SECOND INFANTRY DIVISION, Korea -- Every Soldier in the Army joins for his or her own reasons. Some may join out of patriotism. Some may join to travel and gain job experience. Others may join for educational benefits. Many may not expect to serve past their initial term of enlistment.
Just like each Soldier joining the Army, many Soldiers currently serving choose to stay in for different reasons. There are several options of which Soldiers considering re-enlistment may be unaware.
"There are five basic re-enlistment options for Soldiers," said Master Sgt. William Keating, career counselor for 2nd Infantry Division Special Troops Battalion, who for over 10 years has been helping Soldiers stay in the Army.
The first option is regular Army re-enlistment, in which Soldiers can re-enlist for two to six years, said Keating. Using this option, Soldiers continue in their current career field.
The second option is current station stabilization, in which Soldiers are guaranteed up to 12 extra months at their current station upon re-enlistment, Keating said. For Soldiers serving overseas, the 12 extra months begin on the date they were to leave their station. An exception to this is made for Soldiers serving in Korea. They are allowed to re-enlist for two years with this option, which ordinarily comes with a three-year minimum re-enlistment, and are authorized up to six additional months from their DEROS, or date of estimated return from overseas, date.
"Most people here in Korea do not use this option," Keating said. "They use the Assignment Incentive Pay program, because that allows them an extra $300 or $400 a month."
The third choice Soldiers have is the Army re-training option. This is a three-to-four year re-enlistment in which qualified Soldiers can be re-classified into a new career field.
There is another re-enlistment program which is closely related to the Army re-training option. It is called the Bonus enlistment and re-training, or BEAR, program.
"Once we qualify you for re-training, we then see if we can lock you in for a school seat," Keating said. "If we can do that, then we will extend you for 24 months upon the completion of the school. Once you graduate, you can come back to us within 90 days, and then we will cancel the extension and re-enlist you. You will then receive a re-enlistment bonus."
Fourth is the overseas station-of-choice option. The minimum re-enlistment is four years in a long-tour area, such as Germany, and three years for a short-tour area, like Korea.
The last of the basic re-enlistment choices is the stateside station-of-choice option. This is a three to four year re-enlistment in which Soldiers can choose their next station within the continental U.S. Both assignment options have a specific time frame in which Soldiers' are qualified.
Each of the five basic re-enlistment options has slight variations in eligibility requirements for initial-term, mid-career and career Soldiers. As of Oct. 2006, all Soldiers who have 24 months or less remaining in their term of service meet the first and most important requirement for re-enlisting. This time period is referred to as the re-enlistment window.
Although there are so many re-enlistment options on the table, some Soldiers may still wonder what other benefits come with re-enlisting. Most prominent in Soldiers' minds is probably the re-enlistment bonus.
"There are three types of bonuses out there right now," Keating said. "The first is an MOS bonus, which depends on a Soldier's MOS. Then there is a location bonus, depending on where the Soldier is heading next. Lastly, there is a deployment bonus."
"There are a lot great benefits to staying in," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Perry, career counselor for Division Special Troops Battalion. "A lot of the younger Soldiers do not realize the facilities that we have. Let's say you have a family, a wife and a couple of kids. The medical and dental benefits speak for themselves. There are also entitlements to help pay for additional costs such as housing."
Soldiers also have a high quality of life in the Army, Perry said.
"Where else in the world can you wake up and tell your boss, 'Hey I need four or five hours to go do something,' and not have to punch out' One of my favorite phrases is that we can offer guaranteed employment."
Not only do individuals benefit from Soldiers choosing to re-enlist, but the Army and other Soldiers benefit as well.
"We're maintaining a qualified force," Keating said. "We only allow those Soldiers who are qualified, in good character and good standing, to re-enlist. It also saves the Army the cost of spending more money for training a new Soldier."
"Most importantly, we're getting a Soldier who has been exposed to the Army life for a few years," Keating said. "We're able to take Soldiers from your basic, junior enlisted and set them on the path to becoming NCOs."
"By retaining Soldiers, the Army benefits from the experience that Soldier brings with them," Perry said. "Say you have a squad of infantrymen returning from Iraq who all decide to leave the Army. Now you have to take 10 brand new Soldiers from Fort Benning and rebuild the team."
"Retaining Soldiers build leadership and loyalty, not only to your unit but also to your country," Perry said.