In a question-and-answer session with about 175 soldiers at Baghdad's Camp Liberty, one asked about the impact of the looming shutdown.
"First of all, you will get paid," Gates said, joking that it's wise for governments "to always pay the guys with guns first."
But he added that a shutdown would mean that military personnel would get partial paychecks for the first half of April. If a shutdown extended into the second half of April, paychecks would stop coming until the federal government resumed normal operations. Any missed pay would be reimbursed at that time.
Gates said an interruption would hurt military families, many of whom now live paycheck to paycheck. "I hope this thing doesn't happen," he said.