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Moí Money

 

J.D. Pendry

 

Money is far more persuasive than logical arguments.Ė Euripides

 

In 1973, my wife and I lived in a trailer park in Newport News, Virginia that was just outside of Fort Eustis.As a first term soldier, and a SP4 (now called SPC) with less than 4 years of service, I couldnít even put my name on the family housing list.Imagine how that rule would fare in the politically correct new millennium Army.My take home pay was $290 a month including housing and subsistence allowances.That, and the money I earned at my part-time convenience store job enabled us to pay the rent, utilities, car payment, buy groceries and maybe go to the drive-in theater a couple of times a month.Welfare recipients in some parts of our country received more money than soldiers of my rank did. I donít recall money being so much of a problem for us.Of course living in a one-bedroom trailer and driving a 1972 Pinto wasnít exactly living large.It was around about then that I decided for myself that money was probably not the best of reasons to be in the Army.

 

When the draft went away in the 70ís, soldierís pay inched up a little each year, but it never inched enough.I suppose someone figured out that to attract and retain enough recruits to support an all-volunteer force the pay needed improve.Weíve been having that discussion ever since.The bottom line is that soldiers canít be paid what theyíre worth, or enough for the jobs they do.

 

Money is as important to soldiers as it is to anyone who appreciates the comforts of eating and living indoors.We all want to have a decent standard of living.But if money is a personís motivator, theyíll spend their time in the Army unhappy.

 

Thereís discussion about making a new enlisted pay grade for senior NCOs who work for general officers.Unless the rule changed recently, these ladies and gentlemen already receive special duty pay for doing that job.

 

Hereís the logic for the new pay grade.Itís the same logic used to justify their special duty pay.A CSM, in his first assignment as a CSM, works for a LTC in a battalion.The battalion commander may come back in a few years as a COL in command of a brigade.His CSM will still be an E9. The logic argues that if it was necessary to promote the commander shouldnít it also be necessary to promote the CSM?If we followed that logic until its conclusion, however, weíd end up with an E-12 or so.Iím sure different reasons will be offered concerning the need for a new pay grade, if itís pursued, and maybe theyíll be legitimate ones.But, JDís cynicism causes me to wonder if itís mostly about the money.Iíll get back to why in a minute.

 

I donít sign up for the arguments offered by some of our so-called purveyors of truth who insist that we are trying to create enlisted generals.These arguments are generally borne of envy and jealousy and come from people who never understood the unique relationship between a commander and CSM.

 

Letís talk about money a bit. I earned special duty pay when I was a Drill Sergeant.Not as much as they receive now, but itís relative to the time I suppose.During my first six months, I was a $50 Drill Sergeant.The X identifier on my MOS code and the Drill Sergeant Badge became permanent after six months and thatís when I became a $100 Drill Sergeant.After one year, I became a $150 Drill Sergeant and thatís as good as it got.By the time I was getting $150 per month, it was almost enough to cover the cost of my laundry.It was common to have 8 or 10 fatigue uniforms in the laundry each week and I donít imagine that has changed much.Free quartermaster laundry was available for Drill Sergeants, but it sucked for quality and timeliness.Drill Sergeants, like Recruiters, earn their special duty pay.The interesting thing is that in all my time, I never knew a Drill Sergeant who said he was doing it for the money.The reason for that is simple; the $150 was not enough to motivate one to do the job that Drill Sergeants must do to succeed.

 

Another group of soldiers near and dear to my heart is first sergeants.Itís the most influential NCO job in the Army and one that drives the performance of every enlisted soldier in a unit.I believe first sergeants, if anyone, should receive special duty pay.I never thought about anything such as that when I was a 1SG.Looking back, my four years in the job was like a four-year short tour as far as the family was concerned. I loved the job from the first day until the last.Being a first sergeant is much like being a drill sergeant.If special duty pay were offered, it would not be enough to entice one to volunteer for the job.

 

There are those, however, who seek to be Drill Sergeants or First Sergeants only because of the potential these jobs have to propel one to higher things in the Army.Theyíre easy to pick out too; their performance usually gives them away.In that regard, I suppose an argument that some do it for money, even if it is potential future money has some validity.

 

Letís get back to E-10s.Iím not so sure that we need a new pay grade.The SMA receives a higher base pay than other Sergeants Major do.That should remain so, yet not be recognized with a pay grade.Iíve known a couple of SMAís and I believe they earn every penny of the extra pay they receive and in the grand scheme of things, itís probably not enough.

 

The question to debate is should we have a new pay grade for Sergeants Major who work for flagged officers?If they are already receiving special duty pay (also not a well publicized program) what is the point?Simple math ladies and gentlemen, larger base pay equals larger retirement check.Command Sergeants Major already have a slightly tarnished image because occasionally one of prominence publicly walks all over his poncho strings.Then there are those who let the perks of the job become more important than the job itself.Because of these things, it would surprise me if any current CSM came out and publicly supported making an E-10 pay grade Ė but I could be mistaken because as the quote states money is more persuasive than logical arguments.It would not surprise me though, if privately most of them were rooting for the change Ė contrary to popular belief they are human and what human does not desire a better standard of living.

 

Other than money, there is another issue to look at when considering a new pay grade and that is how will the recipients of it be picked?There is only one way I know of thatís fair.We would have to select them just as we select other senior NCOs, through the centralized board process.Generals get to select their Sergeant Major and Iím no advocate of changing that.But, under the current system of slating thatís used, one General would decide who is promoted to E-10.That would be unfair to every other Sergeant Major in the Army.This is the spot where I likely upset some CSMs (but that wouldnít be the first time).Not every CSM who works for a General is the best of the best, which is what they represent.If they were, our collective poncho strings would be in a better state of repair.Who knows why a General selects the CSM he does?It could be name recognition or on the recommendation of another General.On the other hand, they could just be old buddies Ė every CSM in the Army past and present knows examples of that.If the Army ultimately decides it needs to have an E-10, then it will have to have a board process to select them.Much like selection for CSM, one would have to remain on the E-10 list until selected for an assignment by a General.In head to head competition, some of the people who are in the positions now might not be selected and, it would not be fair to just appoint them to a new pay grade.And, this is why Iím betting that you are not going to see an E-10 pay grade anytime soon Ė but Iíve been wrong before.

Copyright© J. D. Pendry