For years, sitting U.S. Presidents have shared the tradition of visiting military members around the holidays in order to boost morale. Former President Barack Obama visited the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii throughout his two terms, former President George W. Bush visited injured troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 to 2008 and President Donald Trump visited Walter Reed in 2017.
After speculation that he might break the tradition in 2018, Trump made a secret trip to visit with military members at the Al-Asad Air base in Iraq on Wednesday. But while addressing troops, Trump shared some inaccurate details about the raises they have been offered under his administration.
“You protect us. We are always going to protect you. And you just saw that, because you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received,” he said. “You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.”
However, figures from the Department of Defense indicate military personnel have received at least a 1% raise each year since 2007, adjusted to resemble pay increases in the private sector.
Trump also suggested the sizes of the raises secured under his Administration have been larger than they actually were.
“They said: ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3%. We could make it 2%. We could make it 4%.’ I said: ‘No. Make it 10%. Make it more than 10%.’”
But recent raises are nowhere near 10%. In fact, the increase in 2018 was just 2.4%, according to the Department of Defense figures. In 2019, it will be 2.6%, thanks to the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made this inaccurate claim.
“We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase. First time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get, but you never had a chance of losing,” he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy in May, according to the Associated Press.
Although the raises offered under Trump’s administration are higher than those from 2011 through 2016 — which averaged at 1.3% per year — neither 2018’s or 2019’s represent the highest in the last decade.
Troops received a 3.9% boost in 2009.