YOUNG LOVERS – High School – Marriage – Enlist

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri August 29th 2018. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Jack and Judy are a married couple, Jack has been in the Army about eight months, and this is their story.
Jack and Judy started “going steady” when they were about 15, by 16 when Jack got his drivers licenses, they were a couple. Both are from good families and both are smart people. I don’t discount young love as “puppy love”. There were 52 of us who graduated from Belle High School in May 1961. Eleven members of that class married each other or someone one class up or one class down, and all but one couple have remained married to each other as long as they lived, and that one couple separated late in life after their kids were grown. Some of those relationships started before high school. So love is love, and if it is real, it is real.
Both Jack and Judy’s families are middle class working people, not rich, not poor, plus Jack has a sibling a year older who would be first in line for college. Both families wanted the kids to go to college, get an education and a better job for a better life. Jack suspected that if he wanted to go to college he would have to work his way through or borrow the money. Jack and Judy wanted to get married, and they didn’t want to wait four years. Someone suggested three years in the military and college would paid be for by the government. At first they discarded the thought. Although of very strong character and personality, Jack is not a brawny jock, he is more inclined to brain work than muscle work. Could he make in the military? Could they afford to get married? Could they be together? After some research, they began to consider the idea. Jack wanted to be in a good unit with high morale, and fast promotions, but have a job where he could be home at night, and that would allow him the time to accumulate college hours. He learned that the military tuition assistance is $250 per semester hour for up to 16 semester hours per year, and that most colleges on Army posts have reduced their price for active duty students to $250 per semester hour for both evening and online classes. They questioned that if Jack did enlist should they wait to get married until he was through his training. They were told a definite no, absolutely get married before being sworn in, and to have that state marriage certificate with him when he processed in.
After much research, Jack selected Army MOS (military occupational specialty) 74D Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Specialist (CBRN) with the airborne option. There were several reasons for that choice. First, it was available. There are a gazillion 74D’s. One in every company in the Army, another at battalion headquarters, and some at brigade level. Promotion to Sergeant is fast, many have made it in two years. All of the company level jobs call for a Sergeant E5, and those are the positions to which many new 74D’s are assigned. Another attraction was autonomy, Jack read that in many units the 74D does about everything but 74D work, whereas in the airborne units the NBC NCO (Nuclear Biological Chemical) (Non-commissioned Officer) is an important position in the company headquarters, because those units frequently conduct CBRN training. And finally, a big consideration was that the 11 week AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for 74D is at Fort Leonard Wood. The airborne option almost guarantees (probably 90%) an assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd has the highest morale in the Army, it pays an extra $150 per month, and a Private can get on post family housing immediately. If, in the slim chance, he wasn’t assigned to Fort Bragg, it would be to Italy or Alaska and Judy could go with him and get government housing or be paid a housing allowance for off post housing.
High School graduation, marriage and then Army. In addition to his own drivers’ license and social security card and a voided check (all army pay is by direct deposit), Jack had their marriage certificate, Judy’s birth certificate and her social security number. During in-processing at the reception station, Jack enrolled Judy in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System), which gave her access to all benefits such as medical, dental, travel, etc, and started their BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). He obtained the paperwork for Judy to get her ID Card. Judy continued living at home with her parents.
Assuming that Jack enlisted on the first day of a month, the first money deposited in their bank account on the 15th of that month was around $770, because Jack was given a government debit card with $350 on it, to purchase necessary items for basic training, which was deducted from the first pay. The next check on the 1st of the following month was $1,090. After 30 days, Family Separation Allowance of $250 per month started, so after that, about $1,215 was deposited in their account on the 1st and on the 15th of each month.
After a few days processing at the reception battalion, Jack’s group was delivered to their basic training company. After the initial Drill Sergeant blitzkrieg, they were assigned bunks and wall lockers and marched to pay phones to call home with their address. Jack and Judy communicated by mail. On Sunday after the third week, Jack got to call home again. Jack got to spend a day with Judy during one “on post pass” toward the end of basic training, and then there was “family day” the day before graduation. Both families went to see Jack graduate from basic.
After graduation, Jack moved a few blocks to the new CBRN training facility. That time he got to keep his cell phone and computer, just couldn’t use them during duty hours (class). That was a new facility with three men to a room with three desks, three closets and a bath/shower. Down stairs was classrooms and offices. Every company in the Army has a CBRN room, sometimes called an NBC room, where protective masks, and MOPP suits (That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. It is basically a rubber (not really-special chemical compound) suit. Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s hot! Training in MOPP gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it is hell. Detection equipment, decontamination material, and chemical antidotes are also maintained in the CBRN room. AIT covered biological agents, chemical agents, radiation detection and response, hazardous materials/toxic industrial chemicals, operational decontamination, thorough decontamination, mass casualty decontamination, and basic chemical/biological detection. Plus CBRN room operations, supply, maintenance and training. The CBRN Specialist or NCO is also the most knowledgeable person in the company on CBRN training, which makes him or her an integral part of training in a company that does CBRN training. In AIT Jack went over four months’ time in service, which raised his pay by about $100 per month. During AIT, Judy was at the Fort every weekend. The first three weeks Jack got “on-post” passes, then off post passes.
Jack continually monitored his AKO account (Army Knowledge Online) and particularly the ASK key (Assignment Satisfaction Key). Toward the end of AIT Jack saw that he was tentatively scheduled for assignment to the 82nd Airborne Division, which he had been requesting, but “chat” told him that orders would not be issued until he successfully completed airborne school. He requested that his orders reflect a move with dependents, so the Army would pay for moving some household goods they had obtained, and pay them a dislocation allowance for the move. He also requested 10 days leave, between airborne school and reporting to Fort Bragg. Jack completed the online request for family housing on the Corvias Housing site for Fort Bragg, then called them and gave his tentative report date. He was told to email them his orders as soon as he received them and they would give him an address of a “move in special”, which he agreed to accept. He then visited Post Transportation on Fort Leonard Wood and completed paperwork for the move to Fort Bragg, he just had to email them his orders when he received them. Finally 74D graduation on a Thursday. Judy was able to drive him to the airport in St Louis where he caught a flight on Friday to Columbus Georgia (had to change in Atlanta) for airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Three weeks, ground week, tower week and five jumps later, Judy drove down to Fort Benning on Friday and pinned “jump wings” on her new paratrooper. They drove back home together and got ready for the movers, who would be picking their goods up in a couple days. They split their 10 days between home and Fort Bragg, they wanted to get settled before Jack had to report in. The quarters they got was a two bedroom duplex. It was an older house in an older housing area, but recently renovated. Jack’s BAH paid for rent, utilities, lawn maintenance, trash pickup, access to a community pool, and a community center. Their goods arrived and they bought a few things they needed to set up housekeeping.
Jack reported in to the 82nd Airborne Division Replacement Detachment, spent three days drawing gear and processing into Fort Bragg. He was assigned to a company to replace the company CBRN NCO, who was in the process of leaving. Jack had only a few days to get oriented before the Sergeant left, but being the smart guy that he is, he quickly got a grasp on the CBRN Room. He meticulously counted all items and signed for the room. He studied the training schedule and questioned the Supply Sergeant and the First Sergeant about what CBRN items may be needed for what training.
Jack went over six month time in service about the time he arrived at Fort Bragg so he was automatically advanced to Private E2, which was another $100 raise, When they moved into government family housing he lost the BAH, but he gained $150 jump pay and $370 per month for meals since he wasn’t living in the barracks. So, now as a PFC (Private First Class) E3, at eight months in the Army, after taxes and SGLI (Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance) are deducted, about $1,075 is deposited in their bank account on the 1st of the month and again on the 15th of the month. That equals a weekly take home pay of just under $500, which for a 40 hour week would be around $15.00 per hour. Throw in complete health care coverage and a house with all utilities and Jack is making the equivalent of a civilian making $20.00 an hour or over $40,000 a year.
Jack and Judy are fictional characters, but the process and the figures are real, based upon 2019 pay scale.

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