Pentagon Keeps Combat Pay For Kosovo National Guard

U.S. troops on peacekeeping missions in Kosovo won’t have their pay cut, the Pentagon said Thursday, ending weeks of speculation officials were considering such a move.

The loss of imminent-danger pay and other benefits would have cost soldiers hundreds of dollars each month.

Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin, a Department of Defense spokesman, said imminent-danger pay and other benefits given to troops are reviewed every year. He confirmed the benefits would not be cut but would not comment beyond that.

About 1,700 U.S. troops — active duty, Guard and Reserve from around the country — are deployed to Kosovo, and about 330 Iowa National Guard soldiers are likely headed there later this year. Most troops are serving as part of the NATO peacekeeping force and many have made several deployments overseas.

Word that the military might cut pay and benefits had prompted complaints from troops and some members of Congress.

In a letter earlier this month to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 18 members of Congress pressured him not to reclassify Kosovo as a non-combat mission. Troops there “operate in a region with an unstable government and outbreaks of violent lawlessness,” the lawmakers said in the letter.

Master Sgt. Duff McFadden of the Iowa Army National Guard, who returned from Kosovo in 2006, said the area remains dangerous, with occasional shootings, bombings and many mines still buried in fields.

“While it’s mostly peaceful, there’s still an underlying tension,” McFadden said.

He said troops get an extra $225 per month in imminent-danger pay, and their earnings while they are deployed to a combat zone aren’t taxed by the federal government. Soldiers also receive government-paid flights home for leave.

“It’s a hardship on the families,” McFadden said. “You are gone for a year, some people in certain jobs, they are looking at a big drop in pay depending on what they do.”