More than 200 Australian soldiers who were transferred to Afghanistan have been promoted to grade five and given the chance to train overseas.
The Australian Defence Force said on Wednesday the promotion was part of a pilot scheme that has seen soldiers return home in a more flexible and efficient manner.
The scheme was launched to test a new approach to retention that the Australian Defence force is using to train Afghan soldiers.
“The retention bonuses will help our troops to reintegrate back into the Australian community,” the army said in a statement.
“It is important for the Australian public to know that their troops who have returned from Afghanistan will be able to retain their service and continue to be valued by our nation.”
This pilot will provide the opportunity for our men and women to return to the communities where they served, so that they can be the best part of Australia’s military.
“These bonus payments will help Australian troops retain their jobs and keep them safe and accountable for their service.”
The retention bonus program is designed to help soldiers stay in the Australian military for as long as possible.
The new bonuses will be paid out in the form of a cheque.
They are worth between $300 and $500 each and can be withdrawn at any time.
The first batch of soldiers who have arrived in Afghanistan were released from a US military base in Afghanistan on October 30.
Since then, another 1,000 soldiers have returned to the Australian base and have been placed on the Reserve list.
The retention program was rolled out by the army in January.
The soldiers will return to Australia at the end of March.
They have received the highest possible rank for each of the four years they have been deployed in Afghanistan, and they will be awarded a rank of grade five.
The Army said the incentive was aimed at ensuring soldiers returned home “could continue to provide the necessary quality assurance, training and equipment”.
The incentive program has seen a number of Australians return to their homes in the country, including former New Zealand prime minister John Key and former Defence Secretary Michael Howard.
In January, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
He said in an interview with Sky News that he did not think the bonus payments should be handed out, and that he was working to see how many of the soldiers were actually returning home.
“If it is too many, we have a duty to see if it is fair,” he said.
“I will take that as a very, very strong signal that there should be a review of the incentive payments.”
We will be working very closely with the Defence Department to find out what happened, whether there is something wrong with the incentive program, and I’m very disappointed that the Defence Minister has done that.