The military really wants to pay you for quick access to basic training

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The US military really wants to pay people to enlist quickly. That’s the word from the Army itself, which announced last week that recruits who sign up for a “fast ship” can get a $35,000 bonus. It’s the latest effort to quickly fill the ranks as the October deadline for meeting recruiting goals approaches. The army hopes big piles of cash are the incentive people need.

Starting June 17, new recruits who sign four-year contracts and complete basic training within 45 days are eligible for the big bonus. For those keeping track at home, this is the second increase in fast delivery bonuses in less than six months, and at a tremendous rate. In April, the military announced a $10,000 bonus for people who complete training within 30 days. That amount was increased to $25,000 on June 13, but the military decided that more money and more flexibility would come in handy just four days later.

“Recruiting in the current environment is challenging, and we have openings right now,” Major General Kevin Vereen, chief of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said in a statement on the premium increase. “Our military relies on us to quickly fill these training vacancies, so we are able to offer incentives to pursue critical career areas.”

Vereen is underrated. The Army’s new offer comes as several branches struggle to meet recruiting goals for this exercise. The Army was already offering a signing bonus of up to $50,000 generally to recruits who train quickly or pursue Airborne or Ranger schools. As Task & Purpose recently reported, 267 “high performing” recruiters are being retained longer to help achieve their goals.

The army hopes to add 60,000 new soldiers by the end of the financial year, even as the 2023 budget is expected to reduce the size of the army from 1,010,500 to 998,500 soldiers. But achieving that goal has been difficult, in part because of concerns among young Americans about safety, harassment and sexual assault in the military. The Pentagon itself doesn’t have the strongest opinion of Gen Z, having criticized their “Nintendo generation” physical readiness, but it needs new recruits.

Fast ship bonuses are one of many recent moves the army is trying out. Military.com reported Thursday, June 23 that the Army is shedding its mandate that recruits have a high school diploma, or GED. This only applies if a prospective soldier is at least 18 years old and can score 50 or more on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test. Recruits must also register by the October 1 deadline.

Will the new strategies work? This is the last big increase in enlistment bonuses this year, and the military has not ruled out that it will be the last. With only a few months until the deadline, it’s unclear if this will be enough of an incentive to get more people to sign up. But the military clearly hopes that cash will rule everything around it.

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