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By Julie Provost

New Army bonuses could mean more deployments on the horizon
(Photo: US Army, SPC Brianna Saville)

I became an Army spouse in 2005, at the end of 2006, my husband deployed to Iraq. He wasn’t the only one; there were a lot of service members deploying there during that time. In 2007, the surge meant an extension for my husband’s brigade. Former President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers into Iraq. He also extended the tour of most of the Army troops as well as some Marines already there. My husband returned home the end of 2007 and deployed one year later for another 12 months.

Since then, a few things have changed. Soldiers can no longer be stop-lossed, meaning they cannot be kept beyond their ETS date because of a deployment. Deployments were changed to nine months instead of a year. There are also rules about how long a soldier has to be home before they can be deployed again.

Drawdown and Army numbers

Since 2010, there has been a reduction in Army numbers. The lowest numbers in recent years were in 2001 with 480,000 soldiers. That number went up steadily until 2010 which hit the highest number in years with 566,000 active duty soldiers. The goal was to get the Army down to 450,000 by 2018. However, in December of 2016, Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act which means that the Army needs to grow to 476,000 soldiers by September of 2017. The Army will need 9,000 soldiers to re-enlist to get to those numbers.

How will the Army go about doing this? By offering bigger bonuses to more soldiers and by offering two-year enlistments. The goal is that people who do enlist for two years will decide to stay longer.

Offering Bonuses

The Army will be offering $10,000 to those whose ETS date is this fiscal year and who are willing to extend for at least 12 months. Those who re-class to or join a critical MOS will receive a $13,000 incentive. Some will qualify for bonuses up to $40,000. In addition, they will be offering a greater choice of duty stations as well as extending the decision window to their ETS date instead of 90 days before.

Building up the Army, receiving more bonuses, and growing the military’s strength can be a good thing, especially if tensions are heating up in different places in the world. A bonus can mean a lot to a soldier and their family. They can pay off debt, put money in savings, or use the money to better their lives.

Bonuses mean more deployments?

The worry is that more bonuses could mean more deployments because it means that the Army is building itself up again. Deployments will affect the families of those joining and re-enlisting in the military. Rapid deployments can take a toll and re-enlisting during a time when the Army needs to grow its numbers means we should be ready for more deployments and boots on the ground.

With a new President, we should expect some changes to the military in the years to come. That happens with every new administration. Hopefully, this also means more support for the military families on the home front as well as the service member. More deployments will mean more stress on military family support services. Families will need access to good health care, affordable childcare options, and mental health services. Soldiers will need the resources to help them after they come home.

Preparing for more deployments

Whenever anyone signs up to serve their country, they are acutely aware that at some point in their career they will be sent to a war zone, most likely multiple times. This is not a surprise, and it shouldn’t be for any of their family members. However, a build up of military strength after a drawdown can make some changes that can be hard to accept.

If more bonuses and building up the Army will mean more deployments, we should get ourselves ready. As a country, we need to be prepared to support the military service member and family through the changes that will come. Military personnel are deployed around the world with tensions in multiple areas ramping up, not to mention that the War on Terror is still being fought. If that means more men and women do have to deploy, we need to plan for it.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at julie@militaryoneclick.com.

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