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GIs On Extended Iraq Tours Offered Bonus
By Lisa Burgess
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

February 21, 2004

ARLINGTON, Va. Army officials have settled on a compensation plan that would give soldiers whose tours in Iraq have been involuntarily extended a tax-free bonus of up to $1,000 each month.

On Jan. 12, Army officials announced that about 1,500 soldiers from 12 units would have their tours of duty in Iraq extended, including about 1,000 troops assigned to Europe-based units.

Then on Jan. 20, Charles Abell, principal undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, sent the Army a memo telling the service to offer extended troops a two-part compensation package to make up for their additional service, according to Lt. Col. Gerald Barrett, the Army's chief of compensation.

The first part is an additional $200 each month in hardship duty pay, which every soldier will receive on top of the $100 in hardship pay he or she has already been earning while in Iraq. There is a $300 ceiling, by law.

The second part involves a choice: Take another $800 in Assignment Incentive Pay each month, or take a "stabilized tour" when they return home, "the length of which will be [equal to] the total amount [a soldier] was deployed," Barrett said during a Wednesday telephone interview.

The guarantee is the Army's promise that the soldier will not be deployed for the time he or she is stabilized, Barrett said.

Although some soldiers may have been deployed for longer than 12 months, only those soldiers who were listed in the Army's January announcement of the involuntary extensions are eligible for the new compensation package, Barrett said.

"If an individual soldier is not assigned to one of those units, [he/she] is not part of this [program] at this time," Barrett said. "Any future type of incentive package would be [announced] in an additional policy directive," along with eligible personnel, he said.

Army officials said in January that the extensions are necessary in order to bridge gaps in service that would occur while the first Iraq rotation of about 130,000 troops is departing and the second rotation of 105,000 forces is settling in.

Barrett said the Army foresees only the 1,500 currently extended to be affected.

"At this time, the Army has no plans" to require additional troops to extend their Iraq tours beyond a year, Barrett said.

"If somewhere down the road the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] or the Army says we're going to expand this [extension], a message would come out with those units [affected] specifically listed," Barrett said.

The additional personnel spelled out in that message would be eligible for the compensation, he added.

Delays in redeployments are supposed to range from five days to 60 days, with the majority less than 25 days, Army officials said.

The compensation package takes effect the first day after the 12-month mark, and it is not prorated, so soldiers will get the entire month's pay even if they leave before the month is up, Deborah Holman, a special pays and entitlements analyst for the Army, said during the Wednesday phone interview.

But the package has a "sunset" of June 1, after which the payments will no longer be made, she said.

Commanders from each unit affected by the January extensions will ask their eligible soldiers to indicate their choice of payments on Personnel Form 4187, Barrett said.

Soldiers will see their payments reflected on their regular leave and earnings statement, Holman said.

Meanwhile, the roughly 25,000 Marines now deploying to Iraq as part of the second rotation are doing so for seven-month tours instead of 12 months.

While the Corps does not anticipate Marines being in country for more than 12 months, "we are prepared to offer this incentive in exceptional cases," according to Maj. Christopher Dowling, a policy analyst for the Corps' Military Policy Branch.

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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