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Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Two Ideas

Some say one of the biggest issues facing our military is the inadequate size. The reality is that one of the greatest stressors for Soldiers is the frequency of tours they are serving. So what is the solution? I’ve got two possible ones, and would like comments. Obviously I’m not a politician, so they’re just for discussion and for fun, but I think they’re decent ideas.

Solution # 1: Increase the Army through Financial Incentives

Greatly expand the size of the Active Duty Army to around 750,000 Soldiers. But rather than lowering the standards to do so, we would greatly increase the incentives. In other words: free market economics. America could show it supports its troops through an immediate pay raise: 30% for enlisted and 15-20% for Officers. We pay our junior enlisted far too little. We will attract higher numbers and better Soldiers by simply acknowledging the realities of our economy, and offering greater fiscal incentives. Yes, this would entail tax increases, or cuts in spending in others places, but it comes down to the actually supporting our troops in a more tangible manner. I believe most Americans really do support the troops and would be game for this.

Other incentives could include: lowering, or eliminating income taxes (similar to what is done in a combat zone, except do it at all times for Service Members); increasing educational incentives (there are already some good ones for members of the military, but there could be more).

Solution # 2: Mandatory National Service

Here is the concept: every American is required to give 2 or 3 years of his or her life in service of their country, sometime between the ages of 18-25. No exceptions for income, race, religion, etc.

One option is 2 years in the military. For people choosing this option, they would still have to pass the physical, moral and educational requirements for joining the military. They would get paid the normal wages and benefits and have the option of staying longer than their 2 years if they desired. The other option, for people with health issues, moral objections to the military, or desiring another form of service, would be a national job corps, similar to some of the FDR’s programs in the 1930s. They could be put to work cleaning and repairing national parks, doing road construction, helping the needy or elderly, guarding our borders, working for homeland security, etc. Those choosing national service over military service would NOT get to choose the exact form of this national service, so long as it didn’t interfere with their religious or moral convictions (this would also force diverse groups of people to work together- people of different income brackets, ethnicity, religion, etc.). The people choosing national service over military service would be provided room and board, and a decent stipend, but not the full pay of the military.

Some have said that the current War on Terror is being fought by the military, and not by the nation as a whole. This would help change that for current and future conflicts, by bringing all of us together to serve the nation in a variety of forms.

One last thing: people who know me know that I am a fiscal conservative, believing in small government and low taxes… BUT, in this case, I think spending the money to support our military, and/or national service for our young people is worth the investment. What are your thoughts?

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris:

I think both of you are alternatives should be examined carefully. Our soldiers, especially the junior enlisted men and lower grade officers are paid well below their economic value. Adjusting their wages through increased salaries or a tax reduction would do much to attract qualified people to the services. The problem with the tax reduction is that in many cases they probably aren't paying much in the way of taxes at this time. Therefore, a wage increase is probably the best solution.

With respect to national service, I think this is an excellent idea and it would be an opportunity to truly understand the blessings of this country. The last few decades have been exemplified by greed and a total focus on one's own needs. The Peace Corps was a wonderful idea when Kennedy introduced it. The concept of national service should give and people an opportunity to grow and get an appreciation for the benefits of living in a free dynamic environment. Many people take the freedoms we have in the US for granted. I've traveled all over the world and there isn't any country that offers the combination of freedom and opportunity that the US does.

I like your thoughts.

Dad

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris:

Your Badgers are doing great!

Dad

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to totally disagree with your Dad, but your Badgers are doing OK. They won. They didn't do a spectacular job, but they won. And, a win is a win when it comes to tournament. But, CBS is speculating that they will get beat next round.

I hope not! You deserve to see them in Final 4!

PAGGS

10:56 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

Note to Milton:

I rejected your comment on this post. Don't you EVER suggest that Americans are the ones creating terror in our world. It will never, ever get posted on this blog. I love debate and discussion, but I also don't have to put up with people smearing America with lies. I love this country, I love our military, and I appreciate that people can disagree about our reasons for being in Iraq. Some of my closest friends don't think we should be here, and I respect that. But don't you ever suggest that we are the ones creating terror. I suggest you take a long, hard look at what you really think about the US. But don't post it on my blog. Each and every person in the US should thank God that we live in such a wonderful country, and should be pleased that we have dealt with our superpower status in such a restrained manner. I doubt many countries would act with our restraint if they were the most powerful nation in history. Just look at the Germans, the Soviets, the Iranians and others, and ask if they would act with our caution and restraint if they were the sole superpower.

We've got a great nation, and I'm proud of our freedom and peace at home.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note to Chris--

RIGHT ON!!!!!!

PAGGS

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I like the incentive idea the best. The only hard part about growing the military is the infrastructure required to do so. How many Army Posts have been closed in the past 10-15 years? How many billions would it cost to buy property and build homes to support the men and women who decided to take the incentives?

Unfortunately, because of the mass amounts of post/base closings, I think the Reserves and the Guard will continue to have a much larger role in future conflicts. This is a challenging truth that must be faced. As we deal with this fact and work toward a better understanding of the new role of the Reserves and Guard, how about dishing out better incentives and more pay for the reserves and the Guard members? That may boost recruitment and thus shorten the total number of deployments in the future.

Just some thoughts

Rob

5:22 AM  
Blogger Christian said...

Rob, yes infrastructure would be a large cost. I wonder how much the current bases could absorb in terms of housing new Soldiers without massive expansion? For example, Fort Hood is quite massive, and many of these Soldiers would be living in off post housing anyway, so that wouldn't entail costs to the military. But, yes, it would certainly raise the cost.

Expanding the Reserve and Guard could be part of the picture as well. The problem is that the current use of the Reserve and Guard isn't really in line with the use that it was designed for; i.e., fighting a long, sustained WITHOUT a large standing Army. In past conflicts the Reserve and Guard might have supplemented a large standing Army, but in this conflict we are reliant on the Reserve and Guard, which, numerically, make up 52% of the Army. But increasing the size of the Reserve and Guard should certainly be part of the equation.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Chris,
Not sure how to answer this.

I like the idea of incentives, especially considering the current compensation structure for our military. But where does the money come from? The politicians have no trouble voting themselves a large pay raise, but I sense that would not be the case if it were for our service men and women. It would detract from the large sums of money generated for re-election campaigns and so called "reform".
The second option got me to thinking...what would I have chosen if I were an 18-25 young man? Sadly, I would be hesitant to legislate this type of mandate. There are people out there that are simply not suited for either option. Whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. It takes a special kind of person to serve their country, and do it willingly, with dignity and a desire to make a difference. If you make it mandatory, I think you would drastically reduce the quality of our military as well as our civil servants. You would have people who would "skate by" and basically create more headache than necessary. I guess I just don't have the faith in American people overall to actually make this work.

I know, I know, after a few generations, there would be a small shift in the morals and obligations of those who are mandated to serve, but in the long run, I don't think it would work. Call me a cynic, but I don't see it as feasible.

We have the strongest military in the world for a reason. The people who are in the military are there because they want to be, not because they have to. I am proud of every one of them, and stand firmly behind them. This sounds corny, but in the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson's character described the American people accurately. They want to stand safely under the flag of freedom the military provides, but question the method(s) by which that freedom is provided. We are still experiencing that today, but I don't think there are as many people who want to question it as one might think.

Just how I see it.....

Larry

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no. Badgers are out. I took them all the way to the final.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Chris, very interesting thoughts… You know, your second suggestion bears a stark similarity to the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers." Boy, as I type these words, I feel like I’m exposing some deep-seeded Trekkie-esque penchant. Admittedly, it really doesn’t help much that it was indeed required high school reading for the political themes and historical references; it still makes me think I should be wearing a pocket protector. Be that as it may, the Cliff’s Notes on my posting to your comments section is, very simply put, that Heinlein advanced the notion in order to be a voting member of society in his book "Starship Troopers", one must submit to two years federal public service. In other words, to have a voice thru voting, Heinlein put forward his philosophical volunteer version of personal sacrifice for suffrage – service in the military being the obvious emphasis of the book’s chief premise, naturally. While the movie adaptation of the novel was a very graphic representation it still adhered to the principles of the book fairly well. Just thought I would mention that. Your Solution #2 made me think of something that had not occurred to me in quite some time. Now I feel old(er) in addition to “geeky”… I gotta get back to my academic lecture on prominent fantasy characters and their impact on role-playing games and all night LAN parties using Linux only.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Chris, I agree with your idea, we are using the reserve and guard in a way they just were not designed to do. Most people dont even realize what they are for any more. Reserve, to help fill vacancies in the Regular Army as needed, federally funded, and you may, or may not be deployed as a whole unit. You as an idividual may be deployed to a Unit all by your lonesome. National Guard, just what the name implies, for protection of our borders, funded by the state until fedreally mobilized, then federally funded at which time, they are technichly, no longer the National Guard, but part of the regular army. They are also deployed as a unit. (Place your branch of service anywhere I state Army.) I have always felt since I served that at a minimum, every able body should go through boot camp. It is amazing at the charachter and dicipline that is learned there. I beleive even if you only had boot camp and went to college or entered the work force, your time at college or work would be much easier. Some, would even find they enjoy the service and stay, much easier to recruit from within. You would also find easily, ones that "think" they would enjoy service and really dont. Then you dont have unhappy soldiers complaining the recruiter lied to them. The changes to the military was for monetary savings many years ago, I think we are paying a huge price for that now. The problem needs to be addressed, so at some point, yes, it is going to cost some $$, but do we just keep putting it off and spending $$ and part of our workforce being gone all the time, or do we fix it now??

Scott

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris

We are currently conducting one of the largest recruiting pushes in the Military, the two services that need to grow in order to fulfill (absorb) the nations security are the Army and Marine Corps, there has been approval to do so. I like your ideas, with BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) I have found that many military installations close due to not being able to pull in some sort of $$ itself or from the surrounding communities. I have read many of the replies to this post and find many different replies, I agree with the fact that our Government waste no time in slapping the table at their pay raises, and then they will turn and lower the projected pay raised of the military, why? so they can pay for their raise.... As for not lowering our standards... this all depends, I do not think we have changed our standards at all, we just rewrite the block in between the grey matter when it comes to our regulations. More $$ not sure on this one either, the Army already gives atleast four times the amount of $$ bonusses than the Marine Corps. Doing this business I think that we need to start at both ends, take a look at the top, and how we take care of our military, then at the bottom and how we treat the ones that will be in the military. Then there is two more factors, Media and Hollywood, yes hollywood, I listened to a show with Michael Reagan a few days ago, and this is something that I never really thought about. WWII what actors dropped their hollywood status and fought in that War, to many to list and I think I will let You and Paul list some of them.. And then think about were and what todays hollywoods go and do?? List some of that, then we can think about our society and what are 17 - 29 year olds base their lifes after. Hope this all makes sense..

Rodney
USMC Tired

9:37 PM  
Blogger Shane Vander Hart said...

Good thoughts Chris. I think I would lean more toward your first option, than the required two-years of military service. That's too much like a draft, and I believe it would degrade our military effectiveness. I like the fact that ours is an all volunteer Army.

That isn't to say it can't work. Obviously Israel is a model to follow. Regarding non-military national service - I think their should be some latitude in the service they provide. That would be no different than an enlisted person selecting their MOS based on how they score on the ASVAB test. I also think that if the National Service non-military folks will only get a stipend, there needs to be help with college loans.

I like your thoughts. We do need to increase the number of our active military branches. Start with retention of the ones we already have. You are right the junior enlisted personnell are not taken care of very well.

9:29 PM  

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