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HEIDELBERG, Germany — An Army plan to pay extra cash to combat engineers working with demolition will not include troops who did much of the explosives work last year in Iraq.

The $150 monthly incentive, known to troops as “demo pay,” was approved Feb. 9, and is effective Nov. 3, 2003, Army officials said.

That was when Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, the Army’s senior engineer, asked the Army to create an exception to policy to expand the pool of those eligible for the extra pay.

Normally, ordnance troops tasked with explosives disposal are the only soldiers allowed the bonus, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Frank Childress. Flowers requested that combat engineers working with explosives in Afghanistan and Iraq also get the money, Childress said.

“It makes me feel good that the Army is giving the same incentives to engineers who put themselves in harm’s way,” said Col. Gregg Martin, commander of the 130th Engineer Brigade. He oversaw most of the combat engineers during the first year of the Iraq war.

“These troops are facing the same dangers and hazardous missions as the ordinance soldiers.”

During the early stages of the war, troops on the ground in Iraq were faced with a mountain of enemy ammunition to destroy. Sappers, engineers trained in explosives, were called upon to help explosive ordnance disposal troops, Martin said.

“The EOD soldiers were phenomenal,” Martin said. “But there was so much ammunition to dispose of, and not enough soldiers to make it happen.”

Since September, much of the large explosives demolition work has been carried out by civilian contractors.

In early January, Flowers announced his request to Army engineers while in Baghdad. He also requested the Army approve a sapper tab for their uniform, identifying engineers who complete elite engineer training during a month-long course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The red and white patch would be worn above the soldier’s unit patch, Flowers said, similar to what Army Rangers and Special Forces wear.

“It’s important that soldiers know that we’re looking out for their welfare,” Flowers told Stars and Stripes during that trip to Iraq. “Anything to improve morale.”

But many sappers who are worthy of the monthly bonus won’t see an extra dime because their demolition work predates Flowers’ November request.

Fiscal law prohibits paying troops for previous months, Childress said. He could not say how many troops are eligible.

During the past year, 1st Lt. P.J. Inskeep led the 94th Engineer Detachment, elite divers who set underwater demolitions.

“These soldiers have a skill which places their lives in a little more danger than the average soldier,” Inskeep said. “It is an additional skill such as being airborne or a diver.”

While Inskeep won’t get back pay for using demolitions early on in the war, he’s not upset.

“That would be like my medic asking for back pay when he treated a soldier who was injured by a [rocket-propelled grenade],” Inskeep said. “We did our jobs.”


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