Army captain: Dudes! Stop your whining, you’ve got a pretty good fat deal already
By "A Happy Camper" Best Defense guest columnist I am an Army captain with five years of service, married to a brilliant young woman. Ideally, we would live downtown in a vibrant metropolis where we can walk or take public transit everywhere; my work would involve developing some sort of deep technical expertise in furtherance ...
By "A Happy Camper"
By "A Happy Camper"
Best Defense guest columnist
I am an Army captain with five years of service, married to a brilliant young woman.
Ideally, we would live downtown in a vibrant metropolis where we can walk or take public transit everywhere; my work would involve developing some sort of deep technical expertise in furtherance of national security, and my wife would be able to climb the ladder of her own lucrative career. Of course we’d also like to retain my current salary relative to our cost of living, my 30 days of annual leave, numerous four-day weekends, paid-for educational opportunities, as well as the option to collect a pension and virtually free healthcare for life after just 20 years.
Although reality falls short of our dreams, it’s still pretty good. My wife got into teaching after we married because of its "portability," and the Army, to its credit, paid for her certification program through MyCAA. Teaching pays less than she might have earned otherwise with her education, and there will be frustrations as we move around (transferring her license, gaps in employment, leaving before vesting in any retirement plan), but she was hired immediately by the school district here and given good opportunities for professional development. As for my own work, I hope to find some greater depth and specialization by moving into a certain functional area. We can’t put down roots in a big city yet, but I can choose to attend graduate school in one, and we could be assigned to Washington, DC at some point. Finally, when I add up the total compensation for 20 years of service — salary, pension (assuming we survive to average life expectancy), healthcare, undergraduate, graduate, and professional education — it comes to about $5 million (adjusted to 2013 dollars). That’s $250,000 per year in uniform, with several of those years spent as a student in flight school, CCC, ILE, graduate school, etc.
I believe that I’d be competitive for civilian jobs with my STEM degree from a top-50 university, and many complaints about the Army definitely resonate with me, but it seems unrealistic to expect a much better deal than we’re already getting. So for now I’m one junior officer that actually plans to stay in. That said, I value my marriage above all else; if my wife gave me an ultimatum because she wanted a high-powered career in big law or finance, or because she couldn’t handle another deployment, I would choose to leave too.
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