Air Force to extend hazard pay for special operations personnel
By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 22, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Air Force will extend hazard duty incentive payments to special operators even when those airmen are not on the battlefield, the service announced Thursday.
The increased pay is part of an effort to retain airmen in critical fields. Airmen who are eligible could see up to an additional $615 a month in their pay, said Col. Pat Ryder, an Air Force spokesman.
Under the previous rules, those special operators, including joint tactical air controllers and pararescue, lost hazard pay after an injury or a required rotation to a staff position removed them from combat deployment.
Special operations airmen have been continuously deployed during the last several years to direct overhead airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and provide combat rescue when needed.
“It’s a stressed career field,” said Maj. Bryan Lewis, an Air Force spokesman.
The payment extension, called the “Battlefield Airmen Incentive Pay,” will start as a pilot program in the fall and run for three years, Lewis said. It will affect up to 3,100 airmen in the following seven fields: combat controller, pararescue, tactical air control party, special operations – weather, combat rescue officer, special tactics officer and air liaison officer.
By extending the hazard pay, Ryder said the Air Force is trying to provide incentives to airmen with those specialized jobs to accept assignments with headquarters or as instructors, which would keep them in the service longer as the Air Force works to prevent further personnel shortages, such as it has experienced with pilots.
“These folks go through a lot of training to become qualified,” Lewis said. “This is a way to continue to honor that despite what position they are in.”