Saturday, February 26, 2005

A response from an Airman about too much pay

This is an Airman's response to Cindy Williams' editorial piece in the Washington Times about MILITARY PAY, it should be printed in all newspapers across America. On Nov. 12, Ms Cindy Williams (from Laverne and Shirley TV show) wrote a piece for the Washington Times, denouncing the pay raise(s) coming service members' way this year -- citing that the stated 13% wage was more than they deserve. A young airman from Hill AFB responds to her article below. He ought to get a bonus for this.
Ms Williams: I just had the pleasure of reading your column, "Our GIs earn enough" and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I'm wondering where this vaunted overpayment is going, because as far as I can tell, it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service)and my bank account. Checking my latest earnings statement I see that I make $1,117.80 before taxes. After taxes, I take home $874.20. When I run that through the calculator, I come up with an annual salary of $13,413.60 before taxes, and $10,490.40, after. I work in the Air Force Network Control Center where I am part of the team responsible for a 5,000 host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure segments, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check under jobs for Network Technicians in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field, requiring three years experience with my job. Amazingly, this job does NOT pay $13,413.60 a year. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum...I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions. Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you NEVER had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military's lowest pay brackets off of WIC and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for AFGHANISTAN; I leave the choice of service branch up to you. Whatever choice you make, though, opt for the SIX month rotation: it will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus giving you full "deployment experience." As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying good-bye to their loved ones. Also take care to note that several families are still unsure of how they'll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone -- obviously they've been squandering the "vast" piles of cash the government has been giving them. Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. And when you're actually over there, sitting in a foxhole, shivering against the cold desert night; and the flight sergeant tells you that there aren't enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: trade whatever MRE (meal-ready-to-eat) you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything. This gives some flavor. Talk to your loved ones as often as you are permitted; it won't nearly be long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it. You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your opened piece. But, tomorrow from KABUL, I will defend to the death your right to say it. You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment rights and every other right you cherish On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective nose at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe. We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can't offer the stability and pay of civilian companies. And you, Ms. Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve? Rubbish! A1C Michael Bragg Hill AFB AFNCC
It reminds me of a conversation I had with my then sister-in-law sometime in 1989. We were at dinner and she began to tell me how my health care was being paid for by her medical insurance and how outrageous that was. At the time, I was XO on a guided missile frigate, working up for a Middle East Force deployment. I told her she was wrong, and when she shifted "fire" to how I was being paid too much, I asked her a long question something like this: How much would you pay a civilian to sleep a few feet away from 600 rounds of highly explosive gun ammunition? How about one deck above 20 torpedos full of TORPEX and a highly carcinogenic oxidizing fuel? To live in a place where you could be lost at sea at any moment, on a very small airport, where you have to fly three helicopters from day and night, surrounded by all sorts of containers labeled "hazardous," and books full of Material Safety Data Sheets listing just how toxic and/or dangerous they are? Where people may intentionally come near and try to kill you, and to top it all off, you have to sail away from your family and friends for 6 months or more at a time, missing holidays and birthdays, and trade that separation for at least 120 hour (or more) work weeks? I went on about the dangers of line handling, moving mechanical equipment, boating far out to sea when necessary, etc, etc, etc. I ended with the comment that she knew she could never be able to pay the kind of salary that that "PD" would ask for in civilian life, and she was getting a great baragin paying me only about $40k a year (or so that annual piece of paper told me, when it added in all the cost of benefits i was getting. I also told her I was one who rarely used any medical facility, and I was then (and still now) blessed with extremely good health, so since I wasn't using the medical, she was getting a break there. That ended the conversation for the night, but it's now (yes, I'm kind of slow like that) that she could be saying this in front of her sister and our two children, as though they were unworthy to have me be paid fairly for the career I had to support them....but, Patty was one of those bonafide dope smoking, flower children of the late 60s-early 70s that never grew up. I love to watch good counter-battery land on target with no adjustment, aided because I could directly observe the target.

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