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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Saturday, November 05, 2005

!#$&@%ing Pentagon !#&$@%s Soldiers (Again)

!#$&@%ing Pentagon !#&$@%s Soldiers (Again)

Kudos to Senator Murray (D-WA), who serves on both the Senate Veterans Affairs and Budget Committees, for speaking up against this travesty:

A Department of Defense decision to renege on war-time promises to pay bonuses to more than a dozen re-enlisting Washington National Guardsmen has sparked outrage from prominent elected officials and state National Guard officers working to rectify the situation.

According to a state Guard spokesman, Maj. Phil Osterli, at least 15 Washington National Guardsmen and women signed re-enlistment forms promising them a tax-free $15,000 bonus in return. Many of them were stationed in Iraq at the time, he said.

Yes, you read that right: The Department of Defense is going back on its promise of a $15,000 re-enlistment bonus. I wonder if Rummy auto-signed those letters, too? And who authored these reports proffering the lamest. excuse. ever.

But Pentagon officials have said in published reports that the bonuses were canceled because they duplicated other programs and were prohibited.

What, did they not bother to review the legal intricacies of these contracts before issuing them? I know the Pentagon has its own legal wonks; surely there are protocols in place for contract agreements. It simply beggars all reason to think these deals aren't subjected to legal scrutiny before being offered.

Our soldiers are risking their lives for this country and, in return, are sent to Iraq without adequate armor, held via stop loss for repeated consecutive Iraq tours and are now being denied the promised recruitment bonuses. Has the Pentagon brass gone irredeemably daft? Do they not understand how criticial it is for our soldiers to trust them and to feel like they are honored by the government they serve? And they have to know that many soldiers would NOT have re-upped if the bonus hadn't been on the table.

Sgt. 1st Class Carl Latson is one of those in the Washington National Guard directly affected. The Spanaway man, a 13-year military veteran who said he has served both in Operation Desert Storm and in the current Iraq war, re-enlisted in January for another six-year term, which would have taken him close to retirement from the service.

Latson, 35, said Friday that the bonus was a big incentive to re-enlist. At the time it was offered, he was serving in Iraq as an enlisted aide for a general at the Balad Army base near Baghdad.

...After serving two years active duty with the Navy and the last 11 years with the National Guard, Latson said, "I re-enlisted because the opportunity was there to finally get a bonus."

If there's one thing soldiers know how to do, it's fight, and fighting they are; Latson has retained a lawyer and the Washington State National Guard is fighting the Pentagon on behalf of its members affected by this chicanery.

Osterli said the state Guard's recruiting and retention commander, Maj. John Sharrett, is in Washington, D.C., arguing to National Guard and Pentagon brass that the reversal is unwise and unfair.

"We're clearly concerned about this issue and want to make sure these soldiers get what they deserve," said Osterli.

...Latson has retained a lawyer, Mark Clausen of Seattle. Clausen said that for now he's working "up the chain of command" of the locally based military to see if he can find relief for his client that way, before pursuing other legal remedies.

...A Pentagon spokesman declined comment Friday.

The Pentagon brass can run and not give statements, but hiding from this is not an option; the impact of such an egregious betrayal is not going to fade from the soldiers' memories any time soon:

"It has made a significant impact on my life," said Latson. "For them to offer a bonus when we're at war, when we're risking our lives, and then to turn around and not pay it when we return is the wrong message to send to me, to any soldier. It's not fair."

...Latson said that regardless of whether he gets the money promised him, he's made one decision. He plans to quit the military long before retirement age.

"I'm to the point now where I want to get out," he said. "I'm just really disappointed."

Well, that's just shoot-yourself-in-the-foot brilliant. Recruitment levels are at record lows - the whole reason for offering the bonus in the first place - and now the military is going back on its word to recruits. Lovely.

wing tip to Americablog!


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