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National Call to Service Program

The National Call to Service Program is a little-known three-tiered enlistment option available to those who have not served before, have a high school diploma and earned ASVAB score of at least 50. Enacted on October 1, 2003 as part of the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill, it contains a unique combination of service requirements along with an education benefits option that opens up opportunities to those who would like to serve their country in both a military and civilian capacity.

The enlistment obligation under this program is the same for all branches of the military: eight years. However, an initial shorter two-year enlistment period provides more options and in turn, attracts more people than the standard three, four and six year enlistments.

National Call to Service Program service requirements

The service requirement for this program includes the following time commitments:

  1. Completing initial entry training (IET), which includes basic combat training and advanced individual training
  2. Serving a 15-month active duty tour after completion of IET
  3. Serving a 24-month period of post active duty service in the National Guard or Reserves

After the initial service time, the enlistee has the option to serve the remainder of the eight-year obligation in one of these capacities:

  1. Active duty
  2. Drilling Reserves
  3. Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
  4. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps or other National Service program

The three tiers of service must be served back-to-back with no breaks. Some service branches tout the National Call to Service Program as a "two-year enlistment" it's important to note that while it takes around two years to complete IET training and the obligated 15-months of active duty in most cases, it can take longer depending on the selected job specialty. With basic training, some service branch schools taking up to 18 months, and the required 15-months of service after training, the "two-year" enlistment can easily turn into 3.5 years.

Many people don't realize all enlistments incur an eight-year obligation, regardless of the service branch, but normally with other enlistments, the rest of the eight-year obligation after active duty is spent in an inactive status.

National Call to Service Program enlistment incentives

In promise for their service, enlistees receive a choice of one of enlistment incentives:

  • A $5,000 cash bonus payable after the active duty tour
  • Pp to $18,000 in student loan repayment, also payable after the active duty commitment
  • A monthly education allowance equal to the full Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) monthly entitlement payment (currently at $1,421 per month) for up to 12 months of schooling at a GI Bill school (worth $17,052)
  • A monthly education allowance equal to one-half of the MGIB monthly entitlement payment ($710.50 per month), but up to 36 months of college (worth $22,578)

As with other Department of Defense (DoD) programs, basic program guidelines are given to the service branches, and they have the latitude to amend them as long as they stay within the basic guidelines. For example, the Army gives enlistees the choice of jobs from a list of 60 Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) where the Air Force only offers 29 Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs).

The Marines limits their job specialties to just 11 job options where the Navy offers 14 that are open to the program. The other difference is the Army offers the full $18,000 student loan repayment incentive option, but the Air Force limits their option to $10,000. It is interesting to note the Navy's program is very similar to the Army's program, but the Marine Corp's program more closely matches the one used by the Air Force, as far as the cash bonus and student loan repayment amounts are concerned.

National Call to Service & the Montgomery GI Bill option

Servicemembers deciding to reenlist and stay on active duty after a first term are eligible to sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill in addition to having the National Call to Service education benefits. When ready to start using their education benefits, veterans can submit VA Form 22-1990n online from the VONAPP website or download the form and submit it according to the instructions on the form.

The National Call to Service Program is an excellent enlistment program allowing options to serve both in the military and as a civilian. Military service teaches leadership, teamwork and personal accountability, where civilian service provides an opportunity to directly help under-privileged people in a meaningful way. And in return for their service, veterans have benefits available to assist them with their education goals.