Amidst tiring workdays and economic uncertainty, an increasing number of people are choosing to reenlist in the National Guard. Natural disasters, COVID-19, and intense demands from the military somehow haven’t influenced many people’s decisions to stay in the reserve. To be fair, the pros of reenlisting are almost too good to pass up.
Army Spc. Javzailia Pineiro joined New York’s National Guard back in 2019. She started driving a truck for the reserve. This was just before the pandemic, so when COVID-19 began surging through the U.S. she had long days ahead of her. She would spend her time traveling around NY delivering food, masks, water, and other supplies. Even then, she chose to reenlist for four more years. She’s just one example of the dedication that many have to the service.
For her, and others, the long-term benefits outweigh the current workload. Many took advantage of the $10,000 reenlistment bonus. In addition to that, many are hoping to use their military benefits to go back to school. Not to mention the extra income that the National Guard brings in for so many people. Some even hope to turn the reserve into a 20-year career. At the very least, it’s a part-time commitment that allows people to interact with their communities.
That might be one of the biggest factors in people choosing to reenlist, actually. Especially in a time when community morale is so low. “Since March of 2020, we have had a significant increase in our retention rate,” says Army Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith, director of the joint staff for the New York National Guard. “We believe that it is because of the impact that our service members have made during this COVID pandemic.”
The Air Guard’s deputy director agrees with this statement. “The whole idea of neighbors helping neighbors is really inspiring.”
National Guard Reenlistment By the Numbers
Only a little more than half of Army soldiers chose to reenlist in the Iowa National Guard. Since the pandemic, though, that retention rate has jumped to a whopping 79%. For the Iowa Air Guard, more than 90% have chosen to reenlist. Other states are seeing similar jumps in retention rates.
However, there are a few states that haven’t hit or exceeded their retention goals. Ohio and California are the only states that didn’t meet their goal. Even then, that’s a testament to the sheer number of people choosing to reenlist in the National Guard. Just a few years ago, only 10 states managed to hit their retention goal.
The National Guard Bureau sets these goals for each of the states, so they are a bit different depending on where you are. However, every state has chosen to tackle retention in an aggressive way, rather than lowering their expectations. AP reports that overall, the Army Guard hit a reenlistment rate of 116% in 2021. That’s up drastically from 2020 and 2019, which had rates of 102% and 87% respectively.