WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three years ago, members of the 34th Infantry Division of Minnesota’s Army National Guard were asked by their country to stay in Iraq as part of a troop surge designed to secure the fragile nation.
Less than two weeks ago, Reps. John Kline and Tim Walz (both retired service members) took aim at Pentagon commanders over the estimated $10 million in overtime pay from that operation that the Red Bulls (as the 34th is known) still have yet to receive.
“I will tell you this is a gigantic issue in Minnesota,” Kline told top Pentagon brass in a Feb. 3 hearing. “They’ve been deployed multiple times. Some of them are just now coming back, the Red Bulls from Iraq. Right now, some of them are expected to be deployed in 2011, and they’ve been told now for years that they have this money coming to them and nothing is there.”
But while the check isn’t yet in the mail, it may be soon.
In a memo (PDF) issued Friday, the Pentagon authorized the payment of the Post-Deployment Mobilization Respite Absence funds.
The memo contains no specific date of payment, though it is written “effective immediately.” An “execution plan” must be drafted by the end of the week, and one assumes the funds will be dispersed by the memo’s late-October expiration date. It was authored by Karl F. Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
The action is expected to affect about 22,000 troops, including 2,500 Red Bulls.
“This latest action by the Army is a significant step towards our Red Bulls finally receiving the full benefits they deserve,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement. “I will continue to push Army and National Guard Bureau officials to ensure that these benefits are paid out as quickly as possible and this issue is put to rest once and for all.”
Update: Walz has a call scheduled for Tuesday with the National Guard Bureau to “discuss the next steps to ensuring Minnesota soldiers get their checks as quickly and efficiently as possible,” according to a statement released by his office late today.
“This is wonderful news for the men and women who have served our country so bravely,” Walz said. “I want to thank the Department of Defense for taking the necessary steps this past week to correct this injustice and get this soldiers and their families the payments they were promised.”