Incentive program to extend tours may change
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Army officials are considering changes to an incentive program that rewards soldiers who extend their tours in South Korea, the senior enlisted soldier said Wednesday during a monthly American Forces Network radio call-in program.
While “nothing is in print” yet, U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler said he suspects modifications to the Assignment Incentive Pay program are on the way. The program pays soldiers $300 extra per month if they extend for a year and $400 extra a month if they extend for two years.
One thought is that soldiers who haven’t deployed could be prevented from taking the 24-month extension option, Wheeler said.
“If you haven’t been on a deployment, it could be that you’re limited to (one additional) 12-month tour” in South Korea, he said. He said he couldn’t provide full details Wednesday because guessing a “final outcome would be pure speculation.”
The program was instituted in March 2004 as a way to “promote stability, predictability and improved readiness in Korea while reducing personnel turbulence Army-wide,” according to an Army news release announcing the program.
The program has been hugely successful, Wheeler said, and has allowed soldiers to find stability in this time of “back-to-back-to-back deployments.” He said recent initiatives — including the U.S. military’s announced plans to increase the number of troops sent to Iraq — will drive some changes.
Wheeler answered questions about other issues during the one-hour call-in show. These included: