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Dec. 27, 2018 / 3:28 PM GMT
By Jane C. Timm
President Donald Trump told American troops in Iraq that he gave them a 10 percent raise, and that it was their first pay hike in a decade — but he didn’t, and it wasn’t.
“You just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received,” Trump said in remarks at the Al Asad Air Base during his surprise trip to Iraq on Wednesday, drawing cheers from the troops. “You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.”
Troops will receive a 2.6 percent — not 10 percent — pay hike for 2019; they got a 2.4 percent pay hike in 2018.
Military pay raises are tied to increases private-sector wages, as calculated by the Department of Labor. Congress can also enact raises that exceed that rate, as well.
Trump insisted that he personally had fought for this raise, because the troops put their lives on the line.
“They said, ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it three percent. We could make it two percent. We could make it four percent.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent,'” Trump told the troops. “It’s been more than 10 years. That’s a long time. And, you know, you really put yourselves out there, and you put your lives out there. So congratulations.”
The remarks came during the president’s first trip to troops stationed in combat zone, days after he announced he’d withdraw the U.S. from foreign wars in Syria and Afghanistan.
“No force in history has done more for the cause of justice and peace,” Trump told the service members. “We are always going to protect you. And you just saw that because you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received.”
Basic pay for active duty soldiers ranged from $19,659 to $38,059 this year, based on experience level and rank.