Kosovo troops relieved they will keep danger pay
Troops in Kosovo were relieved to hear they get to keep their imminent-danger pay and other benefits after speculation that the Defense Department was considering cutting the extra allowances.
About 1,500 National Guardsmen and reservists at Camp Bondsteel began serving a one-year rotation in December, and they stood to lose hundreds of dollars per month if their status were altered.
“I was worried,” said Sgt. Marcos DeJesus of the 125th Military Police Company, Puerto Rico Army National Guard. “It’s a situation where you come over here and try to maintain financial stability for your family back home.”
DeJesus, a married father of five, said he would have lost between $600 and $800 per month.
The benefits include a set monthly amount for being in potential danger, plus tax-exempt status while deployed and two weeks of rest-and-recuperation leave with a paid-for plane ticket.
The thought of losing the benefits scared DeJesus.
“It makes you think of a lot of things,” said DeJesus, who makes more while deployed than he does as a police officer in Puerto Rico.
“You’re away from your family and trying to do what you need to move up in life. It’s a great opportunity to make some money here, and to serve your country, of course.”
The 1,500 troops, along with several hundred Ukrainian, Polish and Greek troops, make up Multinational Task Force East, one of five task forces that constitute Kosovo Forces 8, NATO’s peacekeeping deployment to the embattled former Yugoslavia.
The troops’ duties include going on patrols and checking with locals to make sure all is calm, as well as performing an occasional raid when tipped off to situations such as possible weapons caches.
Explosives ordnance disposal, civil affairs, engineering and medical troops are among those who work in the region, which is part of Serbia but is vying for its own statehood.
The last major flare-up in Kosovo was in March 2004, when more than 20 people were killed and hundreds injured in fighting between Serbs and Albanians. But those who are deployed there don’t take their safety for granted, according to 1st Lt. Mikhaela Campo.
“Any time when you are out of your home station and deployed overseas, and when you carry a weapon every day, there’s always a chance for some type of security threat,” said Campo, of the Virginia Army National Guard.