Story by MC3 Kevin Murphy
Photo by MC2 Walter Wayman

Sailors going to the 5th fleet area of operations can anticipate an increased operational tempo, hot weather, and greater danger, but they can also look forward to more money in their pockets.

Beginning September 15, Stennis Sailors are scheduled to receive Combat Zone Tax Exclusion Pay, and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay.

With tax exclusion pay, Sailors are exempt from paying taxes on their base pay and will also receive $225 a month in hostile fire imminent danger pay.

“The tax-free pay goes into effect as soon as we enter the fifth fleet,” said Personnel Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Scott Hitchcock, Administration department’s military pay customer service leading petty officer. “If we serve in a designated combat zone for at least one day, we are entitled to federal tax exclusion for the whole month. So we will get reimbursed the money we pay in federal taxes for September in our October paychecks.”

Each tax-free paycheck that a Sailor receives will not be averaged into their annual income when they file their tax returns. Hitchcock said this will put Sailors in a lower tax bracket and potentially give them the opportunity to receive a more lucrative tax return.

The tax exemption includes selective re-enlistment bonuses (SRB). Sailors who reenlist in the designated combat zone will not pay federal taxes for an SRB.

“For example, if a Sailor reenlists for a bonus of $40,000 and they receive $20,000 up front and the rest in allotments, they won’t pay taxes on any of it,” said Hitchcock. Even if they don’t receive the allotments until after we exit the combat danger zone.”

Some Sailors are excited about getting more money and are making plans on what to do with a little extra dough.

“The money we will receive is a blessing,” said Hitchcock. “It’s a great opportunity to save up a nice chunk of change. I am going to save my money and take my family on vacation when I get back to the states.”

“I am definitely going to save my money for a new car,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Sylvester Jones. “I think getting paid the extra money is important because there is a possibility we can get hurt in a danger zone, and it motivates Sailors to do their job more efficiently while they work under strenuous circumstances.”

The imminent danger pay is categorized under special pay on a Sailor’s leave and earning statement (LES).

Getting paid more money for being in the Arabian Gulf and operating in a danger zone is one way the government compensates Sailors for the sacrifice and service they give their country day in and day out.