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Welcome to Part II of Our Overpaid Troops. Part I was published on Monday and addressed an issue recently raised in a diary well recommended by many Kossacks, that those who join the military do so in order to kill. As the wife of an Air Force Officer, I have strong disagreements with those that believe our military is solely a killing machine and that those who join are perpetuating a culture of war. You can read my thoughts on that topic here.

Two other diaries have recently made the Community Spotlight and claim that our military service members are overpaid. The writer purports to be an Active Duty Lieutenant Colonel who personally believes he makes too much money. My gut reaction wasn't very nice - that he is underworked, not overpaid. There are officers who manage to do very little and still find ways to get promoted. They rarely make it to Field Grade rank but as with any career field, we find exceptions.

My immediate reaction is somewhat unfair. I truly don't know the man nor do I know the officer. I have no idea if he supports a family or if his spouse, if he has one, has managed to maintain some semblance of a career as they have moved around. I don't even know if he's moved that often, if he's spent time away from family, if he's deployed to war. I don't know if he's in the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines. There is so much that I don't know that arguing with him is almost fruitless. If he thinks he makes too much, he obviously does. But I have a problem when he takes his personal experience and applies it to families like my own.

Most of you already know that I am the daughter of an Air Force Master Sergeant who retired after 21 years of service. What you might not know is that my Dad was very young when he and my mom started our family. He may have been a Buck Sergeant but from the stories my parents have told me, I always imagine him as an Airman First Class. Nevertheless, his pay was low and having a daughter this early in his career was expensive. I can remember my mom telling me about cashing a savings bond in order to buy my first pair of shoes.

This was back in the late Sixties. In the Seventies as we moved from overseas assignment to the States back to overseas again, my parents managed to raise three girls on a military salary. We never considered ourselves poor but I do remember being horribly embarrassed when the girl next door realized I was wearing one of her hand-me-down down coats. It was then, as a seventh grader, that I realized that my parents were scraping from the bottom of the barrel at times. We were middle class, but we were low middle class. We attended decent schools, we were well-fed, well-clothed, and we could go to the doctor when we needed to. These are things my Dad didn't always have growing up and he was able to provide them to us because he chose to join the military. Decent pay, great training, and the chance to leave home. That's why a lot of people join, even today.

I've met many a family that feel military life has been a saving grace - from the junior enlisted to the most senior officer. The reasons people join are varied. You can find folks like my husband who has always wanted to serve; it's a calling for him. And like people in other professions that feel called to duty, like teachers, it's very easy for us to take advantage of them. I've met families that join so that spouses or children can get health insurance that, before the ACA, was unavailable to them because they had pre-existing conditions. Some families join to get better access to higher education, whether it be that consistent salary that helps pay for classes or the GI Bill they know they are working towards. The reasons are many but never have I heard a family say they join in order to get rich.

Funny enough, our Lieutenant Colonel seems to think that's what is happening. Between the more than generous salary, the "free" health care, the "free" housing, and the bonus pay, military officers, at least, are getting rich. It's true that my husband is part of the 1% of the 1%. In military circles, he is rich. But that doesn't mean when he takes off his uniform and goes to downtown Washington DC that we can afford to hobnob with the 1% in our Nation's Capitol. Nor in San Francisco, New York City, Denver, Miami, or any other major city in the United States. Our salary gives us a comfortable life. We are very much middle class but I would even argue that we aren't upper middle class. We drive one car and it's a Toyota. It would be a Prius if we didn't live in a country with potholes the size of small cars. We live in a nice apartment with a view of a neighboring volcano. A year ago, we rented the top half of a semi-detached with no garage just north of Georgetown. The quality of our housing just depends on our location. In some places we feel rich (living overseas in South America) and in others not so much (Randolph AFB, TX and Beale AFB, CA stick out like sore thumbs). My kids have good quality computers but don't have cable TV. We make our choices, like most military families, and we budget enough so that we can afford nice vacations. Since my husband became a Field Grade officer, it means those vacations happen less often in tents. Does that give you a good picture of our life on a military salary?

If a Colonel's wife weighs decisions about money, imagine what an NCO's family might be doing to hold their own. Yes, the stories about food stamps for junior NCO families are true. It's complicated by the choice to have large families for some but not for all. Sometimes it really is a case of un-employment of a spouse, or of single parent serving (yes, they serve too), or of living in a location where the expenses are just too damn high and that military salary just can't cut it. You'll hear stories of young Airmen driving that expensive sports car around town because the banks were willing to give him a great loan. Sometimes our junior enlisted make poor choices but that doesn't mean they should be paid any less. Like the rest of us, they learn from their mistakes. And taking away salary only hurts those who are socking it away for the future or need every penny to pay for the diapers and the formula for the new baby. If I held that magic wand and could change salaries at will, it would be the junior enlisted I would want to help the most. I believe that a single salary should be able to support a young family - that one parent should be able to stay at home with young children. This is especially true with military families where the stresses of moving and deployment hit hardest for young children and having a single stay-at-home parent can make all the difference in the world. Granted, each family is different but being able to make that choice in the first place is tantamount. In no way, shape, or form would I ever argue that our junior enlisted are paid enough.

Today, the pay gap between civilian and military is a mere 2.9% because Congress has been working since the early 2000's to close a gap that was as high as 13.5% in the late 1990's. That gap has closed not only because Congress has raised salaries for military service members but because civilian salaries have fallen. If our government starts to cut salaries in order to keep some kind of equity, we only participate in a race to the bottom.

Let's face it, we want quality folks to join all of our Armed Services and that means offering competitive salaries that attract not only the potential active duty service member but their (future) families. I guess we could begin to imagine a military that was more like serving the Catholic Church, where we demand folks be celibate or, at the very least, remain single, so that our government didn't have to concern itself with spouses and children. But the military as it exists today attracts service members who want to get married and have families.

There was a very practical reason to get those salaries up to civilian levels: recruitment during war time. It's one thing to serve the military during times of peace which still comes with its own dangers and stressors, but it's completely different when you know you'll be facing war. I would argue that it is time we stopped using civilian pay as the measuring stick. When we do so, we make a false assumption that military jobs are like civilian jobs. They aren't.

Civilians chose their careers. Military are given careers. When my husband joined, he had hoped to become a Security Police Officer. He was told the Air Force needed him in Transportation. His degree was in Political Science. He served at the Air Force's will and it is only in his final years that he has been able to use his actual degree and advanced education. Rarely do officers end up in the careers of their choice. Junior enlisted find similar strictures - they may want to be a computer tech but their tests suggest they might be much better in languages. Everyone serves where the military needs them to serve, not necessarily where they want to serve.

Civilians can refuse to move if a company wants them to. Military move as the government orders. And, often, they move when least expected. A three year tour can very easily turn into a two year tour if the military wants you in a new location. Or perhaps you're told to stay longer when your family is ready to leave. On rare occasions, it is possible to request an exemption and if the needs of the service can still be met while meeting a service member's request, it may happen. It's not common. And then there are the times when a family is on the cusp of moving and the government tells you that plans have changed and the service member is needed in a different location. We learn to embrace the suck.

Civilians generally work 8 hour days. I do know that some careers demand more and that people in law firms or on Wall Street can work endless hours. But they tend recieve bonuses at the end of the year. Military work longer hours with no bonuses. If we began to tally the time to figure out a per hour salary, it is often laughable.

Civilians can quit with a few weeks notice, or perhaps even none at all. Military who leave service without permission are considered AWOL and when found, will be punished. Even a contract can be lengthened by the government in times of need. Do you remember the stop-loss stories of the early 2000's? People were wanting to get out but we needed certain people in certain professions to stay. They were legally obligated to remain in military service.

Civilians retain their civil rights. Military are prevented from certain free speech activities, even after retirement. Just standing in uniform at an event that can be deemed political can get a military service member in trouble. Posting politically volatile info on your Facebook page? Better not have your profile pic in uniform. And officers can never denigrate the President, no matter how much they feel the President needs to be called out. Even years after they retire. They are held to the standard of the UCMJ.

Most civilians can question authority. Obviously there are exceptions with whistleblower activity in the civil service. If a military service member chooses not to follow an order or see what they believe is an illegal order, he or she better be damn sure they want to speak up. And they can't just quit and then speak out. The lowest ranked private can be sent to prison for not following orders.

After 12 years of war, this next one seems obvious, but military folks can be deployed to a war zone. It was only recently that the State Department made it so that all of their Foreign Service Officers can be deployed as well. Otherwise, I know very few civilians who worry about being sent to war.

Military service is just plain old different from civilian employment. And yes, people today volunteer to serve. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't receive salary and compensation that shows our government and our citizens value their service and understand that serving is a form of sacrifice.

Of course, maybe you're a progressive who doesn't believe in military service at all. You hate the entire concept of the military and want it to be gone. Of course you want the compensation to be chipped away - you see it as a potential solution, a way to reduce recruitment and to make sure that those we retain are only the most desperate.

Our military already struggles with retaining progressive minds. It has always been easier to recruit from conservative states than from liberal ones. If you want to keep it that way, keep chipping away at benefits and compensation for our military. Retain the people who believe that there is some honor in serving a nation that believes our military service members don't deserve a salary that allows a dignified lifestyle.

If you do that, this is what you get to look forward to:

First - lower retention rates. Unless military pay is able to keep up with the costs of raising a family, people will not join or will resign as soon as able. Families are already struggling to make BAH cover the costs of rents in most locations, despite what our Lieutenant Colonel would like us to think. Our BAH in Washington DC didn't come near covering our rental home and that was on a Colonel's allowance. We purposefully chose a house that would not require a long commute. Cheaper rent further out would have only meant paying more money in transportation costs. It's a Catch 22 in many locations with military bases where the base itself is located as far as possible from civilian population centers. "Free" base housing no longer exists - privatized housing on military bases requires that the entire BAH be spent even if the quality of housing is not equivalent to what might be rented off-base. And as a Colonel's family, we can manage because his salary does allow some leeway. As a junior officer or as an NCO, not so much.

Second - service members with families either leaving service or getting divorces. Military families are already at maximum stress levels. One study shows that 90% of working military spouses are underemployed. CNN just released "The Uncounted" which attempts to tell the true cost of war and includes the number of military family members that have committed suicide. And when the wars are supposedly over, stress doesn't completely disappear for these families. Many of today's military families are waiting to find out if their early retirement papers will be accepted. Imagine telling your company that you were ready to leave on their terms and then having that company tell you that, wait, we need some of you stay so we won't let you leave until we figure this out. It's happening to hundreds of Air Force families as I write this. As the wars end, we still have assignments away from home, multiple moves, and work hours that are incredibly difficult in today's do more with less military.

Third - a decrease in officers and enlisted from higher economic backgrounds. When Congress decided to raise military salaries and bring them much closer to civilian salaries, we saw an increase in recruitment from higher income neighborhoods. As progressives, this should be seen as a positive as it means we as a nation are not attempting to take advantage of folks of lower economic means. A military that provides good benefits and salaries is able to recruit from all levels of our society, not just from the poorest.

Fourth - more difficulty recruiting quality officers and NCO's. If the salary gap once again increases in between military and civilian pay, then we will lose well-educated individuals who will chose to follow a civilian career path. We saw it happen in the 1980's and we will see it happen again.

Fourth - We will likely experience an increase in privatization. Privatization of our military has been happening for many years but cuts to benefits and salaries will speed up the process, not slow it down. Already we have mercenary forces serving in war zones doing jobs that can be contracted out. How much do we want to contract in the future? Are you ready for the next Blackwater to fight the next war? As much as we would like to think that we would make up our lack of recruitment through a draft (which would then make the populace angry which would lead Congress to not go to war in the first place), we won't. It is much too expensive to train non-volunteers and our Congress would turn to contracted individuals before they would ever turn to a draft. Fewer benefits and lower salaries for our military service members are a step in that direction.

I hope this information convinces at least a few civilians that cuts to military salaries and benefits is the wrong step for our government to take. As Congress is looking to trim the DoD budget, and rightly so, there are many places that we can afford to cut that won't harm military families. Instead of looking at increasing fees for Tricare or cutting allowances for housing, leadership needs to be making cuts that really make a difference. That means Congress will need to find some strength to tell defense contractors that we don't need another dozen Abrams Tanks nor do we need the F-35 to be nuclear capable. These are tough decisions for Congressmen that are desperate to keep jobs in their communities. But there are solutions that include bringing in sustainable employment that doesn't rely on the Military Industrial Complex. And if military families can see that, I believe Congress can as well.

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 07:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos, DKos Military Veterans, and DK VA Hospital Service Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think there is enough money in the world (12+ / 0-)

    to adequately compensate military families for all of the unnecessary stress put upon them. "Dwell time*" , important enough to be covered by law, was the first casualty of the Bush administration, and only now is being restored.

    According to Army Times, September 4, 2011:

    Army units that deploy starting next month should enjoy two years of dwell time when they come home. That's the Army's plan for its war-weary troops even as it transitions from 12-month deployments to nine-month tours, a senior Army planner said.
    Are we there yet? That depends on the needs of the Army. I do know that without dwell time, the chance that any given marriage among the military will succeed remains abysmal. How much money is that worth?

    Those who fought the war in Afghanistan won it. Get them out of Afghanistan NOW . . . It's long past time. The time has come to repair this country and care for its' veterans.

    by llbear on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 07:32:55 AM PDT

    •  Dwell time was a joke (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, llbear

      I retired before I could deploy under the new rules from the excerpt you posted. I did deploy several times prior to that. Dwell time for a unit is not the same as dwell time for a Soldier. Even at the worst of the back to back deployments, for the Army at least, the unit would get 12 months to reset and refit equipment. Individual Soldiers on the other hand got 6 months of dwell time. If you were slated to PCS upon redeployment you always checked the patch chart to see if the unit you were going to was going to be deployed right away.

      One of the side effects of the deployments being shortened to 9 months is no R&R (mid tour) leave from theater anymore. Reg's say you have to be deployed for 10 months to qualify for R&R. That was touted as a major money saver since the Army was supposed to fly you to the airport of your choice for leave. Basically a chartered flight from theater to either ATL of DFW, if you were taking leave stateside, and then a paid ticket to where ever you choose for leave. So no more paying for those not always full charters and no more essentially short notice round trip tickets all over the place meant money saved.

  •  Angie - I truly suspect more and more (13+ / 0-)

    some of these diaries posted denigrating the military are paid RW trolls. I really believe that.

    I have never met a person in the military that thought they were overpaid for what they did.

    Even my son, who went to Iraq twice, was outraged at what he saw - contractors, doing even less than the same work as his military comrades, being paid outrageously large salaries while he and his "overpaid" buddies made so with junior enlisted salaries. I think his "dangerous duty bonus" was a whopping hundred bucks a month. And he was living in a trailer surrounded by sandbags. And mortared on a regular basis.

    And then I see year after year, the bonuses our fat cat corporate overlords rake in and I am increasingly disgusted.

    Thanks once again for an eloquent rebuttal to the trolls.

    "one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress" -- John Adams

    by blue armadillo on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 08:46:13 AM PDT

    •  Blue, case in point (7+ / 0-)

      From a Politicians standpoint, Say Paul Ryan for example, He really has nothing to gain Monetarily from individuals in the Service, Now compare that to Honeywell, Northrop   That explains it all in a Nutshell, Who and What the priority is and Why.

    •  me too (9+ / 0-)

      my reaction wasn't that his facts and figures weren't accurate, but that he had a nasty agenda.

      I worked with PTSD vets from Vietnan through Faluga.  Vietnam was different, those guys had the 12 month tours, so their units would change monthly, new ones come in, old ones leave, but there were safe places to be and there were locals who could be trusted. They got drug addicted, some of them, came back alcoholic, some of them.  Marriages broke up, there were the suicides, and there were the anti-war protestors who spit on them and called them baby killers. They were not welcomed home.  They hid their service, and that was very hard on them, to have been through that, to have survived seeing others killed and maimed, and to be received at home as killers.  

      This time at least the public understood it was a sacrifice and that returning soldiers should be welcomed home, and learned to say 'thank you for your service,' even if it felt awkward to some.  This time the soldiers were on average older, and probably wiser, but there was no place safe in Iraq, not even mess hall, and no locals could be fully trusted, and the tours went on and on.

      So, when this guy decided to engage our liberal community in a 'discussion' about very generous or way too generous military compensation, by assuming we'd agree to equity with civilian jobs and that civilian jobs paid the correct amount,  and that our desire to have a smaller military meant we'd be glad to start considering reducing pay and benefits for military personnel, it seemed to me like a sneaker way of getting us on record for inconsistency, and thus prejudice against our men and women in uniform.

      Our position isn't that the private sector knows what to pay and so we don't need a minimum wage.  Our position isn't that the deficit is our biggest problem and we need to make cuts, for example in unemployment benefits.

      Already liberals usually don't sign up, which is the real reason there are more conservatives than liberals in the military. Now we must be on record saying that even though we wouldn't sign up,  and we wouldn't want our sons and daughters to either, we think those that do get paid more than plenty?  

      So, how does the solider who's done six tours in ten years, three in war zones, and whose wife divorced him, and who isn't allowed to see his kids, supposed to feel when he reads that DK liberals have been 'discussing' his pay and benefits and concluded he's paid too much?  Well, it's better than spitting on him and calling him a baby killer?

      Thank you AngelaJean.  And thank you for your sacrifice.  

      •  Thank you for helping our soldiers (4+ / 0-)

        Who are facing the worst crisis of all.

        •  break your heart (4+ / 0-)

          But I have to say it feels like an honor, not a sacrifice.  

          •  We have had many dark hours (6+ / 0-)

            But always had each other.  This should be our last deployment.  Lately when we talk about the future we would like to find a way to contribute to those who are doing what you do.  As we drawdown, your area is the crisis being ignored and it must be addressed.  You and all of us ponying up are what will prevent another Bush/CheneyCo from dividing our country in time of crisis again and carrying the injustice they did.  We have lessons to learn as a society, that even when attacked and in pain we must stay as clear headed as possible and understand we are susceptible to being exploited at that time.

            And we have already lost too many who made it home physically.

            •  I once met with (5+ / 0-)

              one of the wives who was part of what turned into wounded warriors.   When military spouses can't find paying jobs, they 'create' unpaid jobs that are pretty amazing.  

              It's like ex-waitresses who always tip, or poor people who always donate to charity, when you've been there, and you see it, you know what's important.  

              It's pretty uplifting too, those foolish super-rich people who think joy is having more than the next fellow really don't get it at all.  Life is way more interesting than that.

              We know a lot more about PTSD these days and the treatments are pretty effective.  We know more about brains and memories and how change happens (outside in, not inside out). It's a cool field, I think you'll like it.

            •  Tried to get NFTT to shift focus to the homefront (4+ / 0-)

              this year. Unfortunately, my argument wasn't very persuasive. Even people who really do care about the troops sometimes don't see the obvious.

              •  You do know a bit about non-profits though (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                angelajean, llbear

                Sooooo, your name has come up between the two of us.

                There really isn't enough good PTSD treatment being aggressively chased by the military in our opinion.  And after basic treatment there are different in house supervised workshops out there for the suffering to get even better reconnected in that seem very reasonably priced.  We have been sounding some things out.

                Sometimes I get very frustrated with the VA.  What if?  What if a non-profit supplied grants for treatments outside the VA?

                •  Good question. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Militarytracy, llbear

                  Is our time better spent getting the VA to properly treat PTSD in the first place or getting the grants?

                •  I'm one of those obnoxious loud-mouthed Vets (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Militarytracy, angelajean

                  who basically shoved the idea that PTS(D) was real and needed to be treated. PTS(D) profoundly affected every single one of more than 50 Vets with whom I've worked - and most had attempted suicide. All of them - without exception - found more relief through peer counseling than from spotty, erratic professional counseling.

                  I swear the best use of money devoted to treating Vets with severe PTS(D) is to take over small hospitals now-closed throughout the country exclusively for the purpose of providing a range of peer counseling treatments. Its' the only way the VA will ever be able to provide sufficient treatment for most of those in need.

                  Those who fought the war in Afghanistan won it. Get them out of Afghanistan NOW . . . It's long past time. The time has come to repair this country and care for its' veterans.

                  by llbear on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 09:31:56 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Vets need vets (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    Vets have a certain trust and dedication to each other, it is part of "what has happened to them".  They have developed deep bonds and trust in the face of death that most individuals will never have reason to reach.  It is a normal development and experience given what they have faced IMO, but the rest of us weren't there, we were not challenged to develop what they have.   They have muscles and strengths that the rest of us can't easily identify with.

      •  I love this: (5+ / 0-)
        Already liberals usually don't sign up, which is the real reason there are more conservatives than liberals in the military. Now we must be on record saying that even though we wouldn't sign up,  and we wouldn't want our sons and daughters to either, we think those that do get paid more than plenty?  
        I'm afraid we're having a little of an uphill battle. Two diaries about being paid too much on the Community Spotlight, one about the killers in the military on the Rec list and I can't get either of my responses on either of those lists. Honestly, it makes me a little worried which is what I think the whole point of those original diaries was intended to do... make me question whether or not liberal Kossacks really support the military community at all. Luckily I've been here long enough to know that progressives are strong supporters of the military community. We'll keep pounding away at this.
        •  he didn't get many rec's (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Militarytracy, llbear

          lots more comments, partly because of us and partly because some in our community see numbers as a sign of serious thinking and don't question motives.  You can't get to c if you don't start with a and go through b, but that requires logic.

          One person defended her right to question military pay because she pays taxes, and that's tea party talk, the 'we pay so we get a say.' One guy who claimed to be in the military thought i had no right to question bookends creds, because it had a  'ring of truth' to him.  What truth he didn't say.  

          Koch Bros have lots of money to spend and it's naive to think that there aren't paid bloggers who will try to exploit whatever they can.  This guy is supposedly in the military and an expert on pay, but he had to look at his "pay stub" to check if he paid into social security?  And we're still supposed to respect his claim to service and expertise?

          Someone at kos monitored his diaries, at least I think so, cause he or she welcomed a few new bloggers who defended bookends. I wanted it monitored, that's why I kept calling him a troll, but I had thought that the monitor would think about it a little more deeply. Thought about it all the way to community spotlight, although that could be the number of comments without many rec's, I don't know how diaries get there, don't know if there is a person behind a decision or it's an algorithm.

          Oh, well?   Glad I met you.  Glad I met a few others too.  You blogged some truth.  

  •  During my time in the Marines (8+ / 0-)

    I witnessed the hardship by those that were married. First off, Hats off to those who have managed to stay together!! It wasn't until I became an NCO that I really understood how my Jr. Enlisted Married struggled. Sending their Family "Home" because of Pre-Deployment deployments, That Cost's Money. The difficulty in being away, No phones for extended periods, No mail for Days or Weeks, Seeing them attempting to maintain a balance of some sort, The outcome usually wasn't a good one. Jr. Enlisted, Even SNCO's delivering pizzas for extra money, Borrowing money just to scrape by. Being single, I was like a Payday Loan Vendor every 2 weeks!! That was the Norm, But Logical thinking says that isn't Normal, Nor should it be considered Ok. What quality time can be spent with family, When one is delivering Pizzas or Working another Pt. time Job? From the Enlisted side of the equation, I don't know how some managed to do it, I really don't.

    •  My husband and I were just wondering about (6+ / 0-)

      something with the Marines that you might be able to answer. We met a Chinese military officer last night who told us that they are not allowed to marry until 25 years old if male and 23 years old if female. My husband thought that US Marines used to have to wait as well... do you know if that's still the case? Or if it ever was the case?

      •   Anj, Never heard of that!! (4+ / 0-)

        I served 82-90, Getting married was never an issue for those choosing to do so, Part of my Duties at one Billet whereas IF a Marine wanted to get Married, He would have to go through the COC and get Counseled or advised, Which Btw was a good thing. I was the 1st to talk to them, Then the higher up's. That was interesting....

        •  Apparently the idea has been floating around (5+ / 0-)

          Off and on for a number of years to require enlisted Marines to serve at least four years before getting married, but it's never been adopted. This is according to Thomas Ricks's book, Making the Corps. The struggles and challenges I've witnessed among my various Facebook military family circles have made me glad that my son doesn't have a girlfriend or a wife back home. The separations are hard enough for us parents but they're pure agony for young couples.

          •  One thing to keep in perspective, (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            anna shane, llbear, angelajean

            deploying, Not all Deploy somewhere. Those in the Combat Fields move around a lot more than others, My 1st tour I spent the whole time in CA, Not until I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, Did I see just how hard it was for those married, When we where preparing go one our Med Float. The Build up and Travel for various Training prior was intense, 1 Month here, 1 month there 3 weeks doing this, Add in 1 Month Air Alert, Then Fly away after that for a couple weeks. I was Single, no problem, It is tough on married Folks, No doubt.

          •  Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I was curious where the idea had cropped up. I'll have to take a look at the book.

            •  Sound like a misremembering of the reg's becoming (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              angelajean, llbear

              legend. I know in the early 90's you still technically needed permission from your Commander to own a car or get married. It was a leftover from the 40's and 50's. I don't know if they were ever changed, but it didn't matter because no one would or could enforce those reg's so they became something like blue laws under the UCMJ.  

        •  Most often I (4+ / 0-)

          discouraged it. Here's why, 1st time away from Home they get a Girlfriend, 1st time with someone, Their in love?? (Catch my drift on that) Most hadn't given thought to after the fact issues such as Career, Kid's etc. We saved many from heartache!!  

      •  My husband was in the Corps from 1945 to 1972, (0+ / 0-)

        and what they used to say was "If the Commandant had wanted you to have a wife, he would have you issued one."

         I can sadly, no longer ask him if it was policy or preference but I expect the later because he got married in 1949. Of course he was a sergeant by then and that may have made a difference.

        It is safe to say that marriages between troops serving overseas and women living overseas did require command approval. And I believe that was true for all branches, mostly due to citizenship issues.

        But domestically? The Corps did not make it easy for junior enlisted personnel to marry. But I don't think they ever outright prohibited it after 1945, although I would not be surprised to learn that there was a prohibition in effect for the first half of the last century.

  •  For many couples, only one spouse can work (8+ / 0-) the benefit of dual salaries that many civilian couples enjoy is lost.

    I think it is much easier now, for a military spouse to work, especially with internet access, but even then, it is difficult when there are many moves involved and, "easier now" is relative. It was darned near impossible in many cases for the non-military spouse to find work in the days before the internet provided at least some opportunity for remote work. I had an employer tell me that they would never have hired me if they had known my spouse was military...and that job was brief because....we moved.

    When we lived in Europe, we had many friends that were living in the London area - the civilans were working for multi-national corporations, and even back in the early 90's, their compensation far exceeded anything we could have imagined.

    And yes, my spouse was an officer, well paid by military standards. I always was in awe of the enlisted couples that managed to make do. It was tough on them, I know.

    "one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress" -- John Adams

    by blue armadillo on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 08:58:33 AM PDT

  •  "Underemployed" isn't a strong argument. (8+ / 0-)
    One study shows that 90% of military spouses are underemployed.
    That survey was a 30-day online survey that received just over 2,600 responses. There are more than 700,000 active duty spouses, so that survey seems neither scientific nor representative. I'd be careful when using their numbers.

    Only about 40% of active duty spouses are employed in the civilian work force. Here's the breakdown on active duty spouses from the 2012 DoD demographics report:

    40% employed in civilian labor force
    35% not employed in civilian labor force (and not looking)
    13% not in civilian labor force AND looking (i.e. unemployed)
    12% are armed forces members
    So, that "90% underemployed" only refers to the 40% that are employed--or only about 35% of active duty spouses overall, right? I don't think that "35% of military spouses are underemployed" is particularly striking when compared to underemployment in the civilian sector.  

    Frankly, I don't think we're ever going to be able to address that problem as long as PCS moves are a fact of military life. My mom was a career educator, but there were several stretches in Dad's Army career when there were either no teaching jobs available or a reticence among schools to hire teachers who were only likely to be available for two school years (and who might have to quit midyear). It's tough to get a job in any environment when one has to say, "Oh, I'll probably only be around for two years."

    The more important point is this: Military service in the US, by its very nature, forces many service members and their families to live on a single income. You made that point in passing, but I think it needs to be THE front-and-center point in any discussion of military compensation. We start from there and talk about the consequences of that fact at every step of the discussion.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:12:08 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this important diary. (4+ / 0-)

    This is such a complicated issue.  My father served at the tail end of WWII.  First he worked on a farm and as soon as he was old enough he joined the navy - mostly to eat.  I probably would not be here but for the GI bill.  The US has initiated so many ridiculous wars - and that is not the fault of the enlisted.

    I would like to see required service of all young adults - either in the military or other service.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:25:00 AM PDT

  •  Thank you so much angelajean (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anna shane, llbear, ranger995, angelajean

    I'm sorry I was too tardy to your part I.  My soldier is due home soon for R/R and you know how that goes, trying to get things ready for some quality time.

    And I have started on HIS honeydo list because my SIL told me yesterday that the skid-steer had a drive motor go out, and the other should be replaced too while they are at it.  John Deere wants $4700 to do it or.....his FIL can hopefully save the day.  Since this landscaping business feeds our grandkids, I'm pretty sure I know what the answer is going to be and where a huge chunk of R/R time is going.  It is going toward installing two drive motors.

    And that's life, in the life lane :)

  •  Thank you for writing this. Recommended (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    I think you would be surprised to find out how much I agree with the points you have made in this diary. The amount of work you put into it shows, and I am persuaded that it offers a useful counterpoint to my own diaries. You especially offer a great description of the less tangible hardships of military life. Thank you.

    I don't believe that anywhere did I apply my own experience to your family. How could I do that? As you say, we're not acquainted and I think I was careful to limit my remarks to my own experience. Specifically, I discovered recently that if I left active duty, and was rehired into the civil service to the job three steps in the chain above my own, that it would still be a pay cut.

    I would like to respond at greater length but using my phone limits me. But thanks for writing this.

    •  So this civil service job (5+ / 0-)

      It involves combat?  It involves combat that you cannot decline?

      I will go back to my spouses response when I read your diary to him, "You are paid for combat when active duty military, not garrison."

      •  Well, we do pay our civil service people horribly. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, anna shane, Militarytracy

        So, it's not really a fair comparison. Federal civil service employees are treated like dogmeat by congress. Every time there is a pay freeze or a furlough, guess who is the target?

        It's easy to push the anti-government bullshit onto the civil service employees. They don't get the voice that military personnel do.

        So, I can believe he would take a pay cut, but if he became a civilian contractor for the military, he would make much more money than he does now.

        "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

        by ranger995 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 12:55:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  TROLL ALERT - BAN me or Ban him? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Militarytracy, angelajean, llbear, Mannie

      this guy has been asked specific questions over discrepancies, that call into serious question his claim to be in some unnamed branch of the military, that he won't answer.  Angelajean asked him one right here, that he hasn't answered.  

      I have pointed out that his point (that the military pays quite handsomely when one takes into account all those great benefits, and, based on his own alleged experience, factually pays too much) rests on non-liberal (and pejorative to our community) premises, and was falsely posed as a response to an alleged 'liberal belief' (that factually does not exist), which is that the military underpays, and his figures are only to 'correct' that liberal belief.  That isn't a liberal meme.  We have never called for higher pay in the military.  We have called for a higher minimum wage.

      One premise is that it's fair to equate military service with private sector jobs, which itself rests on the premise that private sector jobs pay fairly because they're market driven, and should thus be the standard. That position is the one the Koch Bros use to argue against any minimum wage, let alone a minimum wage that would bring people out of poverty.  (He did not compare military pay and benefits with military contractor's pay and benefits, which everyone acknowledges is far more than the military pays for the same job.  And liberals have never suggested that the military pay should equal military contractor pay.)  

      Another premise is that we have a deficit problem and need to cut spending to address that problem, also a Koch meme.  

      This was imo wrongly 'passed' by three of your editors, who approved this 'discussion' for community spotlight, I think, because many liberals do think the military is too big and should be smaller, (as if ergo cutting pay and benefits should not be off the table).

      Just the fact of 'discussing' this on a liberal blog makes us vulnerable to several charges:

      !) That we think military jobs are equal to civilian jobs.   (what conservatives think of liberals, that we don't respect military service as a calling that entails sacrifice)

      2) That we secretly agree only the private sector pays exactly what workers are worth (we're envious of the 1 percent, which is why we claim they get paid too much and enjoy too many tax breaks.) and we reveal it by our willingness to debate the right amount of military pay.

      3) That service men and women can't be offended by a liberal 'discussion' of their 'generous' pay and benefits, because tax payers are expected to monitor government spending (tea party belief - we pay we say)

      4)  That we agree the deficit is the problem, and only disagree on where to make cuts. They want to reduce food stamps while we want to reduce pay and benefits for our men and women in uniform.

      I think we're going to get more of these 'new' bloggers who are adept at hiding right-wing positions inside 'factual' diaries, but the agendas can be exposed by asking them to state their points and premises. If this guy was in the military he would not have 'slipped up,' but we can now expect that there will be delays in answering while the paid blogger consults to find out what the 'right' answers would be.

      You can ban me if you want, but I'd rather that the site paid more attention to what we were community highlighting, and that may be reprinted (with editing)  in some Koch publication.  

  •  Thanks Angie (7+ / 0-)

    Great diary.
    Enlisted folks do struggle on a single salary. That doesn't end until they hit about E-7. My soldiers all had some sort of financial problems to work through.
    And I don't think there are very many civilians who's boss is called if they are behind on a bill. Soldiers can be put out of service for bad checks. And don't let that second job interfere with your duties.
    Pray your car doesn't breakdown and make you late for formation. That can cost you promotions or cash.
    And that's just a couple of examples.

    No civilian equivalent at all.

    Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. Mohandas Gandhi

    by onceasgt on Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 11:09:50 AM PDT

  •  Sorry I missed this when first published (0+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent diary and needs to be read by many here who have bought into the idea of overpaid military.

    I do a few minor quibbles.

    I think the lack of choice in job is unique to the Air Force.  In the Army it is normal to get one of your top 3 and it is merit based.  Essentially they take all 4K officers in a year group and rank them 1-4000.  #1 gets what they want.  It keeps going until each job runs out of slots and then people start getting what is left.  Want a particular job?  Earn it.

    There is a lot more flexibility in refusing orders (movement type) on the military side and a lot less on the civilian side than most people think.  If you ow time on your contract it can get ugly but I have seen people simply refuse to move.  They are usually forced to resign/retire but even that is not 100%.  And my civilian friends tell me the process is not much different on their side.  "So your job just moved to Arizona.  You can move or quit.  I need an answer now."  

    For an officer they always have the option to resign their commission if they can't follow orders or if they can't agree with the President.  I gave long consideration to resigning during the Bush administration over the WMD claims.  For enlisted folks its a little harder but I have assisted a number who felt they could no longer serve.  in each case they left the Army under Chapter 16, good of the service, with full benefits and an honorable discharge.  Last thing I wanted was disgruntled troops.

    I don't think you can question authority in a civilian job any more than you can in the military and in some cases I think the military has it better.  Not many of my civilian friends have said that telling the boss he was an idiot was career enhancing.  On the other hand I have been in the situation of telling people much senior to me "I want to be clear that you are ordering me to do XXXXXXXXXX and that I have made it clear that that is a violation of Army Regulation (or US Code)  XXXX."  Usually when you put it that way they reconsider.  

    The Army absolutely knows that recruiting is going to get tougher.  Only 30% of the military age population is eligible to serve due to fitness issues - both physical and legal.  Of that population fewer than 13% demonstrate a propensity to serve.  Among that population the Army is the least desirable service.  With the largest recruiting mission we are staring at a significant deficit of talented young people and almost no ability to change the dynamics impacting that.  We cannot simply accept less capable soldiers because our need is in well educated and motivated people, not low achievers.  We cannot undo their legal issues and while "moral waivers" might get them in the door they don't get time in the jobs we need people for.  Because the vast majority of recruits have a close family member in the Army the war on benefits will be well known to the very people we need the most.  One interesting finding is that many prospective recruits do not buy the "We support our troops" as true.  Why?  Because they hear what comes out privately - "they knew what they were signing up for" "No way I am going to Iraq" "Only an idiots signs up to get killed" "Only poor stupid people join the military" etc.  Ironically the end of the military ban on gays is turning many on the Right against the military.  Apparently they are afraid their precious snowflakes will catch gay or something.  That has hit the Army double because it is considered "gay friendly" compared to the Air Force and Marine Corps (though not as gay as the Navy - stereotypes stick).

    Its a shame that more people don't realize how progressive the military is.  Fair pay, paid leave, full medical and dental, real retirement, great education - all things we should be working to be LAW for all jobs instead of cheering on cuts because of some anti war feelings.  

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 04:56:45 PM PDT

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