Don't "help the military family down the street". . .

. . . pay them a decent fucking wage to begin with! :mad:

It really chapped my ass to hear Bush on TV just now encouraging people to support our troops by “helping the military family down the street.” Why can’t America pay them a decent salary? Why are military families, especially those of lower rank, so damn poor? And then he went on to say how great it is to serve your country . . . as long as you don’t need to feed any dependants at the same time, right? :dubious:

Ok, so, I’m exaggerating a little bit about the feeding your dependants part (maybe). But you get my point. I’ve never been in the military myself, but I have lived on a military base and have been around military personnel most of my life; I even worked for an Army housing office for a couple of years. So I know a little bit of what I speak, but I confess to not knowing a lot.

I’m all for defense spending, but why can’t we fucking take care of the people before we go develop another stealth bomber? I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but I feel pretty strongly about the idea of paying our military personnel what they are worth, and what Bush said really pissed me off.

(I’m feeling a little self-conscious after seeing the “standard disclaimers” thread in ATMB, but here goes: I suppose this could belong in GD, but in my nearly-a-year here I have only posted in GD ten times, and some of those were in threads that got moved there. I’ve never started a thread there, and don’t care to . . . frankly, that forum scares me. Actually, this could probably go in IMHO or MPSIMS, too. All I know is I’m pissed, and military stuff can be a bit of a hot button, so I figured I’d rant here. If y’all think I’m in the wrong place, let me know and I’ll flag down a mod.)

OK, before this gets too out of hand, let me just say this: when you join the military you know what you’re getting into. The pay tables are public record, and even your average Joe is going to realize that an E-1 doesn’t make that much money.

On the other hand, along with the base pay active duty enlisted get a yearly allowance for uniforms, BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence, aka food money), BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing, for if they live off base), and any sort of incentive pay, like flight pay. And, if you’re deployed, per diem can be enormous.

For the average, run of the mill 18-year old, this amounts to a lot of money, especially because it’s virtually guaranteed with good behavior and performance. For a 23-year old with a family, as the sole provider it is not a lot of money. That’s the rub. It came up and bit me very hard once a few years ago and I learned to adjust. Now that I have a few years in I’m making a good living on active duty, although as I am in the Guard that status is always tenuous, and when I am released from orders things will be very, very tight.

But again, for the average E-1 $1,800 per month (or so) is a lot of money, especially since they don’t have families. As a low ranking member of the military you start a family at your own risk.

So, um . . . they should just suck it up?

My mom used to volunteer at Navy Relief.

Oh dear god, please tell me that doesn’t mean what my filthy mind is telling me it means…

A big problem with military pay is that it doesn’t make anything near the allowances needed for high cost areas.

Like Washington, D.C. If folks like us, who make good salaries, find the cost of housing outrageously high in the D.C. area (and it’s more than doubled in the four years we’ve lived elsewhere), how is a single mom with two kids supposed to survive? What might have looked good to a single E-1 suddenly sucks as a divorced E-4 with no child support. Like the one we gave our old washer and dryer to.

At some point there’s going to have to be a decision made: Either pay military people enough to attract and keep a good force, or start drafting again. People only volunteer to be screwed over by their country for so long.

Not exactly. There are lots of cases where people are getting killed financially, but I was just adding a bit of perspective. Not everybody is getting creamed, hence the reluctance to give big raises to military members. It’s just like any other job in that respect. It sucks when you’re that guy, but there are people and programs within the services who fall over themselves to help you.

I do think military pay should be a bit higher, and I especially think retirements should be beefed up to encourage retention. But don’t discount military spending on weapons systems and command and control.

That spending has gone a long way toward keeping our casualty rates way, way down. If we were to take on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with Vietnam-era equipment, things would be an awful lot worse.

Great pay is a great thing, but that paycheck does you no good if you’re planted under a government marker. Just a thought.

I hope not, because my mom did it too. :smiley:

That’s my point. People shouldn’t feel that their choice is either a) defend our country or b) raise a family without needing food stamps. Military life can be hard enough on a family, and I agree that all aspects of what it means to be a soldier must be taken into account before the decision to start a family is made, but not being able to afford basics shouldn’t be one of the hardships.

Not discounted at all; that wasn’t my intent. I’d love to see our military have a big enough budget for both pay increases and everything else – but that kind of money isn’t on the horizon, so I think it’s time to focus on the people. And I’m speaking as someone whose company produces C2 and C4I software/systems for the government, so I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

First, I’m not talking about “great” pay; I’m talking about decent pay.

Second, I can come right back and say that life-saving technology is a great thing, but that technology does you no good if there are no lives to save. Yes, I’m exaggerating for effect (and you were not). No, I don’t mean to start a chicken-and-egg debate. I’m just saying that when the topic of military spending comes up it always seems to be about technology and “things.” We don’t have to cut out the other stuff entirely, just take some of that money and put it towards paying people more, 's all.

I know there is no easy or simple fix. I’m not even sure why I get so het up about this particular topic, I just know that it made me very angry to hear our President both acknowledge that military personnel don’t get paid nearly enough and, 5 minutes later, encourage people to sign up.

A lot of the matter comes from the fact that if the military pays a decent wage, the jackassess who “want their kill” and “who want the first confirmed kill on the block” are mitigated. I have no proof, but I believe those that control the pay (being Congress), want to keep it an all-volunteer military, and thus, make sure the pay doesn’t exactly meet expectations–in order to ensure that those that want so serve are really those that want to serve.

Here’s my $0.02 from my paycheck.

Navy - Marine Corps Relief Society.

I was wondering about this. Is there an adjustment based on the area’s cost of living? Around here 1,800 would be a tight squeeze but doable. In San Diego 1, 800 is chump change and I would understand how some families’ income is low enough to qualify for food stamps (not that they’d need it right? their food is covered I thought).

On a more cynical note (from a Navy veteran), raising military salaries does not cause defense contractors to make large campaign contributions. Or, to be a bit more fair, create any civilian sector jobs at said defense contractors.

As a single man in the Navy, the pay was not great, but it made ends meet. You were guaranteed 3 squares, a bed and adequate medical and dental care. Most of my single friends’ salaries were spent on titties and beer. I got an apartment so I didn’t have to live on base or on ship. Having made that decision, a car was out of the question. But having my own place got me laid more often than a car would, so it felt like the right decision :D.

On the other hand, many of my married friends, even with the extra pay for housing and dependents, were pretty hard-strapped at keeping the kids fed and in clean clothes. I really felt for them and helped out my friends whenever I could. Still, it chapped my ass that an E-4 or E-5 with 2 kids was eligible for food stamps and had to use them to keep food on the table.

As near as I can tell, that situation hasn’t changed in the 23 years since I proudly became a civilian again. In fact, I don’t think the basic facts of low military pay have ever been different. An underpaid military seems to be constant throughout history. If there are exceptions to this, I am unaware of them.

Tripler makes a good point about paying just enough to keep only the ones that really want to serve. People who are attracted to military duty for the money alone are known as mercenaries, which most societies look upon as a lower form of life. On the other hand, when I got out, they were offering some fairly hefty re-enlistment bonuses. I turned my nose up at a lump sum equal to my first two years salary. Here’s a hint as to why; they only pay the big bucks for retention in jobs that really, really suck.

**Ashes. Ashes **,
Married personnel receive several forms of additional pay according to their number of dependents. The acronyms have probably changed in the intervening decades, but in my time they received BAS, BAQ, ComRats, HOLA & COLA (Basic Allowance for Subsistence, Basic Allowance for Quarters, commuted rations pay, Housing Off-base Living Allowance and Cost of Living Allowance). All of these added together made it possible to live, but still difficult. And if you are receiving ComRats, it’s because there is not a chowhall available to you. And even if there were, it still won’t feed your kids. You do get to shop at the Commissary (or PX, BX, etc.) which has significantly lower prices than Wal-Mart, but it’s still just enough to get by. Any emergency, like car problems, can kill the budget for a month or two.

I consider myself very good at living on a budget. My husband brings in an E4 salary. Off the top of my head, 1695 base pay, 250 BAS, 1031 BAH, 195 sub pay. That’s for an entire month. We don’t go out. We don’t get many things for ourselves. We have a three month old. We have very few debts. Somehow we can never manage to get anything into savings. Several times I’ve had to pull money out so we can make bills for the month.

I would in no way consider that a decent living. In many cases I’d say it’s barely doable.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the FT military dude. yes, his pay should be higher- but he knew what it was going to be when he signed up.

The dudes I feel sorry for are the National Guards who have been kept overseas for months & months & months. Their civilian jobs are mostly much higher pay than their military pay. Now, there are a few “Archangel companies” that are keeping their NG dudes and reservists on full pay while they are over there. Those companies deserve our business. The NG and reservists who aren’t working for one of them- they deserve our help.

Now- another thing we could do to help them is either demand they get sent home or end this damn war.

The thing that chapped me while I was in, and chaps me still is that at the same time that civil servants get a 2-3% annual COL-based pay raise, the military, on average, gets a 1% pay raise.

That says a lot, to my mind, about how much Congress gives a shit about the average joe in the military.

Remember, active duty military personnel are assumed to not vote. So, Congresscritters don’t often feel any specific obligation to them. This isn’t to say that the reality is that they don’t vote, but that in general even a large base only about 10-20%* of the personnel based there will vote in that jurisdiction. While I was active duty I kept my legal residence outside of my homeport. And I was far from being the only person on my ship who kept a different residence than where we were stationed.

Contrast that with Reserve units where everyone in the unit is there first because that’s where the live and presumably want to live, and the voting of Reservists is a block that Congresspersons have to pay attention to.

My attitude is that the Selective Service should be disbanded, and all the money spent on those fucking patronage jobs should be funneled into military pay. Certainly that would go a long way towards improving both the recruitment numbers and the retention numbers.

Not exactly. He or she knew they were joining the military, and they knew sorta-kinda what their base pay was going to be, but they didn’t know they’d end up stationed in a high cost of living area. You can bet the recruiter lied to them about how cushy it was going to be. Your average recruit is what? A high school graduate, maybe?

If they were some brilliant Harvard educated rocket scientist, guess what? They’d be an officer doing rocket scientist stuff and making a hellova lot more money than your average E-1 to E-4.

Let’s also admit that the military is the only fucking job field I know where a real and persistent risk to life and limb is considered part of the job. With any other position a real risk to life is usually compensated with additional pay.

Does anyone know what the combat pay ‘bonus’ for the military is, now? At the time I was active duty, being sent to an area that was considered a combat zone (And some of those definitions were pretty damned screwey: My ship had been off Haifa during GWI, and watched the missiles landing in the port, but no one aboard at that time got combat pay, since the Med was not a combat zone.) meant that the service member got an extra $150.00 a month. Yes, for the privelege of being shot at (In a foreign country, that is. Being shot at by the fucking assholes in the trailer park by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was just tough fucking luck for the blueshirt scum.) you got all of $3.00 a day.

How the fuck can anyone say that’s a reasonable renumeration for the risks?
And as for three squares a day - at sea that was pretty much the case, yes.

But when the cooks were allowed to go home to eat (in port) the meals they made for the rest of us were vile. When they’re reaching through a quarter inch of slime to get the alleged spaghetti sauce for the underdone pasta they’re throwing on your tray… one wishes the assholes had to eat the same fucking meals they were serving.

(Yeah, it’s not supposed to be that way, but our SUPPO was trying to get promoted to CDR, and so he was spending money on capital investments for a ship that was being decommed, and saving money on supplies for the crew members who weren’t in the supply division.)