Over the past few days the issue of how much baggage U.S. military personnel should be able to check on commercial airlines became a ridiculously hot item on the Internet and on major news networks.
When I read the article and viewed the accompanying video, I immediately smelled a skunk.
The video, itself, was very tacky. The SSgt who was making the video was doing a rather poor impersonation of Geraldo Rivera. He appears to be trying to make an expose on how terrible Delta Airlines is treating our troops returning from combat.
From my understanding, when troops return from combat, their permanent change of station (PCS) orders allow each military person to carry up to 4 bags on the DOD contract flight returning them to the United States. Many of the troops have heavy gear so the 4 bag allowance makes sense.
In a nutshell, after the troops arrive in the States and deplane from their contract flights, they have to take commercial flights to get to their respective destinations.
When approximately 34 of soldiers checked in for their Delta flight to Atlanta, they were told that the contract that DOD has with Delta Airlines only allows 3 free bags and the military traveler must pay extra for any extra bags.
The SSgt interviewing the other soldier asked, “What is in the 4th bag you are being charged for?” I found that question interesting. The question was worded to garner sympathy from the American public by implying that that bag had heavy equipment used to defend soldiers in combat and to protect their Afghan allies. The soldier answered that it contained his grenade launcher.
That might have been true, but if I were a military traveler and I had 4 bags to check in and I was told I had to pay for one of them, I would pay for the bag of personal clothing because that bag would weigh less. Some of the other bags might have contained contain gifts and also would have weighed less than a grenade launcher and other heavy combat equipment.
The SSgt doing the interview was also bending forward and whispering like he was doing something wrong – something his Commanding Officer or his First Sergeant would not have approved of.
Many people reading this are unaware of other factors regarding the reassignment of military personnel – either to or from combat or from one non-combat assignment to another non-combat assignment.
The orders authorizing the relocation must be funded by the military and these funds are for the physical air travel, the movement of baggage, and possibly the relocation of household goods as well as family members.
I am a veteran with over 20 years service and I worked in Transportation for my first 9 years and then I retrained into the computer field for the remainder of my military service.
On numerous occasions, I hand carried some of my baggage and I also had the government ship my other baggage and household goods that I did not need until I arrived at my new assignment.
The extra bags these soldiers had with them could have been taken care of in several ways before the troops ever left Afghanistan. Some of the bags could have been shipped by the government transportation personnel in Afghanistan directly to the new base of assignment. Another thing that could have been done is for military personnel to greet the arriving flight from Afghanistan and then some of the baggage could have been shipped by the military directly to their new bases. What I am saying here is that a bag or two could have been shipped by the government – that way the troops would have arrived at Delta Airlines with a max of 3 bags – the exact amount that Delta was contracted by the government to allow each troop to carry on the flight.
The net effect of video in this scenario was that our fighting soldiers were treated badly by Delta Airlines. I am a member of a Social Networking site and the way the story was first posted there was that it seemed like Delta was the big bag wolf and our troops were being mistreated, which was not the case at all.
Well, if our troops are being mistreated, it is not by Delta Airlines. Our Pentagon, along with the White House is considering cutting military pay and allowances because the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down. Analysis was done ahead of the proposed cuts to see what the impact might be and it was determined that our economy was doing so poorly that even if military pay and allowances were cut, it would not impact retention or even military recruiting. In a nutshell, even if some troops left the service because of pending pay cuts, there would be a steady stream of unemployed Americans ready to fill all vacancy requirements in all branches of the military.
Kudos to the U. S. Government for pulling off this media coup. They successfully shifted attention from proposed military pay cuts to Americans getting mad at big bad Delta Airlines for picking on our troops.
The American public got duped again.
So, Delta and the other major airlines simply caved to public pressure – or at least it seemed that way at first.
Here is Delta’s new position:
“We regret that this experience caused these soldiers to feel anything but welcome on their return home,” it said.
“After careful consideration, effective immediately, US military personnel traveling on orders in First Class and BusinessElite can check up to five bags at no charge and four bags in economy class,” Delta said.
So, in reality, how many soldiers traveling on military orders are flying First Class or Business Elite class? I can probably count them on one hand. Maybe a senior U. S. military officer might fly in either one of those classes but the grunt enlisted soldiers (and I use the term “grunt” as a term of endearment), almost entirely fly economy class.
So, in effect, the troops traveling in economy class get that extra bag and they get some sympathy from the American public, but there are changes looming that will greatly affect their pocketbook even more.
What is a shame is that our troops are being used as pawns again – and it will be revealed soon in the form of upcoming pay cuts. When those cuts happen, who will the American public get mad at? The government will justify the cuts by talking about budget deficits and that they had to cut military pay to help balance the budget.
Well, to that I would like to say, why doesn’t the government cancel one of its new advanced weapons systems we do not need?
Our Military Industrial complex is making money hand over fist. Some of the contracts these companies receive are non-competive, no-bid contracts. By that I mean our government, to get a special weapons system built will let one of its favored contractors tell the government exactly how much it expects to be paid for the contract.
Equate this to you shopping around for a contractor to build you a house. Could you imagine being directed to only one contractor and that contractor telling you how much he will charge you to build your house? I trust you would not stand for that.
Unfortunately, some of our military procurement specialists take kickbacks and simply purchase the goods no matter the cost or the profitability to the contractor.
In addition, our Congressmen and Senators get big donations from these military contractors and as a result they push very hard in Congress to give their favored contractors tons of business.
Well, some of you might say that we need a large, strong, well equipped military because of 9-11 and because everyone is either jealous of us or out to get us so we need to spend an inordinate amount of money on defense to keep us strong.
Well to that I would like to point everyone to a link that shows that we spend more money on our national defense than the next 21 countries COMBINED.
These are the countries and how much money each spends compared to the U.S.:
United States 687,105,000,000
People’s Republic of China 114,300,000,000
United Kingdom 57,424,000,000
Saudi Arabia 42,917,000,000
South Korea 24,270,000,000
United Arab Emirates 15,749,000,000
Republic of China (Taiwan) 8,535,000,000
……and to this list, I say, WHY? Why do we have to be the biggest and baddest country on the planet.
What I find interesting is that Iran is not even on this portion of the list.
Is our military budget the reason why teachers are being let go, schools are closing, police and firemen are being laid off, libraries are reducing hours, free clinics are closing, Congress and the White House are considering cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and numerous other cuts being proposed?