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Iraq duty to bring Utahns extra pay

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DRAPER — Though they found out Wednesday that their service in Iraq will be extended for possibly 120 days, military members of the Utah-based 1457th Engineer Battalion will be entitled to an additional $1,000 per month.

The extra wage is being offered to those personnel who have been deployed for more than 12 months in Afghanistan or Iraq, including staging time spent in Kuwait, according to a news release from the Utah National Guard. The 1457th arrived in Kuwait in late April 2003, so the unit will receive the increased pay at the end of the month.

Additionally, Utah National Guard Family assistance centers statewide are poised to provide extra assistance to family members of the 1457th, the release stated. Each deployed unit is assigned a family assistance coordinator, who helps families with everything from pay problems to flat tires while their loved one is away. The offer is extended to any family of a deployed service member from any of the military branches.

"We understand this is a difficult time for many of the families and we stand ready to help them out in any way we can," said Master Sgt. Ron Linton, family programs coordinator for Utah. "Taking care of their families is a No. 1 concern of soldiers deployed overseas and we take that concern seriously."

Utah Gov. Olene Walker pledged Thursday to support the unit and its family members in Utah, saying they have her "heartfelt admiration" for making "great sacrifices in behalf of the Iraqi people." She also solicited all Utahns to "offer their support to the soldiers abroad and their loved ones here at home."

Currently, nearly 800 Utah National Guard soldiers and airmen are serving in Iraq, with another 500 Utah soldiers either in or on their to Afghanistan to support operations there.