Story by Crystal Farris
Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
Idaho Army National Guardsman Pfc. Kolten Jordan needed a bit of direction in his life after graduating high school. Working full time in the construction industry just to make ends meet, he decided to find a more enjoyable career and a way to help pay for college.
“I really wanted to go to school to get a degree,” said Jordan. “After hearing that I could receive an enlistment bonus and college tuition benefits through the guard, I knew it would be a good direction to take in my life.”
Jordan enlisted as a cannon crew member with the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s A Battery, 148th Field Artillery Regiment in November 2018. Upon joining, he received a $20,000 enlistment bonus, the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker of $350 per academic month and the ability to earn an additional $8,000 in annual federal and state tuition assistance.
Since returning from basic and advanced individual training, Jordan has started using his school tuition assistance to pursue an associate degree in fire science at Boise State University and has received $10,000 of his enlistment bonus.
“Receiving my bonus was one of the biggest reliefs I’ve ever had,” said Jordan. “The money has so far helped me pay for college, enabled me to give my girlfriend a good birthday and is still helping to keep me on my feet with bills while I focus on school.”
The Idaho Army National Guard is one of approximately five other states national-wide to offer a $20,000 non-prior service enlistment bonus as part of a new pilot program that began in October 2018. The organization has since signed 93 enlistees under the bonus.
“The bonus program is just one example of how the Idaho Army National Guard helps Soldiers accomplish whatever they want in their civilian life,” said Brig. Gen. Farin Schwartz, commander, Idaho Army National Guard. “The benefits of our organization make the Guard an easy first choice for Idahoans who want to serve their country while remaining close to home.”
The bonus incentivizes Soldiers to maintain good standing throughout their commitment by changing the way it pays over the course of six years compared to previous bonuses. Previous bonuses paid service members half their entitlement after completing advanced individual training and the remaining half in even allotments every two years for the remainder of their contracts.
While the new bonus also pays out half after AIT, service members now receive the second half in even allotments dispersed annually on the anniversary of their AIT graduation, but only if they are in good standing.
By issuing payments every year, the bonus gives service members money they can count on more frequently, said Sgt. Preston Hair, Idaho Army National Guard recruiter. It’s an added benefit to fulfilling requirements service members are already expected to meet regardless of a bonus, added Hair.
“I’ve always been someone who wants to get a job done well but the bonus payments definitely help motivate me to maintain good readiness standing with the guard,” said Jordan. “It’s always nice to receive a payment, especially for doing something that I absolutely love being a part of.”
To qualify for the enlistment bonus, individuals must meet various initial entry requirements, including: no prior military service, score above a 50 on the ASVAB and have either a high school diploma or a GED in combination with 15 or more college credits.
Additionally, enlistees must sign for six years and chose from a list of the organization’s 10 to 15 qualifying military occupational specialties.
The organization also offers educational incentives to those qualifying under the new pilot program bonus, including the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker of up to $350 per academic month and a student loan repayment program that pays up to $50,000 in previously acquired academic loans. This is in addition to $4,000 in federal educational assistance and $4,000 in state educational assistance service members are already entitled to per year.