Sunday, July 31, 2005

Troop Support Bush Style

Reneg on their money when flying humvees give them a freaking head injury that prevents them from completing their service.

Such was the case this weekend when we reported the stories of Aaron Birkholz of Lincoln and Adam McLain of Havre. The two men met while serving in the 143rd Military Police Detachment. They were called to active duty in 2002 and became friends while waiting for assignment in the war on Iraq.

They deployed to Baghdad with their unit in 2003, and by that September both had been injured.

Now Birkholz is back in Lincoln, a married father, able to bounce his son on a knee in spite of severe wounds suffered in an ambush attack in Iraq.

McLain is a University of Montana student, back in Havre this summer after an arduous recovery from head injuries suffered when he was accidentally struck by a Humvee while working at a base in Baghdad.

Each man joined the Guard to help lay a foundation for his future. Birkholz hoped service as an MP would open doors to a law enforcement career. McLain was attracted in part by financial rewards that would help underwrite his college costs.

Both men were proud to serve. And both said they have no regrets, even though injuries have forced them to change their dreams.

Their example reminds us in the most basic way of what gets sacrificed in war.

That is why it's puzzling to know that the military decided not to complete payment of a $5,000 bonus to McLain. Half the money had been paid when he joined the Guard. The rest was to come over time as he continued to serve.

Because his injury meant he could not fulfil his service, the military never paid the final installments

Make them worry about pay cuts or just surprise them with short checks!

Untold numbers of servicemembers residing off base will see their next paycheck shrink by as much as $250 -- and many of them may not even know the blow is coming.

Disbursing shops at several 1st Marine Division and 1st Force Service Support Group battalions surveyed over the past week said they learned only recently about the elimination of "geographic rate protection" under the Basic Allowance for Housing.

The change, outlined in Marine Administrative Message 315/01 and slated to take effect Monday, shelves a DoD policy enacted nearly five years ago. The old policy allowed servicemembers to retain higher housing allowances even when they moved to cheaper neighborhoods, said Master Sgt. Ervin Ramos, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the Consolidated Personnel Administration Center, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base.

“It’s money that you don’t rate,” Ramos said. “Some Marines will have to prepare themselves for the pay cut.”

Ramos is among administrative Marines sounding the alarm. By early last week, he had already sat down with 40 Marines in his battalion affected by the change, he said.

But many others on base may not find out except via the MarAdmin, the grapevine or the sticker shock of a leaner paycheck.

One example of how drastic the slash in income will be: An E-7 with family members currently drawing San Diego BAH will now draw Camp Pendleton BAH — and stands to forfeit $422 per month.

Staff Sgt. Elliot T. Threat, a substance abuse control officer with Headquarters and Support Battalion, commutes 60 miles one way every day and stands to lose $600, he said.

He was previously stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and received permanent-change-of station orders to Camp Pendleton — but continues to draw the MCRD rate.

Until Monday.

His current BAH rate matches his mortgage, he said.

“I’m worried because I’m just waiting on a response from headquarters. I’m not prepared,” he said.

Threat, originally from San Jacinto, said he doesn’t know whether he’ll have to sell his home. He’s still mulling his options.

Under the old system, an E-5 transferring to Camp Pendleton could retain his previous rate at Miramar based on proximity.

Then there is the snottiness of lying them into war and not equipping them properly, sneaking bodies back in the dead of night and not attending their funerals.

Of course they could run a smear campaign or they could exploit your memorial.

Remember kiddies, when the recruiters show up at your door all they want you to do is say good things, big happy puffy patriotic things about how much you like the war. However I must caution you not to go near it lest they mistake you for prey.


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