Air Force personnel in North Dakota to receive cold-weather bonus

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Apr. 2—GRAND FORKS — Servicemembers based in harsh cold-weather climates — including bases in North Dakota — will be getting a bonus in their pay.

Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven made the announcement to North Dakota media.

In his announcement, Cramer noted the rigors of North Dakota winters. Three installations — Grand Forks Air Force Base, Cavalier Space Force Station and Minot Air Force Base — are located in North Dakota.

"Well, we North Dakotans know dealing with our winters is not a joke. We need snowblowers to clear our driveways and we have to have emergency supplies in our vehicles in case we get caught in a blizzard, and most of us try to avoid that, obviously," Cramer said in a statement. "This announcement from the Air Force really follows through on our intent to make sure our airmen and guardians, who serve in places like Minot, Grand Forks and Cavalier, are properly compensated for the significant added winter expenses."

In March,

the Herald reported

that "a cold-weather pay bonus for military personnel stationed in frigid climates promised in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act has yet to reach Grand Forks airmen's bank accounts."

Cramer and Hoeven, North Dakota's two Republican senators, were at the time imploring the Air Force to expedite the payments. The additional pay is for heavy winter gear, snow tires, snow blowers, engine block heaters and other things that aren't required in most other military base locations.

Hoeven and Cramer signed a March 5 letter — along with Alaska Republicans Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski — outlining the needs of cold-climate military servicemembers and urged the secretary of the Air Force to get those payments into the hands of those serving in North Dakota, Montana and Alaska.

The pay ranges vary, depending upon the typical temperatures that exist in a particular region. For those stationed in Minot and Grand Forks, for instance, the lump-sum pay is $1,000 for those without dependents and $2,000 with dependents.

"This financial burden is unique to the north and has second- and third-order effects beyond a service member's bank account," the letter noted. "Should an airman or guardian feel financially unable to appropriately equip themselves or their families for a healthy lifestyle outside of work and during the winter season, they are likely to favor more sedentary activities indoors, which can lead to increased depression and suicidal ideations. Providing additional funds for our airmen and guardians in cold-weather locations — installations that the department directed they be assigned — is not likely to solve the department's suicide problem, but it will assuredly help."

The special-duty pay was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, but was delayed, possibly through simple military bureaucracy.

"For whatever reason — and I don't know why it would be so difficult — but it just is," Cramer told the Herald in March. "I'm not making an excuse for them. I'll wait to hear from them exactly why. But my guess is it's just some bureaucratic hangup. And so we just want to encourage them along."

Now, according to Cramer's media release this week, the Air Force is expected to implement the "assignment incentive pay" on July 1.

"Congress authorized this special pay to help our servicemembers and their families shoulder financial burdens unique to living in colder temperatures, including winter clothes and snow tires," Hoeven said in his statement. "We've been pressing the Air Force to provide this cold weather pay and will continue working to ensure that the Air Force implements this policy in a way that meets the needs of those serving our country at bases in Minot, Grand Forks and Cavalier."