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"Our GIs Earn Enough"

Ms. Williams:

I just had the pleasure of reading your column of 12 Jan '00, "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 leave and earnings statement (LES), I see that I make $1,117.80, before taxes. After taxes, I take home $874.20.

When I run that through Windows' 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 (AFNCC), where I am part of the team responsible for the administration of a 25,000 host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure management, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check of www.monster.com 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, nor does it pay less than this. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum. I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions.

Also, you tout increases to Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Sustenance (housing and food allowances, respectively) as being a further boon to an already-overcompensated force. Again, I'm curious as to where this money has gone, as BAH and BAS were both slashed 15% in the Hill AFB area effective in January 00.

Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you have 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 of AFDC, WIC, and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for Saudi-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 the full "deployment experience." As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying goodbye 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 DoD 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 DFP (Defensive Fire Position, the modern-day 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 you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything. 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 op-ed piece. But, tomorrow from Voltaire, 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
DSN: 777-0743
COM: (801) 777-0743
FAX: (801) 777-7176

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