CHICAGO – Struggling to fill the ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army is trying a new incentive: offering new and returning enlistees up to $20,000 “Q.S.” bonuses in exchange for a promise to ship out to basic training within 30 days of signing on the dotted line.
The bonus – “Q.S.” for “quick-ship” – has already had some success in the weeks since the Army started offering it.
With less than two months before the end of the federal fiscal year, the Army is scrambling to make recruiting goals of 80,000 new active soldiers in basic training before Sept. 30.
Under the program, a new recruit can be on the ground in as little as three months, depending on what additional training is required. Normally, recruits are given up to a year from the date of signing their military contract to report to basic training.
But time is of the essence, and keeping up ranks has become a special challenge for recruiters in past months. This spring, the Army began to fall short of its mark, signing up only 5,101 of an expected 5,500 in May, and 7,031 of an expected 8,400 in June.
The environment that awaits potential recruits is not necessarily something too many are eager to rush into. April and May saw some of the highest death tolls for American troops in Iraq since hostilities began.
And in April, combat tours were extended from one year to 15 months. The majority of troops in Iraq are on their second or third tour of duty.