Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Average everyday life

As you can see by my profile, I'm a utilities systems craftsman. Well, just so you know what that is, it's basically a long way to say that I'm a plumber, though it also includes water and wastewater treatment, pressurized air lines, and natural gas lines, all both interior and exterior. It's my job to make sure every facility on the base has drinkable water, hot water, working drains, natural gas when necessary, and air lines when necessary.
In addition I also have to make sure that I'm ready to deploy at a moments notice. This means I must have bags with equipment, clothing, uniforms, toiletries, and tools ready to grab and go at all times. We call these bags, which can double as luggage, "mobility bags."
As you saw in my last entry, we also have war time training. Our wartime jobs are not the same as our jobs here at our home bases. When we deploy for war, not only do we do our normal job, but we also do everything we train for in the "exercises" that we do. We don't go without anything we need, and we don't go without knowing how to use everything we have.
At this base I, along with the rest of the people in my shop, are responsible for the maintains and care for millions and millions of dollars worth of assets, equipment, and facilities. Next time you see a young person at their job, just think about this. The average 18-24 year old person is responsible for a few thousand dollars, at most. In the military, you have 18 year olds responsible for fixing multi-million dollar aircraft, ships, and structures. Not only do they do their jobs, but they do it in conditions that are worse than most convicts serving life in prison. Then compare the paychecks. Yes, I know a 4 star general can make over 4,000 dollars a month, but your average serviceman, with 2 years of military service, makes just over 1,000 dollars a month, plus health and dental care, housing and food allowances, and a small annual clothing allowance. I don't list retirement here because at that point, there is no guarantee that they will stay in for 20 years, which is the minimum amount of time required in military service to be eligible for retirement. Clothing allowances may be enough to cover needs for those who have jobs that keep them at a desk 90% of the time, but for those of us out digging trenches, filling sand bags, and repairing buildings and such, the allowance is no where near enough to cover the costs of maintaining acceptable uniforms, and much of that money comes from our own pockets. The housing allowance for a single, 18 year old, in many cases, wouldn't cover the cost of a one-bedroom apartment and the inherent utilities. The food allowance is around 250 dollars a month, which is enough if you have a slim diet. With increasing inflation problems, food prices are going up faster than our food allowance. Now, with this comparison in mind, I'm sure you would agree the the stress of the average 18 year old military member is much higher than that of someone his/her same age in the civilian world. As such the honor he earns with such a sacrifice is ten fold.

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