More money?

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If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,    And all we know most distant and most dear,Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,    Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer? ~Gentleman Ranker, Rudyard Kipling

For the first time in my Army career, and really for the first time in my professional career, I wish I were making more money. The time I’ve been away from home for the last 4 years has taken a toll. Things that I’ve needed to do at home have fallen by the wayside during deployments, Permanent Change of Station moves, and long schools.  I just returned from 8 weeks of Army education, only to be reminded that one of my cars is in massive need of maintenance. This car sat for 3 years while I was in Germany, then endured the ridiculous winters of Fort Drum, assaulted by ice and copious amounts of road salt. Then there was the pernicious effects of amoral auto-parts dealers who take advantage of the wives of deployed Army husbands by intentionally damaging parts of the car during routine oil changes in order to garner more business. Yes, that last part happened.

My weeks at work are too long, and too inflexible. I cannot simply take a day off as most can at jobs in which they’ve earned days off. I have to go through the military leave process, a process in which a supervisor of commander has ultimate authority. There is no right to a day off in the Army. because of the extreme operational tempo and lack of manpower, things like doctor appointments, car maintenance, and simply enjoying life often go by the wayside. Sometimes I find myself so busy multitasking, that I wake up at 0300 a.m.  thinking about these things, unable to fall back asleep. There are a million things to be done at work and at home.

This morning I jumped in my wife’s car and found the battery dead. Either that or the starter’s gone. I tried charging the battery from my other car, but this failed. It did however drain my other car’s battery. Yesterday I tried to bring my car in for a brake job and an oil change and was told I’d have to bring it to the dealership on Friday. On the way back the engine began overheating. Pretty sure the coolant evaporated from the car sitting in the Hawaii sun for 8 weeks while I was gone. Guess I should have checked. A black comedy of failure.

And for the first time, I wanted more money than what a full-time job was providing me. I wake up at 0430 every workday. I’m doing physical training at 0600. I get home at 1730. I get home earlier than many others do.  I do this 5 days a week, and if I go to the field, I may work 30 or more consecutive 12 hour shifts, all without the luxury of returning to my own bed after shift or even sipping a simple beer. I’ve spent months and years away from home and things deteriorated while I was gone. Frankly, I’m tired of it. One young Lieutenant in my office is worked to the bone.  I actually feel the scope of my responsibilities and performance outstrip what I am paid. But that’s not really why I want more money. I want to make more money so I don’t have to worry everyday. I want to make more money so I can concentrate on my job.  Plus I’d like to have some energy to enjoy my off-time. Right now my time off is spent just as a starving man spends his time when he finds a pile of food: He gorges himself on what he’s lacked for so long. For me, I’ve lacked significant decompression time. So I do none of the things I used to do. When I first arrived at my unit, I experienced severe burnout, the likes of which I have never felt in my life. I lost all interest in reading the news, in politics, in anything to do with the Army. I’d just returned from Afghanistan a few months prior, and moving to Hawaii added a huge amount of stress. A person is expected to perform flawlessly when they show up to a new unit. I’ve never seen it work that way, though. And I work at one of the busiest units I have ever seen. So many of the people around me are burned out. Many officers want to leave the Army, an unusual phenomena as from my experience officers are usually happy-go-lucky, All Army types. Lifers, so to speak.

I get my first look at E7 in June of next year. But the centralized board promotion system for senior NCOs often seems like a crap shoot. E7 would be a significant pay increase. I hope I make it, though maybe that rank is too much for me based on my time in the Army. In any case, some say that the minute money is the reason for being a Soldier, it’s time to leave. Not sure I agree, but I understand the point.

At this point, the military is taking more from me than I feel I’m getting. I need for freedom and flexibility, not only more money. At the 8 week school from where I just returned, I need to do  “risk assessment” paperwork and send it up through the chain of command, just so I could go hiking on the mountain trails a few miles away from my barracks. Supervisors everywhere in the Army need to inspect Soldiers’ cars before every long weekend, filling out paperwork to document the inspection. I need to do online training and fill out paperwork just to drive beyond a certain distance from my post. That’s not freedom to me.

Military discipline is enforced first and foremost by the employment of fear. This, too, takes a toll. One grows weary of worrying about walking on the grass, having his hair touching his ears, or being one minute late to a formation. And in the Army, these things take precedence over many important skills that a Soldier may have.

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9 thoughts on “More money?

    Bill said:
    September 30, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    It hurts to hear this. COngresscritters, diplomats and a bunch of other dead weight never has shortages of money, but people serving legit functions of govt doing truly important work too often do.

    I know it’s of little comfort, but you have your health, you’re got your family. Money comes and goes. I remembered a time that getting a bill for 5 figures would damn near cause a meltdown – now I barely bat an eye – not b/c I have it, but just b/c I’ve gotten used to it . There are highs and lows. You’re a talented guy that should have no problem in the long term. Sounds like life is pretty stifling, but you’re appreciated and I can pretty much assure you, everything on your mind today will barely be a blip of the memory in a year.

    Another painfully obvious observation that I’m hoping might be slightly helpful – if you see a lot of burnout, the last person you’ll see it in is yourself. If you do see it in yourself, it’s always worse than your perception of it so maybe it’s time for a change. While you have hundreds of thousands of fellow countryman appreciating you and what you do – if it’s time for a change it’s time for a change – you’ve given a lot more for everyone’s benefit than most of us have – taking back so you can give to Doug is not something anyone could ever begrudge you.

    WTP said:
    October 1, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Too lazy to type, so was waiting until someone else stated it more clearly than I could so that I could say “what Bill said”. So I’ll add this…

    I think I’ve indicated before that my view is that fighting this war on the battlefield is a waste of time and men. The bigger problem doesn’t exist over there, it’s over here between the ears of the American public. Once we fix THAT problem, the battle elsewhere is a sure thing and with far less cost in blood and treasure. That said, we have a real big problem here. It’s as “generational” as the ongoing “kinetic military action” currently being touted. You’ve shouldered far beyond your share. It’s time to come home and make some money and watch your kids grow up. There are lots of jobs for people like you. It’s all a matter of what you would want and some modest connections.

    vxxc2014 said:
    October 2, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I left, came back, left. May return to finish in reserves, or not.

    Everything you are saying=TIME TO GO.

    You’re Intel and former Cop. You’ll not want for a better paycheck, better people, vastly less nonsense. GO. GO. GO. Line up a good PMC job and bounce. I don’t know many PMC’s but I’ve met exactly ZERO unhappy ones.

    The Army won’t get fixed without catastrophic defeat, and really since it’s the least politically adept of the services by far [and not well led in terms of leaders looking out for their men, instead of themselves] really the Army doesn’t get fixed without our political system changing.

    Our leadership is simply weak SSG M. Wait until you see the private sector. Weak leaders are fired or the business goes under. They lack character or moral courage. They can do lots of pushups, run, and pass Ranger school due to athletic ability and endurance. They also can talk themselves into anything [the great weakness of Ranger as leadership school, for all it’s strengths]. We have weak leaders in the Army, GO and have a life, #end_of_line.

    TJB said:
    October 2, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Magus,

    Don’t underestimate yourself. You will be earning six figures in the civilian world when you are ready. Leadership skills are in high demand.

    Royce said:
    October 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Magus — it hurt me to read this. I have followed you and your travails over several years. I know that you are a dedicated soldier who has made huge sacrifices that have taken a very high personal toll. You set an example for others and represent the kind of men we need in the service, but I know you can’t feed your family on medals or praise. Hopefully the next administration will treat our military better. My prayers are with you.

    WTP said:
    October 7, 2014 at 2:15 am
    magus71 responded:
    October 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Yes, I have considered it. A couple of my friends did very well in IT.

    Ryu said:
    December 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    The most important skill a soldier can have is this – learning what they really do.

    Your job is to obey your masters. You are the USG’s personal property. You perform hits on whoever the suit in DC say to.

    You were a fool to join and more a fool to believe. The US military “defends our freedoms”, so that the NSA and FBI can take them away.

    WTP said:
    January 27, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Hey Magus…I’m guessing you’re otherwise occupied but also know you have a keen interest in writing and have had a book or two in the works. Wanted to turn you on to a real cool tool I just ran across to help improve one’s writing. It’s called Hemingway. There’s both a web and an app version:

    http://www.hemingwayapp.com/beta/index.html

    You click on the “Write” button, input your text, and then hit the “Edit” button. It highlights weaknesses in your writing, flaws, etc., provides suggestions on improvement, and even gives you a “grade” for your work. The grade is in the form of “8th grade level”, “11th grade level”, etc.

    Anyway, hope things are still cool. Looking forward to any new posts here.

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