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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Is it possible airmen might not get paid due to the rising costs of the war?

That’s what many airmen have wanted to know since the Pentagon requested to divert $1.6 billion from the Navy and Air Force personnel accounts to the Army.

The Air Force has sent conflicting answers in the past three weeks. Last month, the Air Force hinted in a statement sent to Stars and Stripes that it was possible such a move could affect airmen’s paychecks.

On Monday, an Air Force spokeswoman said that would “never” happen. A day later, Maj. Morshe Araujo said she made a mistake and such a scenario could happen if the money is not returned.

However, the Air Force is optimistic about the money being restored.

“I misspoke,” said Araujo, a public affairs officer in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “If the money is not returned or restored, there is a possibility.”

Some might argue that servicemembers are underpaid, but it is not believed there has ever been a time in modern history that troops have not paid, especially while the country is at war.

Chet Curtis, director of Policy and Communications for the Air Force Association, said he couldn’t recall off the top of his head whether such a thing has ever happened.

The association, an independent nonprofit Air Force advocate group, is calling upon its members to contact the Bush administration and members of Congress and urge them to boost funding for the Air Force.

The association put out an “Action Alert” on its Web site under the headline: Air Force Funding Critical.

Although the Air Force is confident Congress will pass a supplemental bill and restore the funding to the personnel accounts, the service said on Tuesday it needs the money to pay their people.

Many airmen in England were reluctant Tuesday to discuss the possibility of their pay being affected by the budget issues in Washington.

One airman said there are plenty of areas the Air Force could cut before impacting an airman’s paycheck.

“They just spend some money on dumb things,” he said.

Another airman said a pay cut would be make matters worse for those stationed in England, where the steep exchange rates is currently about two dollars to the pound.

“We’d be in trouble,” he said. “It’s already too expensive here.”

Stripes reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this story.

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