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How to Extend Your Service

Extending your service in the National Guard and Reserve requires completing a series of steps. But be aware that any misstep may result in the loss of bonuses or even opportunities for schooling and career advancement.

Here’s an easy primer from SSG Edmundo Herrera, retention NCO of the Wyoming Army National Guard, so that you don’t miss out on anything coming to you.

KNOW WHEN TO EXTEND
You can extend 12 months out from your scheduled expiration term of service (ETS) date, with or without a retention bonus. Your unit’s training and retention NCO will conduct the first interview on your intentions when you’re one year out from your scheduled exit. If you’re on the fence, those interviews will then be repeated periodically—270, 180, 120, 90, 60 and 30 days out. During subsequent interviews, you also may meet with your first-line leader, platoon sergeant, commander or first sergeant, or brigade counselor.

NOTE THESE EXCEPTIONS
You can extend before you’re 12 months out if you have an ROTC or Active Duty service requirement that must be fulfilled. There are other service requirements that may require you to extend, too, such as any training or participation in an education program. Talk to your retention NCO about whether you are currently involved with any programs, benefits or entitlements that might require you to extend earlier than anticipated.

MEET THE CRITERIA
Soldiers may be ineligible to extend if they are under any type of Suspension of Favorable Personnel Actions. They also must have a current/passing height and weight or body composition, and a current/passing Army Physical Fitness Test within 18 months of extension. Also, you must have a current physical examination or annual Periodic Health Assessment.

DISCUSS CAREER ADVANCEMENT
Explore career progression opportunities with your first-line leader and chain of command. You could be offered a special school, e.g., Airborne, Air Assault, etc., if funding and training seats are available. If you are near another state and unit, an interstate transfer may be an option. Keep in mind you may be eligible for Officer Candidate School, or warrant officer opportunities, too.

GET FAMILY MEMBERS INVOLVED
“Let everyone know what the extension would involve and address resources that would help them,” Herrera says. “When I was a recruiter and new guys were coming in, I would rarely see families come in with them. Extending is a big thing, like enlisting.”

FIND OUT ABOUT BONUSES
The Army National Guard is offering a Re-enlistment Extension Bonus (REB) to qualified Soldiers of $5,000 for an extension of three years, or $10,000 for an extension of six years.* Also, to qualify for the Student Loan Repayment Program, you must extend for six years.

ANTICIPATE PITFALLS
If you received a bonus and were away from the active National Guard because of a hardship, the military may recover your bonus unless you extend your service time.

KNOW THE SCHEDULE AND THE IMPACT ON BENEFITS
“I’ve witnessed Soldiers making a mistake by taking their time or waiting to extend and missing out on an REB or SLRP they could have used,” Herrera says. “Soldiers also make a mistake by not reviewing the current SRIP [Selected Reserve Incentive Program] to check incentives or asking what they could be eligible for.” Another issue is that Soldiers do not know about the benefits they could lose if they do not extend, e.g., TRICARE Reserve Select or certain educational benefits. Also, you will lose your drill paycheck because of the transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve after your ETS.

–Story by Heidi Lynn Russell
To find out how to connect with a Retention NCO in your state, go to www.NATIONALGUARD.com/rrnco

*Subject to change