Military Advantage

Riled by Top Enlisted's Support of Compensation Curbs

Philpott’s Forum presents questions, opinions and insights from readers of Tom Philpott’s Military Update news column.

In my 33 years [in uniform] I have never seen this level of quality of life ever! We have never had it so good.” -- Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett

Perhaps we should roll back pay and allowances by 20 or 30 years to when Marine leaders said, “Your spouse did not come in your sea bag” and “Health care will be free for the rest of your life.” Sergeant Major, you sound blind to enlisted troops under you. It is doubtful anyone speaking honestly would tell you they are overpaid for what they do. And if you want a consolidated TRICARE plan, perhaps it should have fees based on rank. Then, Sergeant Major, things might become clearer for you. G. DUKE Hospital Corpsman First Class, USN-Ret. Via email

Who is this suck-it-up-and-punch-us Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett anyway? He certainly doesn't speak for the entire Corps. I guarantee you that. Marines aren’t focused on “compensation, benefits or retirement modernization.” They have a “bias for action” and measure quality of life by number deployments and the rigor of training. Give me a break! I'm a retired vet and that is the biggest bunch of hogwash I've ever heard, even though one senator called it “one of the best” responses he had heard. Sure, it’s the politically correct thing to say. Congress needs to quit messing with sequestration, which I agree is impacting readiness and equipment. It's only a matter of time before we are attacked again on our soil. However, if they mess with compensation, TRICARE and commissaries, the services will lose folks. No doubt about it. GARY F. Memphis, Tenn.

I appreciate the comments from enlisted chiefs and service chiefs on pay and benefit curbs, and do understand conditions in the military are much improved over my days in, from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s. I know there will be benefits downgraded because of budget restraints. But I find it strange that the primary items for mandatory cuts proposed by the President and military chiefs, if benefits aren’t cut, must be high-priority hardware and absolutely necessary training. This happens every time tight budgets are mentioned. I would like to see some of service chiefs find some guts before they retire and speak up for the troops. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? KEN I. Senior Master Sergeant, USAF Ret. Via email

Yes, we need to keep our men and women trained and supplied with modern equipment. But the Marine Corps Sergeant Major only spoke for the force still in uniform. Ask Marines who served in wars that we only study about today. Have him go a round with some families who are glad that TRICARE pays their medical bills because they don't have the money. KENNETH BROWN Sergeant Major, USA-Ret. Via email

These enlisted leaders must fight for their troops’ welfare and compensation and not permit their wages to stagnate, their healthcare costs to increase and their benefits to be cut, affecting their ability to provide for their families. I served for almost 27 years, 12 years as a senior NCO. I understand we enlisted leaders must limit our political battles to those we can win and to those we must win. This planned erosion of benefits and pay caps qualify for 100-percent opposition. The one percent of Americans who serve in the military to defend our citizens and way of life deserve far more. There should be no need to choose between equipping and paying war fighters. This is wrong. Telling Congress to go-ahead and do it to their troops is a criminally negligent loss of discipline and a breech of trust by enlisted leadership. STEVE NEAL Senior Master Sergeant, USAF-Ret. Via email

This is why I disliked command master chiefs of the military. Heads-and-beds guys, we called them. They are there to represent the enlisted ranks to the best of their ability, including retirees. Yet over the past five to ten years, they have become lap dogs for commanding officers. They no longer stand up for the troops. They are the ones putting the boots on their throats. MAR VALDEZ Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman, USN-Ret. Via email

As the government cuts back on benefits for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, should it not look too at the spending the President and Congress do? Cut some of that and the military could stay trained and ready. They are no better than the people who protect this great nation. JIM (BONES) WEST Via email

The Sergeant Major has lost touch with reality. I am also a retired USMC E-9. Years ago when I was making almost nothing, I got a letter each year explaining that one reason I made so little were retirement and health benefits if I stuck it out and retired. I did not make $120,000 plus salary, then or now. But now that I am 63, I need that retirement and those benefits. The Sergeant Major needs to be careful what he is willing to give away. He will soon need them too. Whatever happened to leaders setting the example? Have members of Congress move their pay and benefits in line with those of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service. Leave military personnel alone. And stop making promises to get folks into the military, and then breaking them when the nation is through with them. FRANK K. Via email

Sergeant Major, you are one GI who has made it to the top. That’s great. You’ll have a cushy retirement. What about the 95 percent who retire E-8 or below and depend on military retirement the rest of their lives? You’ll accept higher fees for our supposedly “free” medical benefits and higher commissary prices? I say you’ve been bought and paid for, or you’re afraid of losing your elbow-rubbing lifestyle. Cuts should start at the top. When a GI has insider-trading privileges, free airplane rides (outside of a war zone) and assistants to handle all the trivial crap for them, then maybe start taking stuff away. You may think we are your chess pieces. We are not. We are real people who have done what we were told. If you need to, stop pay increases. But don’t ever take away what’s been promised. WILLIAM E. CAVANAUGH Master Sergeant, USAF-Ret. Via email

I disagree that the lower ranks need to suck it up. How about we end executive transport services for four-star officers to save millions of dollars a year. And take a look at taxpayer-funded military estates, such as the one on Ford Island, Hawaii, for Commander-in-Chief Pacific. JOSEPH L. Via email

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