OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The U.S. Air Force wants airmen to volunteer for South Korea duty and is offering an extra $300 a month to make it happen.

The aim is to create more stability in its peninsula ranks — and greater readiness — by having servicemembers volunteer to stay longer than the usual 12-month tour.

“Stability and readiness suffer with 12-month turnover,” said Maj. Carl Williams, commander of the 51st Mission Support Squadron. “You want, for continuity, to keep people in place for as long as possible. And the assignment system oftentimes will go through several names before someone volunteers and accepts the assignment.

“We don’t like to nonvolunteer people as a standard practice. We’d rather have people volunteer for assignments.”

The new assignment incentive pay program is “effective immediately” on a test basis and will end in December 2005, Williams said.

It’s similar to a program the Army introduced in South Korea last March that offered troops $300 per month if they volunteered for extended tours. Also called assignment incentive pay, it had a registration window from March to May, and Army officials said about 7,000 soldiers signed up to extend their tours by 12 months.

The new Air Force program applies to airmen stationed outside South Korea and those already here, Williams said.

Airmen outside South Korea can volunteer for an unaccompanied tour of either 24 or 36 months. The $300 monthly payments would begin immediately upon arrival.

The 24-month tour would pay a total of $7,200, the 36-month tour $10,800, said Williams.

“All of which is taxable, of course,” Williams said.

Airmen already serving in South Korea get a one-shot chance to extend under the program and would receive the $300 per month from the date they signed an extension contract to the end of their tours. However, they can’t participate if they’ve already received benefits under two other Air Force programs: the overseas tour extension incentive program (OTEIP), or the in-place consecutive overseas tour program.

Airmen who are enrolled in either but haven’t received benefits from them are eligible to sign up for the new assignment incentive pay program, Williams said.

The overseas tour extension incentive program offers enlisted airmen three options, officials said: $2,000 cash, 30 days of nonchargeable leave or 15 days of nonchargeable leave and a plane ticket to the United States.

The in-place program pays round-trip fare for airmen and command-sponsored family members to their home of record.

Airmen who take part in the assignment incentive pay program also will become ineligible for two other Air Force plans: home-basing and follow-on assignment, both of which the service uses to encourage volunteers for South Korea duty.

Under home-basing, an airman who wants to continue duty at one location can volunteer for an unaccompanied South Korea tour and in return be guaranteed a reassignment to that base afterward.

Under follow-on assignment, an airman at one base who wants a transfer to another can be assured of that destination by first volunteering for an unaccompanied South Korea tour.

Other entitlements, such as hardship duty pay, are not affected by the new assignment incentive pay program, Air Force officials said.

Airmen seeking further information about the program should see their unit support staff or contact their military personnel flight.

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