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I retired from service in the spring of 1967 with the rank of E-8.  I get a very nice retirement check every month that enables my wife and me to live a reasonably comfortable life style here in Honolulu.  I can even occasionally help one of our offspring when trouble happens.  1967 seems like yesterday to me, but let’s face it, that was almost a lifetime ago, so maybe my opinions about the military are now completely irrelevant.  I’ll let you decide.
  Let me take you back to my salad days when I was an Army T/5 (Remember those?) and had wangled the company clerk’s job.  I didn’t particular like the job but it beat the hell out of being in the field.  I don’t know exactly why the following incident sticks in my mind, but it does.  I was goofing off in the barrack one afternoon, stretched out on my bunk, when my name came roaring over the bitch-box along with the command to get my ass back to the orderly room NOW! (Do they still have bitch-boxes?)  It was our First Sergeant and I could tell he was pissed.  He was having some sort of big squabble with the Personnel Office and as I entered the Orderly Room I heard him say to one of the Platoon Sergeants, “For Christ sake they got Majors doing Corporal’s jobs these days!  What the fuck is happening to this man’s Army”?  Now the First had joined the Army the same year I was born so I thought, “The poor old bastard is living in the past.”  You may find I have the same problem here in this diary.

  One of the ways I start up a conversation with another retiree I chance to meet in my travels, is to ask the question “How many times did you think about quitting”?  The answer is usually, “More times than I can count.”  My point being military life is not always a bowl of cherries.  Over my years as an NCO I lost many a good subordinates and a few good superiors, to civilian life.  Some to the same field we worked in and some to other careers that military life had provided the time, opportunity and sometime even the school, to prepare for.  The U, S, Military has made great contributions to training people for good well-paying jobs.  In the past we have been a big social plus, other than just our prime purpose of defending the Nation.  Good cooks and mechanics were hard to retain.  People with administrative skills and training could usually find a good civilian job with no trouble.  A rifleman, not so much, but a few I knew got degrees in their off time and the military encouraged and supported them.  Some people got real-estate licenses or developed other skills they trained for while in service.  How many cops got their start as MP’s?  I could go on and on.
   I spent a lot of time in Japan during the occupation.  Those of you who may have read my diaries about my time in Korea know I was not a big fan of General MacArthur, but do gave him hell of a lot of credit for his brilliant handling of the occupation.  I traveled a lot in Japan in those days, from Kyushu to the Northern tip of Honshu, plus a number of years in Tokyo and Kure, near Hiroshima, and some time up by Misawa.  Never ran across a single contractor all during that time, not one, and no mercenaries either.  We hired a lot of Japanese to help stimulate their economy and it worked. We used Keynesian principals.  We occupied Japan with a few understrength Divisions and support troops.  We helped rebuilt their self-defense forces.  We helped them rebuild their country, their way, not ours.  We certainly did not do it ourselves nor did we contract it out.  
  The population of Japan at the end of WWII was roughly 86 million.  That figure is well over the combine populations of Iran and Afghanistan.  It seemed to me we had one person on the U.S. payroll for every 4 or 5 citizens of those occupied nations.  We often had more contractors in country than we had troops.   In Iran and Afghanistan the contractors rip off the U.S. tax payer to the tune of at least 60 billion dollars.  (And counting?)  (See the Commission on Wartime Contracting Report, April 2011.  It’s on the web.)
   When that amount of money is stolen in such a short period of time you would think a bunch of it would be recovered.  Go ahead, try to find out how much we’ve gotten back, and lots of luck with that.  (Send your search engine to SIGAR.)  
   The Bush Administration privatized the Military and the Wars.  In my opinion they weakened the Military by doing so, and by the same token, the United States.  I believe Rumsfeld, the Sectary of Defense at the time, the guy who planned and executed the privatization of everything in sight was the worst thing that ever happens to the United States.
    Hickam AFB is really a beautiful instillation with flowering trees, tropical plants, and trimmed hedges of bougainvillea, clipped to perfection. For beauty I would say it’s equal to or better than any Federal Property or park in the United States.  I pulled a tour there from 59 to 64.  The entire base maintenance was done by GI’s back then.
   If you travel from the entrance gate, (Which is guarded now by civilians.) to the cantonment area that is the Commissary and BX, you will usually see hordes of civilian workers with leaf blowers, trimmers and people collecting fallen plant debris.  (Believe me there’s a lot of that.)   I’m sure they all have health insurance and probably pensions.  I know this is anecdotal but I have no doubt it’s happening everywhere on every base and every post.  Convince me if you can, that privatization is more efficient that a military operation and that it saves us money as well.
   I believe in a strong national defense, but waste which I believe is currently rampant, makes us weaker as a military force and as nation.  They have contracted out the Mess Sergeant, the Cook, the Supply Sergeant, the Motor Sergeant and the MP’s + KP.  What’s next?  Move Personal and Finance to India?

Originally posted to This old man on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:24 AM PST.

Also republished by DKos Military Veterans, Military Community Members of Daily Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If mankind stopped lying, cheating and stealing (11+ / 0-)

    there'd be no need for a military.

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    by roseeriter on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:45:43 AM PST

  •  Blame the Congress. They have two main (21+ / 0-)

    incentives to privatize as many public services as possible.
    The first is to provide benefits to their civilian cronies. It is an historical fact that until the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1947, largely in response to military contract abuses during the second World War, all public officials, and especially Congress, we're immune from any review of their official actions, including the distribution of our natural and man-made assets to their friends and supporters. Although Congress had passed the Alien Tort Claims Act in 1789, giving foreign nationals the right to file suit, if they'd been wronged by an official act of malfeasance or negligent, U.S. citizens had no such right and the principle of "sovereign immunity" provided cover for doling out goodies from the public treasury.
    When the FTCA changed that on the books, it had little practical effect for a long while because the records and proceedings of public bodies were largely secret. It was only when the consumer rights and public information revolutions opened things up in the sixties that it became possible for people to know what was going on. The resignation of Richard Nixon and the imprisonment of some of his hoods was proof that there had been a sea change. But, instead of public officials becoming more conscientious and trustworthy in discharging their duties, they turned to contracting them out to middlemen, whom it is almost impossible to hold to account -- especially when being unaccountable is what the Congress is about.
    Contracting with private corporations is a two-fer: easy money from a guaranteed income stream for the privates and no accountability for the publics. (There was actually method to the change in name from the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office. Being able to account for oneself or tell a story is different from things being actually counted. Potential v. Actual).

    The "contractors can do it cheaper" argument is a total sham, especially when you consider that the Congress is charged with issuing the currency or script with which the work they want done gets paid. But then, the responsibility for managing the currency is another obligation the Congress has sloughed off. Well, actually, they did that first in 1913, when they handed the job over to the Federal Reserve, a quasi-private bank, routing each dollar through Wall Street for its cut before the Congress doles it back out directly. What they did, in effect, was give Wall Street a veto over how much of our money gets allocated to public goods and services, so our representatives can claim it is out of their hands. Bunch of Pontius Pilates we have on Capitol Hill.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:19:52 AM PST

  •  The Military would be outsourced entirely given (15+ / 0-)

    the GOP's position on privatization and Government.

    "We are a Plutocracy, we ought to face it. We need, desperately, to find new ways to hear independent voices & points of view" Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General.

    by Mr SeeMore on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:04:56 AM PST

  •  Yes, yes, amen, hmmmm... (15+ / 0-)

    Loved this diary, hit a lot of things I've experienced myself,  having retired at 20 a few years ago.  Yes, they still have bitch-boxes...  Navy anyway, god love them.  Yes, the contractors are something a leech can only dream of; will never forget those pallets of cash that (surprise) disappeared into thin air in Iraq.  Granted, I have plenty of friends who got out in one way or another and went to work for those contractors...  I don't fault them, but the result is the same.  Lord yes, Ol' Rumsfeld is without a doubt antithetical to the idea of a good executive, the idea of 'defense' and would no doubt have led the Charge of the Light Brigade 100 times over from his desk in order to prove we were 'light and modern'.  That entire affair is unbelievably shameful in the way it was mismanaged.  Last point; I don't know how to approach the base maintenance other than civilian augmentation, however.  (Minus the rent-a-cops at the gate, tho.)  But that may be because I have no experience of a US base wholly military run. The only one that came close was my overseas tour in Spain... and even that wasn't 100%.

    A civilized humanity, like reality, has a liberal bias.

    by mechboots on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:10:21 AM PST

    •  I'm pleased you liked the diary Mechboots. (6+ / 0-)

      I usually hated to lose a good person but  was always happy and certainly did not blame them.  Still remember some great “saiyonara’ parties.   Whatever branch, the military can be a very trying career.  Thanks for the Bitch-box information.  Good to know some things never change.
      By the way – during your 20 did you ever think about quitting?    

      •  once seriously - I was an E-4... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        This old man, kurt

        Back in 1997, we had the worst run of broken aircraft I've ever witnessed then or since.  The squad had 9 P-3 Orions, they've always been high maintenance (about 100 man hours for every hour of flight).  One plane came in for deep inspections, and that overran due to things found.  Then another one came in...  same deal.  Then they started going down on the flight line.  Within 2 weeks every plane was down.  Not always for mechs, and maybe one got fixed that day...  but we would come in the next day and see it was down again.  Red arrows down for almost 3 months, 14-16 hour shifts 7 days a week at home...  just trying to get ahead of it all, and make something stay up and stay that way.  I hadn't made E-5 yet, and I was on the brink of walking away and going to truck-drivers school.  I've heard of the 7 year itch when it comes to military service, and I think it's true.  I made E-5, those damn aircraft started to fly again, and I stuck with it.  My career probably wasn't as interesting as yours, but I still loved it.  I envy your still being near a base, it keeps you connected with the life.

        A civilized humanity, like reality, has a liberal bias.

        by mechboots on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:43:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Base maintenance thoughts... (8+ / 0-)

    I think the reason I think bases are now the province of civilian is the nature of your average unit has changed.  I know we don't have the people to do this...  certainly not well, except maybe Base PSD.  If you're in Honolulu, you're probably familiar with the size of the Base Command and it's size...  miniscule.  The military has changed drastically...  everything that can be done to put a body in the front lines is being done, including filling positions in the rear with civilians, or even Navy or Air Force guys doing short tours guarding gates and overseas prisons so Army and Marine guys can go up front to shoot someone.  This began in 2005, and when I left in 2010 was streamlined...  if you wanted to make rank, it was known that volunteering for that kind of duty would be a big help.  Also, it's much, much, much more difficult to make rank now...  at least Navy-wise.   If we were to go back to self-sufficiency, which I would prefer, it would take an end to the war and a decade or so to re-group to get it started.  

    A civilized humanity, like reality, has a liberal bias.

    by mechboots on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:25:35 AM PST

  •  Nothing new. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nickrud, gfv6800, walkshills

    In fact, aside from the Motor Sergeant, I believe each one of the jobs you've specified has had an antecedent amongst camp followers and sutlers in the past.

  •  End of universal conscription? (9+ / 0-)

    I'm wondering if many of these jobs were filled by the supply of personnel made available by the draft? With an all-volunteer military, how many folks want to sign up to clean the grounds?

    "We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology."-Edward O. Wilson, in "The Social Conquest of Earth"

    by sparkysgal on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:17:38 AM PST

    •  There may be some truth to your point (7+ / 0-)

      in this day and age, however I served during long periods when there was no draft and we were pretty much a self-contained and self-serviced.  And of course no one ever signed up to clean the grounds, or pull Kitchen Police duty, or stand guard, or build an empire, come to that.  GI’s never did that sort of work full time, it was extra duty for most part, usually with a GI supervisor who had complete responsibility and knowledge for the task to be done.        

      •  What long periods were those? (0+ / 0-)

        While I know it was a lot easier to get a deferment prior to Johnson's escalation in Vietnam, I never heard of any time between WWII and the 70s when there was not a draft.

        "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

        by Alice in Florida on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:06:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  My first thought (8+ / 0-)

    was simply that the Bushes have been involved in military contracting since Samuel Prescott Bush in WWI.  NATURALLY they'd have been rolling the goodies off to their friends since HW first became VP.  Then you have Carlyle group.  How's a businessman better to make money, than to become a political player, make the budgets, and direct lots and lots of business into his own back yard?

    That said, I think sparkygirl's got a point.  The end of conscription meant a major increase in money going to salaries and bonuses for the "volunteer" (well-paid for risking their lives) forces.  It makes sense not to waste the highly-paid killers on lawn-mowing jobs.  Except for the fact that no matter what you pay them, you can't put humans into the meatgrinder of modern warfare for years at a time without a break doing something mindless like mowing the lawn, and expect them to be sane afterwards.  So I think they're trying not to waste money, in a typical American businessman type of way.  Except that 1) they can't hire illegal immigrants to mow the law at the prices that corporations outside the base fence can, and 2) they end up having to pay for all the drugs and therapy and lifelong disability payments that results from burning out their high-priced human material and having to discard it once it's too crazy to do anything useful ever again, and 3) no civilian is going to do as good a job at guarding the base as trained military specialists.  That's what they DO.

    •  Ah yes, Prescott Bush. (8+ / 0-)

       Wasn’t he one of the guys that helped finance the Nazis?  By the way, we highly-paid-killers are not, and never were, all that highly paid.  My first military pay was $21 dollars a month during WWII.  The theory of privatization is an approach to the old problem of a certain class getting their hands on tax payer’s money.  Its bad policy and leads to extensive corruption.  It would be great if we did not need a military.  (Read roseeriter’s comment.)  It would be nice if you people would resist, scream to high heaven, and stop sending us killers to fight pointless wars.  It would be wonderful if you people would insist the corruption stop.  You are an American citizen, right?  We don’t really even have an ememy!!!        

      •  Oh, certainly not in WWII! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder, walkshills, IreGyre, kurt

        That was back when they had a draft, not to mention that they could never have afforded to mobilize as many men as they did, if they had paid them more than a pittance!

        Kids these days are getting paid MUCH more, and more importantly, they are getting substantial upfront chunks of cash for initial and re-enlistment "bonuses".  Those chunks of cash can mean the downpayment on a first home, a substantial contribution to the costs of a college degree, or an initial investment to start a small business or a sizeable investment account.  Today's enlistment bonus probably exceeds the whole of what you were paid during your entire military career.

        But I'm not contradicting your points about corruption and pointless wars.  I object to having ANYONE die to make investment brokers a profit, which basically covers every war since the War of 1812.  I'm just noting that since Vietnam, the American public has gotten a little wiser to this, and so it costs  the country a hell of a lot more to pay young people to go do the killing and dying.  They used to volunteer out of youthful naivete and love for their country.  Now they do it so that their kids will be able to have a decent home and school, paid for by Uncle Sam.

        And of course, NOT paid for by those who profit from it most, and do their utmost to avoid paying anything in return.

    •  That is so true, even without combat. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bronx59, This old man, walkshills

      Doing mindless jobs is sometimes the best kind of break. You keep moving, but it gives the brain a rest, and it gives you a change of pace, surroundings and even personnel.

      I love mowing a lawn when I am stressed.

      Hated working in galleys though. The tables were too low and I would throw my back out bending down to wipe them off.

  •  I saw it happening in the early '80s (9+ / 0-)

    I enlisted in the Navy in 1983, and the privatization of services on base was in evidence then. Except for boot camp, every mess I ate in was served by a civilian company, overseen by Navy Mess Specialists. The civilians cooked, served, cleaned and ran the cash register (yes, we had to pay a small cost to eat in our own mess hall, something like $1 or $2 for each meal). It was damn near like eating at the high school cafeteria.

    There were also grounds crews, as well as just about any cashier-type in the PX, the movie theater, and so on. In fact, IIRC, the entire staff at every "retail" joint was a civilian contractor.

    We did at least still have a Marine contingent for base security.

    "Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati" - Red Green Freedom Ain't Free - Stop Whinging and Pay Your Share

    by FlashfyreSP on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 07:49:50 AM PST

  •  Great diary (9+ / 0-)

    and I think one of your comments nailed it.
    It is a transfer of wealth as you said.
    It makes no sense to pay a contractor $1000/day (if that is true) to do a job a military person could do.
    Also, many of these contracting corporations subcontract out 2-3 times. They get paid a huge amount of money, and then pay the person actually doing the job a small amount.
    On the other hand, I do not like seeing the same military personnel returning 3-6 times.  Many of these people are on very dangerous, mind altering drugs.
    In past, the diagnosis they have would get them discharged.
    But we are also seeing the no bid contracts from natural disasters such as Katrina, to what is going on in NJ.
    Transfer of wealth.
    And many of these corporations that get our tax dollars, have their companies offshore so they do not have to pay taxes on them.
    Look at XE.
    And even after these companies were shown to be blatantly criminal and overcharging, they still got new contracts from their friends in Congress.

    America never needed so much in the last election and got so little.

    by snoopydawg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 10:07:35 AM PST

  •  Putting more military secrets in civilian hands (9+ / 0-)

    not a good idea. Rumsfeld was prior Navy.  Perhaps we are attracting and cultivating the wrong kind of culture in our higher ranks.

    I know Dick Cheney's old outfit really benefited from everything you mention up there. Haliburton and KBR--big time war contracts in the Near East.

    It seemed to me, that the Bush Administration had an entire cabinet of industry leaders, whose companies really benefited mightily from every aspect of the Bush Administration.

    I am sure that was just a mere coincidence.

  •  45 yrs of retirement checks???? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man

    retired 1967 means you have been getting retirement checks for 45 years. Were you on duty for 45 years? Otherwise that's an awesome return on investment.

    Msongs batik, digital design, photography, songwriting

    by Msongs on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:21:53 PM PST

  •  One other advantage of "Outsourcing" (8+ / 0-)

    military functions is that it effectively legalizes all those things Armies aren't allowed to do.

    Want to torture?  Well, a few civilian consultants will take care of that for you!

    Want to do unauthorized raids on civilians?  Tweren't us! Twas Blackwater!  I mean, Xe!  I mean, Academi!

    It's really no surprise the current Army is hemorrhaging good soldiers at a rate that is ludicrous nowadays, to be replaced with expendable poor kids.

    Used to be that a soldier could support a family on their salary and not have to worry about things.

    Now you need to worry if you tear a sweater on deployment without proper paperwork, because there's another 50 bucks that you can't afford to pay.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:22:08 PM PST

  •  Transformation (10+ / 0-)

    The intro to your diary at first made me think it was going in a different direction - probably because it echoed something the higher-ups have been preaching nearly verbatim for a couple years now: how "unconscionable" it is that there are so many military retirees drawing full pension for more years than they served, starting when they are still "young enough" to have a whole other career.

    When you talked about how many times you thought about getting out, I was reminded of how we were told our pensions are going away, to be replaced with a few % of TSP matching, that vests as early as 5 years in.  For those who are "grandfathered in" with the pension, it will not be accessible until one is 60 or 65 (like reserve pensions).

    I'm guessing you know how they are eliminating Tricare Prime for retirees more than 40 miles from a base, pushing thousands more onto the more expensive plans, and raising the rates for those.  How military commissaries are on the chopping block again - can't have a couple million Americans buying food "at cost" from a largely self-sustaining agency.

    While on the surface it may seem expensive to hire civilians and contractors to replace the military, after a 10-year war the government has realized that troops are expensive after you're done with them: retirement costs, health care costs, GI bill, etc.  Contractors may earn a lot for their "boots on ground" time, but the government is only paying for that time...not to train them (have to come fully trained and ready to go), not to handle their health care after they are gone, not to pay for their post-service education, not to pay them a retirement, and I don't believe to take care of any death or disability issues if/when they are injured.  All of this apart from questions of legality or accountability.

    Personally, I think it is creating a hollow force that will become painfully evident as the economy rebounds and many military folks go outside - particularly the senior enlisted and mid-grade officers who take so long to "grow".  Without a 20-year retirement I think many more may decide it's time to move on.

    Thank you for your service!

    •  Thank you Square Know. (7+ / 0-)

       Actually $21 bucks a month was big money to me when I joined.  I even sent a few of dollars to my mother and that help keep her from hunger.   I used the military to get out of poverty.  Much later it served minorities the same way.  When I first went in service – remember we were segregated.   The black service man owes a lot to Hairy Ass Truman.
         I think youre right about the hollow force.  You can't treat people like crap and then expect loyality.  It works for a little while - but    

  •  Some stuff has changed; some hasn't. (8+ / 0-)

    But all those privatized employees out there guarding the gates and blowing the leaves and mowing the lawn? They don't have benefits. They don't have health care. It's how we can afford to pay a privatized contractor to do the work - we pay the lowest bidder and the lowest bidder doesn't provide those nice things like benefits. So the federal government saves some money upfront but then, when it comes time for those people to use the health care system or to retire, they rely on social security and medicare and before they can qualify for those, I bet many of them use food stamps, medicaid, and their local state assistance programs.

    Help a Milwife win the Photobucket contest - Please Share, Like, and Comment, not necessarily in that order!

    by angelajean on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:37:40 PM PST

  •  long time (5+ / 0-)

    First, thank you and congratulations.  You have achieved my dream - collecting more retirement than active pay!!!  I hope I can stay healthy enough to do so!

    One of my first squad leaders had been a "Specialist Six" when conversion happened and he was made a Staff Sergeant.  He was no Sergeant and had never wanted to be one but we pounded that square peg into a round hole anyway.

    No more bitch box.  It has progressed from the CQ phone to pagers to cell phones.  Now when Top wants to talk to you he sends a text or an email.

    Some contractors are a good thing.  When I was an S4 I had the additional duty of overseeing the dining facility.  Thats when I discovered the Army had 32 food service Sergeants Marjors.  What the Heck?  How could burger flipping ever require a Sergeant Major?  How could we need 32 when we only had 10 understrength divisions?  My own Mess Sergeant was an E7 who had not cooked a meal in a decade because he was "management."  But I still had to send him to ANCOC for 6 months so he could also learn how to be a Senior NCO leader.  I dont need well lead burgers, I need well cooked ones.

    I have cut my fair share of lawns and picked up trash but as you pointed out, we dont do that much any more.  We cant afford to have highly trained troops in high demand mowing lawns or being life guards at the pool.  When we started cutting end strength we lost all the "spare" soldiers that did those jobs.  Now it takes everyone just to get the essentials done and even then we are deploying back to back at times and everyone is pretty much on train, deploy, train.  Its better to hire a $15 an hour guy to cut the lawn than have a $200K a year soldier do it.

    During the Rumsfeld years we went past efficiency to stupidity - the hight of which was having a contractor evaluating the performance of a contractor.  Go figure they said we needed more contractors.  For a while it was limited to support staff but then I started seeing Intelligence being done by contractors.  Bad news.  Someone with a profit motive telling you about the threat.  Go figure there were threats everywhere and the only way to find them and track them was more contractors.

    Under Secretary Gates we started cutting contractors and we continue to do so today.  Last year my organization was told to cut by 50% and we had to get a waiver to not take a sword to our one contractor.  Its been a while since I have seen an intel contractor but looking at the global email directory I know they still exist.  

    We lost something when we stopped taking care of our "homes" (units) ourselves but until we slow down, there is no way to go back.

    Thanks for the great story and perspective.  

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:07:54 PM PST

  •  Thanks for this diary (8+ / 0-)

    I grew up an Army-brat, '53 'til '71. My Dad went from E-6
    to WO1 when he was put to teaching radar maintenance
    at the Fort Sill Artillery and Missile School. Then he made his first trip to RVN with the advance party of the 1st Infantry
    Division and his counter-mortar radar. In that era he was guaranteed 2 years stateside between tours and his choice of duty stations. We ended up at Ft. Richardson, Alaska for 11 months. They had a radar there, he was Motor Pool Warrant wondering where APC parts went to (GIs autos) and occasionally recalibrating a weather radar. Not a happy camper.
    At that point I was old enough, H.S. junior, to leave the house unattended and immediately began hanging out at the service club, learned my way around a darkroom, and at snack bars in the barracks areas, drinking beer at the pinball machines.
    Once every 2 or so years we would have Turkey Day in a mess hall  with the GIs. More often than that we would bring fellas home from chapel for Sunday dinner. Then it was off to a sundown town near Orlando while the old man took his CW2
    back to RVN and an Agent Orange shower (which the VA recognized about 2 years before Dad passed in '05) . Then Ft. Hood, Sept. '70 'til retirement in June '71. I remember him mulling
    CW4 and deciding it would mean extending his enlistment and another trip you-know-where. He left with 26 years and his CW3.
    Anyway, in my experience it was a GI or a dependent who held the on-post jobs.  I bagged groceries Saturdays at the commissary, worked Officers Clubs, snack bars in barrack basements or West Fort Hood airfield and hung out with more GIs. To this day I have a terrible time remembering names
    ' cause I learned not to ask brothers I hadn't seen for a year or 2 about anyone who wasn't there.
    In my adult working life I spent 13+ years as a mechanic accompanying air freight aircraft, Douglassaurus 8s, when they went where the company didn't have a mechanic to meet the A/C. Lots of that was military contract.
    The GI bill is not what it was in the '60s and '70s. Veterans
    get TERRIBLE treatment from the VA. Suicide is taking more GI lives than the bogus war(s) and XE or Blackwater or whatever they call themselves this week have a huge private force and mercs and contractors get Zip besides a paycheck.
    All while Burger King and whoever else can get in the door are scraping the cream.
    Why is the National Guard doing International duty?
    Is it a bottom line thing? Duh.
    Yeah, pallets of C-notes, and don't forget the bunkers full of ordnance on the way to Baghdad that had their locks cut off and were then walked away from...IED anyone?
    Things are REALLY fouled up !!! Thanks loads GW, DC, Rummy and all the rest of you enema nozzles.
    So, I expect all the 1% wannabes would pitch a fit if  "this mans' Army" were to start doing for themselves and the VA
    were to actually develop the ability to properly recompense
    those who have survived serving.
    This ain't all but it seems to have become a lot like a rant.
    Thanks again for the diary.

  •  I've long held similar views. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man, walkshills

    My dad was in the Navy for 23.5 years. I quite agree with your sentiments here.

  •  Many base workers are people with disabilities, (8+ / 0-)

    For grounds maintenance, janitorial, food service, etc. the Federal AbilityOne Program is a set-aside program that awards most of these types of contracts to be filled by people with disabilities.  They are good jobs that pay an average of $17/hour plus benefits.  Many of the workers are in fact wounded veterans who have had trouble finding jobs.

    I work for the program, which employs over 50,000 people.  

    "I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it." Terry Pratchett

    by kiwiheart on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:01:19 PM PST

  •  great diary, This old man! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man, kurt

    I loved your phrase "the bitch-box"
    that probably helped keep you guys and gals sane:)

    yeah the "bitch-box" lives on.....
    that's close to what some people call Apple's Siri, lol.

    even though i have never served, i feel exactly like you do about mercenaries in the military.
    just an opening for corruption and cronyism, imo.

    i also feel that the people who serve in our military never be put in harm's way unless the country is truly at real risk.
    there should be a way to hold presidents and congress accountable for "preventive" wars as General Clark called Iraq.

    and the evil bobsey twins - rumsfeld/cheney are grotesque :(

    you are up to the moment in what makes sense to me.
    although, what do i know, i'm pushing not too far from 70, lol.

    Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

    by eve on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:03:58 PM PST

    •  Thanks for the complement. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eve, kurt

      I was riding the bus last week and overheard the conversation between  two ladies in the seat ahead of me.  They were talking about the National Debt.  They had been listing to FOX news and one said to the other, “You know, maybe we really can’t afford to be a superpower anymore.”
      Makes one ponder.

      •  lol, re: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        This old man, kurt

        2 FOX news listeners saying:
        “You know, maybe we really can’t afford to be a superpower anymore.”

        maybe, indeed.

        trumpeting delusions of triumphalism or exceptional-ism may have won irresponsible people elections but they have been very costly to the lives of the people who serve and indigenous peoples who are also victims of unnecessary wars.

        One thing I'm quite happy about wrt President Obama is that he seems quite accepting of the democratic movements that hopefully will succeed around the world and he doesn't seem interested in keeping oppressive dictators who are easily bribed by multinational companies willing to help them line their own pockets.

        I think that this dynamic of the last 50 or 60 years has been responsible of the abuse of average people in energy rich countries and for the terrible abuse of the people who serve this country.
        I am always glad to see General Clark supporting progressive veterans who run for office. I hope that when enough progressive veterans are in the congress that will put a damper on this dynamic.

        Do you believe that the draft should be brought back, so that the country pays more attention to the impossible demands put on people who serve?


        Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

        by eve on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 07:34:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, let me see. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, eve

           I did not think too much about Vietnam because I was working 12 to 14 hrs. a day in Okinawa.  I went to Nam , tdy for 7 days and ran into an old Army buddy who floored me when he said he’d sent he son to Canada.  He was one of the most gung-ho guys I knew.   When he told me how rotten and corrupt the Vietnam Government was, I had a hard time believing him.  I wondered WTF we were doing there.  I soon became extremely anti - Vietnam.   If there were no draft, we might still be there.  If we had a draft for the aggressive current wars that should never have happened, they would have ended a lot sooner.   I have been called a traitor for referring to the Iraq war as a war of Aggression.   We could have punished Afghanistan for 9/11 without putting troops on the ground.   Just some thoughts Eve from a crankey old man.            

          •  you're not cranky (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            This old man

            I'm the one who comes off shrill getting on my high horse.

            Iraq was a war of aggression.

            if you get called a traitor for telling the truth, then the Constitution is not worth the paper (parchment?) it's printed on.
            You're the bedrock of democracy from what I can tell.
            thanks for telling the story and being a sweet guy,
            in spite of what you've been put through.

            I know my husband would agree with you too plus my kids.
            and grandkids.

            Finally people have gotten sick and tired of being had and taken for idiots. Mikhail Gorbachev

            by eve on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:02:42 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  This diary is so fantastic, I ran out to the (5+ / 0-)

    garage and made my "this old man" come in and read it. We're a microscopic military/government supplier, and you would not believe the hoops we have to jump through to get a modest contract, while fat cats like Raytheon, Boeing, etc. rake in billions with not even a wink toward oversight.  We hire veterans, and they're loyal, hard working, and most importantly, are accustomed to cross-training.  And they're treated like shit by our government. I've run on enough here, but just wanted to thank you for a terrific read!  

    •  I know all about the hoops. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IreGyre, kurt, cactusgal

       I ran a yacht charter service here in Honolulu for a little over 10 years along with a partner – a retired Navy Chief.  We applied for a small Government contract that had to do with Monk Seals.  We spent over four month with the paper work + other hoops and submitted a ridiculously low bid, but lost to a big mainland concern.  
         About the business, my wife always said I was on a 10 year vacation.  She’s prone to seasickness.
         Thank you for hiring vets!    

  •  I was stationed in West Point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man, Square Knot

    I remember having rotating duty to rake leaves and maintain the grounds ... today - all contractors.

    Pulled KP with military cooks, cleaned barracks - it was all part of the job.

    Nothing wrong with it.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. Frank Zappa

    by Da Rock on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:27:46 PM PST

  •  Privatization is such a euphemistic term for it. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man, Square Knot, IreGyre, kurt

    When the Republicans (and I don't see why it couldn't apply to Democrats if they do it, too) talk about privatizing a government service, they mean handing over big government contracts to their political buddies who follow up by funneling it back to them in the form of campaign funding and support.  It's pure corruption.

    What is private and what is captalist about that?  It's ripping off the taxpayers to the benefit of politicians!  It's not competitive!  It's wasteful of money!  And it distorts our political system making it lucrative to start and continue wars with countries we have no beef with just so the gravy train doesn't stop.

    The other Greenwald, the director, did a film about the private contractors during the Iraq war and how they were getting rich off of it.  At one point, (maybe this is on youtube in a clip), they interviewed some soldiers who told how they kept getting back their clothes that had been sent to be washed and they felt greasy.  So they started washing their own clothes.  

    They were ordered to STOP washing their own clothes.


    Because if they kept doing that then KBR couldn't wash them.

  •  Thanks for this diary, this old man. Well-said. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man
  •  Some of what you saw is good. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    This old man

    I'm also a retiree, out in 2007, and I saw the good and the bad side of private-sector outsourcing.

    First - servicemembers cutting grass, blowing leaves, trimming trees and painting rocks is not going to happen. I know  I did it in the late 80s, but only the line units had that kind of work.

    The reason that has to be outsourced is simple, you can't recruit people, promise them all the glory of service, and then have them cut the grass. It won't work, and it's an epic waste of money to take a fully trained solider out to yard work on a regular basis.

    At times though, due to your location, you have to do these housekeeping things. Ask any sailor about ship duty. Ask any fobbit if he got hemmed up on a shit detail. (I hear they cut back on that lately though).

    The real crime is the private sector bandits on the endless development programs for Things We Don't Need.

    There are hundreds of multi-billion dollar companies who convice Washington to buy TWDN. Systems upon systems upon systems. All robbing an entity with little collective foresight.

    I'm all for the brand of merit-based socialism our military provides to those who serve, military and civillian and those who provide services to them.

    I'm not for the current brand of fear-driven disaster capitalism that has run our strategy for the last 40 years or so. Also remember, they have been wrong about everything. Wrong about Vietnam. Wrong about Panama. Wrong about Bosnia (mostly anyway). Wrong about Iraq. Wrong about Afghanistan. They've been wrong becuase they have been unable to build the force for the pending threat, always solving the last problem or creating new ones.

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