Edwards Air Force Base Moves To HPCON C

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What's the value of a military community?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Steven Kimball
  • 347th Services Squadron commander
A document I received with my leave and earnings statement has caused me to think about something I've taken for granted for years -- the value of being part of a military community.

The "Statement of Military Compensation" outlined my military pay and summarized the worth of military benefits as "indirect compensation." Like everyone, I was happy to see military pay rates increase.

But I never stopped to think about the impressive value of the compensation we get from being a part of this diverse community.

I wondered how this compares to similar jobs, if there are such jobs offered in the civilian community. So I conducted a bit of unscientific research.

I talked to Jay G., an accounting supervisor for a Fortune 500 firm in Atlanta. He's familiar with the military community from discussions he's had with friends in the military.

Interestingly, his impressions of the value of the military community paralleled the information on my statement of military compensation -- it must be the accountant in him.

"I don't think my salary will ever compare to military compensation when you include the benefits you receive as part of being in the service," he said after we talked about military retirement, medical care, insurance and education benefits.

As a supervisor, he seemed impressed with how we care for people in need. We talked about Air Force Aid and Air Force Assistance funds, the thrift shop and Airmen's Attic.

I couldn't convince him this kind of help wasn't much more than a phone call away.

Bill M. is the district manager of a major grocery store chain in the Southeast. On his first trip to an Air Force base, he asked for a tour of the base retail stores. He was surprised at the size and diversity of products for the number of patrons we support.

"I had heard about military commissaries, but always envisioned them as warehouse outlets. I'm surprised how comparable this store is to any of my stores that are located in the smaller communities. Offering this level of service at cost is really impressive."

He added, "The (base exchange) is a great supplement to the retail choices you have around town."

The fact that BX profits are reinvested in the community through services activities was a new concept to him. He told me, "If I knew my retail spending went right back into my community, you couldn't get me to go any place else."

I also talked to Laura P., a manager in a large utilities firm that won a national award for quality some years ago. We talked about the benefits of working for a large firm. She was surprised to learn about all the community support at Air Force bases. "The lifestyle, travel, social support, and sense of family and community have no comparison in the civilian community," she told me.

The recreational and family support services seemed to impress her the most.

"The firm I worked for had a few new programs geared toward people, but nothing like the military has," was her response when I told her what the family support center, child development and youth centers, and chapel had to offer. Laura also commented on the sense of community that seems to be present at military installations.

"People know each other, they work and play together, they help each other when there's a need. That doesn't happen very often any more."

Finally, I got the perspective of Emilio E., the chief executive officer of a multinational telecommunications firm. He is heavily involved with Boy Scout activities and has used Air Force campgrounds and fitness centers to support scouting excursions.

Our discussions involved the cohesion that defines the military community. Even though we celebrate our diversity, there is a homogenous nature to our community that seems to be the key to our success.

"You have a unity of purpose and a common goal that goes far beyond what I define as our corporate mission. The nature of your work promotes a trust and confidence in each other that most other communities could never duplicate," he said.

In fact, when I compare what our military community offers each individual member, I have to compare it to a community of almost 100,000 people to find the level and variety of service offered at any Air Force base. From social services to medical care, recreation and fitness to child and family services, from civic planning to emergency service and law enforcement, from hotels and restaurants to libraries and lounges, we seem to offer more per capita than communities many times our size.

I realize many of us interact within a variety of community associations such as our neighborhood or church. But as a military member, arguably, it's the military community you call home.

Even with the resurgence of America's sense of community following our national tragedy, the military community still seems stronger, more enduring, and more cohesive. You can't put a price tag on that. (Courtesy Air Combat Command News Service)