CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2007) - Retention NCOs and career counselors here are advising Soldiers to seek reenlistment information from subject matter experts - not fellow Soldiers, who may not have all the facts.

"When it comes to reenlisting, people need to listen to those who are trained in it, so they can get the best information from a reliable source," said Staff Sgt. James Ray, career counselor for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "This brings more credibility to the retention program and it lets people know not to trust the rumor mill.

"Just because someone reenlists and gets a certain option, that doesn't mean everyone will get the same option," added Ray. "Reenlistments are tailored to the individual Soldier and his or her needs."

One rumor currently circulating among Soldiers serving in Iraq concerns the $15,000 cash bonusthat deployed Soldiers who reenlist can receive, said Ray.

"The rumor is that everyone is automatically eligible to receive $15,000," he said.

But not everyone qualifies for the full amount. Bonuses depend on several factors and are determined by the amount of time Soldiers have spent in the Army, the zone they're in, the number of years in service they are being paid for and the length of their reenlistment.

"Each Soldier needs to sit down with us," said Ray. "It's hard to generalize and say everyone is going to get the same amount or the same incentives."

For "Charlie Zone" Soldiers who have 10-14 years of active federal service, deployment bonuses are determined by using a formula and the amounts may be different than that of "Alpha Zone" Soldiers (those with 17 months to six years active federal service at the date of discharge) and "Bravo Zone" Soldiers (those with six to 10 years active federal service at the time of discharge), Ray explained.

Yet bonuses are not the only incentives available to Soldiers.

For initial-term Soldiers reenlisting for the first time, there are five reenlistment options. They include:

Aca,!Ac Regular Army reenlistment option, which is a simple reenlistment with no guarantee of assignment or training incentives;

Aca,!Ac Current station stabilization option, which guarantees Soldiers can reenlist to remain at their current duty station, though they may not get to remain in a particular unit;

Aca,!Ac Continental U.S. station of choice option, which guarantees an assignment at various duty stations within the 48 continental U.S states.

Aca,!Ac Overseas option, which guarantees an overseas assignment to places such as Europe or Korea or other overseas assignments; and

Aca,!Ac Army training option, which offers Soldiers the option of going to other military occupational specialty schools if they wish to change their MOS. Or, Soldiers may choose to go to other military schools such as language training, additional skill identifier and special qualification identifier schools.

All of these options, Ray said, may be dependent upon whether there are slots available in schools or at particular duty stations. Soldiers must also be within two years of their expiration of time in service when reenlisting.

"It can be dependent on the needs of the Army and slots available, but it's worth it to check these things out for yourself," said Ray, explaining that Soldiers need to do their homework before making general assumptions about reenlisting.

Soldiers in the mid-career term are eligible for the same options, minus training. However, there are exceptions.

"In some cases, if they are in an over-strengthed MOS or a balanced MOS, they may be able to exercise the training option if they want to change their current MOS," said Ray.

Special incentives for 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers
For 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers who are in the initial and mid-career term categories and reenlist under the current stabilization option, there are two additional incentives: a college incentive program and the airborne/air assault school option.

"The Fort Hood college option affords them the opportunity to attend up to 12 semester hours of college during duty hours," said Ray. "This option is signed by the III Corps commander, so they're guaranteed to receive it, and normal tuition assistance rules apply.

"A guaranteed 1st Cav. Div. incentive also allows them to choose training at either the Army's airborne or air assault schools," Ray added.

Both the college incentive and airborne/air assault school options require a three-year minimum reenlistment.

Spc. Jared Barron with Co. B, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, said he knew all about going to the right source for the right information when it comes to reenlistment.

Barron, whose Jan. 17 reenlistment marked the 150th reenlistment for the 1st Brigade Combat Team during this rotation, re-upped for six more years.

"The Army is a great place to start a career and the first place I went for information was my battalion retention office," said Barron who received an $11,000 cash bonus. "The Army has been nothing but good to me, it has great benefits, things you can't really get outside in civilian life."

Whether Soldiers are going to reenlist or not, Ray said they shouldn't be afraid to come and talk to their career counselors or visit their retention offices just to see what types of options are available to them.

"They should sit down and honestly review the options with us. We can assist them in making a decision that benefits their career and their families," said Ray.

"The best part of our job is being able to help Soldiers and their families," he added. "Soldiers who receive correct and honest information tend to stay in the Army longer. They don't feel they've been short-changed in their careers or that they've been lied to."

Ray added that Soldiers must keep in mind that due to the fast-paced, ever-changing Army, retention policies can change almost daily, making it even more important to speak to the experts.