FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Feb. 12, 2008) - The Army has begun a pilot program in five cities offering qualified recruits a down payment for home ownership or seed money to start their own business.

The Army Advantage Fund offers those enlisting in the active Army up to $40,000 for a five-plus year enlistment. Recruits enlisting in the Reserve component are eligible for up to $20,000 for a five-plus year enlistment.

The recruiting program is currently being tested in five markets:

Aca,!Ac Albany, N.Y.

Aca,!Ac Cleveland, Ohio

Aca,!Ac Montgomery, Ala.

Aca,!Ac San Antonio, Texas

Aca,!Ac Seattle, Wash.

Availability of the program on a national level will be based on the pilot results, Army Accessions Command officials said. The U.S. Army is the only branch of service currently offering this benefit.

"The Army has a long legacy of preparing young Americans for success through skills training and education-based programs such as the GI Bill and the Army College Fund," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general, U.S. Army Accessions Command. "This new offering demonstrates the Army continues to understand what young Americans consider critical to their future."

Studies show home and business ownership is highly appealing to young Americans. While recognizing the difficulty in becoming a home owner, nearly all young adults surveyed in the test markets (95 percent) agree that it is important for them to own a home, making it as high of a priority as having the right job skills (98 percent) and having a college degree (91 percent).

A recent survey of young Americans in the test markets shows that six in 10 young adults expect it to be more difficult for them to buy a home than their parents. Parents and adult influencers of those surveyed - 63 percent - show significant concern about the difficulty young adults will face when purchasing their first home.

Among all surveyed, 79 percent view having enough money to start a small business as a big problem. More than six in 10 young adults and parents say that the funding would most likely come from a bank loan.

By taking advantage of the Army Advantage Fund, participants may be able to either reduce or eliminate altogether the need for a bank loan to start a small business, Accessions Command officials said.

"What we are hearing from our young people and influencers is that, although it is essential to them to establish home ownership and get started down their chosen career path, many times they question how they will be able to accomplish it," said Lt. Gen. Freakley. "The Army recognizes these challenges, and wants to be a part of the solution by offering young adults the proper funds which will allow them to live their American Dream."

Page last updated Tue February 12th, 2008 at 11:07