Pentagon Demands California soldiers repay $15K signing bonus

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Almost 10,000 soldiers with the California National Guard are being asked to return their $15,000 signing bonus they received when they re-enlisted for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan almost a decade ago.

The soldiers re-enlisted after the Guard offered them the signing bonus.

The guard did so because it was short of troops. But it turns out, the money was only supposed to go to soldiers with skills in high demand.

The Pentagon says it paid guardsmen who weren't qualified.

"No fault of my own, besides raising my hand and swearing the oath of the Constitution to protect and defend," said one soldier.

One soldier refinanced his home in Stockton to repay the money.

The Guard says it's legally bound to recover the $30 million it paid in bonuses.

Spokesman Capt. William Martin said Monday the Guard has been trying to inform those people that an appeals process is available.

Martin says "bad actors" working for the Guard misled soldiers with outsized bonuses.

He says they've been replaced with leaders trying to resolve problems.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress and in the California Legislature are decrying the policy and calling for federal action.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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