base information

Grass is Greener

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Frequently, I'm asked why I joined the Air Force. I entered the military later than most college graduates. I operated a business for several years and decided to sell it after I obtained my master's degree to pursue my dream of serving my country.

I had an opportunity shortly after entering active duty to share my thoughts of civilian employment with a young Airman. During the conversation I asked the Airman to consider all of the benefits provided to military members, which are not provided to civilians.

I began by encouraging him to consider paid time off like annual leave, family days, holidays, convalescent leave and sick time. Most private companies provide employees with one week of sick and holiday time combined after a 90-day probation period for their first two years of employment. Now consider the private business owners who can't afford to offer those things to their employees or themselves. I was able to take time off at my discretion as a business owner, but the time was unpaid.

Military members enjoy free health, life, dental and vision insurance. Members with families can offer things to their families for a small premium. Most private plans with the same benefits can run around $1,000 per month for a family of four, and the deductibles can be as much as $5,000. The monthly premium alone is close to a mortgage payment. Mortgage payments can be offset with things like Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Sustenance for military members. While not at home members enjoy per diem, Family Separation Allowance, tax free income, hazardous duty pay and others.

Civilian home owners enjoy living in gated communities with home owner association fees. The housing inspections on base are minimal compared with a property manager's inspections in a home owners' association. Now ask the same home owner how they would enjoy living in a gated community with armed guards, entertainment facilities, childcare and shopping centers without having to pay any home owners' association fees. I can promise most folks would say those kinds of places don't exist. Finally, I asked the Airman to consider the education and training provided for each career field in the Air Force. The knowledge and skills can be carried throughout life.

I know the benefits offered to military members come with great sacrifice. It can often seem in every direction there is another boss with more rules. Owning a business is accompanied with hundreds of bosses known as customers and rules known as business regulations or company policies. The level of job security and appreciation is unmatched in the private sector.

The grass is always greener on the other side when looking from inside the fence. I used to be a landscape company owner cutting the grass on the other side of the fence, and I know my grass on base isn't any greener than my old house. Consider the benefits provided in recognition of the sacrifices made, and now consider what may be lost on the other side of the fence.

I know I'm grateful for the career I found with the Air Force and I'm grateful to the thousands of others whom I proudly serve along side. Oh and the Airman, he is now a Staff Sergeant on his way to his next assignment.