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Oklahoma City ? Governor Brad Henry announced Wednesday that Oklahoma National Guard members who have been activated for Hurricane Katrina efforts will receive full federal pay and benefits for their work. In recent days, state officials had sought an enhanced compensation package for guard members and were informed today that the federal government had approved the request.

"Oklahoma National Guard members are performing heroic work in New Orleans and other hurricane-damaged areas," said Gov. Henry. "They?re putting their lives on the line to help others and should be appropriately compensated for their sacrifice. I?m pleased we were able to get them the pay grade they deserve.

"I personally want to thank Oklahoma?s congressional delegation, particularly Congressman Tom Cole and Congressman Dan Boren, for working closely with us to ensure our troops received this benefit."

According to the Oklahoma Military Department, the federal government has granted "Title 32" status to guard members serving in Katrina operations, a designation that allows them to receive federal pay and benefits. Benefits include such things as a housing allowance and a subsistence allowance for meals and related necessities. Soldiers who suffer injuries during their deployment are also eligible for federal benefits.

The designation will also result in the federal government funding guard salaries and issuing paychecks directly to Oklahoma Guard members, eliminating paperwork hurdles that may have slowed the payroll process. The pay order is retroactive to August 29, 2005.

According to military officials, the new designation can increase an individual guard member?s pay by as much as one-third, depending on such factors as rank and years of service.

Approximately 3,000 Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard members are assisting with hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast, providing security, medical, engineering and communication support.