BENEFITS & FINANCE

This is why cash bonuses are different for each troop

You've probably seen it plastered all over billboards by now. The Army is offering "up to $40k in an enlistment bonuses!" Some hopeful recruits will learn that they can, in fact, get that down-payment for a Corvette. Another guy could come in that same day and walk out with just the "honor of serving."

What's the difference here? Why does one guy get a 'vette and the other nothing but a hardy handshake? The determination process is kind of convoluted, but it all comes down to the military trying to get the right people in the right places.


Troops get a bonus based on what they bring to the military, how long they plan on staying in, and when they sign the contract.

So, if you have just a high school education and you want to enlist in a field that's pretty crowded at a time when everyone is trying to get in for just the 3 years required to get full access to the GI Bill, your bonus prospects are looking pretty bleak. If you have a college degree and plan to use said degree to benefit the military at a time when it's almost impossible to find others like you — the cash is yours.

With that being said, the stars need to align for everything to work out perfectly. Even if, say, you have a doctorate in law and decide to use your skills in JAG, if you arrive a time when the Army needs more infantry officers, you're going infantry. Uncle Sam will always have the final say.

I mean, it's better to have a brilliant lawyer become an infantry officer than to have an idiot defending troops at a court martial, right?

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

Highly trained and highly skilled troops, like cyber security NCOs, often leave the service and jump into higher-paying, civilian-equivalent jobs. The troop that was once the backbone of their unit is now working the IT help-desk at Google, dealing with a quarter of the stress for double the pay. The civilian sector is gunning for these troops by offering sweet cash deals — and the military can't sustain this kind of personnel hemorrhaging.

If the military didn't offer retention bonuses, those cyber security NCOs would all jump ship. Suddenly, offering that bonus of $100,000 over a four-year period for an indefinite contract doesn't seem too unreasonable.

All that being said — and this isn't to diminish the service or need of anyone who didn't get an enlistment or a reenlistment bonus — the more competitive your specific skill set is to the outside world, the more of an incentive the military will offer to keep you in.

Obviously I'm making fun of water dogs (because they're so used to enduring jokes by everyone that they won't flip sh*t in the comments section).

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)