For my very first post I figured it would only be appropriate to give you an idea of my service in the Army National Guard and, more importantly, the student loan benefit that I receive. Who knows, maybe this info will help a few of you make the jump toward your own military-driven student loan repayment!
I signed my first contract in September 2012 at 26 years old. Although I had a college degree (obviously! $$$$$) I decided to join as an enlisted man and not an officer. I joined as an E-4 Food Service Specialist (cook). Why become a cook? Well, because it seemed easy and I’m pretty lazy.
I went to Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for 9 weeks and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee in Virginia. I got in great shape and made active duty pay for around a total of 6 months.
The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is 8 years for $50,000, however (and this is VERY IMPORTANT), after taxes I will only see about $31,000. There are different variations of this, but I opted for the full 8 years in order to receive the full benefit.
Since joining I’ve seen $15,518.08 paid from the Guard directly to the principal of my federal student loans. September will mark my fourth year in. I’m told that I’ll see another payment of around $5,000 in October. Not too bad!
Here’s some details on the benefit:
The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is available to Soldiers and officer candidates (09S) who have one or more qualifying and disbursed Title IV federal loan(s).
- The loans must be listed on the Department of Education National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) aid summary website.
- Federal Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) incurred for individual use only are eligible for repayment.
- State and private loans are not eligible for repayment under the SLRP.
This information will help you understand the basic benefits and requirements of the SLRP. If you need more details or have questions about how to enroll, contact your recruiter, state point of contact, officer strength manager or education services officer (ESO).
If you are a non-prior service (NPS) Soldier, you are eligible for the SLRP as a stand-alone incentive to include enlisting under the Split Training Option and/or Civilian Acquired Skills Program (CASP) options, provided you meet the following requirements:
- Enlist for a minimum six-year term of service.
- Enlist for a critical skills (CS) vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below.
- Enlist into a qualifying position in an MTOE or medical TDA unit only.
- Score a minimum of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
- Must not be enlisting as a 09R SMP cadet.
- Must not be enlisting in the RFP or Active First Program.
- Must not be enlisting as a glossary non-prior service (GNPS) Soldier.
If you are a prior service Soldier, you are eligible for the SLRP as a stand-alone incentive, provided you meet the following requirements:
- Enlist for a minimum six-year term of service.
- Enlist/affiliate in the grade of E-7 or below.
- Enlist/affiliate into a qualifying position in an MTOE or medical TDA unit only.
- Must have previously completed Army or Marine Corps Basic Combat Training (BCT) or complete Army BCT within 365 days from the date of enlistment, if you previously served in the Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard. Exception: A Soldier who previously served in special operations in the Air Force or Navy.
- Must have less than 16 years’ time in service (TIS) upon enlistment/affiliation in the National Guard.
- Must be Duty Military Occupational Specialty Qualified (DMOSQ) for your position.
- Must not have previously received the SLRP in your military career.
- Must not have previously received a GRFD ROTC scholarship.
- Must not be enlisting as a non-09S SLRP OCS or as a 09R SMP cadet (except for the 09S SLRP option).
- Must have scored a minimum of 31 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
- Must not be enlisting under the provisions of a conditional release from a Select Reserve component other than the U.S. Army Reserve.
Here’s the link for more details:
In addition to the SLRP there are a few benefits to being in the Guard (from my perspective).
Pros (in a nutshell)
- Two careers. Work as a civilian during the month and chip away at a military career monthly. It seems like I joined just yesterday and it’s already been 4 years!
- Drill pay. It starts pretty small, but after a few years in it starts to get real sweet.
- Travel. For training and deployments.
- Free meals and lodging on drill weekends for enlisted Soldiers.
- Stints of active duty pay- This will include your Initial Entry Training (Boot camp & AIT). During IET, annual trainings, deployments and any other long periods you will receive active duty pay and not pay for lodging or food. THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART.
- Military discounts. These are everywhere.
- Education benefits. Free college tuition and SLRP of course!
- Life insurance. Not sure about the details on this…I get mine through my civilian employer.
- Challenge, being push out of your comfort zone and service to country.li>
- You get yelled at and told what to do. This is not for everyone.
- Being separated from family and friends
- Sacrifice of time. Drill weekends are annoying (especially when something awesome is going on the weekend you’re away).
More details on the Pros:
- Fitness. Boot camp & AIT will get you into shape. PT tests are once a year and will force you to work out or you will fail them…unless you’re naturally a beast (I’m not).
- Drill pay. It my first few years in (as an E-4) I brought home somewhere between $200 and $250 every drill. Starting July however, I started getting paid as an E-6 because I started Officer Candidate School. I now take home $415 per drill weekend.
- Second career. When I joined I had a very different mindset about my service. I figured I would do the bare minimum, collect my SLRP benefit and get out. However, after being in for a little while and now training as an Officer Candidate I’ve changed my thinking. It really is the ultimate side hustle and the money is just now starting to get sweet. If you can stay fit, show up where you’re supposed to on time and deal with a good amount of B.S. it’s a great gig. It allows me to work a civilian career and progress in a second one on the side.
Conclusion-I’m very happy with my National Guard experience, and especially the debt fighting power is has provided me with so far. If you have federal student loan debt and want to stay in a civilian career it is a great part time option.
If you have questions or comments please leave a post!