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DoD Instituting Short-term Enlistments

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2003 – A new military short-term enlistment program will begin Oct. 1 aimed at expanding the opportunities for all Americans to serve the country.

Congress authorized the National Call to Service enlistment option as part of the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act.

Bob Clark, assistant director in DoD's accession policy directorate, said the program would allow the military services a new option to reach a group of young Americans who otherwise might not serve due to the length of traditional enlistment options.

The program will work like this: A recruit enlists for the option and incurs a 15-month active duty service obligation following completion of initial-entry training, for a total active duty commitment of about 19 months.

Following successful completion of active duty, service members may re-enlist for further active duty or transfer to the selected reserve for a 24-month obligation.

Once this is completed, service members may stay in the selected reserve or transfer to individual ready reserve for the remainder of their eight-year commitments.

"The unique piece of this legislation is that while in the individual ready reserve, these young people will be given the opportunity to move into one of the other national service programs, such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, and time in those will count toward their eight-year obligation," Clark said.

While the Army and Navy already have a limited two-year enlistment program, this is the first time the Air Force and Marine Corps will offer the option.

Clark stated that the option would be limited to high- quality recruits -- those with a high school diploma and scores in the top half of aptitude tests. Officials hope this will make the military more attractive to college- bound youth who might volunteer to take a short period out between high school and college, but would not take off that three- or four-year period.

He feels the option may also attract college graduates interested in serving their country before attending graduate school. But perhaps the largest potential pool for the option is with community college graduates who might serve the country for a short time and use available incentives to enter a four-year school, Clark said.

There are four incentives under the option. The first is a $5,000 bonus payable upon completion of active duty service.

The second is a loan-repayment option also paid at the end of the active duty portion. The legislation allows for repayment of up to $18,000 of qualifying student loans.

The final two incentives are tied to but not part of the Montgomery G.I. Bill. One gives 12 months of a full Montgomery G.I. Bill stipend currently about $900 a month. "This should attract college graduates looking to go to grad school," Clark said.

The other incentive offers 36 monthly payments at one-half of the current Montgomery G.I. Bill stipend. "We look at this as being an incentive to both high school graduates or maybe college students who are financially strapped who may need to sit out for a period, serve the country, learn, see the world and then go to school," he said.

The services will set the enlistment criteria. Military specialties that involve long-term training will not be offered. Basic medical specialties, some engineer skills, and personnel, administration and combat specialties will be part of the mix. The first members who opt for this program will go into the delayed-entry program beginning Oct. 1, 2003.

Clark was adamant that service members in this program would not be "second class citizens." He said although they will serve shorter periods of time, they would be treated the same way as those with longer-term enlistments.

Traditional enlistment terms are three, four, five and six years, he said. The program will start with a small number of inductees; there is no set number that will indicate success. As the program ramps up, DoD will work with national service organizations to ensure recruits under this program understand all their options.

Clarks said the department is coming off its most successful recruiting year ever. "The department does not need this program to fill the ranks," he said. "But we are excited about offering the chance to serve the country to young men and women who ordinarily might not."

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