- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

One of the realities of the war on terror is that benefits for those serving in the National Guard and Reserve have not kept pace with the seismic shift in their service commitments. A clear example is the erosion of their benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill.

The policy concerning the total force has changed dramatically since September 11 because of large and sustained activities of the National Guard and Reserve.

Today, more than 525,000 Guard and Reserve members have served on active duty in the war on terror and about 75,000 of these have pulled two tours of duty.

In 1984, the Montgomery GI Bill became law. The benefits for reservists were worth about half of the active-duty benefits. Today, it has dropped to 29 cents for each dollar in active-duty MGIB benefits, and the gap is growing.

This affects recruiting and retention in that it tells already overstressed Guard and Reserve people that their service is increasingly undervalued.

One problem is that the program comes under two congressional committees — Veterans Affairs for the active duty and Armed Services for the Reserve. The Pentagon hasn’t helped because they have not tried to make any hikes to the Reserve program in years.

A Guard soldier who serves 15 months on federal active-duty orders earns more than $22,000 under the MGIB but can’t keep one penny if he or she separates after the honorable completion of his or her contract. That’s not right.

A large group of military, veterans and higher education associations is urging Congress to change the GI Bill and construct it according to the type and length of service performed. A start is to combine the Reserve and active programs so fixes can be synchronized.

The MGIB was designed as a recruiting tool for the Guard and Reserve. That’s why we should match the new realities of service with educational benefits that will attract and retain those outstanding people.

The MGIB is broken, and “foot dragging” is no longer an option.

Retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr., U.S. Navy

President

Military Officers Association of America

Dear Admiral:

I wholeheartedly support the fixes you suggest to the Montgomery GI Bill. I urge Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to rectify the inequitable education benefits offered to our men and women in the National Guard and Reserve. I think that emphasis should be put on co-op education programs, where our young veterans can receive an education as well as practical experience while schooling.

Shaft notes

The Sarge is looking forward to joining members, guests and the public on May 25 at the National Press Club for a 12:30 p.m. luncheon featuring Gen. James L. Jones, NATO supreme allied commander in Europe and former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Gen. Jones also serves as commander of the United States European Command.

Gen. Jones was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps the year after his graduation from Georgetown University and was ordered to Vietnam as a platoon and company commander that same year. In his more than 30-year career in the Corps, he has held a wide range of leadership positions, including serving as commanding officer of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit of Camp Lejeune, N.C. His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star medal, the Legion of Merit with four gold stars, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and the Combat Action Ribbon.

In recent years, Gen. Jones served as the military assistant to Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, and in 1999 he was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the 32nd commandant of the Marine Corps.

In recent remarks conferring an honorary doctorate on Gen. Jones, Dean Robert L. Gallucci of Georgetown University said:

“When Bishop John Carroll established his academy at Georgetown, he envisioned a place that would educate new generations of leaders for the nation. This same spirit led Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., more than a century later and in a much changed world, to build at Georgetown a school of foreign service that would help prepare citizen-leaders who would preserve and advance liberty in the United States and, in turn, on the world stage on which the nation was then taking its place.

“We celebrate a son of Georgetown and a graduate of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, whose distinguished career of public service and patriotism is a contemporary embodiment of the traditions that have infused and inspired Georgetown since 1789.”

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

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