What Is the Army BEAR Program?

Definition & Examples of the BEAR Program

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The Army Bonus, Extension, and Retraining (BEAR) program was an Army reenlistment initiative that ended in 2013. It allowed eligible soldiers to extend their enlistment to be retrained into a different military occupational specialty (MOS) in need of more officers.

The U.S. Army often experiences shortages in certain specialty positions. BEAR is one example of a program it used to try to address those shorfalls. Learn more about how this program worked and the role it played in recruiting officers for reenlistment.

What Was the Army BEAR Program?

The Bonus, Extension, and Retraining program was designed to assist in force alignment. It gave eligible soldiers an opportunity to extend their enlistment for formal retraining into a shortage military occupational specialty (MOS) that was part of the selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) program. Upon completion of retraining, BEAR recipients were awarded the new primary MOS (PMOS), reenlisted, and received an SRB in the newly awarded PMOS.

The objectives of the BEAR program were to attract highly qualified soldiers in the rank of SSG (E-6) and below who were serving in an overstrength or balanced MOS to migrate into a critically short SRB MOS.

  • Acronym: BEAR

The BEAR program formally ended on October 1, 2013. All BEAR agreements made prior to this date were still honored.

How the BEAR Progam Worked

Soldiers applying for the BEAR program had to be eligible for reenlistment in accordance with Army Regulation 601-280, chapter 3, without a waiver, except for the physical training (PT) test. Required waivers had to be approved by the appropriate waiver approval authority and attached to the application.

To retrain under the BEAR program, soldiers were generally required to be in the rank of SSGT (E-6) and below, though there were some exceptions to this rule. First-term soldiers were allowed to apply for the BEAR program, even if they had been notified of a pending assignment.

Soldiers had to be qualified for training in the new MOS, meaning they had to have the required Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score, Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) score (if required), and meet any medical requirements for the new MOS. Military members were generally allowed to retake the ASVAB for retraining purposes.

Soldiers also had to be recommended for participation in the BEAR program by their immediate commander.

Other Program Details

Soldiers enrolling in the BEAR program were required to extend their enlistment so that they had at least 24 months of service remaining following completion of training. They were not required to reenlist after training, or after the 24-month extension period, but if they chose not to, they would not receive the selected reenlistment bonus for their new MOS until they did.

When soldiers complete their training and reenlistment process through BEAR, they were paid an SRB in accordance with their new position.

An SRB is paid only for “additional obligated service,” and any time remaining on the extension of enlistment that was executed upon entrance into the BEAR program was considered “previously obligated service.” An SRB was not paid for any unserved time remaining on the extended enlistment at the time of reenlistment following the successful completion of retraining into the new PMOS.

Removal From the Program

Soldiers who received extensions through BEAR were permitted to request release from the program for hardship or compassionate reasons only. If they were released, they would not be considered for reentry into the program unless they could furnish documentation to indicate the reasons for removal no longer existed.

Soldiers who failed to complete the training were removed from the program unless the training unit commander recommended that they be retained and rescheduled for a subsequent class date.

When release or removal from the program was necessary, the soldier was:

  1. Required to complete the period of service for which they were extended under the program.
  2. Reclassified, if appropriate, and reassigned according to the needs of the Army.

Extensions to participate in the BEAR program were set as a condition of acceptance into the program. Cancellation of the extension was not authorized for soldiers who voluntarily withdrew from the program or who were involuntarily removed from the program for any reason (that is, academic failure, punishment under Uniform Code of Military Justice). The soldier was considered, in either case, to have received the benefit (and the obligation) of the extension.

Key Takeaways

  • The Army Bonus, Extension, and Retraining (BEAR) program was an Army reenlistment initiative that allowed eligible soldiers to extend their enlistment and retrain in a different military occupational specialty (MOS).
  • The BEAR program was meant to attract highly qualified soldiers to migrate into a critically short specialty.
  • The program was formally terminated in October 2013, but all existing agreements were still honored.

Article Sources

  1. United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. "Review of Initiatives for Increasing Enlisted Reenlistment in the U.S. Army," Page 10. Accessed Sept. 16, 2020.

  2. United States Army. "Army Retention Program," Page 30. Accessed Sept. 16, 2020.

  3. United States Army. "Army Retention Program," Pages 11-19. Accessed Sept. 16, 2020.

  4. United States Army. "Army Retention Program," Page 22. Accessed Sept. 16, 2020.