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Many Miss Chance To Boost War Zone Pay
By Jessica Inigo
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

March 10, 2004,

DARMSTADT, Germany Sgt. 1st Class Frank McReynolds came home from Iraq with enough cash in his savings account to buy a 65-inch screen television, get some bills paid, buy his wife clothes, and make a good down payment on a new BMW.

Little does he know, McReynolds could have bought a lot more toys if he would have invested in the Savings Deposit Program while deployed.

McReynolds, like many other troops integrating back into the 233rd Base Support Battalion community, didn't know that if he had put his extra cash into the Savings Deposit Program, he would have earned a guaranteed 10 percent interest.

Instead, a lot of deployment money is going into bank accounts that average interest rates around 2 percent or 3 percent, according to Rogelio Castillo, a financial analyst for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Castillo is the Savings Deposit Program manager.

It's too late for McReynolds and the rest of the troops who just made it back from a yearlong deployment, but those heading into the desert should begin the program now, Castillo said.

Troops can participate in the program after 30 consecutive days of being deployed outside the United States as long as they are receiving hostile fire and imminent danger pay, Castillo said.

To make a deposit into the fund, troops need to contact their financial office while deployed.

The last day to make a deposit into the fund is the date of departure from the theater. However, interest will accrue up to 90 days after return, according to Castillo.

Troops can contribute more than $10,000, but interest will not accrue after that amount, he said.

Withdrawing the money before leaving the combat zone is not authorized, unless there is an emergency. A soldier would need proof of emergency and a letter from the command before the money would be released, he said.

Sgt. Mark Day, of Company D, 165th Military Intelligence Battalion in Darmstadt, also missed out on the extra cash. He said more troops would benefit from the program if it were advertised better.

"It's a good plan. More people just need to know about it. It needs to be briefed a little better," Day said.

Day said he first heard about the program a couple of years ago during a deployment to Kosovo. But he didn't hear word of it during this deployment.

The Savings Deposit Program began in 1990 during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Castillo said. It is continuously running and available for deployed troops.

Servicing finance offices are responsible for getting the word for soldiers to participate in the savings program. Castillo recommends deployed troops visit their finance office and ask to deposit money into the fund.

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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 & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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