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August Commander's Corner

Lt. Col. Kenneth Hartman

Portrait of Lt. Col. Kenneth Hartman, commander of the 169th Force Support Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., July 31, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Swamp Fox Warriors,

Whether you’re an O-6 Commander or a brand new Airman, some expectations when donning the Air Force uniform are universal. The number one expectation is to look out for your fellow Airmen. One way to do that is to be a battle buddy with your subordinates, peers and friends about the benefits of re-enlisting. It’s a win-win: good for the unit and good for the Airman. Retention starts on day one.

Have I lost you? Well keep reading because we’re going to talk about money over a 20 year career. Let’s change someone’s life for the better by keeping them in the SCANG. Crossing that 20 year finish line can dramatically improve the quality of life for our Airmen and their Families.

Most of us weren’t thinking beyond that first 6-year commitment much less a 20-year career when we signed up. However, I’ve crossed that 20-year mark and here’s what it means to me. It means I could leave tomorrow and know I’m taking care of my Family. You may ask, “Why would I stay for all those years if my take home drill pay right now is less than $400 a month? Is it worth giving up my weekends?” Answer: Yes. Retired pay is significantly more than drill pay.  Here’s an example: A current E-7 with 22 years gets approximately $660 gross pay for a drill weekend. That same E-7 will receive $983 a month at retirement (using a very conservative 2,500 points over a career). Points can be obtained on your point credit summary at Virtual MPF. Here’s the link:  https://ww3.afpc.randolph.af.mil/vmpf/Hub/Pages/Hub.asp. So how smart will you feel at age 60 when you’re knocking down a grand every month for that part-time job you had back in 2020? Factor in projected pay increases and inflation and you’re looking at $1,700 a month by 2038 for military pay alone. We’re not even getting into your TSP benefits that can add to it over time.  Don’t believe me?  Run it yourself at https://militarypay.defense.gov/Calculators/Final-Pay-Calculator/

Still with me?  Good, let’s talk about why it’s your job/expectation to keep your fellow warriors in the 169th FW. Ever heard of the Post 9/11 GI Bill? If you maximize this benefit, it’s huge. It looks like this: 100 percent tuition including room and board is $28,000 at Clemson. (Sorry Gamecock fans but the Tigers have two recent titles and Dabo almost spells “da bomb.”)  You also get the local BAH rate (at the E-5 level) every month your child or spouse is enrolled direct deposited to you ($1,200 x 9 months = $10,800). Did you have any idea you may be earning this $40,000 a year free benefit?  Are there other things you don’t know, other benefits available?

What about bonuses? Every enlisted Airman under 16 years may be eligible for $20,000 re-enlistment bonuses? That’s right, even if you aren’t currently in a bonus career field, you may qualify to cross-train into one. If you’re already in one, congratulations. Re-enlist again for another $20,000. TRICARE Reserve Select is also a cost-savings vehicle only available to us in uniform. It has a maximum out of pocket expense of $1,000/year and only costs $150/month for Family coverage. As the father of a 6 year old who’s already had two broken bones and stitches, I can tell you without a doubt - it’s well worth it. 

Some of the items above take the better part of a career to accumulate but let’s open our eyes to the end game. Where else can you find a part time job that gets anywhere near our many benefits and pays a pension? We are only scratching the surface here about benefits but this is one more way you can impact the lives around you. I’m passionate about keeping Swamp Foxes in uniform. Come see me if you’d like to discuss any of this further, or additional benefits - we’ll leave rank at the door.