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December Chief's Concerns

Portrait of State Command Chief Robert D. Widener taken August 10, 2014.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder/Released)

Portrait of State Command Chief Robert D. Widener taken August 10, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Budgetary cuts will effect all Guardsmen

With the United States facing a 19 trillion dollar deficit, the National Guard will see a reduction in benefits and lose important programs such as Tricare Reserve Select in 2016. Between 2000 and 2012, funding for military health care increased by 130 percent, over and above the effects of overall inflation in the economy. In 2000, funding for health care accounted for about 6 percent of DoD's base budget; by 2012, that share had reached nearly 10 percent. By 2028, health care would claim 11 percent of the cost of implementing DoD's budgetary plans, resulting in benefits that the country cannot sustain and which Guardsmen will have to give up.

Additional changes expected will now require a 7 percent income tax on all National Guard pay. This was a big benefit for our Guardsmen and its effects will be felt almost immediately. Other programs significantly cut are the S.C. College Assistance Program which provides assistance for members of the S.C. National Guard which was fully-funded at $3,000,000 in 2007 and anchored in the base budget of the state of South Carolina. This allowed guard members to receive up to $4,500 per academic year. Finally the S.C. State Pension which provides up to a maximum of $100 a month at 30 years of service will once again be taken away from our Guardsmen.

Have I got your attention yet?  AFI 36-2618, the Enlisted Force Structure or commonly known as "The Little Brown Book," requires all Airmen to be a member of a professional organization and this article is about one which I am a member of and encourage every Guardsman to consider.

Although the above is a dramatization, they are benefits the National Guard Association fought for and continue to fight for the men and women of the South Carolina National Guard.

Although these benefits remain in place now, they are always on the table and can be taken away with a stroke of a pen. That's why it's critical the National Guard Association has a strong membership. So while you stay focused on the military mission, the NGASC stays focused on the political battles that effects how the S.C. National Guard operates and provides benefits that Guardsmen are entitled to receive. So what does $16 a year for enlisted and $36 - $148 a year for officers get?

· No Income tax on National Guard Pay
· S.C. College Assistance Program-up to $4,500 per academic year
· Over $65,000 scholarships sponsored by National Guard Scholarship Foundation to members or dependents of members.
· Tricare Reserve Select Benefits- Currently working to provide benefit to Air Reserve Technicians.
· Commissary, PX and other military facility access and use.
· NGASC member's life insurance, up to $50,000 offered for NGASC members with no war exclusion, no aviation exclusion, no hazardous duty or civilian occupation restriction and no medical examination.
· Professional Development
· S.C. State Pension

It's obvious the "squeeze is worth the juice" to be a member of such a great organization. The S.C. National Guard has over 10,000 Guardsmen, yet only 2,500 are members. For our voice to be heard locally and nationally, membership must grow. As former U.S. President Ronald Reagan said, "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."

I challenge each of you to assist in increasing our strength by encouraging other Soldiers, Airmen and retirees to join a great association. While you certainly have the option to join any professional organization, I believe this organization is one you should strongly consider being a part. An organization that is doing all it can to ensure future budgetary cuts will not be the headlines for the men and women of the S.C. National Guard. Thank you for what you do every day and I wish you and your family a happy and memorable holiday season this year.