[Bella’s intro: In Singled Out, I wrote a section called “The Command Team Wears Wedding Bands,” in which I described instances of singlism (stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against singles) in the military. Retired Navy veteran Roger Morris read the book and got in touch, saying that although he agrees that there is some singlism in the Navy, he also thinks there are important ways in which the Navy is a pretty great place to be single. I invited him to share his views and he did so here and here. Then, just recently, another single sailor got in touch with me about his own experiences and views of singlism in the Navy. I invited him to share his perspective, and that’s what you can read in this post. He wishes not to be identified so I’m just calling him “guest blogger.” Thank-you, guest blogger!
Readers, you may want to reread Roger Morris’s posts first (here and here) but that’s not necessary. The guest blogger has flagged 20 excerpts from Morris’s posts – they are the numbered statements set in regular type – and provided his answers, which I’ve set in italics.]
20 Rebuttals to Mr. Morris’ Rebuttals and One Question
Guest Post by a Single Sailor
Retired Sailor Roger Morris gave some rebuttals to Bella DePaulo’s book Singled Out, and as a single sailor in the U.S. Navy I felt the need to rebut some of Mr. Morris’ rebuttals.
1) “The Navy’s unfair to everyone in one way or another. The military is a life of sacrifice.”
Guest Blogger: Yes there are sacrifices, but only those who voluntarily sign up for the military and those who willingly decide to be in a relationship with those in the military should have to sacrifice. Kids, who don’t get a say, should not have to sacrifice.
2) “Just a minute! Dr. DePaulo merely advises this: ‘Service members draw their own conclusions as to what these statistics mean.’ So let’s analyze that and draw our own conclusions. Have you ever known anyone who enlisted to become wealthy?”
Guest Blogger: I don’t believe the military has ever made anyone wealthy, but that’s no justification for unfair policies.
3) “Could you support a dependent on a junior enlisted salary?” “Well no…”
Guest Blogger: If a person can’t afford to support a kid then they shouldn’t have a kid. Also, what’s keeping the spouse from working? According to a Center for American Progress study: “In 2010, among families with children nearly half (44.8 percent) were headed by two working parents.”
4) “Everything in the military is decided almost solely on the basis of military effectiveness and efficiency.”
Guest Blogger: One, from personal and anecdotal experience I disagree with that statement wholeheartedly. Two, from a scholarly point of view if you read William Poundstone’s How Would You Move Mount Fujii? or Gordon L. Patzer’s Looks you’ll see that the above statement isn’t even CLOSE to being true.
5) “… if the Navy didn’t provide wages that could sustain a family, then every Sailor who got married, had a child or became sole support of a family member would have to be discharged from the Navy for ‘hardship’. We’ve put a lot of time, effort and money in every Sailor’s training, and all that would be lost if every Sailor with a dependent had to be discharged. In addition, every Sailor who didn’t like his orders could simply get married to get out. Readiness would suffer, and it just wouldn’t work.”
Guest Blogger: Again, people shouldn’t have a kid if they can’t afford to support a kid. No one is entitled to child-rearing.
6) “Really? Unfortunately, I’ve known Sailors with dependents who had to go on food stamps. I’ve never known a Sailor without dependents who had to go on food stamps, and I’ve been in for 23 years. Is that fair?”
Guest Blogger: PEOPLE SHOULDN’T HAVE A KID IF THEY CAN’T AFFORD TO SUPPORT A KID.
7) “I guess not, but they (married sailors) get more money.”
“Maybe their dependents do, but who gets the best pay, benefits and housing in the Navy: senior enlisted or junior enlisted?”
Guest Blogger: Having dependents is the result of a choice made by free will. If a single sailor chooses by free will not to have kids, why can’t they be paid the same and have the same benefits allotted to them as their married counterparts?
8) “Really. Now who gets more pay? A married E-4 with dependents or a single E-7 without dependents?”
Guest Blogger: This comparison is inappropriate. Of course a higher ranking enlisted makes more than someone three ranks below them. The cogent comparison is among married and single enlisted with the same rank and qualifications. Two E-4’s (one single and one married, and with the same qualifications) are paid very differently. The single sailor is paid 59.16% less!
9) “Single Sailors without dependents still have to work harder because they have to live on the ship or in the barracks, and they get called up for special details all the time.”
“That’s right. And because of that, they get seen more by their superiors, get more training from their superiors on those details, get more commendations for those special details and training, and advance faster than married Sailors.”
10) “A few years back, an official OASD study for the CBO reported that ‘although married soldiers get promoted to E-4 in a similar time frame as those who are single, promotion to the more competitive enlisted grades (E-5 to E-9) typically occurs at a faster rate for single soldiers. Further, single soldiers report having fewer problems responding to No-Notice alerts and to No-Notice unit deployments’.”
Guest Blogger: Let’s pretend that single sailors are all of a sudden revered once they are promoted to E-5. What about the single sailors who only want to enlist for 4-6 years? They don’t stay in long enough to reach “golden calf” status.
11) “Not fair to the married Sailors, maybe, but the Navy is unfair to everyone in some ways. Maybe single Sailors just have more incentive to advance than married Sailors do. Maybe while you’re focusing on your advancement, married Sailors have less off-duty time for training and special details.”
Guest Blogger: If married sailors want to focus on things like advancement, training, special details, etc. then they shouldn’t have made a conscious decision to start a family.
12) “I’ll admit married Sailors get more gross pay, better benefits and better housing per pay grade, or maybe their spouses do. Single Sailors get more net pay per pay grade, and since they advance faster, single Sailors get more pay over the course of a 20-year career than married Sailors.”
Guest Blogger: Single sailors advancing faster is no justification for paying married sailors more money earlier in their career. Also, only 17% of those in the military stay in for 20 years, so that’s a LOT of single sailors that don’t receive the “later-in-the-military-career” benefits talked about.
13) “And to build equity in a house, anyone generally should keep the house for at least 5 years before selling it. If the single Sailor gets reassigned, he or she can rent or sublet for the price of the mortgage and insurance, building equity without any real cost. The married Sailor either has to rent out one house and still pay for living quarters for his dependents, or he has to be separated from his family and live onboard the ship or in government barracks while sending that ‘extra pay’ back to his dependents.”
Guest Blogger: Married sailors have more combined income than single sailors. That money leads to more/faster equity.
14) “Remember I never said there wasn’t Singlism in the military, Seaman Jones. I think there’s a better case for more discrimination against married Sailors.”
Guest Blogger: That statement is just wrong.
15) “If you want to be an officer, where’s the most prestigious place to go?”
“The Naval Academy, sir.”
“Well, you can’t be accepted to the Naval Academy if you’re married or have dependents. Another one for you to consider. Sea duty is the hardest duty in the Navy, followed by Overseas Duty, right? Standard tour length for either types of those duties is 3 years for a married Sailor with dependents. What’s the tour length for a single Sailor?”
“Only 2 years, you mean.”
“But the married Sailor can still go for just 2 years if they don’t take their dependents.”
“Sure. And while they’re separated, I’m sure most of their pay goes back home to their dependents while the married Sailor must live in the overseas barracks or onboard the ship. A single Sailor misses their friends and their families, too, but he or she does it with their full pay in their pockets.”
Guest Blogger: 1) The Naval Academy takes only those between the ages of 17 and 23. If someone chooses to start a family between the ages of 17 and 23 then they have made poor life decisions with regards to joining the Naval Academy and they need to accept the consequences for their actions.
2) A married sailor separated from his/her family “earns” separation pay and isn’t bogged down with all the burdens of raising their children for two years? I bet that’s a win-win in the eyes of those sailors. After all, they CHOSE to be absentee parents.
16) “We also have a formal, Navy-wide Single Sailor Program to provide off-duty opportunities for education and recreation. Anyway, what ‘married’ programs also mean is that military families can be supported but also judged by both the civilian’s Department of Child Protective Services as well as the military’s Family Services. How is that easier?”
“That’s double the protection.”
“Yes, and double the scrutiny. Plus, all Sailors with dependents have to submit and get approval for both short-term and long-term Family Care Plans. Single Sailors don’t.”
Guest Blogger: Double the scrutiny from the people in charge of D.O.D. funds is practically zero scrutiny. Just read these excerpts from this 2013 Reuters article (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/18/us-usa-pentagon-waste-specialreport-idUSBRE9AH0LQ20131118 ):
“…the Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011”
“That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year.”
“We have about $14 billion of inventory for lots of reasons, and probably half of that is excess to what we need,” Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek…”.
17) “They get more morale calls though, right?”
“I’ve never heard of that, but single Sailors often volunteer to let the married Sailors go. Sailors take care of each other, you know. Let me give you an example of how it’s supposed to work. Let’s say you’re in your homeport. Sailors often swap duty days so that married Sailors get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families while the single Sailors get liberty on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s not always possible, but it works out for everyone better that way. After all, what’s open for single Sailors on family holidays? Not much and not for long, right?”
Guest Blogger: Single sailors have loved ones that they’d like to be around on the holidays too.
18) “I think that most of those misconceptions of single men and women don’t exist in the military mind, and even among civilians, their impacts on service members are lessened. Think about it. What do most civilians say to you every day?”
Guest Blogger: Uhh, nope. If there was a gallon of water pumped into my ship for each disparaging comment made about single people the ship would have sunk a long time ago.
19) “I think most civilians have heard of the camaraderie of servicemembers by now, even though they might not realize that your military ‘family’ can be even closer in some ways than your civilian family. Personally, my military brothers and sisters span the globe, and I’ve been a ‘Sea Daddy’ to hundreds of younger Sailors, even though I’ve never had any children myself. I’m single and yet I think I have a larger, closer family than any civilian I’ve ever met who wasn’t a veteran.”
Guest Blogger: Too bad you didn’t receive B.A.H. [Basic Allowance for Housing] for being a ‘Sea Daddy’. You spent more time being a mentor to your “Sea Kids” than the sailors who had biological kids and were receiving B.A.H.
20) “And here’s some more to think about. The military is a microcosm of American society, but it lends itself to progressive social experiments. Before President Truman declared racial segregation a “disgrace” in 1948, the Coast Guard had already conducted an experiment on the USS Sea Cloud from 1943 to 1944. Also, when I joined the Navy, women weren’t allowed on combat ships; after several successful trials, they are now. When I enlisted in 1983, the quickest way to get out of the Navy was to say you were gay. ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell‘ came along, and even now that’s no longer an issue.”
Guest Blogger: ‘Kudos’ to the military for doing what’s right after decades of bigotry.
And now a question for “Big Navy” and Mr. Morris:
According to Public Law 107-174, which is known as the No FEAR Act:
“A Federal agency cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant with respect to the terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or political affiliation. Discrimination on these bases is prohibited by one or more of the following statutes: 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(1), 29 U.S.C. 206(d), 29 U.S.C. 631, 29 U.S.C. 633a, 29 U.S.C. 791, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16, and 42 U.S.C. 12101.”
So…. how do married sailors legally receive more money for being married?
Single sailors receive lower pay, less benefits, and less consideration for time off than their married counterparts. Gussy it up all you want, it’s not fair and it’s immoral. The solution is for the military to do what Congress has already said it should do and treat married and single sailors equally. Period.
[From Bella: Thanks again, guest blogger! Readers, for more on singles in the military and foreign service, click here.]