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WHAT RESERVISTS WORRY ABOUT |

July 10, 2007

WHAT RESERVISTS WORRY ABOUT
Name: Eric Coulson
Posting date: 7/10/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url: badgersforward.blogspot.com
Email: badger.six@gmail.com

The current meme of the anti-war crowd seems to be that if this really represented a colossal struggle of ideologies the President would have called for some sacrifice on the part of the nation and if he had done that then they would be on board. I admit that I do not understand the psychology of "we will sacrificed if asked, but not before then", but I suppose it makes sense to somebody.

What you should know about though is the people that have made sacrifices without being asked. I am not going to write about the obvious; service members and their families. There are other people making sacrifices at home that you likely know little about.

We have one officer here in the Task Force whose employer paid him his full salary for the first three months of mobilization, and now makes up the difference between his Army pay and his civilian salary. Another officer continues to receive the 401K contribution the company would have made if he had stayed working there. Another friend of mine who deployed before me had an employer that only intended to make up the difference, but continued to pay the full salary while he was gone. When he went to return the money the company told him to forget it.

Of course these are the exceptions, but most employers at least abide by the minimum standards of the law and save a job for a mobilized reservist. They either operate short a person, or they hire a temporary who knows they will only be there for a certain period of time. Many American businesses, their owners, and their employees are sacrificing every day without a specific request from the President. So if you are one of those people, thank you for your sacrifice.

Unfortunately some people have had problems. Like LTC Debra Muhl, USAFR, who worked at Sutter Health Care in California. When LTC Muhl informed her boss that she was being mobilized he became "visibly angry". Two days after she notified him of her impending deployment, he allegedly told her that she would not have a job when she returned from the desert. The company has given an economic reason for her termination, but given the timing, it certainly looks pre-textual. Maybe if the President had asked Sutter Health to sacrifice this would not be a problem...

This has to concern all Reservists. No matter what the law states, if an employer violates it, the burden is on the employee to call the employer to account. That involves legal fees, heartache, and acid indigestion.

I wonder how difficult it is going to be for me to find a job when I leave here. Some young officers I know have asked if they should just not mention their service. I point out that it is difficult to hide more than a year of your life spent in Iraq. I will of course mention it, not just because it is necessary, but because I am proud of the fact that I have been here. If you don't value that as an employer, then you don't want me as an employee.

On the national level, a serious conversation needs to be had about how we organize our Armed Forces, both active and reserve. What was right for the Cold War may not be right for the war on terror. On the individual level, we should recognize those employers and those employees that shoulder extra burdens at home so we can deploy, and we should help every reservist return to a good job.

Comments

Thank you for your comments, they are much appreciated by the folks back home.

The issue is not, as indicated here, that people will only sacrifice if the President asks. This issue is the huge disparity between the rhetoric (e.g., "nation at war, national security at stake") and the level of effort the nation puts into it (military land force burden carried by very few of our 300 million people, effort financed by debt for our grandchildren to cope with (war bonds anyone?).

I have been baffled by the fact that the business community has not raised questions about the long term use of their employees by the Guard and Reserve. The hardships endured by the service members is shared by the employer. But no one ever lets the public know of the burden and expense to these companies.

I not only hear the concerns, I've experienced some of the negetivity as well. When I returned home after deployment I was informed by my employer that our department was being downsized and the decision of who to keep would be based on performance. I only had 167 days that I worked there before leaving for Iraq, so I ended up cutting my time off short. I then spent the next 4 months trying to get my reviews/raises that the USERA laws said I was due. I finally had to mention taking things to the ESGR before I was given my reviews, raises, and a nice bonus to keep from talking with the ESGR. To this day though I am still owed over $2k from my insurance being changed without my authorization while I was gone...but at this point I've given up on ever seeing a penny of it.

It does make me happy though to know that the more reputable employers appreciate and watch out for us. My thanks goes out to them. :)

"we will sacrificed if asked, but not before then" - this is something that has always struck me as both odd rhetoric and false. I have done what I could over the months and years to support our war efforts and never discussed it, particularly. I do not need a request to do the right thing - most good people do not. What a wonderful thing that there have been employers who have quietly walked an extra mile. Thank-you for naming names for a company that did not.

Thank-you too, for your service and sacrifices; God bless you.

"...[I]f this really represented a colossal struggle of ideologies the President would have called for some sacrifice on the part of the nation..."

While I would not consider myself part of the "anti-war crowd" as it were, I can appreciate the sentiment there. I think that if this war was being taken as seriously as it needs be by Washington the President would not be vacationing in Texas regularly. But to say that "then we would be on board" is disrespectful at the utmost.

But I can't help but wonder, why would soldiers want to brush aside their service? I would think an employer would want the discipline and tenacity that comes with volunteering for your country. I would.

Thank you! Take care.

This administration talks a lot about supporting the troops and about sacrifice, but that sacrifice is coming from a small minority and their families and for some, their employers. I've heard about other reservists losing their jobs, and all of our constantly redeploying military are being delayed in their educations and other opportunities, just be virtue of having to redeploy time and again.

Senator Webb (D-Va) has introduced several pieces of legislation which are critical for rectifying some of these inequities. He has introduced a new GI Bill which extends benefits similar to those for returning WWII vets. Yesterday he introduced an amendment to establish minimum dwell times for active duty and reserves. For active duty he proposes 1:1 (one month home for every month deployed) and for reserves he proposes 3:1. For reservists and National Guardsmen who are currently serving tours of 15 months this means their employers can anticipate having them back for up to 45 months, or almost four years. Less disruption to their employers. Less likelihood they can lose their jobs. Less trauma to their families.

The Republican leadership has announced its intention to block a vote on this bill - they threaten a filibuster. So much for caring about the troops. Everyone, this is about fairness to those who are carrying the burden of this fight and their loved ones and their employers and communities. Let's support this bill and ask the Republicans to allow debate instead of blocking it.

It is without question that the US military, be they Active, Reservist or National Guard know the meaning of sacrifice. Thier families certainly know what it means to sacrifice. The military does so because its' leadership stresses the need for each member to pull for the group. It becomes part of the culture. The American public however does not share this mentality. The President has not asked for the public for sacrifice and they do not . It is not just the anti-war crowd that believes that he wasted an opportunity to rally the nation for the cause. But anyone with an understanding of history can see that the tremendous sacrifices made by the U.S. Public during WWI & WWII were not spontaneous or accidental. They were a carefully considered and orchestrated mobilization of the American people. Not just rhetoric, but asking for substantive sacrifices for the cause. When you mobilize people for a cause, they feel invested in results in a way the rhetoric alone cannot.

The 'anti-war crowd' happens to be the majority of the country.

I hope you get home soon and we find a way to end this war so that the Middle East isn't torn apart, although I doubt any solution will be able to do this after the way our president has ruined things.

For the record, I spent 10 years active duty, 18 years reserve in two different services. I was deployed when active 4 times, and spent 2 year and a half deployments in the National Guard, where I was an operations sergeant. I was proud to be an 11B and a 25W. Every year I was in the reserves, I lost a minimum of 5,000 dollars of pay. During the time I was deployed, I lost a minimum of 30,000 per year. I was also 'downsized' by my former company 1 week after I told them I was going to be deployed. No help from the California National Guard was forthcoming after numerous requests to right this illegal action because they 'didn't want to piss off any large employers'. After more than 2 years after being injured while deployed, I still have not been repaired by the VA. I am currently employed at over 6 figures in income, and retired from a profession I loved because I could no longer trust the Army. I would never recommend anyone's son or daughter enlisting in the reserve. The Republican Party (for which, I voted from the time I was 18 until I got back) talks a good line, but does not keep their word. The crap I heard during 2 presidential elections about the Democratic candidates THAT ACTUALLY SERVED in a war zone sickened me. Do I support our troops? With all my heart and soul. I am so immensely proud of my brothers and sisters in arms. But I have to ask, what are we killing our best citizens for a greedy, cowardly, un-American, bunch of corporate suck-ups in DC?

Sadly, I must report that Senator Webb's amendment failed to secure the 60 votes needed to override the Republicans' motion for cloture. The vote was 56-41. All Democrats voted for the amendment, Sanders of Vermont voted for and Lieberman voted against, and of the Republicans Senators Warner, Snowe, Smith, Sununu, Collins, Coleman, and Hagel voted for the amendment.

Webb ended up having to withdraw the amendment from consideration. This means that our active duty, Reservist, and National Guard troops will continue to be unprotected from one deployment after another without sufficient dwell time between deployments. My sympathies to all our military and their families. Looks like they and their employers are going to continue to be the ones making all the sacrifices for this endless war.

You actually expected a health care company to show compassion in the case of LTC Muhl?

People who wish to sacrifice will find a way. This is NOT WWII with rationing, paper drives and Rosie the Riveter. In this different war, when the President said at the outset that it would be a long war, with some battles fought in the light of day and others we would never hear about the American People should have been listening. Google his address to both Houses of Congress following 9/11 and read his speech. As for sacrifices, get names of soldiers from Any Soldier.com or Soldiers' Angels and send till it hurts by way of food and R&R items, DVD Players and DVD's etc. Some have very specific needs of unusual items. Get them. Be imaginative if there is not too much listed. I sent a cooler with a lighter plug adapter for use in a HMV because they had a capablility that I found I could make life easier with, made cool ties, prayed and pray more often than the enemy and write long and upbeat letters no less than every other day. I have a theme in each which requires thought and good humor. Contribute hand made blankets or mitts and footies to Soldier's Angels for the wounded packs or contribute to give a specifically configured computer to the Valor-IT project. Thousands upon thousands of American's are doing these and other things, including worrying about those they write and without fanfare. We did not have to be told and we have found a way to be there to be counted when our best and bravest are in harm's way or have paid a bitter price. You do not hear about it normally because it isn't done for notice. But it is being done. If you think it is only the military and their families (the primary group) and employers (the next) you clearly are not among the hundreds of thousands of quiet Americans in the other group I have just described.

The DOD changed the rules on Army rotations just about 3 months ago. It doesn't apply to all - just regular Army but rotations out are 15 months with a year guaranteed at home. Senator Webb was part of a group that was trying by a back door means to limit deployments. He is decidedly anti-Iraq war. He is entitled to his beliefs, but do not confuse the motivations.

How can it be that one year home makes up for 15 months away? How does that constitute enough rest between deployments? It used to be a 2:1 ratio, and now for regular Army (but not reserves) it's 1 year to 15 months? Doesn't sound like a fair tradeoff to me.

To amplify the response of Mr. Lau:

The reason Mr. Coulson does not understand the position he outlines are two:

He apparently buys the first clause of the condition "If this were a colossal struggle of ideologies...." The second clause the lays out one expected result of the "if" - the President would ask for shared sacrifice. Since he does not, we may infer 1) that the President does not really believe that it is a colossal struggle of ideologies and/or 2) he does not have the political and moral courage to make his policy actions match his rhetoric and/or 3) he is politically inept.

In any instance, patriotic citizens of a democratic republic should be expected to voice reserve and objections when their leadership speaks one way, yet pursues policies that are at variance with that rhetoric (as Mr. Lau points out).

Which leads into the next and final point:

Clausewitz' dictum that war is a continuation of politics by other means has several corollaries, one of which is this: military force will only be as effective as the policies that guide it. It is difficult to imagine how one could possibly make the apocalyptic rationales of this administration match its spetacularly inept policies in Iraq. (e.g., hiring legions of mercenaries (KBR) to midwife democracy has very few historical antecedents).

If the public rationales do not match the implementation and/or outcomes of a military policy, then we may assume that the policy is actually otherwise than publicly stated or that the policy is flawed. In either case, Democratic citizens should not be exptected to back a war guided by an unexpressed and/or flawed policy.

THAT is why many, many Americans would be more supportive of the war effort if, e.g., a draft were to be declared. Of course, the "anti-war" crowd, as Mr. Coulson probably imagines it, would not support this, but I have never really considered myself among them....

MG

When I was in law school, I worked for the prosecutor's office. One of the DA's was deployed to Bosnia as a chopper pilot. During his two-year absence, we interns camped in his office [space was tight]. I watered his plants, forwarded his personal mail to his wife, answered his phone and got to know him a bit as I sorted through the in-box stuff that he left behind when he was called up.

I also remember when he came back. No announcement, no fanfare, no nothing. I opened the office door like I had every morning for over a year and there was a stranger, at least to me, in a shirt and tie, looking a little dazed and confused as he reviewed his docket. I introduced myself, apologized and gathered the files I had left strewn across the desk that had come to feel like 'mine.'

I can't imagine how he felt coming back to that grubby little office that had been co-opted by a stranger.

However, the county held his job and all the other lawyers, interns included, pitched in and back-filled his space while he served our country. That is the service those of us at home can contribute.

Come on home Badger, we left the light on for you!

Pretty interesting Terri. I love little stories like that. That guy must've totally felt weird, lol.

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