CAMP ADDER, Iraq (Army News Service, March 13, 2007) - A Minnesota Army National Guard unit surpassed $15 million in reenlistment bonuses awarded to Soldiers in the unit who have extended their military obligations since deploying here less than a year ago.

More than 1,100 Soldiers in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division have reenlisted since the unit arrived in Iraq last April, some of them even taking the oath within a few days of reaching their stopover in Kuwait the month before, according to Sgt. 1st Class John McCann, 1/34th's brigade retention NCO.

"It's awesome because it shows we still have people who want to stay in the National Guard even though we got extended and we're in the middle of a war," said McCann. "It's pretty patriotic."

Soldiers who reenlist while in a deployed area receive tax-free bonuses of varying amounts, depending on how many years they commit to, said McCann. Those who reenlisted for three years were awarded $7,500, while six-year commitments garnered $15,000, he said. Additionally, the state of Minnesota gave Soldiers who reside there and have between six and 12 years service an extra $3,000 or $5,000 for extending their enlistment by three or six years, respectively.

Despite reaching the $15 million milestone, McCann said he believed the majority of Soldiers who made the choice to extend their military service did not do so for financial reasons.

"It means they believe in service to their country," said McCann. "They understand the money is out there, but they keep reenlisting because they really enjoy doing what they do. This is what they joined for."

The $15 million mark was surpassed during the week of Feb. 19 when five Soldiers reenlisted in five days: Spcs. Dustin Hunter and Tyler Klotz, 259th Forward Support Company; Spc. Travis Miens and Sgt. Greta Weiss, 1/34th Brigade Support Battalion; and Sgt. Sao Xiong, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery.

The 1,100 reenlistees committed a total of more than 4,700 years of additional military service, which is an average of about four years per Soldier, McCann said.