Army Reservists proudly wear the title of Citizen-Soldier, but they are much different from full-time Soldiers in the Armed Forces. Serving in the Army Reserve is equivalent to having a part-time job. They maintain their full-time civilian career or attend school while serving at a location close to home.
Reservists are responsible for attending training (formally known as “Battle Assembly”) one weekend every month and serve two weeks of mandatory training each year. The service time for Army Reservists is a minimum of 38 days out of the entire year, and the annual pay and its subsequent benefits simply can’t be beat. Members of the Reserve Component (RC) may also be called upon to serve on Active Duty when needed, but they also have the opportunity to volunteer for an Active Duty mobilization within an Army human resources database of available positions throughout the United States and internationally.
Here are the Top 5 Benefits of the Army Reserve (in no particular order):
- Education benefits: (Rates effective as of October 1, 2014.) Reservists are eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill (depending on your enlistment time and occupational specialty, you can receive over $60,000 in tuition), the Montgomery GI Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program (up to $13,212), the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker (an additional $100 – $350 per month combined with the MGIB-SR), or the Post 9/11 GI Bill® (service of 90 or more days on Active Duty after 9/11 can provide up to 36 months of GI Bill benefits). Reservists may also qualify for Tuition Assistance of up to $250 per credit hour with an annual cap of $4,500.
- Basic Pay: Pay is commonly referred to as “Drill Pay.” Although Reserve Soldiers are only required to serve one weekend every month and two additional weeks of mandatory training each year, the pay earned is highly competitive in supplementing civilian salary. As reservists progress in rank and time-in-service, their pay will increase accordingly on a set scale.
- Medical Benefits: Reserve Soldiers and their families are eligible for affordable and low-cost medical, dental, and life insurance benefits. Tricare Reserve Select offers a monthly premium-based health care plan. The Dental Plan (also a monthly-premium plan) is separate from Tricare’s medical plan. Cost shares within a dental plan will depend on the service member’s rank and location. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a low-cost group life insurance: The current premium for $400,000 is $26 per month or $3.50 per $50,000 for lesser amounts.
- Uniformed Services Identification Card: Each Army Reserve Soldier is issued a Department of Defense Common Access Card (CAC). Dependents are also eligible to receive a Dependent Identification Card. These ID cards will allow unlimited access to military post exchange and commissary privileges. Reservists and their family members may also be eligible for military discounts offered by certain businesses. Reservists accompanied by family members under the age of 12 are also now eligible for TSA Pre✓™ by using their official Department of Defense (DoD) identification number when making flight reservations.
- Retirement Pay: Army Reservist retirement pay is determined by an accumulation of Retirement Points. Service members with a minimum of 20 “qualifying” years of service become eligible for retirement pay at the age of 60. A “qualifying” year (or fondly called “a good year” by Reservists) means a service member must earn a minimum of 50 retirement points within each year of service. All members will also receive 15 membership retirement points for each year they serve in the RC. (If you do the requisite 38 days of training in a year and add on 15 points for annual membership, you are guaranteed completion of one “good year.”) In the last few years, Congress also enacted an option for service members who qualify for a reduction in retirement age. To learn more about this option, please check out the link at the end of this paragraph. For members new to the Army Reserve, the retirement points system can be quite baffling at first, but the guidelines are in fact quite clear. If the jargon is unfamiliar to you, ask a recruiter or an experienced member of the Reserves to talk you through the system.
If you’re interested in joining visit the Army Reserve website.
Viv is a West Point graduate, an Army Officer, an Army wife, and a Family Readiness Group Leader. She has served on Active Duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in the Army Reserves. She is enjoying life in Texas with her Army Ranger husband.