ARLINGTON, Va. — Any soldier who has not served a rotation in Iraq or Afghanistan since September 2001 is now limited to one 12-month tour extension in South Korea, according to a new Army policy.

The restriction applies to the Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP) program, as well as other extension options such as the Foreign Service Tour Extension and the In-Place Consecutive Overseas Tour Program, according to a new policy message that appeared Tuesday on the Army’s Human Resources Web site.

Soldiers who have done at least one rotation in either Iraq or Afghanistan are not bound by the new rule. These soldiers can now apply for AIP and the other extensions until they reach five consecutive years in South Korea, the message says.

AIP, which first began in December 2004, offers servicemembers an extra $300 to $400 a month to stay in South Korea, depending on whether they commit to an additional 12- or 24-month extension.

The Army started the program to minimize the disruptions associated with the annual movement of about 48,000 troops either arriving or departing the Korean Peninsula for one-year tours.

In its first year, the program saved the Army $22 million, according to Army officials, and in February 2005, Army officials changed the program to give soldiers even more time — in some cases up to eight months longer — to consider whether to extend their assignments to South Korea.

But in an unanticipated side effect, some troops have been using the AIP extension to stay in South Korea and avoid moving to a stateside unit bound for Iraq, soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division told a Stripes reporter in Baghdad in January.

The unit was located in South Korea but moved to Fort Carson, Colo., early in 2006.

The AIP bonus has even been nicknamed “the avoid Iraq program,” soldiers in South Korea have told Stripes reporters there.

The new policy, while extending AIP through December 2008, also requires soldiers who have not done a deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan to apply for AIP at least 120 days before leaving for their next duty station outside of Souuth Korea.

The previous rules let soldiers apply for AIP 90 days before their official reassignment date.

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