Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are Soldiers Fairly Compensated?

Soldiers with the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division salute
during a re-enlistment cermony at Camp Liberty, Iraq, July 17, 2007.
Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
I took the online Army Well-Being poll recently that asked, “Do you think our Soldiers are fairly compensated for their service?” and immediately answered with a resounding “No!” I got to thinking about that question, and added to one of my Twitter updates, “How could you possibly?” That has been the question on my mind since then. How do you ‘fairly compensate’ a person who willingly puts his/her life on the line out of duty and service to country? What would be enough?

Today’s Army is a challenging career choice. Soldiers sign up and reenlist knowing that long deployments are all-but-guaranteed for them. The dangers are real, the separations are long, and the job is tough. There’s no way around that. Yet our Army Soldiers are maintaining a force unequal in the world. They are consummate professionals, training others around the world to defend themselves and creating independence unknown in many countries. They are extraordinary warriors, training and fighting to defend our own country, and to keep danger from arriving at our own doorstep. They are moms, dads, husbands, wives … our very own Family members, who set aside their own preferences to secure the freedoms that we enjoy here in America. I could not possibly be more proud of each and every one of them.

I once had a family member ask me why Army Families received extra money during deployments, and I was surprised by the question. My husband was deployed at the time in a dangerous area, maintaining equipment valued in the millions, and was directly responsible for over a hundred other Soldiers in his unit. Why on earth would he not receive extra pay for that kind of job description? How do you equate those responsibilities to the civilian sector? If you’re a civilian with over one hundred people reporting to you and have millions of dollars worth of equipment to oversee, would you be ‘compensated’ for that? I am guessing any civilian job with that job description would be paid pretty well. I think what I realized from that conversation is that money could never be the only ‘compensation’ for our Soldiers.

I do understand and believe that the Army works hard at ‘compensating’ its Soldiers and their Families for their service. Regular pay raises, quality benefits, and continuously upgraded support services are only some of the ways that the Army is working for its Soldiers. More than ever before, Army leaders are looking at Families and Family Programs to make whatever improvements are necessary to enhance Army life. I am deeply appreciative of the changes and utilize these programs as often as possible. I love my life as an Army wife and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I simply am not sure what we could possibly do for these amazing Soldiers to fully compensate them for what they do.

Our Army Families have been dealt a lifestyle that a very select few choose to endure, and are largely handling the challenges with strength and resilience. Compensated enough? Never. But honored and appreciated, knowing we could never fully ‘compensate’ for their sacrifices? Always.

~ Traci Cook for Army Well-Being


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