Posted by lex, on November 30th, 2011
It cannot have escaped the attention of the casual observer that the US economy is in something of a shambles. Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, persistent jobless rates hovering around a historically high level of 9% have caught the attention of the workforce, economists and politicians. Each of whom, it must be said, has differing take on the matter. Those still employed look around the room at the empty seats and combine survivor’s guilt with personal anxiety, hoarding cash and perhaps even foregoing a request for a wage increase. Economists see the fiscal outflows of sustained unemployment compensation and bewail the dual loss of tax dollars, since the unemployed are a dual burden on the fisc; each dollar that goes out represents an opportunity cost in income taxes the unemployed might have paid if they were instead in the work force. Politicians, on the other hand, publicly grapple with one another to provide solutions – the unemployed still vote – but largely without having the necessary humility of looking in the mirror and wondering if they aren’t part of the problem.
The unemployment situation for service veterans is worse still: Having fought their nation’s wars for them, they now battle negative stereotypesand the disdain of soi-disant elites who never wore their country’s uniform. A little more than 12% are looking for work, a figure 33% higher than the national rate.
In that background, it can’t have come as good news to many sailors that Navy’s second round of personnel cuts have been finalized:
The board convened in late September and screened 7,800 sailors, E-6 to E-8, in 31 overmanned ratings. Of the 4,514 first class petty officers reviewed, 1,035 were slated to be cut. There were no cutting quotas for the chiefs and senior chiefs, who were only subject to a quality review. Officials left the door open for more cuts if the records review uncovered substandard performance or evidence of misconduct.
Meanwhile, the Navy has wrapped up notification of the roughly 1,800 second and third class petty officers chosen by the first board for separation.
That’s nearly 25% of the first class petty officer ranks, men and women who had already made a career decision and very likely invested more than 10 years in the service. Half – perhaps more than half – of that required for a retirement with benefits. Now, nothing.
Well, not nothing. Some of their farewell kisses include:
- Waivers allowing them to use their last year on active duty to attain licenses and certifications.
- A guarantee for sailors now overseas of at least 60 days back in the U.S. before separation.
- Transition coaching and help with job searches and résumé writing.
I’m sure that will help to ease the sting.
I suppose it’s understandable. With the economy as it has been for the last few years, the value of service – and work – has become more visible, even as deployments were made longer. Sailors on shore duty – even some assigned to ships – found themselves ashore in inhospitable places wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles. But even hard work is better than no work at all, and we undoubtedly grew a little thick around the middle as sailors saw the scramble for work in the civilian community and re-enlisted for one more go.
Too, climbing the military advancement hill is a competitive event, everyone joins knowing – or learning – that it’s “up or out”, and Navy is not a jobs program. You have to “perform to serve.”
Still: I’m grateful that I don’t have to assemble my first class petty officer’s mess and hand one in four of them a pink slip.
Not in this economy.