Wear of the Military Uniform

Wear of Military Uniform Does Not Equal Pay or Duty Status for National Guard Dual Status Technicians

Sequestration Serves to Settle Long Standing Debate; Uniform Merely a Condition of Civilian Employment
by Ben Banchs

New Orleans, LA (July 4, 2013) - As the Nation celebrates Independence Day and showers itself in patriotism and fireworks, there's a group of about 52,000 men and women who are feeling outright rejected for their service to their country. They've answered the call to duty two, three, four, some even five times over the last decade; they wear the military uniform to work everyday, just like their counterparts in the active duty Army and Air Force, but starting July 8th these 52,000 men and women that form the backbone of the National Guard will begin to serve 11 days worth of furlough while other military personnel will continue to receive uninterrupted pay and benefits. And there's the rub; if technicians are military then why are they treated as civilians? Well, because they are...

For nearly 50 years the question has gone unanswered: are National Guard Dual Status Technicians military or civilian personnel? The search for an answer has puzzled almost everyone that has been asked to sort out the mess that is the National Guard Dual Status Technician program. Honestly, it depends who you ask, and almost everyone, even the Federal court system, has weighed in at several different times over the last few decades, and more often than not, the answer has been that National Guard Dual Status Technicians are, first and foremost, military. The real answer seems to be whatever is convenient to the government at that moment in time.

But Sequestration has changed the game forever because duty status is all about who's writing the check, and for technicians it has become clear that Uncle Sam considers them to be civilians first, and that the uniform confers nothing upon their status in the grand scheme of things, other than headaches. The requirement that technicians wear the military uniform, as it turns out, is nothing more than a relic of an outdated Federal law that created the National Guard Dual Status Technician Program back in 1968, otherwise known as Title 32 Section 709 of the United States Code. Ironically, the requirement that a technician wear a military uniform is a condition of their civilian employment...go figure.  
For years, the National Guard Bureau, along with the Adjutant Generals of the 54 States, Territories, and the District of Columbia, have passionately argued that the wear of the uniform is integral to the structure, good order, and discipline of the National Guard and the technician program; that technicians are military first, civilian second, and that wearing the uniform preserves that unique military mentality needed within the organization in order for it to succeed. I'm here to tell you...it's all a big load of horse manure. If you believe that you have to wear a military uniform in order to observe the rules, and in order to repair or fly an F-15, repair or drive an M-1 tank, or even to oversee the management of these machines, then you must be an advocate for the eradication of Federal contractors and all other Federal civilians who work at depot facilities throughout the world, and who fly, drive, and fix these same machines on a daily basis...only difference is that they do it in a pair of Levi's jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt.

In reality, the wear of the military uniform is nothing more than an institutional tool to facilitate the micro-management of a labor pool that exists solely to keep the Army and Air National Guard humming on a day to day basis. The wear of the uniform serves only to confuse those technicians wearing the uniform into believing that they are in the military when in fact the US Government sees them exactly for what they are: a special category of Federal civil service employees that are more knowledgeable, experienced, and cheaper than their less experienced and higher paid active duty counterparts. In fact, the National Guard Dual Status Technician program is the best kept secret in all of the Department of Defense. The wear of the uniform further serves to deny these same employees the same rights to due process and legal protections that other employees in the United States enjoy under Federal and State law.

It's going to be interesting to see how DoD, the National Guard Bureau, and the individual states and territories deal with the reality that technicians are civilians, first and foremost. Technicians, individually, need to start thinking as civilians first. They are paid less than their active duty counterparts, they receive less benefits than their active duty counterparts, and they are often penalized for their military service because if they return injured from combat they will, more than likely, get kicked out of the military and will subsequently lose their civilian employment. So, who does the technician program really benefit? Not the employee, that's for sure. The National Guard is the ultimate benefactor of this inexpensive yet expert labor pool who has to be ready to do whatever is asked of them, whether that's repairing and operating military equipment, serving as first responders during natural disasters, or enforcing the law, yet when push comes to shove they are treated no different than a food inspector. In fact, they are treated with less importance than food inspectors since the FDA was deemed exempt from the furlough. So if you're a National Guard Dual Status Technicians, how does it feel to know that an FDA meat inspector is considered more important to the safety of the United States than you are? Think about it the next time your boss calls you soldier, airman, or sergeant, and tries to treat you like you're in basic training. You only get paid 40 hours per week, not 24 hours per day; maybe it's time you start acting like it!


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