By AMY LORENTZEN
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 22, 2007; 8:43 PM
DES MOINES, Iowa -- U.S. troops on peacekeeping missions in Kosovo won't have their pay cut, the Pentagon said Thursday, ending weeks of speculation officials were considering such a move.
The loss of imminent-danger pay and other benefits would have cost soldiers hundreds of dollars each month.
Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin, a Department of Defense spokesman, said imminent-danger pay and other benefits given to troops are reviewed every year. He confirmed the benefits would not be cut but would not comment beyond that.
About 1,700 U.S. troops _ active duty, Guard and Reserve from around the country _ are deployed to Kosovo, with most serving as part of the NATO peacekeeping force. Many have made several deployments overseas.
Word that the military might cut pay and benefits had prompted complaints from troops and some members of Congress.
In a letter earlier this month to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 18 members of Congress pressured him not to reclassify Kosovo as a noncombat mission. Troops there "operate in a region with an unstable government and outbreaks of violent lawlessness," the lawmakers said in the letter.
Master Sgt. Duff McFadden of the Iowa Army National Guard, who returned from Kosovo in 2006, said the area remains dangerous, with occasional shootings, bombings and many mines still buried in fields.
"While it's mostly peaceful, there's still an underlying tension," McFadden said.
He said troops get an extra $225 per month in imminent-danger pay, and their earnings while they are deployed to a combat zone aren't taxed by the federal government. Soldiers also receive government-paid flights home for leave.
"It's a hardship on the families," McFadden said.
"You are gone for a year, some people in certain jobs, they are looking at a big drop in pay depending on what they do."
Associated Press Writer James Beltran contributed to this report.