenlist up to one day before their ETS.

Sgt. Maj. John Cavaliere, XVIII Abn. Corps, Command Career Counselor, said the bonuses are all numbers driven and could change at any moment. If reenlistments are coming in strong, he said, and it looks like the goals are being exceeded or on their way to being exceeded, the money could be shut off.

Quick and Cavaliere agreed that Soldiers who want to reenlist should do so now because bonus incentives could change or go away.

One of the biggest MOS populations to be affected by the changes are infantry and military police Soldiers.

“Infantry and MPs did not get bonuses before (because) they were over strength MOSs. Now, they get a bonus. Infantry and MPs are just a snippet of what changed,” Cavaliere said.

Soldiers who decide to reenlist can expect to receive their bonus within 30 days after reenlisting. The bonuses are a lump sum distribution and they are subject to taxes.

Quick and Cavaliere stressed the importance of Soldiers meeting with career counselors to receive additional information about the program because they have the most updated information about what the Soldier needs for reenlistment.

Regardless of the need for Soldiers to reenlist, standards will not be lowered. Soldiers still must pass physical fitness tests and meet all reenlistment qualifications, Cavaliere said.

“We are not compromising standards,” he said. “We are still looking for a quality force.”

The most important aspect of the new incentive program is training and leader involvement, Cavaliere said.

“(Leaders need) to know the Soldier’s needs, wants and desires, to know the Soldier’s eligibility criteria, and if the Soldier isn’t eligible, then why? What are you doing as a sergeant to help ‘Spc. Smith’ become eligible for reenlistment?” Cavaliere said.

For example, if the Soldier can’t reenlist because he can’t pass an APFT, leaders need to train the Soldier up to pass the APFT instead of writing him off. Leaders must also engage with their Soldiers and let them know they want the Soldier to stay.

“Simply put — commanders and leaders must ask their guys to reenlist,” said Quick. “Ask them to stay on the team. That’s the key.”

All leaders need to be educated on the changes, said Cavaliere. He said it is up to the career counselors to meet with their command teams and train them on the updates. The command teams then need to share these new incentives with leaders at every level, including squad and team leaders.

“That is the key to success … teach, coach and mentor from the highest levels all the way down to the lowest levels to ensure that no Soldier is left behind, they don’t miss out on any opportunities and to ensure that we are maintaining a quality force without compromising standards,” said Cavaliere.

For more information, see your career counselor or visit www.armyreenlistment.com.