News: New bonuses offered to join Army Reserve
Story by Sgt. Ryan Hallock
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – “I don’t want you to make a decision until you’re ready,” said Master Sgt. David Fairbanks to Sgt. Justin Brenston, who sat across from him in his office.
Brenston, currently deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, met with Fairbanks, the Army Reserve and National Guard career counselor for U.S. Army Central, to inquire about joining the Army Reserve after completing his current contract.
It’s an advantageous time for Soldiers to join the Army Reserve as the newly-offered cash bonuses range up to $20,000 and are tax free during deployments with combat zone tax exclusion.
“As a career counselor, it’s my job to listen to the needs, wants, and desires of the Soldier,” said Fairbanks, who feels continuation of service is just as valuable as the new bonuses.
Currently the Army Reserve offers a $10,000 bonus for a three-year contract, a $20,000 bonus for a six-year contract, or a student loan repayment plan bonus of up to $50,000, which is determined by the total loan amount. The cash bonuses are paid in a lump sum to Soldiers when they check into their new Army Reserve units.
“If your military occupation specialty is on the selective Reserve incentive program list, you can receive the full bonus amounts,” said Fairbanks, who stated if your MOS isn’t on the list you can still receive a bonus of $4,000 if you choose a bonus MOS the Army Reserve needs.
As Brenston left Fairbank’s office to contemplate his upcoming decision, an excited and confident Sgt. William Buie walked in for his 10 a.m. appointment.
Buie said after discussing the options with his wife, they decided on a six-year contract in the Army Reserve, where he will continue to receive health care for his family, drill pay, continuation of service toward retirement, and a $20,000 signing bonus.
For Buie, however, the 24-month guaranteed stabilization when he arrives to his new unit is what’s most important to him.
“I want to spend more time with my family,” said Buie, who has deployed to Iraq and now Kuwait. “I’ve been deployed, training, deployed, training; that’s all I’ve been doing. I’ve got a son who’ll be 2 next month, so I want to be around him and see him grow up. I’m tired of watching him grow up on Facebook.”
Fairbanks said the Army Reserve’s goal is to maintain a four-year stabilization period between deployments and every Reserve contract begins with a 24-month stabilization period. He said Soldiers can elect to waive their stabilization period and volunteer for deployments.
“A lot of Soldiers have had multiple back-to-back deployments,” said Fairbanks. “They came into the Army to receive college benefits, so now they want to pursue their education.”
While it is possible not to deploy during a three-year Army Reserve contract given the 24-month stabilization period, Fairbanks never guarantees it.
However, if a Soldier chooses not to re-enlist for a deployment during their last year, they will be required to separate from the Army Reserve upon completion of their contract.
Individual Ready Reserve
Soldiers who fulfill their active duty portion of their initial contract can enter into the Individual Ready Reserve to complete their eight-year service obligation. By doing so, they will not receive the benefits of the Army Reserve and can be subject to be recalled to active duty.
Soldiers still have access to base privileges such as shopping at the commissaries, and they have the option to switch to drilling status with a reserve unit at any time during their IRR obligation.
By joining the Army Reserve through this option, however, Soldiers may not be eligible to receive a signing bonus, six months of free health care, stabilization, or extra college benefits, said Fairbanks, who noted it’s a case-by-case basis depending on each Soldier.
Similar to joining the Army Reserve, Soldiers who elect to enter into the IRR to fulfill their initial eight-year service obligation can choose a unit to be affiliated with in the event they are recalled. It’s called the unit affiliation program, where Soldiers will have some type of family support such as family readiness groups.
Fairbanks said this process is completed through a career counselor at the time of separation from active duty.
Options and answers
“I tell you very specifically what you will get and where you are you going,” said Fairbanks of the straight-forward contracting process.
The Army Reserve contract may be 36 pages, requiring numerous signatures and initials, but it’s thorough and even includes the career counselor’s name and phone number at Soldiers’ new units.
Fairbanks said his mission wouldn’t be possible without the support he receives from Col. Christopher Eubank and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Kenny, the Area Support Group – Kuwait command team.
“ASG-Kuwait has enabled me to be successful by allowing me to travel to the Soldiers who are in their 180-day out window,” said Fairbanks, who travels around the USARCENT area of responsibility to meet with Soldiers.
If you’re nearing 180 days from separation or are within your 180-day window already, you can schedule an appointment with Master Sgt. David Fairbanks, who can be contacted at 430-3477.
“If I am successful, then that means Army Soldiers are being taken care of,” said Fairbanks.