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Protectors of The Protectors: The Civilian Contractor
For all those that don't get it, there wouldn't be Government Contractors if there wasn't a need for them. They exist solely because the government needs a labor force to support it's efforts. Specifically for our era, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars better known as OIF/OEF [Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom] had a desperate need for Defense Support Contractors.
The active service member was stretched pretty thin. Which was the reason for the surge of recruitment and retention efforts after 9-11. And of course, we all know that pretty much all of the United States of America wanted to see blood after 9-11. Which is why all this started in the first place. I'm not here to argue whether 9-11 was a conspiracy or not, but all of we Americans not in-the-know of the Governments inner workings and dealings felt we needed to do something about terrorism. Period.
The United States Government, namely the Armed Forces put out bids to Private Sector Defense Support Contracting Companies to fill the need of support and even counter-insurgency in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan... and other places.
Who are Contractors?
The contractors from the American-based Private Sector companies are American citizens; born or naturalized. Hired and processed in the states and paid in American dollars. More than half of the contractors are prior-service military.
The idea of civilians working alongside military and other government personnel is not a new thing. For years, stateside and overseas civilians have been handling the majority of the workload on behalf of our government.
With the high visibility of just about everything going on with OIF/OEF, the Government Contractors involvement has also been put in the spotlight. However, they've always been there in the background as mechanics, truckers, logistics, support, mercenaries and more. While active duty military and DOD Civilian personnel are doing P.T., having meetings, deploying, training, or setting up FOBs [Forward Operating Bases] the Contractor is taking their place or right there alongside them.
But what about the things I Heard about Contractors?
Every story has it's bad side. This subject is no different. The government contract worker has had a stigma for many years. Here are some of the more typical ideas that come up when contractors are talked about.
- Money, Contractors make lots of it and probably would not do the work they do if it weren't for an exorbitant wage.
- Lazy, Contractors are rumored to do less work, come in late and cut out early.
- Disrespectful, Contractors seem to have animosity towards the soldiers and disrespect them often.
These are more geared towards the overseas contractors. The contractors in the desert working alongside or in-place-of the warfighter.
They of course are paid more money than they're paid stateside. Everyone over there is. For separation, extra hours and danger pay or "uplift". Many times even though wages are not to be discussed, soldiers and civilians are caught in arguments or simple peaceful discussions about money. The service-member catches wind of a six-figure salary and their eyes widen. Not really knowing the difference between a basic wage and the compensation of an armed services-member. Without getting into too much detail of either, the differences are pretty obvious. I'll use my own as an example.
When I was in the service, I was paid $1,200 a month. My medical was free. So going in every month getting tested for Chlamydia was no big deal. My life insurance ran me $17 a month. My lodging and food were free and I basically needing nothing as far as money. Every business in town wanted to give me discounts and I wore the same clothes to work every day. Clothes that were provided for me [my uniform]. Had I been deployed, I would've been issued a weapon, access to ammunition and afforded days off with paid vacation.
As a contractor I've made anywhere from $6,600 a month to $12,000 a month. I paid anywhere from $698 to $800 a month for medical insurance. $11-$23 for term-life. I pay for my food stateside and in some cases even overseas. I pay for my own home overseas, and some cases overseas have to pay for my own lodging. I buy my own clothing and mandatory protective gear such ass safety glasses and steel-toe boots. In the OEF/OIF I'm either behind the wire [or not at times] unarmed. And if I am armed, it's illegal [Only authorized civilian personnel were allowed weaponry] and I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. And the taxes. God the taxes.
When put in comparison it's hard to tell who comes out on top, but to the person looking at it objectively it's obvious contractors don't make out as well as some would like to think; especially if not careful with their money. Which goes for anyone, right?
When it comes to whether we'd be working in this field whether the money was there or not, just look at the OIF/OEF right now! Barely anyone is grossing over $100,000 due to the defense support budget cuts, but we're still over there. Working, and supporting the mission as always with an average take-home of less than $70,000 annually. In the same conditions with the same workload.
As far as contractors being lazy, I'd like to admit and confess that everyone over there [civilian and military, at any pay grade] at some point or another takes their breaks. Whether its merited, allotted or allowed. People aren't robots and no amount of money or other type of motivation can make that happen.
The disrespect issue is a two way street. I do expect more out of my fellow prior service personnel. I've seen several times where a civilian brand-new to military life in the desert becoming accustomed to the life would be disrespectful to military personnel. Not knowing exactly the seriousness of the situation. Not knowing what sense it makes for some guy that looks just like you except for the stripes or chevrons on his or her arm to talk to or treat people a certain way. It's not an excuse, but I understand, that they don't understand until they get experience.
Some of the prior service personnel on the other hand have a hard time remembering that they're not in the military anymore. Which seems a little unfair how they're not in the military but are subject to their rules and scrutiny. But prior service personnel in my opinion should know better. They should also know that as a civilian they hold no authority due to their rank when they were in the military. But unfortunately sometimes we see this happen.
Not to say it's a tit-for-tat type of system, but simply because of the wage rumors, active duty personnel and others find themselves disrespecting the government contractor out of envy. Hence the aforementioned animosity. What can one do about that other than become informed? Which is why I'm writing this Hub.
Overall, I don't see a big problem between the civilians and military at work. They're all there to do a job. They're all getting a paycheck and they all have they're own problems to take care of. Every group has it's reputations. But hopefully now you're more aware of what it is to be a Government/Military contractor. The men and women there to protect, help, support and serve the missions of the United States Armed Forces.