Should I stay or should I go?
January 24, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Should I leave the National Guard after 18 years, or should I finish up the last two so that I can retire at 20?

I have 18 years of service (about 1/2 of that is active duty). I'm a traditional guardsman, so it's basically just the one weekend a month, two weeks a year thing. The job I've been doing for the last 6 years is special duty, and I'm almost done with it (which means I would mostly likely return to my previous career field), but because of what I perceive to be discrimination issues against me by my leadership, I've grown to hate going to drill. I hate it so much that, when I get to the week before drill, I can't sleep, and I feel anxious, on edge, and irritable (this has been for about the last 12 months.) I could go and file a formal complaint, but since everyone here is part of the "good ol' boy" system, and I'm not (I am not from the state that I joined the Guard in, and I estimate about 95% percent of the members are) I've decided not to. Also, I don't really feel that I have the solid proof that I would need in a case like this, involving senior (0-6) leadership; it's more like circumstantial evidence. So now, my enlistment expires next month, and I can walk away scot-free, no questions asked, after exactly 18 years of service; two good years short of what I need to retire from the National Guard. As far as current benefits, I don't use the commissary/BX that much, and while I use dental insurance, I could easily get it through my civilian employer. As far as retirement, my retirement check would be about $321, which I would not start to collect until I'm 60 (I'm 36 right now). EVERYONE I've posed this question to says that I should just stay, just tough it out, it's only one weekend a month, etc., etc. But it's gotten to the point where it affects my physical and mental health. I feel legitimate anger and rage, every drill weekend, and I don't want to feel like this. Financially, I might miss the small drill paycheck a little bit, and cheaper comissary goods, but I have a good civilian job, so I've already adjusted for that slight income loss. I think that my health and well being are worth it, but I would like to know if anyone else has had an similiar experiences, or if you have any advice. Thanks in advance.
posted by KillaSeal to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
76 more days? I say tough it out. Not to diminish what you're going through, but I'm guessing that when you look back on your life at 70 years old you'll count yourself very lucky if those 76 days even made your top ten of hardest things you had to endure over the course of a lifetime.
posted by slkinsey at 1:51 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

One way to look at it, maybe: When you are 60, would you be willing to pay $321/month for the rest of your life in order to have had those 24 weekends + one month back when you were 36-38?
posted by HotToddy at 1:55 PM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

There is little that is reliable or predictable in or about a civilian job. Your retirement check might not seem like much now, but in the future that small pile of change might make a huge difference in the quality of your life. The same logic applies to the other benefits that are included in the retirement package.

Get your head around it, muster the discipline and stick it out. Again, your 60 year-old self will almost certainly thank you.
posted by cool breeze at 1:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stay, but don't tough it out. Find support for the discrimination you perceive: A support group, or therapy. Your choice isn't between staying and suffering, or leaving and giving up benefits for which you've worked hard. At the very least, talk to a lawyer and see if there's some option for either mitigating the discrimination or getting compensated for it.

Don't let the good old boys chase you out, or destroy your mental and physical health. Find a third way.
posted by fatbird at 1:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [16 favorites]

If you can stand it, take the small drill paycheque and the savings from the commissary for the next 2 years and put it in a separate account to use for something special -- a luxury vacation, whatever treat you wouldn't normally buy for yourself but have always wanted. 321/month at retirement is a reasonably large amount. And if in 6 months you really cannot stand it anymore, well, you can leave then just as easily as next month.

You should also see if your circumstantial proof is less circumstantial than you think.
posted by jeather at 2:06 PM on January 24, 2012

For every ten years that you collect, that would be 10 x 12 x $321 = $38,520. Maybe even more if you adjust for inflation. Plus there are other retirement-specific benefits for military.

Don't let a rotten chain of command cheat you out of that. You've (almost) earned it.

Would it be possible to change units for the last two years, maybe though TDY with your current employer?
posted by charmcityblues at 2:14 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've reread four times and I have a question. Is the O-6 involved in your special duty assignment, or in your (going back to) regular assignment, or both?

I was assigned to the traveling IG team for a while on active duty, and when I returned to my regular duty station I was treated as a pariah. They were all convinced that I had been pulled out and trained to come back and "spy" on them. It took some work to get through that situation, but luckily I had the commander's ear, and he at least knew better.

Since you're up for re-enlistment, you have choices. Find out what they are. That info should be in personnel, not your unit.

I hope you can stick it out. There's nothing sadder than someone who went 16 or 18 years and washed out because some jackass made life miserable for a few months at the end. You're a short timer, stick with it!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2012

Stay -- you've earned that retirement! Don't let bad leadership force you out of what's yours.
posted by spunweb at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2012


You don't have any control over how people treat you, but you control how you react. You don't control your emotions to any large degree, but you control how much you feed and water them.

If, through this, you find strategies for coping with situations which make you very angry but that you cannot avoid, you come out on the other side both as a better person and one with a pension.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:28 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I was in a pretty lucrative profession and didn't have too many worries about retirement, I might quit. I'd feel a strong urge to try to stay though, you're so close! I'd probably try to motivate myself with numbers. And as others said, can you transfer or make it more palatable in some way?

If you life to 78, which is I think the current average for men, you'll get 69,336 in retirement dollars.

Dividing that up by the 76 days you have left, at eight hours per day, you are pulling in $114/hr. If it's bad enough that that doesn't sound worth it to you, maybe you should go though.
posted by pseudonick at 2:30 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with fatbird. Stay, but find a way to make it not terrible.

Not quite sure how things work in the Guard, but can you go to a career counselor not affiliated with your unit, explain that you want to re-up, but, without getting into detail, say that you want to change units? I totally understand not wanting to confront the GOB network -- you don't want to get into a whole retaliatory thing where someone flunks you on a PT test just before retirement or something -- but I would really look for a way to stay military without subjecting yourself to more bad treatment.

(Another possibility might be that you could switch components or branches for your last few years. This seems like it might be more difficult, but I think most of the Reserve/Guard branches are pretty open to prior service from their sister branches.)
posted by thehandsomecamel at 2:56 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aren't you also eligible for the other non-tangible military benefits like access to the Exchange, campgrounds/hotels, etc? I know a number of military retiree's who love using those. You'll want to factor that in to the equation too.
posted by Runes at 3:06 PM on January 24, 2012

While I feel like your mental health are certainly very important, there's also something to be said for financial well being too... it sucks that those often go hand-in-hand, but I do know someone who stuck it out and the retirement $$$ saved his ass in a suddenly unexpected financial blow-up. fatbird said it best, you deserve to be treated with respect and I hope you can find a solution that words for you and your mental health.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:42 PM on January 24, 2012

If you quit at 18 years, do you get any retirement benefit at all? If not, tough out the remaining two years.
posted by gjc at 3:51 PM on January 24, 2012

Stay, if not for the money, for the satisfaction of finishing something that very people can finish.
posted by COD at 3:53 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you turn the situation around in your mind? By that I mean: if they don't like you, they'd probably love to see you gone. Don't give them the satisfaction! Show up each time with an attitude of "Fuck you, assholes! You're stuck with me until I'm good and ready to be gone! And I'm gonna squeeze every last dime out of you bastards before I go!"
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:19 PM on January 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Come on man, stay it out.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:30 PM on January 24, 2012

You never know when there will be a disaster or another emergency and you would be needed. How would you like to sit watching it on the news instead of helping?
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:20 PM on January 24, 2012

Tell your unit you need some time off for personal reasons, take it, and see if you can get into another unit. You have eight months to make your points for FY12. And even if you don't manage to do that, retirement ain't just for twenty years in a row.
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 PM on January 24, 2012

can you talk with a Unit chaplain for insight or coping skills? maybe talk to the ig?
posted by davidmsc at 11:45 PM on January 24, 2012

I just left at 12 years, mostly for the same reason. But if I would have made it 18 I would have finished. Don't let them get the best of you.
posted by Silvertree at 12:52 PM on January 25, 2012

great answers all around...thanks to everyone for the input and support!
posted by KillaSeal at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2012

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