Morale: The Bennies


July 6, 2007: As it does periodically, the U.S. government did a study comparing military pay with what civilians of the same age and education make. For example, the average 20 year old E-3 (someone in about two years, and not having any trouble with military life) is earning $32,900 in cash and $27,600 in benefits (health care, housing and food, veterans benefits, and so on). If married, pay and benefits go up about 20 percent (to, in this case, to about $76,000, which is why so many junior troops are married). For those who are making a career of it, pay and benefits ranges from $100,900 for a 25 year old E-5 with six hears service, to $170,700 for a 44 year old E-9 with 25 years of service.

These are averages. Troops serving in combat zones, or with critical skills, make more. But even a new, unmarried, recruit, still in training, makes $54,900 (46 percent of it in benefits). The military only takes people who would also be attractive to civilian employers, and over 80 percent of them will be doing what are essentially civilian jobs. These combat support troops, when serving in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, rarely leave their well guarded bases. The dangerous jobs are in the combat units, and, oddly enough, there is no shortage of volunteers for those positions.

The big thing that attracts most recruits is the benefits, or "bennies." The money for post-service tuition (you can attend college classes tuition free while in the military), and a wide array of other veterans benefits, is a big draw. It's mostly word-of-mouth, with potential recruits having bumped into a young veteran, and noted that he, or she, was debt free and flush, at least compared to most others their age.


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