Military Times

2012 Insider's Guide to the Guard and Reserve

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Pay and Benefits


There are many other types of extra pay for active-duty and reserve personnel. Most are for duties carrying unusual responsibilities or in critical specialties.

Monthly special pays are prorated for reservists for the number of days served on active duty. Special pays are not paid for drills. Unless otherwise noted, to calculate benefits, divide the monthly benefit by 30 to get a per-day rate and multiply that by the number of days served. As service members enter or leave these jobs, the extra pay is added to or subtracted from regular pay.

Listed below are some of the major special pays:


As a retention tool, AIP is designed to compensate service members for certain unusual assignment circumstances. Service members may earn an additional $50 to $3,000 per month, depending on the circumstances, although no service currently pays anywhere close to the maximum.

Eligible reservists receive AIP prorated in accordance with the 1/30th rule, the pay rate for each day of active duty or active duty for training.


The National Guard and reserve components give extra money for enlistment and re-enlistment of members in critical units and with critical skills. Each service has its own bonus programs, but all are covered under the Selected Reserve Incentive Program.

All services use bonuses to attract people in the medical fields. In addition, the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard use bonuses to attract skilled people for technical jobs or to fill jobs for which there is a shortage of qualified people.

The Army and Marine Corps use their bonuses to fill critical skills and critical units.

Enlistment bonuses. These taxable bonuses are paid to new recruits as an incentive to join a reserve component and agree to stay in the Selected Reserve for six years. They also must agree to remain in the Inactive Reserve for two more years — a total obligation of at least eight years.

To qualify, they must:

♦ Have no prior service in any component of the armed forces.

♦ Have qualified on the Armed Forces Qualification Test in Score Category I, II or III.

♦ Be a high school graduate or have completed an equivalency examination.

♦ Not be enlisting to qualify for a civilian job for which membership in a reserve component is a condition of employment, such as a National Guard technician.

♦ Not be enlisting for an active-duty position.

♦ Be enlisting as a member of a unit and/or in a military career field designated for bonuses.

No payments of enlistment bonuses are made until the reservist has completed initial active duty for training and career field qualification or training and has been determined deployable. Enlistment bonus amounts vary by specialty and service.

The bonus is initially paid after satisfactory completion of initial active-duty training, including specialty training or sufficient training to be deployable. Initial and anniversary payments are made according to schedules set by the service secretaries.

Recruits without prior service who enlist in a new three-year reserve component option may also be eligible for bonuses of up to $20,000, depending on the reserve unit vacancy and how quickly the individual can report to training. Reservists must agree to remain in the Inactive Reserve for the remainder of their eight-year military obligation.

Prior-service enlistment bonus. Honorably discharged service members who enlist in a critical skill position for six years are eligible for a bonus of $15,000. Those who enlist for three years are eligible for a $7,500 bonus, which may be combined with other incentives.

Payments may be made in installments or a lump sum. Installments include an initial payment of 50 percent of the bonus at the time of enlistment and subsequent payments made according to schedules set by the service secretaries.

Anyone who takes a bonus and fails to attend drills or annual training may be required to pay back all or part of the bonus received during the time they missed.

Individual services can use all or part of these programs to meet their recruiting goals. Current programs can be found on the services’ reserve recruiting sites.


All the services have divers, but the Navy has the largest number and the most types.

The maximum extra pay, $340 a month, goes to enlisted master divers in the Army and Navy — the highest enlisted diving qualification. There are eight other skill levels based on degree of difficulty and hazard, with the lowest payment at $110 a month. Top diving pay for officers is $240.

Divers in the Navy serve in special warfare and explosive ordnance disposal roles and as fleet divers doing salvage and underwater work.

The Army’s divers include underwater salvage workers. The Air Force has pararescue teams and aircraft combat control teams, and the Coast Guard has divers assigned to buoy tenders.


There are several kinds of flight pay, each chiefly intended to keep pilots, navigators and other aviators in the military.

Aviation Career Incentive Pay. This pay goes to officers and warrant officers with at least six years of active aviation service and ranges from $125 to $840 a month. The highest rate is for officers with more than 14 but less than 22 years of aviation service.

Aviation Continuation Pay. This is a targeted, force-shaping tool to retain aviators in specified year groups and at critical departure points. Generally, officer aviators who remain on active duty after their initial service commitment expires are eligible. The services tweak these programs each year, depending on their needs, so the bonuses can change.

Career Enlisted Flight Pay. Enlisted members in the Air Force and Navy receive Career Enlisted Flight Pay, also known as career enlisted flier incentive pay, at rated of $150 per month for less than four years of aviation service to $400 per month for more than 14 years of aviation service.

Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for Flying. Nonpilots required to fly a minimum of four hours per month while serving as crew members performing duties essential to the operation of an aircraft, or duties required for a mission that can be accomplished only with an in-flight aircraft, are eligible for this pay if they are not drawing career enlisted flier incentive pay.

Monthly payment levels are based on rank. For enlisted members, the pay starts at $150 for E-3s and below and tops out at $240 for E-7s and above. For warrant officers, it ranges from $150 for W-1s and W-2s to $250 for W-5s. For officers, it ranges from $150 for O-1s and O-2s to $250 for O-5s and O-6s. For flag and general officers, the payment rate drops back to $150.

Flight pays are taxable except for service in designated combat zones.

For details on flight pay, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


In an effort to expand language capabilities, the services offer up to $12,000 per year for active-duty and reserve component members with needed language skills. The highest rates of pay go to those with proficiency in the most critically needed languages, such as Arabic, Pashto, Persian-Afghan (Dari) and Mandarin.

The pay also varies according to the level of proficiency in speaking, reading and writing the foreign language.

Foreign language proficiency pay is taxable except in combat zones.


There are two types of hardship duty pay: HDP-L for serving in a hardship duty location and HDP-M for serving on a hardship duty mission.

The maximum hardship duty pay allowed by law is $1,500 per month. The services may pay the amount a service member earns or is expected to earn for a specific hardship duty assignment in a lump sum, rather than in monthly payments. No service currently pays anywhere close to the maximum hardship duty pay allowed by law.

HDP-L. This is for officers and enlisted personnel serving in more than 150 locations around the world deemed austere and/or arduous. Members who serve 30 or more days in a designated hardship area get $50, $100 or $150 per month, depending on the area’s level of austerity.

The danger level of a location also factors into hardship duty pay. As such, locations like Iraq and Afghanistan, which qualify for both hardship duty and imminent danger pay, are rated at $100 per month for HDP-L. Thus, service members can draw up to $325 per month in a location that qualifies for both imminent danger pay and hardship duty pay.

HDP-M. This is for U.S. troops assigned to, on temporary duty to or under operational control of Joint Task Force Full Accounting or the Central Identification Lab Hawaii. The pay is $150 a month during the time members perform investigations and excavations of crash sites in countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea to recover remains of fallen U.S. service members. U.S. troops can qualify for HDP-L and HDP-M, for a maximum of $300 per month, if they spend 30 or more days in Laos, Vietnam or North Korea.

Iraq and Afghanistan. In a special situation, the Pentagon has authorized an additional $200 in monthly hardship duty pay — for a total of $300 — for troops who involuntarily spend more than 12 months of continuous duty in the Iraq and Afghanistan combat zones.

Hardship duty pay is taxable unless received in a designated combat zone.

For areas that qualify for hardship duty pay, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


People in dangerous jobs, such as demolition, assignments on aircraft carrier flight decks, handling toxic chemicals and parachuting, are entitled to hazardous duty pay of an extra $150 a month.

An especially dangerous kind of parachuting — high-altitude, low-opening jumping — qualifies service members for $225 a month.

Two kinds of hazardous flight pay are awarded to air weapons controllers and enlisted aircrew members.

Reservists can collect up to two types of hazardous duty pay, provided they serve in a unit whose mission requires the performance of both types of duty.


When military personnel serve on land, aboard ship or in aircraft within an officially declared “imminent danger area,” they are entitled to an extra $225 a month.

Under a significant change that took effect in early 2012, this pay is pro-rated at $7.50 per day when a service member spends less than a full month in a qualifying area. Previously, a service member arriving in a qualifying area on the last day of a month and departing the first day of the next month, for example, could collect $450, two full months of danger pay. Under the new policy, that member will collect $15. Exceptions will be made for troops “exposed to a hostile fire incident” as designated by local commanders; those troops will be eligible for the full monthly rate regardless of what portion of the month they spend in the qualifying area.

Troops do not have to be committed to combat to qualify for imminent danger pay; they just have to be on official duty in an officially designated area. The principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness designates the areas. Members who unexpectedly come under hostile fire in a foreign country are entitled to hostile fire pay, which also is $225 a month. However, a member may not receive imminent danger pay and hostile fire pay in the same month.

The pay was $150 until Congress temporarily raised it in April 2003 to better compensate those fighting in Iraq, though the increase applies to danger zones worldwide. The increase was made permanent in 2005.

Imminent danger pay is tax-free if earned in a designated combat zone or hazardous duty area.


Special pay for medical personnel in the reserves is designed to entice those with critical skills to stay in. All medical pays are taxable.

Basic eligibility. Generally, any reservist who is a physician, dentist, optometrist, veterinary officer, certified nurse anesthetist or a health care provider who is not a physician or dentist but does hold a post-baccalaureate degree in a clinical specialty is eligible for most of these special pays, provided the reservist is:

♦ Called to active duty for a year or more or volunteers to stay on active duty for a year or more.

♦ Called to active duty for more than 30 days and less than one year. The pay is prorated monthly under this plan.

♦ Called to active duty for more than 30 days for duty other than training.

Medical officers are entitled to $450 per month while on annual training, additional duty for special work or active duty for training for less than one year. If on active duty for special work for more than one year, they are also eligible for variable special pay, additional special pay, board-certified pay and incentive special pay.

Dentists are entitled to special pay at $350 per month while on annual training, additional duty for special work or active duty for training.

The major medical pays include:

Board-certified pay. Paid monthly to eligible physicians, dentists and other health care providers who are board-certified in their specialties. Annual amounts range from $2,500 to $6,000, depending on field of expertise and years of creditable service.

Medical special pay. Medical and dental officers with critical specialties are eligible if they are in paygrades O-7 or below, meet the service-specific creditable service requirements and/or have no remaining active-duty service commitment for medical education and training. Creditable service is time spent in internship and residency, plus active-duty time spent as a medical or dental officer.

To be eligible, officers must have completed initial residency training and must sign a written agreement to remain on active duty for two, three or four years. The bonus amount varies by specialty and length of service agreement.

The current maximum is $60,000 annually for a four-year pledge for anesthesiologists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons and radiologists; the minimum is $10,000 annually for a three-year pledge for a variety of specialties.

Additional special pay. Medical officers who agree to serve one more year on active duty can get $15,000, provided they are not in an internship or residency. For dentists, the amount ranges from $4,000 to $15,000, depending on years of creditable service.

Variable special pay. This goes to medical and dental officers on active duty for at least one year and varies based on years of creditable service. Current annual payments range from $1,200 to $12,000 for medical officers and $3,000 to $12,000 for dental officers.

Incentive special pay. Physician specialists below the grade of O-7 who are not in internship or residency programs are eligible for annual bonuses of $20,000 to $36,000 a year if they agree to serve on active duty for at least one additional year.


Sea pay is intended to offset the hardships of sea duty. Technically, all the services offer sea pay at different payment rates, but most service members who receive it are sailors, Marines or Coast Guardsmen. Amounts depend on length of time on sea duty and paygrade.

In the Army, monthly sea pay currently ranges from $50 to $646 for enlisted personnel; $182 to $730 for warrant officers; and $150 to $380 for commissioned officers.

In the Air Force, current monthly rates are $50 to $520 for enlisted members and $150 to $380 for officers.

In the Navy and Marine Corps, current monthly rates are $50 to $620 for enlisted members, $180 to $700 for warrant officers, and $100 to $535 for officers.

The Coast Guard has complex sea pay rates with three payment levels for each paygrade, based on the type of ship to which members are assigned. Monthly payments across all three levels range from $20 for E-1s to $750 for E-9s and O-6s.

Sea pay is governed by a host of regulations, but the main requirement generally is that the service member be assigned to a ship or ship-based staff or aviation unit whose job is performed while underway.

By law, sea pay goes to all members of two-crew missile submarines, even though only one crew is at sea at a time. Sea pay also goes to personnel serving aboard submarine and destroyer tenders and “off-cycle” crew members of multicrewed ships.

Sea pay is taxable unless earned in a designated combat zone.

For current sea pay rates, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”


Enlisted members in grades E-4 through E-9 and officers who have served 36 consecutive months of sea duty are entitled to a Career Sea Pay Premium.

The premium is paid for the 37th consecutive month and each subsequent consecutive month of sea duty served, at a monthly rate of $100.


To keep some experienced, highly skilled people in uniform, the military can offer re-enlistment bonuses.

The Selective Re-enlistment Bonus, or SRB, is calculated based on length of re-enlistment, time in service and need of skills. The bonus may be paid in an upfront lump sum, or it may be paid in installments.

Currently, maximum active-duty SRBs are $90,000 in the Army, Navy and Air Force and $74,438 in the Marine Corps.

The Army offers a “critical skills retention bonus” for personnel in certain job fields; the top payment under that program is $150,000 for Special Forces personnel who agree to stay in for an additional six years.

Reservists are eligiblel for re-enlistment bonuses if the re-enlistment is at for at least three years. The payments cannot exceed $15,000.


There is an incentive for submariners in addition to sea pay, based on rank and years of service.

Monthly rates are $75 to $600 for enlisted members; $285 to $425 for warrant officers; and $230 to $835 for officers.

Some officers and enlisted members are eligible for submarine duty pay even while stationed ashore. To qualify, they must meet specific criteria for time in the submarine service. Enlisted members may get submarine pay ashore if they agree to serve another tour on a sub after their shore assignment.

Sub pay is taxable unless earned in a designated combat zone.

To see submarine pay rates, visit and click on “Pay Charts.”

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