Earlier this month, the U.S. Army announced a new program designed to help new, qualified recruits with a down payment for home ownership or seed money to start their own business after completing their initial term of service.
Anti-war groups expressed skepticism about the motives behind programs they say typically target young, low-income people with few options for higher education or employment.
The Army Advantage Fund offers up to $40,000 for a five-year plus enlistment and soldiers enlisting in a Reserve component are eligible for up to $20,000 for a five-year enlistment to help purchase a home or small business.
Active duty soldiers can receive $25,000 for a three-year enlistment and $35,000 for an enlistment of four years. Army reservists can receive $10,000 for a three-year enlistment and $15,000 for an enlistment of four years.
Currently in its six-month test phase, Seattle is one of only five cities that the AAF is available. The other cities include Albany, NY; Cleveland, OH; Montgomery, AL; and San Antonio, TX. National availability for the AAF will be based on the pilot results in these cities.
"American's soldiers are the finest, there are so many opportunities out there and the fund is a commitment to the noble soldiers that serve this great nation," said Brigadier Gen. David L. Mann, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Recruiting Command based in Fort Knox, Ky. "This program gives young adults the opportunity to invest in their American dream. The Army recognizes the challenges young folks face when they want to buy a home or start their own small business and wants to be part of the solution."
The Army is currently the only branch of service offering this benefit. To be eligible, enlistees must meet the legal, physical and educational requirements to become a soldier, possess a high school diploma and score in the top 50 percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification Test and not be a prior military service member. Eligibility for the AAF expires five years after date of separation or discharge.
The local Seattle chapter of the anti-war group, World Can't Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime, protested the military recruiting center in the Central District on the corner of 23rd and Jackson Street last Friday. The recruitment office, which is normally open, was closed for the day. The news had reported the protest would happen the night before. About 35 protesters showed up for the non-violent protest and a group of people showed up again on Saturday.
"I don't know the whole details about the program but there's a whole history with the military of providing incentives for minorities and youth," said Maggie Lawless, local organizer and regional coordinator for World Can't Wait. "I'm not surprised that they're offering this program and trying to provide incentives because their in dire straits, they're in a losing battle right now and they desperately need to recruit people."
For more information on the AAF, visit www.goarmy.com/aaf, or visit your local Army recruiting office.
For additional information about World Can't Wait Drive Out the Bush Regime, visit www.worldcantwait.org.