Minnesota National Guard soldiers who have gone three years without money owed them for their extended tours in Iraq are a step closer to getting paid, according to several Minnesota lawmakers in Washington.
At issue are payments worth an estimated $10 million to 2,500 Minnesota citizen soldiers who served overseas beyond their normal rotation from January to August, 2007.
It became the longest deployment of any unit in Iraq.
Along with other members of the Minnesota delegation, U.S. Reps. John Kline, a Republican, and Tim Walz, a Democrat, have been pressing the Pentagon and the White House in recent weeks to make good on the payments to the soldiers of the 34th Infantry, or “Red Bull” Division.
The payments, which have been held up by bureaucratic delays, are worth several thousand dollars to individual soldiers, a large percentage of whom face daunting job prospects at home.
On Monday, the lawmakers got word that the Assistant Secretary of the Army issued “guidance” to begin the processing of payments, though that doesn’t mean the checks are exactly in the mail yet.
Word seems to have gotten out to the Democrats on the Hill first, with Walz and Sen. Amy Klobuchar quickly issuing statements praising the Army’s decision.
A spokesman for Kline, who confronted Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a recent congressional hearing, said he expects more concrete answers by Wednesday.
In the meantime, all we know is that the slow wheels of the bureaucracy are moving along, however imperceptibly.