The old song goes "You'll never get rich... you're in the Army now." But in the all-volunteer military era, the Army has to compete for talent with civilian employers to attract recruits - and retain them once their initial service obligations are over. As a result, US Army soldiers today make more money than ever before. They may not be getting rich, but they are earning enough to have a life outside of duty hours.
The base salary of an active duty soldier is calculated based on the soldier's rank and time in the service. The lowest rank in the Army, a private E-1, earns a base pay of $1,467 per month. But you are unlikely to stay at that rank for long: Soldiers frequently attain the ranks of private E-2 and private first class before they graduate from advanced individual training. That would bring them up to $1,730 in base pay. For young officers, brand-new 2nd lieutenants earn a base salary of $2,784 per month. All ranks earn pay raises with each promotion, and as they stay in the service longer.
Basic Allowance for Housing
In addition to the base pay above, soldiers also receive a basic housing allowance, called BAH. It comes in two varieties: BAH Type 1 is awarded to single soldiers, while BAH Type 2 is awarded to dependents. The exact amount depends on your rank, time in service and the cost of living where you live, but you will receive the appropriate BAH if military housing is not available at your duty station - which is frequently.
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Hostile Fire Pay
Nearly all soldiers are deployed to a combat zone at least once in their careers, these days. In addition to the basic pay above and their BAH (if they maintain a home back in the U.S.), soldiers deployed to a combat zone will receive hostile fire pay of $225 per month. Soldiers separated from their families receive an additional allowance of $250 per month, prorated to $8.33 per day. In addition, military pay earned while in a combat zone is generally free of income tax.
Soldiers who can demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language and who are assigned to certain military occupational specialties are eligible Foreign Language Proficiency Pay of up to $1,000 per month. The exact pay rate depends on proficiency and the languages. The Army also pays extra pay to active duty soldiers who are assigned to airborne units and who make parachute jumps, and who are assigned to flight duty.
In addition to all the cash pay and other compensation above, active duty soldiers and their families also receive subsidized medical insurance, have 30 days paid leave per year, and receive a monthly pension once they have successfully completed 20 years of service.