The Benefits Of Serving

I've been touched by all the good wishes from Facebook friends and family members this Veteran's Day -- it seems like people are more aware of the holiday this year than in years past. While serving in the Armed Forces is undoubtedly a sacrifice, many of us enjoyed benefits other than the good feelings of our fellow citizens. I'm thinking, of course, of boondoggles.

"Getting the good deal" has two contradictory meanings in military culture. It can mean that one is getting a bad deal, but it can also mean that someone has lucked into some TAD job that is rewarding from either a financial or life experience perspective. Generally, more junior military personnel don't see that as much; about all they can hope for is some sort of "stash" duty while waiting to class up for a school where they "work" 20 hours/week while getting lots of time off in a nice city. The more senior you get, though, the better opportunity you have for a real good deal.

I got my "good deal" right before I retired, when I volunteered for IA duty with CENTCOM in August 2003. I wrote about the background here; here's an applicable excerpt for those who don't want to click on the link:
They set me up in a two BR apartment in St. Petersburg and had me take over the "Coalition Financial Ops" desk in the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center from a Navy CDR who was leaving in three days. As I was turning over, I found out that I was basically in charge of figuring out how to set up a system for handling over $500M of funds to help support the 30-odd countries getting set to provide troops in Iraq in August '03. I had a memo from Condoleezza Rice saying we could use the money, a four page memorandum of understanding between us and Poland that was mostly generalities, a slightly longer MOU between Poland and the other countries that had even more generalities, and an E-mail cache -- and that was about it. Needless to say, it concerned me a little that there weren't any procedures set up ahead of time, and I was even more concerned that a Navy O-4 with no real financial training was supposed to come up with these procedures.
The whole time I was in Tampa, I got regular food per diem plus a car, along with the 2BR apartment (that cost the Navy more than what I was paying for rent for my 4BR house in San Diego -- the contracting people out there weren't very good negotiators.) I also got three 5 day trips to Warsaw as part of my duties. While I worked hard during those trips for several hours a day (and I got stuff done that I wouldn't have been able to do from Tampa), I really enjoyed having them put us up in a really nice hotel and have enough per diem money to enjoy the folk dancing and other cultural activities.

One interesting story of serendipity from one of my visits. I was there for a manning conference for the 2nd rotation for MND-CS, and got stuck going to the Administrative Support breakout session because my job didn't really fit in with any other group. It turns out that, unbeknownst to anyone in my group, they were expecting us to say whether or not a contingent of the Illinois National Guard that was providing admin support to the division would be staying for that rotation. Having no clue, I said I'd look into it; unfortunately, I didn't have a secure way of communicating with Tampa. As we were hanging out in the hotel bar that night, we noticed another table of Americans, and started talking to them. It turns out that one of them was the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, in town on a boondoggle completely unrelated to ours. I got my answer, and looked like a hero the next day.

Did you ever get the good deal?