Illinois Army National Guard members serving their first military service obligation have 20,000 reasons to sign up for another six years of military service. But they'll need to act fast to meet the Friday, Jan. 31 deadline.

"The $20,000 incentive will be offered only through the end of January," said Master Sgt. Holly Donald, state retention non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "This lump-sum bonus is only being offered to soldiers serving in their first military service obligation contract with an expiration date on or before September 30."

Soldiers who don't meet the qualifications for the lump-sum reenlistment/extension incentive need not get discouraged, according to Donald. There is an ongoing $20,000 50/50 reenlistment/extension incentive available for soldiers in the grades E-3 through E-7 with 13 years and one month or less time in service. The 50/50 incentive also comes with a six-year commitment.

"The $20,000 reenlistment bonus is a fifty-fifty bonus, meaning it's paid at 50 percent upon a new contract and 50 percent after four years," Donald said.

The Illinois Army National Guard has been successful with recruitment and retention the past several years, according to Donald.

"The Recruiting and Retention Battalion has reached its annual [goal] in recruiting or retaining Illinois National Guard members for the past decade," she said. "Illinois was also one of only seven states to meet the National Guard Bureau's recruiting and retention [goal] last year. For the past few years, we've been in the top three states in recruiting Citizen-Soldiers."

Recruitment and Retention are not the only successes enjoyed by the Illinois National Guard, according to Donald.

"We have been very successful in getting new Soldiers through training and to their units," she said. "The Illinois Army National Guard Recruit Sustainment Program prepares all enlisted Soldiers prior to their arrival at Basic Combat Training for most of the physical, mental and emotional tests they will encounter during their initial training. In fact, we prepare them so well that many of our Soldiers return home as honor graduates."

While the Illinois National Guard is enjoying success in recruiting and retention, the Army National Guard as a whole is struggling to reach that same success, according to Donald.

"There are a number of reasons the Army National Guard is struggling to meet recruitment and retention goals," Donald said. "The skills learned in the military can lead to a good civilian job. The duties of that civilian job may conflict with your National Guard military service obligations. When those conflicts arise, Soldiers choose the civilian employment because that's what pays the bills basically."

Donald said oftentimes soldiers don't weigh the benefits the National Guard offers when looking at their options.

"Soldiers sometimes forget the tangible benefits or they don't take into consideration those benefits before choosing not to reenlist," Donald said. "Most issues which cause a Soldier not to reenlist can be resolved with a benefit available to members of the National Guard, such as insurance, education and a part-time retirement. If a Soldier is unsure about his or her options, they should sit down with a Retention NCO and ask questions."

Civilians interested in enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard should contact their local recruiter or got to www.nationalguard.com/IL for information. Citizen-Soldiers looking to reenlist should contact their Unit Readiness NCO or Donald at (309) 472-1866.

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