Tag Archive for news

Military Not Poor, Dumb, and Lazy Says Heritage Foundation

So, in a study that will shock (sarcasm) anyone actually involved with the military…the Heritage Foundation has pointed out that our service members are actually more or less representative of the population in terms of education and family wealth (via Freakonomics Blog on the NYT). This is not news, as it supports prior studies that revealed the same information.

The Northeast is underrepresented, but most enlisted service members hail from middle class neighborhoods and are more likely to have achieved a higher level of education than their civilian counterparts.

So, while statistics can be manipulated, this certainly argues against the idea that the military is an employer of last resort.

As always, the comment are as illuminating as the article. Definitely worth reading through them…

Thoughts?

New GI Benefits Bill

If you haven’t already, check out the New GI Benefits Bill.

The new, increased benefits will be free to enroll (instead of the $1200 Captain Dad shelled out, which he ain’t getting back…grrr…). You are 100% eligible with 3 years of post 9/11 service, excluding service requirements from ROTC and service academies (check the link for full details).

Benefits will likely now be transferable to one dependent, but most likely that will not be retroactive, unfortunately for us.

Thoughts???

Soldier’s Widow Keeps His Memory Alive Through His Son, Born Two Years After His Death

I saw this link on a message board I read: Two years after US soldier’s death, widow has his son.

Before DH left for Iraq, we were trying to conceive. We didn’t know if it would work, and in fact we did not find out I was pregnant until two days after he had left.

Although we never discussed a sperm bank, one of the things we discussed is how I would feel carrying and raising his child should something happen to him. He was concerned that it would make it more difficult for me to begin a new life. And I told him that I love him and really want to have a child with him, that I couldn’t be guaranteed I would ever feel that way about another man, and that having his child would give me a reason to stay focused on life.

Fortunately, my husband came back from Iraq.

Kathleen Smith was not to have that particular blessing. However, she and her husband had frozen some of his semen so that they could keep trying to have a baby, despite their fertility difficulties.

Some people are concerned because they did not expressly discuss the idea of her using the sperm in the event of his death. I also get why the grandparents weren’t sure at first.

However, it sounds like the couple were very committed to having a child together. Ultimately, I think I will put this down to “Until you walk a mile…” I haven’t been in this brave widow’s shoes and it sounds like the love she has for her husband and their child is truly beautiful.

Anyone else??? What are your thoughts on the topic.

Anti-Bullying Links

A good friend of mine, Debbie Bookstaber, is running for Tredyffrin school board in Pennsylvania. She does a lot of great work with anti-bullying efforts, especially for young girls.

Bullying can affect self-esteem, to the point where it can contribute to poor school attendance, eating disorders, suicide, and violent reactions.

I noticed in Debbie’s links it mentions “CyberBullying.” I hadn’t thought about the problem before in that way, but I have heard reports about some of the awful things students have posted about each other on various social networking sites. It is tough as a parent to know how to address these issues, especially as new technology complicates things even further.

She’s linked to some really helpful resources. Here are the ones she has up, but link to her post and check back because she may add some more.

For parents:

For parents of girls:

If you have some to add, go share them with Debbie and or here!

Stressed? Need Help? HA!

So, I just finished posting a review of Sittercity on Mamanista, and before I went to bed I figured I would check my e-mail. Only the usual scary e-mail from Baby Center about all the horrible things that will happen if I do/don’t do x, y, or z.

Of course, I always click. Just because I know what they are doing, that doesn’t mean it does not work. Then I saw this title, which caught my attention for obvious reasons:

No, really? You don’t say? I thought the timing was interesting and also thought I would share this info with you.

Narcissist that I am, I originally assumed it was going to be about MilSpouses. Nope, even worse! It is about the women who are actually IN the armed services. I have often wondered how these women do it…they truly do deserve our support. I wish I had some call to action to go with this post–write your congressmen or hug a female soldier (wait, don’t do that, you might get seriously hurt if you aren’t a friend)…lemme think about it for a while. And if you have any ideas or know of any programs, please fill me in.

Here’s some information from the article:

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) – Mothers in the U.S. military are stressed, poorly paid and need more help caring for their children, according to a report issued by Congress on Friday.

Nearly half of all women in the active-duty military have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and 24,475 women are there now, the report by the Joint Economic Committee said.

Moreover, women get only 6 weeks of leave after the birth of a child, it found.

“Making sure military mothers have the quality child care, generous family leave, and access to mental health services they need is key to their family well-being and our national security,” New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney said in a statement.

[The Joint Economic Committee] said that women represent one in seven U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and that most are in the lowest-paid ranks.

However, military mothers are much more likely to be single or divorced, or married to other members of the military who also face deployment.

The report, available on the Internet at http://www.jec.senate.gov, said the military may be stretched to recruit and retain women if it does not provide better services.

Don’t You Feel Special?

Apparently it is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. And here is one of the ways the Army is showing its appreciation:

Uppercasing ‘Families’ highlights support – Apr 24, 2007 – BY IMCOM-Europe Public Affairs

“The acting secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army have emphasized that Army Families are a key component of our readiness,” noted Lieutenant General James L. Campbell in a recent message.

Army Families “shoulder a great burden of sacrifice, supporting their Soldier and often enduring long periods of separation from their loved ones,” Campbell said, adding that top-notch care and support of Army Families demonstrate “our sincere appreciation and gratitude for their many contributions.”

Therefore, Campbell directed that the word Families now be capitalized.

For the Army in Europe, this rule applies to all documents in various medium, not just correspondence, said Dwayne Viergutz, chief of Installation Management Command-Europe, document management branch. Examples include: briefing slides, executive summaries, forms, information papers, publications and Web sites.

The support bulletin board I visit is (rightfully so) laughing at this latest “PR” move. Let’s increase the length and number of deployments–but we’ll capitalize “Families,” so it is all good.

Seriously, do they even think before they put this out? Or are they trying to be funny? Really, with a few more sentences, this could be on The Onion (a satire weekly with fake “news”).

Deploy Fifteen Months, and What Do You Get?

“Deploy fifteen months and what do you get? An extra three months older and caught in a stoploss net…civilian jobs don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go, I sold my soul to the Army y’know…”

I haven’t blogged yet about this for a couple of reasons.

  1. Theoretically DH is getting out before his unit deploys again, so I wanted to let others who are definitely directly affected speak first.
  2. I wanted to give it some thought, rather than just respond emotionally. Emotional responses are legitimate, and sometimes necessary; I just didn’t want to record mine for posterity in this case.
  3. Baby Diva is having a nursing strike and so I have been lavishing extra attention on her.

Our Battalion FRG Advisor passed around some letters from the Generals, addressed to family members. Essentially, these letters said that they recognize that this is an added sacrifice the military must bear for the country…but this is necessary so suck it up and drive on. They did not literally say the last part, that is just me reading between the lines.

After letting this ferment in my mind for a few days, I thought I might share a couple of thoughts. These are MY responses–it is not meant to represent “the military viewpoint” or even “the spouse’s point of view” and not necessarily my husband’s or my friends’ viewpoints…just mine and mine alone…I can’t even promise it will still be my view next week. Hopefully others will leave some of their own thoughts in the comment section.

What’s up with this “family stability” language?

One of the phrases that seems to be a flash point for a lot of anger is the idea that this will create a greater level of stability for the families. The articles and letters expand on this a little, explaining that a 15 month deployment is the only way at this point to make sure each unit is home for a year before deploying again.

The letters also acknowledge that this is a poor version of the stability some units were initially promised.

DH is in a “unit of action.” This was supposed to mean that he would be with the unit three years. During that year, the unit would train for a year, deploy for a year, and then reset for a year. After that, the whole cycle would start again.

So, let’s look at how that worked out. Train for a year, check. Deploy for a year, check.

Then we found out most of the unit is moving to another post. Soldiers in our Brigade were given a “choice”: stay at Ft. Hood and join 1st Cav, not deploying until the next time they deploy; go to Ft. Carson with the rest of the 4th ID; go “needs” of the Army and try to work out follow-on assignment. Soldiers and families agonized over the decision and, in the end, for most of them it did not matter. People weren’t released for follow-on assignments and now the unit is deploying about a year earlier than originally planned.

So, what they are telling us is that although it is not what we were promised, 12 months at home is better than less than 12 months and we can only get those 12 months with 15 month deployments.

So, at least you’ll get 12 months with your soldier at home?

Yes, Sorta, No, Not Really…

Perhaps I am being naive, but I do believe they have good intentions of making this happen.

However, that 12 months refers to the unit. What if a soldier moves from a unit that just returned to a unit about to deploy? That happens. A lot.

Also, one thing the civilian world probably does not realize: the high “op tempo” (operation tempo) also affects life in garrison (while the active duty troops are in the states). What this means is that during a gear-up to deployment, the unit spends more time in the field and more late nigths at work. My husband frequently works the similar hours to when he worked at a large NYC law firm and that is not even counting field time.

Basically a unit will be preparing to deploy or deployed…there will be no real “downtime” during which the family can count on having the soldier around and available.

How is this different than all of the extensions that were happening before?

In some ways, it isn’t. When DH deployed at the end of 2005, we were told to expect 12-15 months. We ended up with 12, but it could have easily ended up the other way. Then there are those units that expected 12 months and ended up with extensions.

In some ways, it is better to know in advance.

However, the difference is that before the deployments greater than 12 months were either mission-specific or were based on evolving realities “on the ground.” The fact that we are moving to 15 month deployments as a matter of policy means that 15 months is the default, not the exception.

Psychologically, there seems to be a barrier at around a year…I can handle almost anything for about a year, beyond that, it starts to feel more like a permanent situation.

Also, if 15 months is baseline, how do we know there won’t be extensions to 18 months?

But it is only three more months…how bad could that be? If you can do 12, you can do three, right?

For those with families, 15 months increases the chance that instead of missing just one Christmas, one anniversary, one birthday, etc., you’ll miss two of at least one of these.

For those with small children, three months is an eternity of milestones.

For all soldiers, it is still more than they bargained for.

And it may not even literally be just three months. Take for example, a person who was about to leave the military. He was going to leave in, oh, say, August. His unit is deploying in November, so, he is stop-lossed (he can’t leave because his unit is deploying within 90 days). Then, he has the 15 month deployment. Then, he can’t leave for another 90 days after they get back. So, now we are up to an extra 21 months in the military.

Is this necessary?

Short answer: I don’t know. I’m not a military strategist. There are mission-related reasons for this extension to fifteen months. They say we need a troop surge and, even if the military increased recruiting or even if we had a draft, the only way to get more troops there right now is to send them more frequently or to send them for longer periods of time.

In terms of costs and logistics, obviously it is easier to send one unit for a longer period, rather than to send two units for shorter periods.

Also, a higher proportion of casualties seem to occur the first couple of weeks and the last couple of weeks of a deployment. The first can be explained, in part, by a unit getting used to the mission, the terrain, and the people it encounters. Regardless of why, longer deployments would minimize the exposure to those risky time periods, as opposed to shorter, but more frequent, deployments.

I seriously hope it is, because it is risky. I think ultimately this is going to affect mission-readiness. Fewer families are going to want to continue this lifestyle, resulting in fewer soldiers re-upping. Ultimately, this is going to spread the military thinner and thinner.

The fifteen month deployment is a band-aid solution…one that may hurt retention and recruitment down the line. If it doesn’t work, then we gambled future readiness on a losing bet.

What is becoming clearer is that the United States cannot fight in a larger conflict without greater sacrifice from a wider segment of its population.