Air Force offers new bonuses to entice troops to move to cold bases

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The Air Force is offering airmen and guardians a new incentive to warm them up to the idea of taking on assignments at some of the chilliest bases in the United States: more money.

Effective April 1, airmen and guardians who agree to yearlong tours at one of seven bases where temperatures often drop to -20 degrees or colder are eligible to receive a one-time, lump-sum bonus ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. The incentive pay, available to all regardless of rank or position, runs through Dec. 31, 2026, and is subject to change, according to a March 29 memo.

Eligible locations include Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases and Cavalier Space Force Base, North Dakota; Eielson AFB, Clear Space Force Station, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Malmstrom AFB, Montana.

The payment is meant to ease the financial burden of buying cold-weather essentials, including clothing and snow tires, and help the Air Force entice personnel to serve in places that can be hard to staff because of their weather.

According to the Air Force, troops at Minot, Grand Forks, Malmstrom, Cavalier and JBER, where temperatures can drop below -29 degrees, may receive $2,000 if they have dependents or $1,000 if they do not. Those at Eielson and Clear, which can reach a teeth-rattling -49 degrees, can nab $2,000 without dependents. Those with dependents at Eielson can earn $4,000; tours at Clear are unaccompanied assignments.

“Airmen and guardians living in extremely cold conditions [face] unique out-of-pocket costs,” said Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. “In addition to the assignment and retention benefits of the pay, it also comes down to making sure we do our best to take care of our service members and their families stationed at these critical installations.”

The first bonuses will be paid out July 1.

“We want to ensure airmen, guardians and their families have the resources needed to safely live and work in an extreme cold-weather environment,” Wagner said.

Air Force spokesperson Master Sgt. Deana Heitzman told Air Force Times that the service is also considering cold-weather incentives for foreign assignments as well. Those options are still in the works.

Courtney Mabeus-Brown is the senior reporter at Air Force Times. She is an award-winning journalist who previously covered the military for Navy Times and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and more.

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