FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 19, 2007
Story by Capt. Bridgette Bell
4th Special Troops Battalion
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq—The Special Troops Battalion became the first battalion in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to make their re-enlistment mission for Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
The battalion’s success started early-on in the deployment while the unit was still in Kuwait preparing for their movement into Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Erick Jones, STB re-enlistment noncommissioned officer, said he did not expect to do any re-enlistment contracts in Kuwait.
“We ended up doing a total of nine, including three from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, brigade; one from HHC, STB; two from Alpha Company, and three from Charlie Company,” Jones bragged.
The unique variety of military occupational specialties within the battalion has paid dividends for the Soldiers.
“What is good about our battalion is that I work with Soldiers from so many different MOSs.”
Although this gave Jones a lot of flexibility, some of his challenges were Soldiers whose military job skills could get them high-paying jobs in the civilian sector.
“I would tell all Soldiers, who are considering transitioning out of the military, they should really consider the benefits they would no longer be entitled to.”
He cautions Soldiers to remember that they may lose dedicated medical and dental services and the additional living allowances when they transition from the Army.
“Regardless of what they can offer in the civilian sector, I try to focus on how to help Soldiers get the highest bonus and best assignment that fits their background and ultimately, can further their career in the military.”
All movement options opened up for Soldiers, May 1, 2007. This meant that highly coveted duty stations, such as those in Europe, were now available to a number of Soldiers.
Staff Sgt. Claudia Limon of the 4th BCT Property Book Office, who re-enlisted on the day of her promotion to staff sergeant, was able to get an assignment to Italy.
Limon, who said she is extremely happy with the whole program, explained, “I initially wanted to go to Hawaii but reconsidered when Italy came up as an option. I did it because I like the Army, not necessarily for the money.”
Limon also said she feels that all Soldiers should consider taking advantage of the tax-free bonuses.
“The nice thing about re-enlisting while Soldiers are deployed is that all the bonus money they get for their re-enlistment is tax -free, which puts hundreds, sometimes thousands, of extra dollars in their pockets,” Jones said, “whereas, if the Soldier waits until he or she redeploys back to the U.S., they lose that tax-free incentive.”
Jones also noted that approximately 30-40 percent of the Soldiers he re-enlisted chose the option of up to 12 months of stabilization at Fort Bliss.
One of those was Spc. Kenneth Conklin, Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) operator in A Co., who re-enlisted for the stabilization option July 6, 2007, marking the point where the battalion met its re-enlistment mission and surpassed $1,000,000 in bonus money paid to STB Soldiers.
Common misconceptions about the re-enlistment process can only be cleared up if Soldiers seek guidance from their re-enlistment NCOs.
“A lot of people did not know they could re-enlist outside their window (more than two years until the end of their service time) and take advantage of bonus opportunities,” explained Jones.
Deployed Soldiers also get to take advantage of additional bonus messages that are out that they would not be able to if they were in back in the States.
Currently, there are three different bonus messages. First, the Enhanced Bonus will give Soldiers a flat rate based on their rank, if their MOS is a critical skill. Second, the Inventory Bonus is calculated based strictly on occupational specialties that are short-staffed. Finally, Soldiers are entitled to the Deployed Bonus simply because they are deployed, regardless of whether their MOS is critical. For some Soldiers, these messages, which change regularly, have made the difference of up to $15,000.
Supply specialist (92Y), Spc. Kashema Brooker, C Co., wanted to do something different from what her friends back home were doing.
“I got my first choice for an assignment at Fort Jackson and a re-enlistment bonus. I ultimately want to become a warrant officer, but for now, I enjoy what I do as a 92Y.”
The STB re-enlistment mission was 80 Soldiers—21 initials, 42 mid-career Soldiers, and 17 career troops. An Initial is a Soldier who has never re-enlisted. A Mid is Soldier who has re-enlisted at least once and has less than ten years at date of discharge (the day before the re-enlistment). Careerists have more than ten years at the date of discharge and only have the option of re-enlisting for assignment based on the needs of the Army.
The battalion’s initial goal was to earn $750,000 in re-enlistment bonuses. Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Marvin Hedstrom, said he is pleased that his battalion has managed to get over $1,000,000 for STB Soldiers.
“That is a million dollars back into the pockets of highly-deserving Soldiers and their Families,” he said.
One B Co. trooper, Spc. Michael Warren, chose re-enlist to become an information systems operator—analyst in order to “further my career in the Army and better my military education.”
Warren’s main influence to stay in the Army was his grandfather who served at Fort Bliss in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but gave credit to all of the support he currently gets from his unit, as well.
In May, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, 25th Infantry Division commander, and commander of Multi-national Division-North, told the Vice President of the United States that in six months, the division had achieved a re-enlistment level, that in the past had taken a full year to accomplish.”
Since their deployment, over 100 STB Soldiers have re-enlisted—18 from HHC 4th BCT; 41 from HHC STB; 18 from A Company; 18 from B Company; and 11 from C Company, for a total of almost $1.1 million in bonus money.
Staff Sgt. Erick Jones, retention noncommissioned officer for the Special Troops Battalion, helps Spc. Michael Warren, B Company, fill out his re-enlistment contract and certificate July 14 on Forward Operating Base Marez, Iraq. Since his unit’s deployment in Oct. 2006, Jones has helped over 100 Soldiers get assignment of choice, new military jobs, and thousands of dollars in re-enlistment bonus money. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Bridgette Bell)
Staff Sgt. Claudia Limon prepares to be re-enlisted by Capt. Steve von Deneen at the brigade logistics and supply office on Forward Operating Base Marez, Iraq, July 1. Limon re-enlisted to be stationed in Italy, in addition to receiving a tax-free cash bonus. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Bridgette Bell)
Master Sgt. Titus, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division senior career counselor, helps Sgt. Alonzo Scarborough, a supply sergeant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, fill out his contract and certificate prior to his re-enlistment July 1 on Forward Operating Base Marez, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Bridgette Bell)
Labels: 1st Cavalry Division, FOB Marez, Iraq, photos, reenlistment, STB, US Army