New bill would increase combat pay

Senior Airman Christy Weidenbach

Alisa Boswell

By Alisa Boswell

Cannon Connections

California Rep. Jerry McNerney is pushing for an increase in hazardous duty pay, hostile fire pay and family separation allowance for military members after visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Combat Act of 2011 would increase hazardous duty pay and family separation allowance by $35 a month and hostile fire pay by $10 a month.

The bill is in the first step of the legislative process, having been referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel by the House Committee on Armed Services on March 18.

Some Cannon Air Force Base military members and spouses shared their experiences with hazardous conditions and what it’s like to be separated from their spouses.

Senior Airman Christy Weidenbach has been on a tour to Iraq and her husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Weidenbach, is currently deployed there.

“It is very difficult being away from him,” Weidenbach said of her separation from her husband. “When I was over there, I missed him a lot, but it’s even harder when you’re the one at home, waiting on the other one.”

Weidenbach said she had an amazing experience in Iraq, but there were definitely intimidating aspects to her deployment.

“It was a bit scary,” Weidenbach said. “It is a country at war. There were a couple of times when we heard a couple of mortars go off really close to where we were.”

She said she works for the finance department on base and has heard many financial struggles from other families.

“Through conversations with people, I heard that things are hard on families with one parent gone,” Weidenbach said. “People would tell me you have to transport kids here and there and just cope with only having one parent.”

Weidenbach said she thinks an increase in hazard pay and separation allowance could be beneficial to military members and their families.

Yahaira Marugg, wife of Staff Sgt. Joshua Marugg, is currently raising her 5-year-old daughter while preparing to deliver another one while her husband is in Iraq for six months.

“One thing that really gets me right now, because I am a single parent, is gas prices,” Marugg said. “I’m the only one who takes my daughter to and from school and it takes a lot of gas and I have no help. My husband and I used to take turns or we could wait until he got off work.”

She said her husband has been gone since the beginning of December and will not return until June, causing him to miss the birth of their new daughter at the end of May.

Marugg said she likes the idea of family separation allowance and hazard pay increasing, because the prices of groceries, gas and more are increasing while pay isn’t.

“I think it would be great,” she said. “I think any help that military members and spouses can get would be great, because you’re on your own. We don’t qualify for WIC or anything, so we don’t get any type of assistance, so every little bit would help. Everything comes out of our paychecks. I don’t regret him being in the military for a minute, but it is getting harder and harder to afford things.”