January 30, 2011

[Cindy Williams wrote a piece Our GI’s Earn Enough for the Washington Times denouncing the pay raise due service members this year stating that she believed a 13% wage increase is more than they deserve. Ms. Williams was appointed by Obama as an Assistant Director for NATIONAL SECURITY in the Congressional Budget Office.]

By A1C Michael Bragg,  Hill AFB AFNCC

Ms. Williams:

I  just had the pleasure of reading your column, Our GI’s Earn Enough, and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I’m wondering where this vaunted overpayment is going, because as far as I can tell it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and my bank account. Checking my latest earnings statement I see that I make $1,117.80 before taxes per month. After taxes, I take home $874.20. When I run that through the calculator, I come up with  an annual salary of $13,413.60 before taxes, and $10,490.40 after. 

I work in the Air Force Network Control Center where I am part of the team responsible for a 5,000 host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure segments, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check under jobs for “Network Technicians” in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field that requires only three years’ experience in my job. Amazingly, this job does not pay $13,413.60 a year. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum . . . I’m sure you can draw the obvious conclusions. 

Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you NEVER had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces. 

Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military’s lowest pay brackets off of WIC and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for Afghanistan. I leave the choice of service branch up to you. Whatever choice you make though, opt for the six-month-rotation. It will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus giving you full deployment experience.

As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying good-bye to their loved ones. Also please note several families are still unsure of how they’ll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone. Obviously they’ve been squandering the “vast” piles of cash the government has been giving them.  

Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. Then when you’re over there, sitting in a foxhole, shivering against the cold desert night, and your flight sergeant tells you that there aren’t enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: trade whatever MRE’s (meal-ready-to-eat) you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything. This gives some flavor. 

Talk to your loved ones often, as  it won’t be nearly long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it.

You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your open piece. Even so, tomorrow from Kabul I will defend to death your right to say it.

You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment Rights and every other right you cherish. On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective noses at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe. We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can’t offer the stability and pay of civilian companies.  And you, Ms. Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve? Get a life!

Knowing, when to sit where, can often be a touchy business. Precedence at the table or in a chamber of government can lead to hurt feelings and indignation among families as well as members of congress. Determining who is to sit at the grown-up’s table and who is to sit with the children may make the difference between an enjoyable State of the Union address and a few glowers from an already sulky president.

God forbid that President Obama should sulk even more. So the Republicans in an ever-recurring, insatiable desire to shoot themselves in the foot (Oh my, please pardon such violent language.) have decided to have a “Happy Kumbaya” seating arrangement at the 2011 State of the Union address. Fostered by weak leaders like Speaker John Boehner and political snakes like Senator Chuck Schumer as means to give President Obama cover from the huge losses the Democrats suffered in the November 2010 elections.

But that is OK. No one wants the student prince to have to face “up-close-and-personal” the rewards of his failed economic and social agendas of the past two years.

We must ask, “Where was all this ‘Kumbayaing’ at last year’s address, or the year before?” Only proper alignment then. Which happens to be the best parliamentary procedure. For now, and since the first State of the Union address. With the only obvious objection being Nancy Pelosi nodding her approval of every word of our student prince, and popping up-and-down like a plastic Jesus on the dashboard of a very old car. Ugh!

Oh well, what are we to expect? It is the history of the Republican Party to never sustain a triumph longer than a moment. Then its members can be cheerfully invited to “shoot themselves in the foot” with great aplomb. The more things change; the more they stay the same.


[Welcome to Arizona, Mr. Holder. You can start passing out your subpoenas to those in the cheap seats.]

If you had paid for tickets to a sports event, concert, Disneyland, or on an airplane and when you got to your assigned seat, someone else was in that seat, what would you do? You would call for a person in charge of ticket checking and have the person in your seat removed. Then, you would be properly asked to show your ticket and you would gladly and proudly do so. For you have bought and paid for that seat.

The person in your seat would also be asked for a ticket and they would not be able to produce one. They would be called gatecrashers and they would be properly removed.

Now in this huge stadium called the USA we have had millions of gatecrashers. We have been asking security to check for tickets and remove the gatecrashers for years. We have been asking security to have better controls in checking at the door. We have asked security to lock the back doors. And true to task, Security has failed us. They are looking the other way. They are afraid to ask to see the tickets. Many people say there is unlimited seating. Well whether there is or not, no one should be allowed in free while the rest of us pay full price!

In section AZ, of Stadium USA, we have had enough of the failures of Security. We have decided to do our own ticket checking, and properly remove those who do not have tickets. Now it seems very strange to me that so many people in the other 49 sections, and even many in our own section do not want tickets checked, or even be asked to show their ticket! Even the head of Security is chastising us, while not doing his own job that he has sworn to do.

My own ticket has been bought and paid for so I am going to proudly show it when asked to do so. I have a right to my seat, and I want the gatecrashers to be asked to show their tickets too. No more cheap seats for anyone.

The only reason that I can imagine anyone objecting to being asked for their ticket is that they are in favor of gate crashing and all the illegal activities that go with it. Such as drug smuggling, gang wars, murder, human smuggling, and many other illegal and inhumane acts that we are trying to prevent with our new legislation.

Is that what I am hearing from all the protestors such as Phoenix Mayor Gordon, US Representative Grijalva, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and even President Obama?

If you are not in favor of showing tickets, (proof of citizenship, passport, green card, or other legal document) when asked, as I would proudly do, then you must be condoning those illegal activities. Thanks for the suit, Eric!