~A Veteran~

A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of "Up to and including my life". That is honor, and there are far too many people in this country who no longer understand it. - Author Unknown

Monday, September 24, 2007

Congressional BOHICA for Soldiers 101

Our Nations Congressional Leaders are not known for their fairness. Nor are they known for their ability to empathize with the regular people of our Nation. Those in power positions often forget from whence they came. When it comes to earnings, income, benefits, and pay increases, they are the first to award themselves these luxuries, and fail miserably for others.
In this case, lets talk about the Military and Congress. We all know it really doesn't matter if our Congress consists of a majority of one party or another. At the end of the day, it is how our Congress performs and responds to the needs of the military that really matters. For some time now, inflation causes a general 2-4% raise for the military annually. Sometimes Congress will put up a mighty argument as to whether or not it is necessary. When Congress is divided this way, it only takes a few speakers to remind them that many in the Military are on welfare or have some types of State/Federal benefits programs. Some soldiers and their families barely scrape by, and live by meager means along with food benefits from their state. Others have their military income, and get a small addition of financial support from the system.
When this information and the numbers are given to our Congress, they usually vote for the pay rate increase.
Then we have the Guard and Reserve components of our Military. Some call them Weekend Warriors. Some call them Part-time Poges. Some do not even like to acknowledge them unless there is a National Disaster or State Disaster. Whatever you call them, they are mainly civilians who stand ready to help and defend if the State or Government deems it necessary. Many Guard and Reserve soldier's have great jobs, make a pretty good living, and enjoy drills once a month to keep them ready for whatever comes about.
Prior to OIF and the Global War on Terrorism, Guard and Reserve members were never called to Active Duty unless it was a State emergency or the Federal Government needed a small group for a particular mission. These were usually no more than two months in length.
However in light of OIF, our Guard and Reserve have been activated more rapidly, almost depleted our Nations security relief forces at any given time.
Guard and Reserve soldiers mostly still volunteer for OIF deployments, but a few are simply mandated to go.
When OIF began, there was a first wave of units that participated in vital missions in Iraq. Soon their training changed to include this need for combat, and Guard and Reserve Units were experiencing a heavier hand in being sent to Iraq. Congress noticed this event for what is was, and soon found out the main complaint for Guard and Reserve soldier's was that leaving their civilian jobs for Active Duty missions often caused a financial hardship. This is because they normally had a larger income in the Civilian world, and their families had to adjust rapidly to the lessor income. It didn't take long before the wives left behind to manage the home front learned how to downsize quickly, and maintain the home front with ease. Sometimes however, it would take others a little longer to get to a calm financial plateau.
Soon soldiers were told that if they volunteered for more than one mission, they would be awarded a stipend each additional month over 12 months just for volunteering to repeat active duty service. Considering the former pay decreases, many soldiers opted to volunteer for another rotation, simply because it was the right thing to do, and also because they extra pay incentive would enable them to get back to a place of financial security by the end of the call to duty.
This was called a Co-Tab. After 18 months of this program, the Co-Tab, then being $750.00 extra a month increased to $1000.00 as more troops rotated for second or third tours of duty. Naturally this was mainly still individually voluntary on the soldiers part. Another 6 months or so past, and the Co-Tab was given a new acronym name. It was now the AIP. The amount remained the same, but the avenue to which a soldier was awarded this started with paperwork, and the company commander signing off on the forms that declared a soldier has indeed previously served a tour of duty, how long his tour was, (boots on the ground) and that he once again was volunteering for another rotation. Then the rotations became increasingly larger. More units were tapped to deploy, and many soldiers were on their second, third or fourth tour of duty. Some soldiers went back because they felt they needed to complete missions they previously performed. Some soldiers went back because life at home was difficult and they needed to feel vital doing something they enjoyed and had the proper training for. Some soldiers returned out of loyalty, some to protect the new young deploying soldiers. Whatever the reason, soldiers still volunteered, and were told that for their loyalty and valor, the extra income would be available.
Then Congress decided that paying a soldier a decent wage was paying them too much. The AIP stopped suddenly, which caused great confusion with Finance and Accounting, and all ranges of Unit Chain of Command. No one really had a straight answer for the soldiers who knew it was a pay incentive to re-deploy multiple times. Congress didn't broadcast their financial decision. A person was hard pressed to find answers.
When the smoke cleared, the end result was that AIP is discontinued, and in its stead, a fashion of "leave" would take is place. This leave isn't the standard accrued leave a soldier gets monthly, much like a civilian accrues with each pay cycle. This leave is the type that you cant cash in, its almost mandatory you accept it, or you lose it. It equals to about a months standard pay, minus taxes.
I am not a rocket scientist or grand mathematician, but those qualities do not prevent me from doing the simple math. If a soldier is on average an E-4, Specialist, he nets about $2500.00 a month for 6 years or less of service. If he is deployed 12 months, and is eligible for the prior AIP, that means he is likely to receive a total of $11,000.00 for a second, third, or fourth deployment at $1000.00 monthly tax free. If he puts his life on the line for freedom and terrorist prevention, is he not worth this small amount annually? Naturally Congress does not think so. So it has been discontinued.
My question is why was this not made known to soldiers? Why was this information not put out to those who make the sacrifice of home, family, and civilian life for a War on Terrorism and fighting the good fight so we here at home can continue to enjoy our liberties and luxuries?
The answer is simple. Soldier's would more than likely not volunteer to rotate and deploy more than the one time required. Numbers of troops would decrease, and the earmarks would not be met for security measures in Iraq. The Military would have to deploy more active duty soldiers, which would decrease the amount of soldiers doing regular tours of duty assignments given to them every three years. They would be locked into Iraq rotations.
If Congress doesn't divulge the cut in incentive pay for soldiers, they can basically get the chain of command to LIE to the soldiers until such a time that the soldier has his boots on the ground and finds out after the fact when its too late to change their minds about their voluntary status. Besides, once a soldier commits to a mission, they do not back down or "quit" because something went poorly. They suck it up and drive on. Simple military mindset. And what about Congress? Well they get away with cutting military spending, they get to continue to ask soldiers to give their lives or bleed for the War on Terrorism, and continue to bleed the families at home dry who are forced to live meagerly because of a technicality.
This is called BOHICA 101 for Soldiers. (Bend Over Here It Comes Again)
To date, Congress has not reversed their plan to cut a soldiers incentive pay, but instead offers them a small "cookie" for taking shrapnel to the body, losing sight, hearing, or limbs, because they continue to care less about our Nations soldiers. It looks good on paper when they say they support the troops, but reality shows a different side of the written text.

Wives & Hierarchy

The day has ended with a lesson in military wives and the levels of hierarchy. Although I thought perhaps this system was not relevant within our unit I am seeing more on a daily basis that it is. At first I dismissed it, the little signs really; excusing the constant reminders from other wives that somehow their husbands were "better" because of rank. However in light of the lessons learned this evening, it is not possible to dismiss the subtle hints any longer. Once again the lesson has a duality of hierarchy and betrayal. One would think I would learn my lessons sooner, and alienate myself from the constant turmoil and upheaval of emotions associated with it. Eventually I hear my husbands sweet voice not whispering in my thoughts, but stomping through them instead repeating to me to stop trusting others, change my thinking patterns, and above all remove myself from situations where I may be tempted even slightly to trust another Army wife. I keep saying that "this is it, no more, I am through"; and then the temptation presents itself again, and I once again ignore the signs my husband tries so desperately to remind me of.
This evening I had the distinct non-pleasure of listening to a ranting wife explain repeatedly how she just so happen to be the wife of a leader. Within this conversation she stated she would appreciate it if I didn't give any information to others until it was confirmed, double checked, given out to the "higher" ends, and let it finally trickle down the line.
It made me realize that old tangent that rank has it's privileges, and one should not step on the toes of the hierarchy by knowing information prior to those in "position". The privileges of rank means the upper echelon of wives want the ego boost that they are privy to vital or mundane information before the lower classes. They want to hold onto it, caress it, absorb it, smell it and taste it, until they ooze the stench of it. At that point, after it has been exhausted, they want to deliver said information to all of the bottom feeders at their leisure.
Is there an Officer's Wives School of Pompousness one must attend prior to becoming an upper echelon? It seems that they are all taught virtually the same degree of arrogance. Never refer to them as Mrs So-n-So, but instead always as Mrs (insert Rank) So-n-So.
It happens among the lower ranks as well. A soldier can have just as many years in service, called Time and Grade, as another. Usually soldiers are promoted parallel to each other. However due to circumstances beyond their control, there are instances where one soldier can be promoted while the other one waits to have files, awards, school, and other issues resolved because of human/administrative error. This same administration can also withhold promotion out of spite as well. Interesting to note though, the views, attitudes, and mannerisms of the wife who's husband is promoted changes quite rapidly.
I have been noticing this as well too. It's just one rank higher, but when you slap the title of Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) on the lapel, attitudes adjust, arrogance emerges. No longer are you equals, no longer are you pals, and by all means you will be continually reminded that so-n-so's husband is now an "X" rank, thus he doesn't conform to the lower class of soldiers. Rank now has it's privileges.
This arrogance dissolves many a friendships. It is a sad day, when the one's you use to call friend, friendly waiting spouses, and equal, turn to the hierarchy group.
I call this a day of falsehood.
Welcome to the year of BOHICA.