It's still unclear whether tensions with Iran will continue to escalate after the regime launched 15 ballistic missiles Tuesday evening at Al Asad and Erbil, two locations where U.S. forces are located in Iraq.
While there were no casualties in the attack -- a retaliatory strike for the Jan. 2 U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani -- it's clear that the roughly 9,000 U.S. combat forces that began deploying to the region last week may not be coming home soon.
The Pentagon compensates military personnel with special pays for time away from home and dangerous assignments. Here is a rundown of pays that service members deployed during tensions with Iran may be entitled to receive, according to Defense Department guidelines:
Imminent Danger Pay and Hostile Fire Pay
Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) is a location-based pay, while Hostile Fire Pay (HFP) is an event-based pay. Troops serving in a designated IDP area can receive $7.50 a day, or up to $225 a month. HFP cannot exceed $225 a month. Service members cannot receive both at the same time.
For now, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements if needed. Kuwait is not an IDP-designated area, but if U.S. forces receive hostile fire from terrorist forces in Kuwait, they would receive HFP, according to J.D. Riley, deputy chief of Army Compensation.
More than 100 Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command were sent to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to help reinforce security after hundreds of Iranian-backed militia stormed the compound Dec. 31. Iraq is designated as an Imminent Danger Pay area and a Hostile Fire Pay area.
"So, let's say you are in an area where you are exposed to hostile for one day and, on that day you were exposed to hostile fire, you get the entire [HFP] amount," Riley said. "But if you are there in an Imminent Danger Pay area for the same amount of time, you get $7.50."
Family Separation Allowance
Service members are entitled to $250 monthly Family Separation Pay (FSA) when they are involuntarily separated from dependents, but it kicks in only after the first 30 days of the separation.
"It goes back to the day that you arrived," Riley said. "The qualification says you have to be temporarily away from your permanent duty station for a period of more than 30 days. Once they cross the threshold for qualification, then they are qualified back to the day they left."
Hardship Duty Pay-Location
Hardship Duty Pay-Location (HDP-L) is additional compensation paid to service members in designated hardship duty locations where the quality of life is substantially below that which most military members generally experience at home station. In some cases, such as in Imminent Danger Pay areas, the HDP-L rate is capped at $100 per month.
"Hardship Duty Pay is location-based," Riley said. "Depending on where they are, it varies in amount."
Marines who are deployed in support of an operational requirement such as a contingency operation or Marine Expeditionary Unit for more than 220 days are paid Hardship Duty Tempo (HDP-T) pay at a rate of $495 per month, prorated daily at $16.50, according to Maj. Craig Thomas, a spokesman for the Marine Corps' Manpower & Reserve Affairs.
Combat Zone Tax Exclusion
Service members are entitled to receive their gross military income during any period they perform active service in a designated combat zone.
There are three different types of combat qualification, Riley said.
- A combat zone that is designated by executive order. Places like Afghanistan and Iraq fall into this category, but so does Kuwait, which has been designated by executive order since the 1991 Gulf War.
- A qualified hazardous duty area, which is designated by law. Places like the Sinai Peninsula, where U.S. military personnel serve in the Multinational Force and Observer mission, fall into this category.
- A direct support area, which has been designated by the Defense Department.
"The difference is, if you are in a combat zone, you don't have to be entitled to IDP or Hostile Fire Pay in order to get the benefit of the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE)," Riley said. "But if you are in a qualified hazardous duty area or a direct support location, you must be entitled to either IDP or Hostile Fire Pay in order to receive that CZTE benefit.
Assignment and Special Duty Pay
Service members who normally receive Assignment and Special Duty Pay (ASDP) will continue to receive these entitlements since they will still be in the assignment or position while they are temporarily deployed away from their permanent duty station.
"We pay certain MOSs in certain locations ASDP," Riley said. "Generally, just because you left your installation ... you are still performing the duty or an assignment based on that pay. We have Special Forces that get special duty assignment pay; we have [explosive ordnance disposal] soldiers that get ASDP."
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay
Deployed service members may continue to receive Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP) while they are deployed, depending on their job. Individuals receive HDIP -- which ranges from $150 to $250 per month -- for duties such as being on parachute jump status, explosive ordnance duty and flight deck duty.
"Jump pay is a pay that is started and continues to be paid because [paratroopers] are always under hazardous duty orders to perform it and they are meeting the requirements," Riley said. Service members on jump status have to at least perform one jump every three months to maintain proficiency, but a commander can waive that minimum requirement if service members are unable to perform a jump because they are on combat operations or operationally deployed.
"But when you are looking at other hazardous duty pays like demolition and flight deck duty ... remember, they don't always give those pays every month because it is predicated on did they perform that duty during that month, Riley said. "So … you've got a guy who receives demolition pay. If he performs demo operations in the month of January but doesn't perform it in the month of February, he gets paid for January. He doesn't get paid for February."
Military compensation officials stressed that requirements for these special pays can vary based on location and other factors, so service members need to check with their chain of command to ensure they are clear on what they could receive.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.