Senior NCOs Praise Pay, Retirement Proposal
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
CAMP DOHA, Kuwait, Dec. 28, 1998 Senior NCOs praised the pay and retirement proposal announced Dec. 21 at the Pentagon.
This confirms that the senior leadership has listened to what the troops have been saying for a long time, said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Eric Benken. Its recognition of what our troops do around the world and their value to us.
Benken, along with senior enlisted members from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, accompanied Defense Secretary William S. Cohen on a Persian Gulf trip Dec. 22 to 24. Cohen and other military leaders journeyed to the region to praise U.S. service members who executed Operation Desert Fox. They also carried news of the new compensation package.
Desert Fox was a perfect example of a near-perfectly executed operation, Benken noted. It shows that we need to take care of our troops, and this is a step in the right direction to do that. Hopefully, well get the congressional support to go with it.
Under the proposal all service members will receive a 4.4 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2000. Others -- mostly mid- range NCOs and officers -- will receive a targeted pay of between .5 percent and 5.5 percent on July 1, 2000.
Proposed changes to the redux retirement system will mean service members who joined after Aug. 1, 1986 will receive 50 percent of base pay if they retire after 20 years, rather than the current 40 percent.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Robert E. Hall said the proposal is a move in the right direction. The top four quality of life concerns of soldiers is pay, retirement, housing and medical care, he said. This compensation package addresses two of their four major concerns.
Soldiers frequently complain about the retirement program to the Armys top enlisted soldier, he said. In the 14 months Ive been in this job, soldiers around the world have been telling me to get it back to 50 percent. For those who are beginning to ask if its worth it to stay in for a 20 year career, the answer in their mind now is yes.
Sgt. Maj. Mark Ouellette, personnel sergeant major, headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, said Marines also complain about the redux retirement plan. Quite a few service members are asking themselves, Why should I put up with family separations, all these long hours -- for 40 percent after 20?
You try to take a different spin with them saying that in outside society they might not get anything after 20 years, Ouellette said. The youngsters dont want to look at it that way. They say, My father got out at 20 and he got out with 50 percent. Im only going to get 40 percent thats not right.
Ouellette said he was particularly pleased with provisions for targeted pay raises for mid-level NCOS and officers. Ive always believed the junior Marine should never make more than the senior Marines.
Aboard the USS Enterprise, Command Master Chief Rick Kennedy, of VAW 126, a Norfolk, Va.-based E-2 squadron, said he learned of the pay proposal from the Internet. It looks like it focuses on areas that we're lacking in right now, which is retention of the E-4 and E-5. And in the officer levels, the 0-4s specifically, he remarked.
For the E-4s and E-5s, married with a couple kids trying to live out in town, this will be a great boost to their finances, Kennedy said. It may take away some of the financial problems that a lot of them are living with. Its very common that they just dont make enough to make ends meet and live a reasonable type lifestyle.
The retirement program change will be a boon for retention, Kennedy noted. Fifty percent of base pay is pretty comfortable, he said. It will pay your mortgage as long as youre not living in a high cost area.