The National Call to Service (NCS) program began in 2003 as an option for Americans to serve their country in both active military and reserve capacities. Plus, it offers educational benefits or cash bonuses. The NCS program called for each branch of the service to develop a program for 15 months of active duty, followed by a period of reserve status. In exchange, service members receive incentives.

How the National Call to Service Program Works

Qualifying recruits serve 15 months of active duty, following their initial training, which varies depending on the branch and specific job. For example, training might include seven weeks of boot camp and nine weeks of job training before embarking on the 15 months of active duty.

When active duty ends, recruits will be required to serve two years in the National Guard or Selected Reserve. Depending on need and availability, they may also re-enlist for two years.

After those two years are served, recruits will be required to serve what remains of a total eight-year commitment in one of, or a combination of, the following:

  • Active duty
  • Selected Reserve
  • Individual Ready Reserve
  • A National Service program such as Peace Corps or AmeriCorps

Once all the enlistments end – a total eight-year commitment – those who enlist under the NCS program and fulfill all obligations can receive one of the following incentives:

  • A cash bonus of $5,000.
  • Repayment of a qualifying student loan (not to exceed $18,000).
  • An education allowance equal to Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) Education Rates for up to 12 months of education.
  • An education allowance equal to one-half monthly GI Bill benefits for up to 36 months of education.

Recruits must stipulate which incentive they prefer in the original contract. Minimum test scores and other qualifications apply. Each branch of the Armed Forces applies the guidelines differently; for example, the number of qualifying occupational specialties for this program vary.

The National Call to Service Program Combines Military Training and Civilian Service

The NCS is a great way to access the advantages of military training, such as leadership, team building and responsibility. Plus, participants have the opportunity to serve their communities through civilian service. In return, they have benefits available to help them fulfill their educational goals.

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