Re-evaluate housing, SOFA
Regarding the Oct. 19 article “Livin’ large: Military spending on general officer housing comes under increasing scrutiny”: As a prior servicemember I understand too well that rank comes with privileges. But with our economy in the worst state since the Great Depression, how can anyone justify maintaining these outrageous homes when most of the rank-and-file lives in substandard housing?
Don’t believe me? Go to Baumholder or Mannheim in Germany and see how most soldiers live.
I don’t know who I’m more angry with, the host nation or the Department of Defense for allowing the American taxpayer to get [fleeced] by the status-of-forces agreement between the U.S. and German governments.
I’ve lived in Germany for 25 years. The people are friendly and the country is beautiful, but there’s an ugly side that most never see. That ugly part is any “agreement” between the German government and the U.S. that calls for us to maintain some building which we have paid for, over the years, 10 times what it’s worth. It’s the very same SOFA that allows the housing office to tell a landlord that he has to charge more than what the landlord was willing to rent a house to you for.
Installation Management Command-Europe officials can whitewash this any way they want but most people are smart enough to see that it’s just political doublespeak. This article make me doubt if IMCOM-E should be overseeing any aspects and maybe those fat cats in the Senate should be at the watch. I never thought I would be in favor of Congress monitoring anything, but after reading this article it has become clear that the folks in Stuttgart can’t monitor the situation. Eighteen on-base homes? How many flag staff and generals do we need in Stuttgart? Why don’t we just rename Stuttgart the Pentagon Europe?
IMCOM-E spokesman Ken White says there’s no plans to move Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, anytime soon. I’d think he and his superiors would feel differently if they had to foot the $47,000 a year out of their own pockets. If Gen. Ham can’t move into the Clay House, my family and I will volunteer to homestead until he is ready to move in. We’ve never lived in a 15,000-square-foot home before, but we would give it the old college try.
Just like NATO has become obsolete, so should the SOFA. Oh, to be king for a day, because someone has to tell the German government that the SOFA no longer meets our needs and either they redo the SOFA or we say auf Wiedersehen and danke schön to Germany.
Main perks of service gutted
The Oct. 19 article “Marines’ tuition aid is slashed by 75 percent” states, “The various choices ‘afford all eligible Marines, especially first-term Marines, the opportunity to start the process to pursue their higher education goal,’ the service said.” This is a blatant false statement.
This reduction in tuition assistance doesn’t open up more opportunity. The average college hours the Marine Corps came up with was due to the fact that the majority of our force has been deployed fighting a war and thus couldn’t attend college for the last 10 years. You do the math and figure out how long it would take to earn a degree taking one class a year. This is a slap in the face that discriminates against Marines by limiting our tuition assistance to $875 per year, whereas everyone else in the Department of Defense gets $3,500 per year.
There are two benefits that most military members have for staying in past their first enlistment: education and retirement. With this educational benefit being limited to basically one class a year, the only other benefit would be retirement — and there is talk of rolling that into a 401(k), which is offered in the civilian sector.
Why should I give up my rights as a citizen — and possibly my life — to protect my country and its interests if the only benefit is one that I can get working at Wal-Mart? A 401(k)? Really? And the government wouldn’t match my contributions either.
Gunnery Sgt. Nathaniel Benischek
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.