Last Updated on April 29, 2021
Yep, I’m going there.
If you want to get a debate started with a quickness online, simply bring up this subject. You’ll have people speaking up who rarely do and others who are always outspoken become even more so.
Let’s examine the most common debates in the enlisted vs officer world of debate. And just for full disclosure — my husband was enlisted when he was in (he’s medically retired now).
1. The Pay Difference
Let’s take the military part out of it and look at it from a civilian perspective. Go into just about any business and you would expect to see those with college degrees who are in management to be earning more.
And the longer they stay, the higher their salary generally goes. Why shouldn’t the military be the same way? As it stands, officers who hold college degrees make more money.
Now I realize that some enlisted have college degrees as well. But they chose to go the enlisted route rather than the officer route.
I have an MBA but if I choose to work in a job that doesn’t require my degree, I can’t expect to be compensated for having one. The salary depends on the job, not necessarily on my education level.
I also believe that one thing that makes the pay difference so obvious in the military world is because the information is public. There are very few businesses in the civilian world where you can look up anyone’s salary online.
In most social circles, discussing salaries would be taboo as it is considered to be a personal and private subject. Not so in the military.
2. The Housing Difference
I would fully expect the senior lender of the bank to live in a nicer home than the customer service representative of the bank. He makes more money and so in most cases, he will have a larger and/or nicer home.
Why would that be different in the military?
A higher level of education and responsibility should equal increased benefits. Yes, they all put their lives on the line, and, yes, all of their jobs are important. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be differences between pay and benefits.
A janitor in a hospital is just as important as a nurse as far as being an employee of the hospital. But I’m sure everyone would expect that the nurse will be paid better than the janitor since the nurse has a higher education and a higher level of responsibility.
Let’s look at the housing allowances where we lived — Savannah. At the time my husband was in, the housing allowance for an E-4 with dependents was $1,179 and for an O-2 with dependents was $1,485.
Regardless of the type of housing they live in on post, they have to give up their entire housing allowance. Why should an O-2 have to pay $1,485 for the exact same house that an E-4 is paying $1,179 for?
If you were renting in the civilian world, can you imagine if they found out what your job was and decided that you needed to pay an extra $300 more per month just because you make more?
3. Charges Based on Rank
Along the same lines as the housing allowance, military members also shouldn’t be charged differently based on their rank.
Can you imagine if you went to McDonald’s and had to show your tax return before they told you how much your hamburger would be? How crazy would that be?
Once at a spouses’ club meeting, we were voting on our next outing. We had chosen a restaurant downtown where lunch generally runs about $12 per person.
I realize that may be a tad pricey for some but if you really want to do something, I think just about everyone could come up with an extra $12.
One of the spouses of an enlisted soldier who was there made a big stink about it saying that enlisted spouses should not have to pay the same as officer spouses since their husbands made more. I literally sat there with my mouth on the floor.
The officer spouses who were there obviously felt badly and offered to add a few dollars to every officer wife meal in order to reduce the meal price for an enlisted wife by a few dollars.
Personally, I was furious.
The restaurant wasn’t checking IDs at the door. The meal is $12 regardless of if the Mayor is eating there or if it is a homeless person off the street. To expect the officer wives to pay more for the same meal so the enlisted wives could pay less was incredibly stupid.
And I happened to know this particular enlisted wife very well. She could have easily skipped her weekly manicure and had lunch if she wanted.
She was not unable to pay $12 for lunch and neither was I as a fellow wife of an enlisted soldier. If for some reason, I felt it was unreasonable, I would simply not go or suggest a less expensive option.
But I would never expect someone else to pick up my tab.
Now of course there are also those who try to use the fact that they’re married to an officer (or hell, sometimes it’s senior enlisted) to prove they’re better than the next person.
That’s another subject entirely – and one I’m sure we’ll tackle in the future as well.