The National Guard, facing a recruiting shortage that affects all branches of the military, is seeking to entice potential recruits with the promise of health care, in addition to educational and financial benefits.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters during a roundtable on Tuesday that the idea of providing health care to members of the Guard would help the approximately 60,000 members who are currently uninsured.
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“When we look at recruitment and retention and capacity, really the most important aspect is the ability to be ready whenever we need it. Health care is absolutely essential for this to happen,” he said, noting that “there may be gaps in coverage” when a guard member moves from their employer’s medical coverage. civilian to the military supplier.
Historically, the educational benefits that come with guard membership have been “one of the main reasons” people have joined, he said, explaining that current guard members can use their fees federal tuition and GI bill benefits, while they cannot claim independent student status, like active duty members, which comes into play in obtaining federal financial aid.
Other incentives referenced by Hokanson include more accessible financial aid for guard members and bonuses for referrals.
“We could really help make every guard or recruiter by paying them a bonus for anyone they bring into the organization who is able to complete their military training,” he said.
The guard expects about 6,000 members to fall short of its current year-end target of 336,000, Hokanson added, noting that “the reason this is a concern is obviously if you look at the Last year and previous years … we have always reached our final authorized strength, and this is probably due to a myriad of factors that affect all services.
Various defense officials have cited the pandemic, ongoing labor shortages and growing misunderstanding between civilians and the military as factors contributing to ongoing recruiting issues.
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“Over 80% of those who come usually have an immediate family member, relative or friend who is in the service. So there is a bit of good news and bad news,” he continued, adding that “there are a lot of people who may not have that exposure to the military, which can be a great choice for them, to help them develop leadership skills, training or just opportunities they might not otherwise have.