Coin, Shiny, Other Side

We’re coming up on 18 years in the United States Air Force. Technically, the Spouse Thingy is, but since I’ve bounced from place to place with him, I’m a part of it. Eighteen years; that’s a fricking long time.

Now, granted, it’s not what I want for my son, not in terms of a career anyway. Over that 18 years things have shifted back and forth so much in terms of whether its worth it or not, that for the most part, I don’t think it’s worth it. Not for the long haul. I have serious issues with how little the enlisted troops are paid (hey, our military members should not qualify for food stamps, not even an E-1 or and E-2; and no, very few really know what they’re getting in to when they sign up, and no one can just quit if it turns out to be less than desirable for their family circumstances). I have issues with the rules of fraternization, though I do understand the basic “why” of them; I just think those rules are carried too far. I have issues with the way retirees are treated, like 3rd class citizens who seem to exist only to block the commissary aisles. I have issues with the officers' wives who seem to think they wear their husband’s rank.

But for all the reasons I wouldn’t want my son to make a career of it, it really isn’t all bad. It's been very good to us.

When the Spouse Thingy went in 18 years ago, it was as an enlisted guy; he was roughly 3 semesters short of his BSN, but we had a baby and needed to pay rent on more than an orderly’s salary and what little I could make working at International Fitness Center. He enlisted, and started bringing home the megabucks. All $800 a month.

One of the benefits of the military is the educational programs available. At the time, if he had wanted to take college classes in his off-hours, they would have paid 75% of his tuition. That’s up to a full 100% now. There are several programs available through which an airman can get a degree; the Spouse Thingy applied for, and was granted admission to, the USAF Bootstrap Program.

Basically, this gave him 3 semesters off work, at pay, to finish his BSN. When he graduated with his degree, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and began working as a medical ward nurse. He had his eye on cardiac care nursing; six months later he was transferred to the CCU. It was invaluable experience.

His eye shifted to anesthesia; he wanted to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. The Air Force had their own training program via the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. After two years of CCU nursing – a requirement for the program – he applied and was granted admission. By then he was a Captain… and the pay was better than $800 a month.

Two years after that he had his MSN in Nurse Anesthesia and a required commitment to spend another 4 years in the Air Force. By the end of that 4 years he was at 12 years in and made the decision to stick it out for 20, reasoning that the pension would be worth it.

And it will be.

But the gist of it is that he took advantage of the military education benefits in the best way he could, and when he retires he’ll have another career waiting for him. One that pays pretty danged well.

There are risks to being in the military, obviously. Being shot is one of them. Tours in the desert in the middle of summer. Being called at 3 a.m. and being told you have to be on a plane to an undisclosed location in an hour, for an undetermined length of time. War. The wrong end of things that go =boom=

But the benefits are there. Education. Medical care (hey, I got a $30,000 surgery and we’ll wind up paying a whopping $50.) Travel.

It’s worth it for the short term, I think. Four to eight years. Serve your country, get an education, see places you never would have, like endless cornfields in the Midwest and huge fricking desert scorpions. And you get really cool food, like dehydrated pork patties.

Yep, that’s worth it.

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