Friday, August 10, 2007

Army's bonus money is backwards

I like to tell people that there's three ways to do things:

The right way.

The wrong way.

The Army way.

If you've been in the military, then you know what I'm talking about. The solution is neither right nor wrong but it's not necessarily the best way to accomplish the task.

For example, if you were moving to China, you might debate on whether to fly or take a boat to get there. Now, if the Army were deploying to China, the military would at least consider a third alternative of digging a hole straight through the planet to get there. You can't say it's wrong, because in theory, it could work, right? That's the Army way!!

All humor aside, the Army way when it comes to today's recruiting stories is again neither right nor wrong, but we're losing good soldiers because of it.

Here's why:

If the Army is willing to offer a 17-year-old high school senior whose never spent a day in boots a $20K bonus, college benefits, business loans, home loans, etc ... what should it offer to keep its young veterans?

Shouldn't the military be offering equal incentives to keep a 35-year-old Sergeant with 15 years of service experience, including multiple combat tours? Shouldn't the Army be offering incentives to a 39-year-old officer in whom the government has invested nearly a million dollars to train?

In reality, the two examples above are offered nothing -- nada, zippo -- in incentives to re-enlist or stick around. Does that make sense to anyone? What kind of business would blow its bank account on new employees and offer nothing to its experienced middle and senior managers to stay around?

The answer: The Army.

I recently retired from the Army National Guard as a Major with 20 years of experience, including a combat tour of Iraq and multiple stateside deployments, including Hurricane Katrina. Taxpayers have sent me to more high-priced schools than I can count, and I'm one of the few officers in the state who has been certified in Equal Employment Opportunity from the Department of Defense. I'm qualified as an officer in both transportation and military police -- two of the most in-demand jobs in Iraq and elsewhere.

Know what I was offered as an incentive to stick around? Nothing.

With more overseas deployments looming, I had already made the decision to leave the military behind and concentrate on being a father of three sons. Still, after I filed my retirement papers, I got a call from the Army asking if there was anything they could offer me to stick around. I asked, "how about some of those big bonus dollars you're handing out?" I was told that I didn't qualify.

They system is simply backward. I'm just one of thousands of experienced leaders who are walking away from the military right now for a vast array of reasons while the Army -- which certainly wants to retain us -- has nothing to offer.

Would you run a business this way? I'm mean, seriously?

A close friend of mine who is also a Major and who has 25 years experienced will retire in November. He told the Ohio National Guard leaders that he would like to stay in the system if he didn't have to endure another deployment to Iraq right away. A Colonel told him that the state would rather he retire than still be around on the weekends to help train and lead other troops. Like me, he was also told that the incentives being offered to kids not even out of high school aren't available to him.

I don't deny the new recruits all the benefits they can get. After all, most are headed overseas and into harm's way very quickly. Still, shouldn't there at least be a gift certificate or a nice t-shirt for the ones still serving as an incentive to keep them around?

I love the National Guard and wouldn't trade my experience for anything. I'd recommend it to any young man or woman in the area.

Yet, I see a future Army made up of Generals and Privates. The folks in between aren't being offered good enough deals to stay.

It's the Army way.


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