This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri January 30th 2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
This story about the Army is from a different approach. This is for the person who already has a skill and becomes interested in service. People become interested in the military for a variety of reasons, patriotism, adventure, steady paycheck, security, etc. There is the Army Civilian Acquired Skills Program (ACASP), under which people may enlist at a higher rank and attend less training to become MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) qualified. Truck drivers, mechanics, EMT are some that fall within the ACASP.
This is directed at one group – welders. I was recently told by an Army recruiter that a person who has completed a welding school, is an AWS (American Welding Society) certified welder, and has two years’ experience, may enlist in pay grade E-4 Specialist. I know a couple people who fit that description, and welders are paid well so I ran some numbers. The 2019 base pay for grade E-4, with under two years of service is $2,194.50 per month. The military pays twice monthly, on the 1st and the 15th, by direct deposit. So with $1,097.25 per pay period and deductions of Social Security – 68.03, Medicare – 15.91, Federal tax – 43.00, MO state tax – 29.00 (claiming married – 1), and SGLI (Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance) of 200,000 instead of the max 400,000 – 7.50 equals a net pay of $933.81, but this welder is married, so having taken his marriage certificate, wife’s and children birth certificates and social security cards with him during processing into the Army, he also draws BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). BAH for this area for an E-4 is 876.00 per month and BAH is not taxed. Add half of the BAH and he will have $1,371.81 deposited in his bank account twice monthly, while he is in training. Plus his family has free medical and dental care.
Training would consist of 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training, it is not easy. It is tough, it is hard, it is exhilarating, and it is fun but still physically hard. After basic training he would transfer to the Army Ordnance School at Fort Lee, Virginia (Petersburg), for training as a machinist/welder. He would get to skip the welder part. That is Army MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 91E Allied Trades Specialist. The normal AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for that MOS is 19 weeks, 2 days long, but this person would skip the welding part of 8 weeks. What he would study is Machine Shop Fundamentals and Safety, Precision Measuring Tools, Metal Identification, Precision Layout, Operate Hand and Machine drills, Hand Threading Operations, Thread repair, Countersinking, Counter boring, and Reaming, Riveting Operations, Lathe Operations and Vertical Milling Machine Operations. They use Computer numerical control (CNC) machining, which is a machining process in which a computer controls the movements of the lathe or milling machine using a program made up of numerical code called “G Code”. CNC technology allows the machinist to manufacture single or multiple parts with speed and accuracy that is not possible on any manual machine. They use Haas Automation, Inc., toolroom lathes (TL-1’s) and toolroom mills (TM-1’s). These machines are equipped with Haas Intuitive Programming System (IPS), which can create parts programs with very little effort, and allows programs to be uploaded from separate computers. Included are 23 hours of introduction to machining, 52 hours of bench layout operations, 192 hours of lathe operations and 82 hours of milling operations.
The course ends with three weeks of Army Combat and Tactical Equipment, Titanium Welding, Depleted Uranium, Introduction to Battle Damage Assessment and Repair Operations, TAMMS (The Army Maintenance Management System), ETMs (Electronic Technical Manuals) and PMCS Procedures (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) and Department of the Army Forms. He learns to set up and use the Army metal working and machine shop set (MWMSS). The MWMSS consists of two expandable mobile containers. One contains a CNC toolroom lathe (TL-1), a Miller XMT 350 and a Dynasty 200 welder, thermal cutting equipment, air-arc gouging capability, an air compressor, a generator for shop power, an environmental control unit (ECU), and an assortment of hand tools. The other contains a CNC toolroom mill (TM-1), a CNC plasma cutting table, an ECU, and more hand tools. Together they create a field metalworking repair complex. The MWMSS also contains a laptop computer with CAD/CAM software (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing), which allows the Allied Trades Specialist to create a part design or download it from a manufacturer, upload it to the CNC machine and manufacture the part, in the field.
Already being a certified welder, before leaving 91E AIT this person would be tested and receive NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) certifications in CNC Milling and CNC Turning: Operations I, and Programming, Setup & Operations I, Drill Press I and II, Job Planning, Benchwork & Layout I, Measurement, Materials & Safety I, Milling I, Turning Between Centers I, and Turning II.
Army 91E’s describe themselves as jacks of all trades. What is similar to civilian shops is – they fix metal things that are broken, and they make metal things. Can you fix this? Can you make a tool to do that. Can you make a rack that will hold these but will also turn around, stand up and open on its own? Sometimes it takes some noggin work. A Chief Warrant Officer Allied Trades Technician, with 19 years in the Army said; “It is difficult for me to state specifically what Army welders do, because we do a little bit of everything. I say we solve problems. I have repaired radiators, weldments on tracked vehicle hulls, and a plethora of other random items. Anyone with a little bit of skill can replace a transmission, yet only someone with great attention to detail can drill, tap, and insert 17 holes stripped in an aluminum transmission housing, all while it is attached to the vehicle and the person is lying in the sand in the desert of California. I have repaired and fabricated more parts and equipment than I can remember. Each time, I learned something new and gained invaluable experience. I’m still sometimes surprised by the metal components Soldiers manage to break or the special tools I am frequently asked to fabricate.”
After training and assignment to a permanent unit, this person could get family housing on post, which I would highly recommend. He would lose the BAH, which would go to pay for the house and utilities, but gain BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) (meals) of $369.39 per month. After 60 days in the Army soldiers may contribute up to 3 percent of their base pay to the Army Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is matched by the government. The TSP can be rolled into an IRA after service. So take away the BAH and TSP and add the BAS leaves a take home pay of $1,085.56 per pay period or $2,171.12 per month. The monthly times 12 divided by 52 equals just over $500.00 per week take home pay. Some may look at that and say “That’s not much”, but he has no rent, no utilities, no trash pickup, and no health insurance cost. Family health is monitored by a Family Practitioner at the on post hospital. They live in a nice well maintained house in a nice secure neighborhood (on post) and someone else even mows the lawn.
Where would that person be assigned? About anywhere, but primarily to the posts & locations that have combat units. Every combat battalion has a forward support company which includes 91E’s. My recommendation is always go airborne, jump out of airplanes, which 91E’s probably do every three months. That would probably mean the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The best unit and the largest and best post.
Army life is not harder than civilian life, it is different. You get up in the morning, go into your unit at around 6:00 – 6:30, and do PT (physical training), exercises and run or gym or athletics for a good hour – it’s good for you. Go back home, clean up, eat breakfast, put on a uniform and go to work at 8:30 to 9:00. If you’re a 91E, you go to your shop and work on whatever is the current project. If your unit is going to the field for just a couple days you may take a Shop Equipment Welding (SEW) trailer, which is just a trailer with a portable welder, torches, and other portable tools. If it is a long big exercise you may take an MWMSS. If you’re in garrison, and live on post, you may run home for lunch, or eat in a Dining Facility or a snack bar. You’re off at 5:00 PM normally. You are off weekends. In many ways it is an easier life than civilian life. You don’t worry about your job or making a living, you don’t worry about health and dental care, and if you live on post you don’t worry about the druggies next door or down the street – there are not any.