’Active First’ Program Offers Up to $60,000 in Bonuses

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 25, 2007) - A new Army program dubbed "Active First" promises up to $60,000 in bonuses to recruits who opt for 30 to 48 months of active duty then transfer to the National Guard.

Recruits who sign on under the program, which started Oct. 1, receive $20,000 for 30 months of active-duty service, $30,000 for 36 months and $40,000 for 48 months - all paid after completion of basic and job training.

After active service, Soldiers may opt to re-enlist in the active Army or take an additional $20,000 to serve their remaining obligation in the National Guard. Active-duty Soldiers already have a service obligation through the Individual Ready Reserve, through which they are not paid but may be recalled to active service.

As of Oct. 23, 43 applicants had signed up for the program, according to National Guard Bureau spokesperson Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke.

"The huge benefit we're getting out of it is we know we're going to have Soldiers come back to us three or four years down the road, highly skilled and with a lot of experience," said Sgt. Timothy Bilbrey, who trains Virginia National Guard enlistees awaiting shipment to basic training.

Some of those Soldiers will be able to fill squad-leader and even platoon-sergeant slots, depending on how quickly they move up the ranks, Sgt. Bilbrey added.

"It's also great for the enlistee because he or she gets all the benefits of going active duty, along with up to a $40,000 sign-in bonus, then another $20,000 upon coming back to the Guard," he said.

Pvt. Jessica Maxwell of Norfolk, Va., joined Active First Oct. 6 after recruiters presented her a variety of enlistment options, including the College First program.

"I thought it was great. I need a full-time job, for one. Second, it's a bigger sign-on bonus and third, it's physical labor and I don't like to be bored," said Pvt. Maxwell, 21. She enlisted as a small-vehicle mechanic because she likes working on cars, and will serve 48 months on active duty. She heads to basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Oct. 29.

Pvt. John Weaver of Phillipsburg, Mo., walked into a recruiting station early this month with plans to join the regular Army, but liked what recruiters told him about Active First.

"This way, when I get to my Guard unit after serving a few years in the regular Army, I'll have had more day-to-day military experience," said Pvt. Weaver, who also chose the 48-month active-service option.

The program helps active-duty recruiting efforts because both active-duty and National Guard recruiters can offer the program, said Sgt. Bilbrey.

"It serves the National Guard and the regular Army," he said.

Many active-duty Soldiers traditionally move to the Guard after their enlistments. About 3,700 active-duty Soldiers transferred to the Guard after completing active-service obligations in fiscal 2007, according to Lt. Col. Krenke, who added that numbers are usually higher but have dropped with the increase in deployments for Guard units.

For more information about "Active First" go to www.1-800-GO-GUARD.com.