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ARMY RE-ENLISTMENTS SURPASSING TARGETS

A GAO study will evaluate an incentive program and its costs and effectiveness.

Joshua Love, a 21-year-old Army scout from Centerville, Ohio, who is eight months into his first tour in Iraq, re-enlisted this week for six years.

"I'm married. It's a good thing for family," he said. "I like the job. I love what I do."

Love received a $13,500 bonus, which is tax-free because he is deployed outside the United States. He called it "a perk."

Despite virtual guarantees of future deployments in Iraq, soldiers are re-enlisting at rates that exceed war planners' goals. Retaining enlisted soldiers and grooming noncommissioned officers are crucial to maintaining troop strength as the war grinds toward its sixth year.

Last year, 70,000 troops re-enlisted in the Army, 12.2 percent above the retention goal. In 2006, there were 67,300 re-enlistments, 4.8 percent above the target.

Beyond the devotion to service, troops have been attracted by incentive packages.

More than 16,000 Army captains are eligible for a $25,000 bonus if they re-enlist. Officers with critical skills, such as the use of armor or ordnance, may receive up to $30,000 bonuses. Certain types of intelligence officers qualify for re-enlistment bonuses of up to $50,000.

The House Armed Services Committee has asked the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office to review the incentives to find how well the money is being used and how long the Pentagon can keep it up.

The GAO looked at the issue three years ago and found the Army was having trouble retaining many of the special skills needed to conduct counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions.

The GAO's current study, she said, is aimed in part at determining whether those shortcomings have been addressed.

FAST FACTS

The latest

- Three neighborhood security guards were killed and two others injured when U.S. attack helicopters fired at their checkpoint south of Baghdad early Friday, Iraqi police said. It was the latest in a series of reports about errant strikes that have stoked tensions between the citizen security groups in central and northern Iraq, and their American backers. Sheik Mohammed Ghuriari, who heads the so-called Awakening Councils in the north of Babil province, said it was the third U.S.-led strike on their checkpoints in two months. He said 19 people had been killed and 14 injured.

- Iraq's prime minister said Friday that U.S. and Iraqi troops have chased al-Qaida in Iraq out of Baghdad in the year since a security crackdown began, and he promised to pursue insurgents who have fled northward. Underscoring the rising violence in northern Iraq, a double suicide bombing targeted Shiite worshipers as they left weekly prayer services in the city of Tal Afar, killing at least four, officials said.

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