In a world that is constantly changing, take heart in knowing there is at least one constant: new soldiers will probably blow enlistment signing bonuses with reckless abandon. And for some recruits, the chance for irresponsible spending just got even better. 

The Army announced on Wednesday it was offering a maximum signing bonus of up to $50,000 — the most money the service has ever offered new recruits.

“We want to promote the value in serving your country, but at the same time, we’re not oblivious to the compensation piece,” Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, head of Army Recruiting Command, said in an Army news release. 

Not every recruit is going to see that much money, however. To get the full $50,000, recruits will need to put in a little extra work than the average enlistment contract. For example, recruits who are ready to head to basic training within 90 days get a higher bonus, as well as those who sign up for Airborne or Ranger schools. And because bonuses are taxed just like regular income, soldiers likely won’t see that full $50,000 anyway.

More than 2,000 trainees with 434th Field Artillery Brigade, Basic Combat Training, packed, lined up and prepared to board a bus or get into a car to go home for the holidays Dec. 16, 2021 at Fort Sill.
More than 2,000 trainees with 434th Field Artillery Brigade, Basic Combat Training, packed, lined up and prepared to board a bus or get into a car to go home for the holidays Dec. 16, 2021 at Fort Sill. (U.S. Army/Fort Sill Public Affairs)

But no matter what it comes out to, one thing will likely stay the same: the chance that a young Army recruit will do something responsible with that money is so slim that it barely even exists. 

If you have doubts, just sort through the responses of this tweet: cars they can’t afford, tattoos, engagement rings for people they barely know, some uh, professional entertainment, a can or two of dipping tobacco, and booze, booze, booze. 

“22 year old me definitely buys a [Hellcat] Durango,” one person tweeted. “[Currently] 40 yo me throws 40 at mortgage, 5 against other loans. 5 into [an] emergency fund.” 

“You know how many [Camaros] and Mustangs are gonna be bought in Columbus, GA?” another person said, referencing the city near one of the Army’s basic training sites at Fort Benning. “Probably all of them.” 

A few people had more responsible goals, like paying off debt, while others were shocked such an enlistment bonus even existed. 

But I for one appreciated those who responded with encouragement for young soldiers to invest their money or at least put a chunk of it away in a saving’s account. While it may be unlikely — what 18-year-old knows much about investing? — the Army’s Financial Readiness Program may be able to help soldiers who have questions. 

Aside from the bonus, another new incentive this year is that recruits can choose their first duty station, something important for a generation that “likes to have the opportunity to make their own decisions,” Vereen said. 

The Army is also offering two-year enlistment contracts for 84 of its military occupational specialties such as infantry, combat engineers, intelligence analysts, and cavalry scouts instead of the usual four. It’s another incentive for those who may not be so sure about making a career out of military service. 

“Many people are apprehensive about long-term commitments right now,” Vereen said, “so we think having a shorter option will help give them some time to see if the Army fits their life and goals.”

Army photo
Recruits who will join the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Space Force stand in a single formation supporting each other’s future endeavors in the United States military in Indianapolis, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Dillon Williams)

The Army hit its active-duty recruitment goal last year, according to Army Times, though it fell short in accessions on the Army Reserve side, bringing in 11,690 applications, down from its goal of 15,875. In 2022, the service will also have fewer recruiters, according to Army Times, though they will have formally-assigned quotas and recruiting zones.

This is far from the first time the military has offered incentives to potential recruits, or offered top dollar to convince current soldiers to stay. In 2019, the Army began offering bonuses up to $40,000 for infantry recruits to fill a grunt shortage and up to $81,000 for select staff sergeant to re-enlist. for And the service offered $100,000 bonuses last year to mid-level special forces warrant officers, while some air defense artillery warrant officers were granted up to $60,000 to stay in the ranks. Not to mention the sick incentive given to some soldiers of riding in a helicopter that most troops already get to ride in — no re-enlistment required.

So no matter what sum hits your bank account if you decide to take the Army up on its offer, best of luck to you — may your nearby dealerships be fully stocked, and the interest rates be ever in your favor.

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