For enlisted sailors and officers in the right skills, the Navy Reserve is hiring — and it’s willing to pay up.
Enlisted specialties can earn up to $20,000, and officers can earn $10,000. Some health care-related jobs could be worth even more.
The payouts are tied to critical needs that exist in the Reserve, despite the fact the force is in the middle of a multiyear, 6,000-billet drawdown.
Much of the drawdown has affected the Reserve’s Seabee units.
“We’re progressing well, and by the end of this fiscal year we’ll have deactivated four of our construction battalions,” said Jim Johnson, Naval Reserve Force director of education and incentive programs. Those battalions, and two slated to go next year, constitute between 60 percent and 70 percent of the cuts.
“But we’ve still got many specialties where there’s great need, including advanced skills in many Seabee ratings,” Johnson stressed.
There are about 52,950 selected reservists in active drill status. That number is slated to drop to around 52,390 by the end of September.
But drawdown aside, the Reserve wants to add more than 5,700 enlisted and about 1,825 officers to its ranks. As of May 31, it had filled 3,592 enlisted and 931 officer vacancies.
To fill the gaps, the Reserve is offering bonuses in 44 enlisted rating and skill combinations.
On the officer side, there are 22 line designators and paygrade combos that can get an affiliation bonus. In addition, there are 33 medical designator and subspecialty combos that also net qualified officers bonuses or special pays.
The Reserve updated its most critically needed enlisted skills in NAVADMIN 161/13 on June 17. It took effect July 1 and is good until the end of the fiscal year. The officer bonus program was updated June 24 in NAVADMIN 165/13 and will be in effect until further notice.
The obvious first choice to fill these critical Reserve openings will be sailors leaving active-duty who already have the skills.
Continuing a Navy career in the Reserve is a unique opportunity, officials say. It’s a part-time job that demands just a weekend a month and two weeks of active duty a year. But in return, those who complete at least 20 years can get full military retirement benefits at age 62.
Many of the needed skill sets have long and difficult training tracts and are also critical in the active force.
“If they’re already qualified in critically needed skills and have already made the decision to leave active service, we would like them to consider bringing those skills into the selected reserve,” Johnson said.
Sailors without the requisite skills who are willing to train up, or those who need retraining, also have options and opportunities to net a bonus.
For a few ratings, there are no Navy enlisted classification requisites.
The skills (see below) are broken down into three levels or “tiers,” each qualifying for a different maximum payout. Tier 1 rates $20,000; Tier 2, $15,000; and Tier 3, $10,000.
Though all skills on the list are considered critical, those in Tier 1 are the most critical and often are those with the most demanding and lengthy training pipelines. Tiers 2 and 3, though still badly needed skills, are less critical in manning.
To net the full amount requires a six-year enlistment. A three-year hitch will get you half the maximum amount. You receive half up front in a lump sum; the rest is spread over the length of enlistment.
For example, a Navy diver with any diving NEC would get $20,000 for a six-year hitch. He’d get a $10,000 initial payment and five subsequent $2,000 payouts, each on his enlistment anniversary.
No money is paid to the sailor until he is fully qualified for the billet he’ll fill. For those already with the skills, that happens pretty quick.
“If all the paperwork aligns — usually by the end of the second month they should have their bonus,” Johnson said.
But for those retraining, or going through the initial accession pipeline training, the bonus could come much later.
To remain eligible for the anniversary payments, sailors must maintain eligibility in the skill and complete their required drills and annual training.
There’s plenty of opportunity in line designators, provided the officer is in the right paygrade (see chart on previous page).
“For lieutenants and lieutenant commanders coming off active duty, the Reserve is hiring. There is lots of opportunity,” Johnson said. “We have need in almost every designator.”
Another area of great need is in the medical community, where multiple paygrade, designator and subspecialties combinations qualify for accession bonuses.
More combinations qualify for some kind of special pay that could include either a monetary stipend while in medical training or additional help to repay loans.
All officers getting accession bonuses must agree to three years in the Reserve. Unlike the enlisted bonuses, officers are paid in a lump sum. Those who don’t finish will have to pay the Navy back a pro-rated amount for the time they don’t serve in a drill status.