The first reenlistment of a soldier can offer a variety of options. These are referred to as first termer reenlistments, and it is often felt that if a service member reenlists after their initial contractual period, they are more likely to stay in the military for a second or third term.
Convincing a soldier to stick around can be a difficult sell. Often the first few years are seemingly traumatic and very different from what they expected when they joined. If the opposite is true, Soldiers can have significant influence on their future.
First termers are able to choose their duty station of choice if a spot is open for their rank. This means that unlike their first duty station, they get to choose the location they want to serve. Many people take this opportunity to look abroad at Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and in the military understanding – Hawaii and Alaska. These places are referred to as OCONUS, or Outside of Continental United States. Serving at these locations can have a variety of perks and it is important to understand the good and the bad sides to doing so.
Basic Housing Allowance
At CONUS duty stations, married soldiers or those living off base are provided Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) by the military. This varies by location; the full amount is paid to the service member regardless of the cost of their apartment. So to make additional money, service members can rent below the BAH level and then pocket the remainder.
OCONUS differs in that it provides Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) which only covers the exact cost of your rent. So there is no benefit for getting a cheaper apartment, and as a result, most service members will get the most expensive apartment that falls within their limit. Service members can often afford to get very nice apartments that would be out of the renting ability of locals. Hawaii and Alaska fall under a strange hybrid of OCONUS which receives BAH but also overseas COLA.
Cost Of Living Allowance
Both CONUS and OCONUS duty stations provide the Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) in areas where the spending value of the dollar is diminished within the local community. For CONUS locations, this can be found in high-cost areas where basic foods and services are priced significantly higher. Only 21 cities in the US receive CONUS COLA with amounts varying from 1% to 11%.
For overseas duty stations though, nearly every one reflects a COLA amount based on the difference between the local currency and the dollar. When the dollar is worth less than the local currency, the cost of living is higher and COLA offsets it.
Living on base is one thing, but living in a German village, an English city, or even in Spain has its benefits. Overseas communities provide immersion into a culture. Soldiers are surrounded by the local flavor, local language, and sights. Spending time in these locations changes perspectives about the world. Locals can be very welcoming and friendly, and it is possible to reach out and make new friends.
Single soldiers can choose for themselves. Individuals with families must consider the consequences on both sides. Spouses may find it difficult to find work based on a lack of local language skills. Children may find their school year is interrupted by a PCS. Sometimes it is best to stay right where you are. On the plus side though, an overseas assignment may mean that your child grows up being bilingual, a strong skill set for their future. A spouse may also use this time as a wonderful opportunity to take a break from work, take care of the children, or simply experience the new location.
Cost of Traveling
It is always a challenge to fly to see family and friends. It becomes an even greater one the farther away from home you are. Overseas duty stations can be great, but if you are the type of person who likes to fly home every few months, the cost of travel can become excessive.
A consideration is to take the next three years and keep your travels limited to those which are abroad. When in Europe, spend time traveling through Europe. Save the trips to home until you are back stateside. This will cut down significantly on the cost of airfare, and allow you to experience all that is the foreign duty station.
Same Job, Different Place
Realistically, the best part of the choice between staying stateside or heading abroad is the reality that the job is the same; it is just the scenery that changes. The job requirements, details, and development are the same. The added perks to foreign locations is the experience. So think about what is important to you, and where you want to spend the next three years of your life. Take in all aspects, and make a decision that is right for you.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.