There is no guarantee that a President Obama, or President McCain won’t slowly shift big chunks of the more than 140,000 U.S military now in Iraq to Afghanistan in 2009. The Pentagon is already suggesting it needs 20,000 more troops for the troubled region and both Republicans and Democrats seem to be on the same yellowed page regarding the ability to finish Afghanistan, whatever that means.
So that ultimately signals more deployments for our approximately 1.2 million National Guard and Reservists — many of whom have served more than one tour in Afghanistan and/or Iraq already. We know all about the strain these wars have put on the entire military — including recruitment, retention, health and welfare of the troops and of veterans. But as the the news of “recession” finally becomes reality for America’s families, it’s worth reminding ourselves and our elected representatives that we can’t keep rotating part-time soldiers in and out of theater indefinitely and expect they will be very competitive in the job market when they return (the same goes for active duty leaving the service). Nor can we expect to recruit the numbers we need to fight a “forever war” if employers are increasingly wary of hiring citizen soldiers who may not be there from one moment to the next.
From the upcoming 60 Minutes Nov. 2:
Trucking company executive Dave Miller complains his company is bearing an extra financial burden by adhering to the law.
Workers’ deployment, coming sometimes with just three weeks notice, costs recruitment, training and sometime relocation fees for their replacements. “The private employers cannot…support the full cost of defending this nation,” says Miller. There is currently no tax incentive or subsidy to help defray these costs for private employers and Miller has petitioned Congress to offer relief. “If the military is going to take our people 30 percent of the time, let them pay 30 percent of the healthcare costs,” he tells (Leslie) Stahl.
The burden on private companies is causing them to discriminate against reservists and guardsmen, says Ted Daywalt, president of Vet Jobs.com. Such discrimination would be illegal and it is hard to prove, but “You can prove it to a point,” says Daywalt. “There are surveys done that show that upwards of 70 percent of the employers won’t hire a person who’s active in the Guard and Reserve,” he tells Stahl.
Cynically, one can assert that the current economic crisis — including rising unemployment rates (Michigan is now at some 8.7 percent) — will boost military recruitment because more young men and women will be looking for the job security or the extra paycheck every month and dough for college. But that still doesn’t address the more than 1.7 million who have already served their country nobly in-theater and are eager to settle down into private sector careers, raise a family, and get on with their lives. Perhaps the recession will be the exit strategy : aside from there being less support for a trillion dollar war, you can only burden the volunteers so much before they realize they’ve been taken for granted.