OKLAHOMA CITY — A Springer lawmaker said it’s time to give the state’s National Guard the ability to offer monetary incentivizes to enhance recruiting and retention efforts.
Republican state Sen. Frank Simpson said he filed Senate Bill 1186 because the Oklahoma National Guard is struggling to fill critical posts. The lawmaker wants the ability to offer small bonuses as a recruiting incentive.
“They’re pretty critical positions, but they haven’t been able to recruit people to fill those,” Simpson said. “They’re hoping if they’re able to pay a small bonus, it could help fill some of those jobs. They’re not real glamorous positions.”
Retired Col. Charles Seitz said the National Guard is short soldiers and airmen in certain skill areas — like communications, cyber and engineering — and needs legislative authority to potentially use existing appropriations to bolster recruitment and retention.
Seitz said the federal government has used monetary incentives for years to recruit member of the armed forces. State military leaders want that same ability.
Oklahoma’s citizen military serves both federal and state needs. Personnel can serve in combat zones overseas or address the needs of the state during disasters, civil unrest or other emergency situations.
The measure would not increase the agency’s funding. Seitz said the Guard is already fairly short on funding to support existing facilities, so there’s no guarantee they’ll immediately use bonuses.
Despite hitting their goals, Seitz said recruitment is challenging during the last two years, largely due to the nation’s booming economy.
He said it’s tough to recruit right out of high school in part because potential enlistees are finding they can make more in other professions.
“We’re continuing to have a shortage of young officers, which is the future leadership of the National Guard,” he said.
The Oklahoma Army National Guard has about 6,400 enlistees. The Air National Guard has about 2,000.
Only a small number are currently deployed.
Of those, the Army National Guard has about 225 soldiers currently mobilized, military officials said. About 100 of those are already in Kuwait. The rest are expected to deploy to Kuwait next month.
The Air National Guard has about 85 soldiers deployed to the Middle East and around 130 preparing to deploy, military officials said.