Whether you’ve already been accepted to CRNA school or you haven’t yet applied, it is never too early to make a plan for your finances. That plan may or may not include the Army Reserves.
If you are thinking right now that you will continue to work, stop! It is not worth the time, stress, or effort to maintain a job while going to CRNA school. CRNA school is the equivalent of having 2 jobs already. Set yourself up for success, not failure. Any downtime that you have is going to be spent studying, sleeping, or spending time with your family.
Army Reserves: Too good to be true?
That being said, it is normal to think of other ways to supplement your income while in school. When I was in my first year of CRNA school, an Army recruiter came to talk to my class about joining the Army Reserves as an aspiring CRNA. They had some great things to say, but I also knew it was their job to make everything sound impossible to turn down. After that meeting, I started doing a lot of research on my own. I scoured the internet for information. I asked CRNAs that are currently or have been in the military. And I met with a recruiter and asked him every question I could possibly think of.
Benefits: Stipend & Loan Repayment
Joining the Army Reserves as a future CRNA has many benefits. You will be commissioned in as a 2nd Lieutenant, which is Officer status. There are 3 options for the benefits you can apply for, with varying service requirements. The first is called STRAP, which stands for Specialized Training Assistance Program. This provides you with a stipend of approximately $2100 each month while you are in school. For each 6 months of stipend you receive, you owe 1 year of service.
Next, there is the loan repayment option. This allows for $20,000/year in loan repayment, with a maximum benefit of $50,000. Thus, this would require 3 years of service to get the full $50,000 repayment.
Third, you can take both options. This would of course add to your service requirements.
The contract you sign will be for a total of 8 years, regardless of which benefits you decide to take. The benefits then decide how many years will be active service in the Army Reserves. If for instance, your duty requirement is 6 years then you can either finish your last 2 years as active service in the Army Reserves or you can go on the Ready Reserve list, meaning that you have no further duty requirements but are still eligible for draft for the remaining 2 years.
After a couple of weeks of research, I started the application process. The entire process can take up to 1 year, so it is important to get the process started ASAP once you have made a decision. The paperwork can be very overwhelming.
You have to list every address, job, and school you have had in the last 10 years. You provide school transcripts for every school. You also have to have 1 reference for each address, job, and school that you list. You provide the contact information for your CRNA school faculty. You also need 3 reference letters. And none of the references can be repeated.
Your recruiter will also assist you in making a resume that fits the format they are looking for. This will be the first thing that the board sees, so make it count! Anything that is going to make you stand out should be included, such as awards, honor roll, committee memberships, and volunteer work. You will also write a position statement which includes why you want to be a CRNA and why you want to join the Army. You also complete information on your medical history, including providing medical records for anything important.
Once your paperwork is complete, your application is submitted for review. At this point, they will ask you for any clarification or further documentation needed regarding your medical history information. There are some conditions that could lead to disqualification at this point. If everything checks out, you will receive your authorization to continue on with the process.
The next step is the physical. This will take place at an Army facility near you. It includes lab work, an EKG, chest x-ray, eye exam, hearing test, dental exam, and physical with a physician.
Once your physical is complete, the remainder of your paperwork is collected and finalized. From here, your entire application is submitted to the board for approval. The board meets every few months. There are a set number of openings each year, and these positions are opened every October. If they find you to be qualified but the positions are already filled, you’ll be wait-listed for the next time around. It takes about 2 weeks from the time the board meets for you to find out the decision. If you are approved, then your file is sent to the Senate for approval.
Once You’ve Been Accepted…
Once that is done, then you can commission in! The commissioning is where you sign your contract and are sworn in as an Officer of the Army. About 2-3 months later, your orders will be finalized and you’ll receive your first stipend check! Your first payment will be backdated to the date of your commissioning.
While you are in school, there are no duty requirements. Your only responsibilities are going to school and submitting a form each month stating that you are completing your academic duties.
Once school is completed and you have passed your boards, you will attend Leader’s Training Course (LTC) which is Officer school. This is instead of Basic Training. LTC is a 1 month program in Houston, Texas where you will learn the basics of being an Officer in the Army. This is paid training. After your Officer school is complete, your Army Reserves duties start. This includes 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks out of the year of duty training.
I would like to end by stating this is a brief overview of the benefits and process of joining the Army Reserves as a SRNA. There are many more specifics and details that are not included in this article. Be sure to meet with a recruiter and ask any and all questions that you may have, so that you can make an educated decision for yourself and your family.
Lastly, do not join simply for the monetary benefits. If you do not have an interest in joining the military and serving your country, the money will ultimately not be worth it to you. That being said, the Army Reserves are a fantastic option for those that have the desire to serve without the full commitment of Active Duty service.
To find your local recruiter, go to GoArmy.com.