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Combat, hardship pays remain for U.S. troops

WASHINGTON — The change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn does not affect the pays and entitlements troops serving in Iraq receive, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Sept. 1.

Servicemembers deployed to Iraq will still receive hostile fire/imminent danger pay, hardship-duty pay and incidental expenses. Some servicemembers will qualify for family separation allowances. Also, all pay for warrant officers and enlisted members is tax exempt, while officers are exempt from taxes for up to $7,611.30 each month they serve in a designated combat zone.

“These pays compensate a member for the arduous conditions and additional burdens and dangers associated with being deployed to a combat zone,” said Eileen Lainez, the Defense Department spokesperson for military personnel policy, diversity management and equal opportunity and readiness.

For some troops, the additional pay could mean as much as $680 a month, not including tax exemptions, while deployed to a combat zone.

Troop levels in Iraq peaked at nearly 170,000 in 2007 during the height of the troop surge. Today combat operations there officially Sept. 1. Fewer than 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2011, to serve in an advise and assist role for Iraqi security forces.

Troop levels do not affect these special pays, Lainez said.

“Additional entitlements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait or other countries in the Arabian Peninsula designated as combat zones, or direct support areas, are not tied to troop levels,” she said. “Rather, the additional entitlements members receive are based upon a location’s designation as a combat zone or direct support area.”

The president deems what is and is not a combat zone, through executive orders.

Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula were deemed combat zones in January 1991.

Afghanistan received the same designation Sept. 19, 2001.