- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am an Army reservist adversely affected by a new Army pay policy and am wondering if this policy change may be of interest to your readers. The new Army policy will eliminate pay for many reserve-duty activities.

On Feb 7, the Army’s Human Resources Command announced a halt to Individual Duty Training (IDT) pay to Drilling Individual Mobilization Augmentees (DIMAs). DIMAs perform two weeks of annual training each year like other reservists but, unlike other reservists, do not perform weekend drills on a regular basis.

Most of our duty is performed through IDTs. We DIMAs received an e-mail Feb. 7 notifying us that all IDT pay would cease after Feb. 28.

This is a bad decision that takes us back to the bad old days of not only paying our own travel expenses for IDTs, but also not even being paid for the drill work itself. Along with offsetting some of our IDT expenses, IDT pay also permitted us to fund our life-insurance premiums and other costs of remaining in uniform. Paying for IDTs encourages DIMAs to support our assigned units in more ways than we could otherwise financially afford.

Perhaps worse than the decision itself was the e-mailed message announcing it. Providing just 21 days’ notice, the message’s “too bad, get over it” tone is insulting to we DIMAs who provide a valuable supporting role to our units’ missions.

For example, in discussing the previous policy of permitting paid IDTs for up to 48 periods, the message states, “[T]he soldier is authorized to perform UP TO 48 IDT periods for pay. ‘Up to’ also includes zero.” The message further states that IDT pay “can be taken away at any given moment due to budget constraints.”

Thank you very much for hearing me out.

Sincerely,

Lt. Col. John S., Army Reserve

Dear John:

I have reviewed this convoluted and bureaucratic memo you and other Army reservists have received in thanks for their service. I have referred a copy of the memo and your missive to the powers that be at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon.

Shaft notes

Research shows that 483,000 children of active-duty military members and 178,000 children of Reserve and Guard members are less than 5 years of age. In response, Wal-Mart has announced a major partnership with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street.”

Through a donation of nearly $1 million from Wal-Mart, Sesame Workshop will develop an outreach project to help children of service members deal with the various stresses of military life. The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) will also serve as a partner, offering additional support.

The announcement was made in Washington at the project’s first advisory board meeting, moderated by Dr. Jeanette Betancourt of Sesame Workshop.

This project, beginning in July, will help military families manage common challenges they face, including a parent’s deployment or reunion after a period of absence, frequent relocation and other difficult issues these children face. The project will enable Sesame Workshop to create DVDs and online and print materials targeted to these children and distributed directly to them.

The resources will consist of a bilingual (English/Spanish) kit with a DVD for children and adults starring the Muppets from “Sesame Street” and a print guide and poster for children, parents and caregivers.

Sesame Workshop will produce and distribute 125,000 of these kits at no cost to schools, child care programs, family-support centers and other organizations serving the needs of military families. A particular emphasis will be made to reach families of the Reserves and National Guard.

A bilingual public service announcement and online content will also be available. Wal-Mart and Sesame Workshop will explore additional ways to share the project materials with other organizations and programs that support military families.

The project’s advisory board, which consists of leading authorities in child development, mental health and programs supporting military families, will inform and guide Sesame Workshop on all aspects of the project. The board will also help guide the development of age-appropriate and effective content for the program. In addition, Sesame Workshop will conduct focus groups with members of military families who have young children to test the key messages and information provided by the advisory board.

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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