Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Reservists treated as second-class soldiers 
Here's military benefits columnist Tom Philpott:

Today, active duty members who buy into the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) also do pretty well with post-service education benefits.

But consider the experience of Reserve and Guard members, said Snyder. An initial commitment of up to six years can include up two years of involuntary active duty, with a year or more in a combat zone. Yet reservists who leave service after completing their obligations forfeit any unused Reserve GI Bill benefits.

Because Reserve MGIB was designed mostly as a retention tool, only members who stay in drill status, subject to call up, can use education benefits. In wartime, Snyder said, this is “terribly unfair.”


My troops are Florida Guardsmen, and have lived and worked in Florida, Ground Zero for nearly ten hurricanes over the last two years, in addition to their deployments to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

Each hurricane can knock a student out of school for a semester. Each deployment can knock a student out for 1 1/2 to two years.

The soldiers in my unit have not had a year unmolested by mandatory mobilizations for either State or Active Duty since October of 2001, when most of the unit was involuntarily mobilized to provide airport security - a mission that knocked them out of two full semesters of college.

They got in a semester in the fall of 2002, but were mobilized for duty in Iraq - and civilian school was put on hold until their return 15 months later.

Then they were called away for four hurricanes in 2004, and four more in 2005 - each mobilization disrupting school plans, and forcing many students to drop classes in the fall semester of both years.

On top of that, the Guard frequently schedules annual training in May, which causes a conflict with spring semester students. This year, annual training is in June, which poses less of a conflict. But that has been the exception in recent years, rather than the rule.

Therefore, you cannot say that these soldiers have plenty of time to go to school. A GI Bill benefit they can't take advantage of because their duties prevent them from attending school in the first place - and then taken away because they leave the unit in frustration when their enlistments come up is no benefit at all.

When I talk to soldiers, the number one reason they tell me they're getting out is because they haven't been able to finish school.

These soldiers put in their time, just as active component soldiers do. They bleed the same blood.

They shouldn't get the same monthly benefit. But those benefits they do earned ought to have the exact same permanence as those for active duty soldiers.

Splash, out


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