has been breaking news for and about military
people since 1977. After service in the Coast
Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior
editor with Army Times Publishing Company,
Tom launched "Military Update,"
his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994.
"Military Update" features timely
news and analysis on issues affecting active
duty members, reservists, retirees and their
families. Tom also edits a reader reaction
column, "Military Forum." The online
"home" for both features is Military.com.
Tomís freelance articles have appeared in
numerous magazines including The New Yorker,
Reader's Digest and Washingtonian.
His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied,
on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of
Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held
prisoner of war in American history, is available
in hardcover and paperback.
Readers of Tom Philpott's "Military Update" column sound
May 13, 2005
In your article on the impact of base closings on retirees, you made mention of that Wal-Mart are competitive in pricing with military exchanges. My personal experience is that items offered by Wal-Mart and other discounters are priced low because they are junk made in foreign countries.
On many occasions I have tried to find clothing in my size at these stores only to discover the sizes on the labels were way too small. Clothes I did purchase had a life expectancy of maybe a month.
Items sold at Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores are of significantly higher quality, comparable to goods in more expensive stores like Sears.
Master Sergeant, USAF-Ret.
North Pole, Alaska
Your column and other news articles I've read by other writers make it seem that retailers like Wal-Mart are our saviors when it comes to shopper savings. I find that far from the truth.
With the AAFES "We'll-match-it" program, it is virtually impossible for commercial discounters to beat the exchanges. This is especially true because base shoppers pay no sales taxes. Here in Alabama the sales tax 10 percent.
Like many military people, I save lots of dollars shopping in exchanges and commissaries. Military retirees would sorely miss these benefits, and their loss would cause hardships among many enlisted people.
I suspect military shoppers who indicate they find cheaper prices downtown are being taken in by what my grandfather in the business used to call "loss leaders." Some items are marked down while everything else is marked up. As for commissary savings, they are huge for my wife and me.
So in future columns help save our benefits rather than put positive spins on downtown commercial interests.
Master Sergeant, USAF-Ret.
That was an excellent article on retiree migration and BRAC (Base Realignments and Closures). I retired from the military after 33 years. I consider benefits provided by living close to a base part of my retirement. This includes access to a commissary, where I estimate I save 40 percent, to base officers' quarters and much more. The list is almost endless.
There is the benefit that active duty personnel receive from retirees. The knowledge we pass on is priceless.
So let me keep this simple. If any more bases are closed in Southern California I and many others will depart these golden, expensive shores for other states without military establishments. This will no doubt cause a severe impact on communities, particularly as more and more members retire from the military and seek their retirement homes.
As a small example, when the Duluth Air Base in northeastern Minnesota was closed in the 1970's, Duluth's population decreased from an estimated 120,000 to 80,000. It only recently has moved back toward 90,000.
As a former executive director for a Chamber of Commerce, I assure you any base closure impacts the entire state, be it Minnesota or California.
DANIEL J. ELISEUSON
I served in the Army, retired from the Air Force and worked 15 years in the federal civil service both in the United States and overseas. While I understand the need to close military installations, I become frustrated when I read about or see on the TV news more news about closing installations in the United States.
Of my 41 years of government service, I've spent 31 years overseas. I recall too many times how "local nationals" were hired under some agreement between that country and the United States. The local rules are used to ensure local employment security. U.S. supervisors did not have the power to fire those employees who do not perform. There were rules in place but local trade unions and "work councils" had to approve all civilian personnel actions for their people includes release of employees who did not do their job or, in some cases, show up for work.
It is the U.S. taxpayer who must pay the wages of these dead weights. So my feeling is that we should concentrate on closing excess military installations overseas.
One doesn't need a top secret clearance to know what military presence we need to maintain around the world. The average American knows who the bad guys are and where the potential hot spots will be.
Of course, we need to retain some military installations overseas for our own security and to maintain a presence at sea. What we do not need are excess military installations serving the economies of countries.
JAMES E. WIMP
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
FAO AND OUT
I appreciated your article on the Defense Department seeking a revolution in managing officers' careers. I applaud Dr. David Chu's efforts to reform the system and allow officers with unique skills for next-generation warfare to continue to serve on active duty.
As an Army Latin American Foreign Area Officer (FAO), I experienced the "up or out" policy Chu criticizes when I retired at 24 years of service.
I tried twice to single-track FAO in my career but was denied each time by the Army Personnel system, which required that my career be handled by my primary branch, Military Intelligence (MI).
Having spent my last 10 years on active duty in joint billets I had not done the requisite MI career-building assignments. As a result, I was passed over twice. My last tour of duty was teaching information operations, a new critical mission field, at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA. When the MI Branch only offered two dead-end assignments overseas, I decided to pull-pitch.
I earned my Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs -- Latin American Studies from the University of Virginia, which the Army had paid for, then landed a job helping to administer our military programs and teaching political science at East Carolina University (ECU). I am now teaching college students about Latin American politics, national security policy and American foreign policy.
I am also helping ECU develop a new undergraduate and graduate program in security studies, and we will be offering a graduate certificate in Security Studies on-line to military personnel at Ft. Bragg this fall.
In the end, the military will benefit from the skills and experiences gained academically and professionally. It just won't do so while I'm on active duty.
RICHARD J. KILROY, JR.
Lieutenant Colonel, USA-Ret.
Greenville, NC 27858