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Army Offers Incentive Pay to Soldiers Who Choose ‘Challenging Assignment’ in Alaska

KUAC file photo

The Army has launched a program to pay soldiers a bonus to encourage them to transfer to Alaska, and to help them prepare for winter once they get here.

The Army has begun offering payments to soldiers of up to $4,000 for what’s called Remote and Austere Conditions Assignment Incentive Pay when they choose to be stationed at Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely or Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“We recognize the fact that when soldiers and their families come up and get to Alaska, (they) face unique and expensive challenges,” says U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell. The program is intended to help soldiers prepare for the rigors of life up here, he added.

“There’s the proposition of buying quality winter clothing for the entire family,” he said, “as well as getting your vehicle ready for an Alaskan winter – everything that you have to do to have a vehicle that will actually start when it’s 30, 40 below.”

It doesn’t often get that cold at JBER, which may partly be why soldiers who choose to be stationed there will only get a thousand dollars – or, if they bring family members, $2,000. Soldiers who choose to be stationed at Fort Wainwright or Fort Greely will get twice that amount -- $2,000 for a single soldier or $4,000 with family.

“The folks who come up here come in to a challenging assignment,” Pennell said, “and we want to take some of the pressure off, so that they can have the extra time and extra money to actually enjoy Alaska.”

A U.S. Army Alaska news release issued last week says the lump-sum incentive payment program was developed by a group of experts called the Alaska Quality of Life Task Force that traveled to the state in October to assess the situation.

USARAK oversees more than 11,000 soldiers, but Pennell couldn’t say offhand Monday how many of those soldiers will be eligible for the program. He said that's because USARAK is still looking for soldiers who’ve rotated in or out of Alaska as of Dec. 1, the eligibility cutoff date. He says Army officials expect the payments to increase this summer, when soldiers typically go to new installations where they’ll be serving their next tour of duty – a process called a permanent change of station, or PCS.

“You would probably not see any large number of soldiers receiving this until the June-July timeframe, however, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, permanent change of station moves have obviously been halted, for right now.”

Active-duty soldiers in good standing below the rank of colonel who come here from Outside or overseas may ask for the incentive pay if they agree to serve a tour for a prescribed length of time, such as 24 or 36 months, and meet other criteria.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.