The Army already has a two or three year enlistment option, for some recruits. The Navy has a very limited two and three year enlistment option available to some recruits (two years active duty, followed by six years in the Reserves).
However, Congress wants a similar option available in all of the services. As such, Congress passed a requirement as part of the FY 2003 Military Appropriations Act which requires all of the services to develop a shortened enlistment program by October 1, 2003, under the National Call to Service Initiative.
It's not really a "two-year enlistment." The actual time spent on active duty depends on the length of initial training required. The law requires the services to develop a program for 15 months of active duty, following initial training. For example, if a recruit is joining the Air Force, which has a boot camp that lasts about 7 weeks (including in-processing time), and gets a job that requires 9 weeks of job training, that person would incur a total active duty commitment of 19 months (4 months for training, plus 15 months active duty after training).
However, for recruits who enlist the new "National Call to Service" program, the active duty commitment is just the start. Like regular enlistment programs, recruits are obligated for a total of eight years.
Following the active duty commitment, recruits will have to accept one of the following:
- Reenlist on active duty (for a time-period that will be specified in the original enlistment contract)
- Serve two years in the active National Guard or Reserves (this means a minimum of drilling one weekend per month, plus training for two weeks per year, plus the possibility of being recalled to active duty by the President for deployments/contingency operations, etc.).
After serving for the additional time period mentioned in (1) or (2) above, the commitment is not over over yet (remember, this is a total eight year commitment). Whatever time remains on that total eight year commitment, must be spent in one of the following programs:
- Active Duty
- Selected Reserves (The one that requires weekend drill and two weeks per year training)
- Inactive Reserves (The program where you can be recalled to active duty if needed, but don't perform weekend drill or annual training)
- Other program such as Peace Corps or Americorps
- Combination of any of the above
So, what do recruits who agree to enlist under one of these programs get?