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ARLINGTON, Va. — All soldiers serving the new 15-month tours in Central Command will still receive the Army’s $1,000-per-month extension bonus for serving more than a year in theater, according to Pentagon officials.

The new 15-month rotations, announced Wednesday, are effective immediately for all active-duty units already in Central Command, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, the Horn of Africa, and a number of other African and Middle East nations.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said all those that deploy in the future also will serve 15-month tours.

But the Pentagon still will give all extended troops the same $1,000 per-month extension bonus it promised under the 12-month rotation, meaning soldiers serving all 15 months will see an extra $3,000 in compensation.

According to Army policy, the extension bonus kicks in on the first day of the month, so soldiers who spend even one day past the 12-month requirement will receive the $1,000 payout.

Like all bonuses troops earn in combat zones, the extension bonus is tax-free. Total, soldiers serving in their 13th month in theater will receive $1,780 in tax-free bonuses, up from the $780 they receive monthly for the first year.

Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, deputy chief of staff for the Army, said officials have not ruled out additional bonuses to compensate troops for the extra time in theater.

Army officials said they signed off on the longer tours after it became apparent to them that time at home for rest and training would need to be cut to support the current level of operations overseas.

The extension policy doesn’t change rotation length for the Army’s National Guard and Reserve, Marines, airmen, or sailors, according to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marines currently serve seven-month tours in combat zones. Pace said the Marine rotations actually work out about the same as the new Army policy, on a month-per-month comparison:

“The Army will up to 15 months overseas, 12 months back, so they’ll be deployed 15 months out of 27,” he said. “[The Marines] will stay with what they have, which is seven over, six back, seven over, six back. So they’ll have 14 out of 26 (months).”

Two Army units in CENTCOM already have been extended in 2007, Gates noted, and will not be affected by the new policy.

The first, 3,200 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, had their yearlong Afghanistan tour extended by 120 days in January.

The other unit, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division, found out their yearlong Iraq tour was being extended by an additional 126 days on Jan. 16. But those troops would not have been covered by the new policy anyway, since they are part of the Army’s reserve component.

Reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this story.

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