The benefits that you get when you join the US Army (and retire from it after 20 years of service) are tremendous and should weight heavily into your decision when you are determining whether you should join or not. Many, if not all, of the benefits overlap in all services including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
Some of the benefits you get are a little less obvious than some of the others such as; pride in knowing you are part of the countries largest organization, learning devotion to duty, and creating leadership skills that come in handy when you leave the army. You can learn more about these lesser known benefits in 1001 Things to Love About Military Life.
Here we will try to not overwhelm you with information, but give you a brief description of the most commonly used benefits that the Army provides.
Brass Tax (your pay): The pay that you get when you join any branch of service is generous despite the common misconception. Below we will cover the most common ones that you will see on every LES (Leave Earning Statement) also known as your pay stub.
- Basic Pay: Your base salary that is based on your rank and time in service.
- BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing): Thats right. The Army pays for your house! This is also based on a number of factors which include your rank, family status and location. You would get paid more BAH if you are based in Hawaii than you would in Missouri.
- COLA (Cost of Living Allowance): Pays for higher costs in food, gas, and other goods. You typically only get this in high cost locations like Europe, California, New York, etc.
- Moving Allowance: In the military you will move a lot. The Army pays for that too. On top of paying for the move (movers pack everything, drive it to your new place, unpack it and put everything back together) the government also pays for temporary lodging while you get a new place, and gives you a healthy dislocation allowance. From experience this is around $2,000 or more.
Education Benefits: This is where the Army (and all branches of service) really shines when it comes to taking care of its Soldiers. The military will pay you to go to school! They will even give you time off, while paying you, to go to school. Not only is there the Montgomery GI Bill, but there is also the Post 9/11 GI Bill that you can transfer to your spouse or children so that they can use it for their college education. With the Post 9/11 you can even get BAH while you are in school to offset the cost of living.
If you already have a degree and have student loans, the Army has an answer for that too in the form of the college Loan Repayment Program. This pays up to $65,000 in your federal and private student loans!
If those aren’t for you but you want to get a few classes under your belt while you are in there is also Tuition Assistance (TA), which gives you money for classes up to $4,500 per year. This can be used for online courses and night classes in a wide variety of different degrees.
Now if you do use these, be aware that many of them require a basic time in service and/or will add time to your existing obligation. For example with TA, you either need 2 years of service obligation left on your contract or they will add two years of obligation.
Health Care: With the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) this may seem less important, but the Army will provide some of the best health care to you for free. What is also fantastic is that your family (wife and children) will get some of the same benefits for very little money to you.
Is your wife pregnant while you are in the Army? Not a problem. That $20,000 medical bill is now $0. Need an MRI? Just make an appointment. Physical therapy, X rays, dental care, and vision are all just a phone call away at absolutely no cost. The military takes care of its most important resource. Its Soldiers!
Vacation: Typically what happens when you get a normal 9 to 5 in the civilian world? You may not have any vacation time in your first year, and then maybe 2 weeks of vacation time your second year. It may or may not roll over. Funerals, sick days and personal days all probably get used in those 2 weeks of vacation time. Sucks.
Typically what happens when you are in the military? You get 30 days of leave per year and you get all federal holidays off as a 4 day weekend (Martin Luther King Day, Veteran’s Day, Labor Day, etc.) And guess what? Those 4 day weekends do not count against your accrued leave. What a lot of Soldiers do is that since they get so many federal holidays (which equals up to 40 days off per year) is they save their leave which keeps rolling over.