Life for SOF in Africa is not easy, and operators are suffering unnecessary hardships. Sequestration is not only hurting the military’s future, it’s also hurting checking accounts and their standard of living. Yes, the military can suck it up and live under harsh conditions, but it shouldn’t be due to political convenience. It seems obvious that sequestration is about not rocking the boat so both sides can live another day. Our elected representatives have absolved themselves of responsibility to make hard choices. Instead, they’ve left such decisions to be made by senior leaders at the agency level and professional staffers in the Senate and House Committee on Appropriations. Because sequestration is awful, but the blame evenly dispersed, it is used to fuel future political campaigns to fight gridlock in the district.
Operators en route to Africa are going to be under fire. But, technically, they won’t be in a combat zone and will not be compensated for that hardship. In contrast, if you’re living in the Marriott in Amman, Jordan, you’re paid as though you’re in combat. In Jordan, the daily rate is nearly three times that of a rotation to Niger, where you’re in greater danger. Many in society get excited when their service members fly abroad to serve as custodians of justice and counter groups like Boko Haram. But how do you feel about these guys living in terrible conditions and not earning a fair paycheck? They have had to eat whatever they can get from the local economy. They’ll get about $50 a day for food, which they’ll buy from the locals who may charge beyond that amount. They are in a combat zone and have limited resources. The real issue is an immature theater and the undeveloped logistical infrastructure. Where you at, Uncle Sugar?
They’re sleeping in a tent, which can be standard, but is not secure or permanent. Teams are moving around in up-armored vehicles because it’s dangerous. Still, they do not receive entitlement commensurate to their level of risk. Meanwhile, all the way back at the embassy in Kabul, those in the State Department are enjoying, no doubt, a well-funded and maintained cafeteria. At the same time, special operators aren’t allowed to target and are living in comparatively miserable conditions. Operators are conducting presence patrols and often find themselves in a gunfight. They’re just walking around waiting to be engaged. Just one team was under enough fire to end up dealing out over 140 in Taliban KIA in less than 20 operations. It is extremely dangerous in Afghanistan.
But I never hear people discuss it. It’s forgotten, but consistently defended by both sides of the aisle as a justifiable war. So why does no one care? The legitimate and righteous war is lingering on, mismanaged and not going well. People are in extreme danger with no positive outcome in sight. What’s the point? Are we to roll the dice for the next 10 years with a pseudo presence while Afghanistan is ravaged from inside like Iraq?
There are seemingly unintended consequences of sequestration. I don’t know what else to blame for an inability to pay people what they deserve. Agencies of government have been forced to make tough calls under harsh conditions. I’ve heard in the State Department that sometimes combat entitlements are cut or decreased from remote sites and funneled to places like Baghdad. It’s no coincidence the Baghdad embassy is the flagship embassy and holds senior-level decision-makers by the hundreds. The best part of the Baghdad embassy is the cafeteria. There’s a guy who cuts your fruit for you, or there was. What’s that cost? How about he goes away and find a way to send that money during the next appropriations cycle to AFRICOM. Better yet, he can cut fruit for an A-team living in a tent with 30 other people. The people we ask to do the tough jobs need to be treated better. More of the same, later in life, guys are hurting, and we have a broken system to help them then, too. Apparently, in this case, it’s no different while they’re serving. I’m not for giving free handouts, but I’m for repaying servitude at a time when virtually no one else volunteers to do it.