Military Bonuses Explained

Military selective reenlistment bonus check
Electrician’s mate 2nd Class Brandon Stewart, left, is presented with his selective reenlistment bonus check by Ensign Jack Cordero during his reenlistment ceremony aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), May 13, 2021. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Claire DuBois/U.S. Navy)

In addition to pay, there are two types of bonuses that encourage soldiers to start and/or stay in the service.

Enlistment Bonus

There are many benefits to joining the Armed Forces, but few directly affect your pay as much as enlistment bonuses. In fact, if you enlist in the military, you may be eligible for up to $40,000 in cash bonuses.

Your actual bonus will depend on the service branch, education level, civilian experience, specific job specialty -- also known as a rating (Navy), Air Force Civilian Service (Air Force) or military occupational specialty (Army and Marine Corps) -- and length of enlistment contract. Only the U.S. military offers high school graduates these types of signing bonuses.

Reenlistment Bonus

The selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) program is a cash incentive paid to enlisted members to encourage reenlistments and retention in critical military skills.

Reenlistment bonus award levels are adjusted as needed to ensure the services are retaining the correct quantity and critical skill mix to optimize their ability to accomplish the mission.

The SRB is used to retain service members with predetermined levels of experience (time in service) called zones. Those zones are:

  • Zone A -- reenlistment between 21 months and six years of active service.
  • Zone B -- reenlistment between 6-10 years of active service.
  • Zone C -- reenlistment from 10-14 years of active service.

For example, if the Navy needed to maintain its current number of avionics technicians with less than six years of service, it would target an SRB for Zone A.

A service member's actual reenlistment bonus is determined by this formula:

(monthly base pay) x (years of additional service) x (the SRB multiplier) = SRB award

The bonus to be paid may not exceed the lesser of the following amounts:

  • The product of 15 times the monthly rate of basic pay to which the member was entitled at the time of the discharge or release of the member; and
  • The product of the number of years (or the monthly fractions thereof) of the term of reenlistment or extension of enlistment of up to $180,000.

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