29 January 2007

Money and Soldiering

I occasionally run across folks who wish to express their appreciation for Soldiers by voicing the sentiment that they aren't paid enough.

For the month of January, I cost the American taxpayer over $5500, plus food, a Typhoid vaccination (my arm still hurts), medical care for my wife's sinus infection and assorted incidental expenses. And the only taxes I paid were FICA.

What price can you put on this? On one hand, I'm doing a relatively simple job which millions of folks have done throughout history. I came into it with no experience, no training, and a high school education. I can't say I'm doing poorly financially.

On the other hand, during my career I have been shot at, blown up, mortared, rocketed, worked for 96 hours straight, and not seen my wife for more than two weeks at a time for two years. I go to crappy little countries and let crappy little people try to kill me. You can't hang a price tag on that!

There is no amount of renumeration which would recompense the blood, sweat, and tears of Soldiering. You couldn't pay me to do this. I Soldier because I am a Soldier.

Most Soldiers who get into financial trouble aren't underpaid, they are short common sense. There is no reason for a 18 year old private to marry his high school sweetheart, pop out 3 or 4 kids, spend a hundred bucks a weekend drinking with the boys downtown, and drive a car with $4,000 rims. The pay of a private is more money than most of these kids have ever seen in their lives, and it goes straight to their head. They spend it stupidly. Paying them more would result in their wives wearing more and tackier fake jewelry, bigger rims, absolutely incredible sound systems, and even more debt. Give Private Snuffy $100K a year and he'd be broke in a year, and deep in debt within two. But he'd have a huge flatscreen TV!

I don't Soldier for the money. Money is nice, but if you say, "Soldiers do great things for our country and therefore we should pay them more," then I ask how much more. A 5% payraise is an insult, a 10% is more than the nation would realistically pay. Buy me some nice toys to shoot Mr. Hajj with and we'll call it even. Because in the end, you love this stuff, or you don't. No one ever left the Army for money who wasn't going to leave it anyway. And no one stayed in the Army for money either.

Don't endanger my profession by changing that, because Soldiers motivated by pay raises are dangerous to the Republic.


Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

A couple of percent a year in cost-of-living increases is about right.

What I'd like to see more of is an honest-to-Betsy, WW2-style G.I. Bill instead of this watered-down Montgomery b.s.

6:23 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

It's actually up to two and a half years!


9:01 PM  
Anonymous Sappersdad said...

Like your Mother about teaching. If you want to make a lot of money, go find another line of work.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Karl Gallagher said...

I don't want to toss out a %age, but matching civilian pay rates would probably do the reservists a world of good, so they're not contemplating their pay getting cut in half when they deploy. Getting activated would trash my family's budget bigtime.

3:06 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

I'm of two minds about that. Reservists should plan on getting activated. There's a war on, and has been since 9/11. The majority (75%+) of RC Soldiers would lose money if their deployed pay matched their civilian paycheck.

And I have a huge beef with saying that Soldier A should get more money than Soldier B in order to make the payments on the Beamers because he's a stock broker in the Real World. Same job, no? And the Regular is, usually, better at it. How about two folks in the same unit at the same paygrade? Do you want to throw a huge kicker at one of them but not the other? How would that affect morale?

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Noah D said...

Buy me some nice toys to shoot Mr. Hajj with and we'll call it even.

So what's on the wish-list?

6:04 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

What's on the wishlist?

ODS Bradleys for all Engineer units.

Reviving the Grizzly.

Putting the Wolverine back into full production to completely replace the M-48/-60 AVLB. That's a vehicle family that needs to go.

ACOGs for every combat arms Soldier.

Beefed up training budgets, including more realistic convoy training for pogues who never get it until the last minute before they deploy.

A real Dedicated Marksman program to put a long-range weapon (M-14 with a Leopold, bipod, and synthetic stock) in the hands of properly trained Soldier in every squad, to counter so-called "sniper" fire.

More "Crows" or remote control machine gun turrets.

More UAVs, especially at lower levels.

More MARCbots.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Deserve more pay" means "deserve more but we don't know what motivates you". Okay, you've listed some equipment, and I'll send your wishlist to both Senators and my House rep today. Between salary and toys, that handles most material wants--so what sort of non-material things would y'all appreciate? For instance, when we're in the airport and see soldiers, my wife is always going over and saying "thank you for serving." As I recall, you said that sort of thing makes you uncomfortable ... but what what would be okay?

5:29 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...


Buy a joe in uniform a cup of coffee without telling them. Buy them lunch if you see them eating a restaurant.

I think what makes him uncomfortable are the same things that weird me out. I did a job, and I did it damned well, but the ones who are heroes aren't going to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal, so...I'm really weirded out by the comparisons to those men and women.

I'm babbling. Sorry.

Thank you for asking, seriously.

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know some people do say "you're a hero" to everyone, but I'm not saying that. However, your job is much more likely than mine to give you the opportunity to be a hero, and you knew that when you signed on. So, in a sense, you've made the decision to be a hero if needed, and it just hasn't been needed yet. It's the decision that we're trying (in our sloppy, never-been-there, sillyvilian sort of way) to show respect for.

6:25 PM  

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