Troops in South Korea have new tour option
April 12, 2009
SEOUL — Troops in much of South Korea will be able to serve two-year accompanied tours, offering them another option under a new policy that will let more servicemembers bring their families to South Korea, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp announced last week.
When Sharp announced the tour normalization policy in December, he said troops in northern South Korea, also known as Area 1, would be able to get three-year, command-sponsored tours but did not extend the two-year option to them.
However, under a revised Joint Federal Travel Regulation approved by the Department of Defense on March 2, troops in Pyeongtaek, Osan, Daegu, Chinhae and Seoul can now apply for two- or three-year command-sponsored tours.
Under the tour normalization policy, about half of the 28,500 servicemembers in South Korea eventually will be allowed to bring their families with them.
The policy change in December followed several years of lobbying by Sharp and previous USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell, who said that one-year unaccompanied tours were outdated and that South Korea was safe for families.
USFK did not explain why more troops are now being offered the two-year option.
Nor did the command respond to questions about the future of the Assignment Incentive Pay program on the peninsula after Sharp posted a message onUSFK’s Web site last week.
In that message, Sharp said soldiers and airmen in three-year accompanied billets outside Area I and troops inside Area I with two-year accompanied billets would be eligible for $300 per month through AIP.
His message did not address whether other troops on the peninsula would be eligible for the incentive, including unaccompanied troops as well those with two-year accompanied billets outside Area I.
Traditionally, the AIP program has offered soldiers an extra $300 a month to stay in South Korea for an extra year, and $400 a month to stay for an extra two years.
The program was intended to save money and reduce disruptions caused by the rapid turnover of personnel, most of whom are stationed on the peninsula on one-year, unaccompanied tours.