Report: Tough Duty Earns Low Base Pay for US Military Personnel

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Dodging enemy fire and hunting for chemical weapons may be among the most intimidating jobs around. But according to one survey on military salaries, combat troops make little more for waging war than those who help theatergoers to their seats or help schoolchildren cross the street.A survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that military personnel are among the lowest-paid employees in the United States."These people are putting themselves on the line," says John Challenger, the firm's CEO. "It is very high risk, and compensation does not seem to square up."A private with one year in the service is paid a base salary of $15,480 a year. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, theater ushers made $14,144 a year in 2002. Crossing guards made $15,080.But base salaries only tell part of the story, says Christopher Michel, the CEO and president of Military Advantage, a San Francisco-based company that helps current and former military members gain access to their benefits.Housing and food alone can expand salaries by a third. …