Air Force Members: Use the Force Support Squadron (FSS)

The most underutilized services that active duty Air Force members have are the programs that the Force Support Squadron (FSS) offers.  Every base has a FSS, and most bases have similar programs run by their FSS.  Some of the best programs the FSS offers are Airmen and Family Readiness Center, the Auto Hobby Shop, Outdoor Recreation, Information, Tickets and Travel, and the Golf Courses.  Each of these offer a great service to the active duty member and are usually very reasonably priced.

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor Recreation is another fantastic program run by the FSS.  Outdoor Recreation typically offers a laundry list of items you can rent for a day, weekend, or week.  Most of these items are camping, biking, fishing, and party related.  They offer items as small as a camping chair all the way to recreational vehicles and motorized boats.  If you want to go camping with the family but don’t want to buy all the gear, Outdoor Recreation is the perfect place to rent the equipment and save you the money from buying it.  Outdoor Recreation usually also offers several different trips a month.  The types of trips vary with time of year and location, but some examples are skiing and hiking trips.  These trips are usually day or weekend trips and are offered at a reduced price.  These can be a great way to discover a new adventure near you.

Airmen and Family Readiness Center

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) offers many different programs to help Airmen and their families.  Services offered are deployment preparation, family counseling, child education, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), the Key Spouse Program, spouse education and career opportunities, financial counseling and several other benefits.  All of these benefits are provided at no cost and can typically be used by the military member and/or their family.  The AFRC is a great resource that members typically forget is available to them.  Upon arriving at a new base, military members are required to attend a Newcomers Orientation.  During this orientation, each AFRC will give a presentation on all the services they offer.  Pay attention to these services because you never know when you or your family may need to tap into these resources.

Information, Tickets, and Travel

The next service provided is the Information, Tickets, and Travel (ITT).  Information, Tickets, and Travel primarily offer discounted tickets at popular travel destinations.  One example is that Information, Tickets, and Travel offers discounted tickets to Walt Disney World Theme Parks.  You can purchase the discounted tickets at your local base and have them ready once you arrive at Disney.  They also offer discounts at resorts, cruises, vacations, sporting events, and lift tickets.  Some of these discounts are offered at the actual location as well, but Information, Tickets, and Travel can help save time by not needing to wait in line for these tickets.  Most tickets can be validated at ITT.  Military members also usually save on sales tax when buying from ITT since you are purchasing these tickets on base.

Golf Courses

The base golf course is the last program that will be discussed.  Most Air Force bases have their own golf course.  For the avid golfer, this can be a great benefit.  All bases that offer Golf Courses have reasonable green fees.  Want to spend some time out on the greens on your next vacation?  Consider using an Air Force Golf Course if you are a military member.  The FSS is responsible for the golf course and any associated food services.  The Shades of Green is a military only resort located on Disney World property, and they offer a special rate on golfing at one of the three world renowned Disney golf courses.

Auto Hobby Shop

The Auto Hobby Shop is a program offered to military members and their family.  At the Auto Hobby Shop, all the tools and lifts are available for a member to perform their own maintenance on their vehicle.  Every Auto Hobby Shop has certified auto mechanics who work there and are happy to lend their advice and assistance if needed.  Most base Auto Hobby Shops also offer self-serve car washing and free oil changes for spouses of deployed military members.  Just bring in a copy of deployment orders and the certified technician will schedule to do a free oil change.  Most bases have an FSS website with the Auto Hobby Shop’s location, hours and special programs they offer.

No matter what base you are stationed at, the Force Support Squadron offers numerous services to military members and their families.  These services are meant to be used and are better than most services you would find outside of the military.  The best way to enjoy them are to take advantage of as many of these services as you can.  In a world where the government is constantly looking for ways to cut spending, these services will disappear if they do not get used.  Take advantage of them and share some news adventures with your family.

Military Benefits: Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor (MoH) is the highest military medal a service member can earn. Created in the wake of the Civil War, the Medal of Honor is awarded to those who risk their lives above and beyond the call of duty in “actual combat” against an armed enemy of the United States.

There is a military tradition that dictates all uniformed members of the service render a salute to Medal of Honor awardees regardless of rank; this is one of the unique customs and courtesies associated with the medal. Even the most senior military officer will participate in this tradition out of respect for the sacrifices made in combat by all awardees.

  • Some base facilities offer special parking spaces, plus access to on-base recreation facilities. This on-base access is normally limited to currently serving military members, retirees, and dependents with valid military ID. Those who did not retire, but separated from the military don’t have such access otherwise
  • Recipients are given preferential accommodations at on-base billeting facilities, are provided with special military ID cards, plus access to on-base commissary and BX/PX privileges
  • Added to the Medal of Honor Roll
  • Retired pay is increased by 10%
  • A special Medal of Honor pension of $1,388.68 per month above and beyond any other benefits including pensions
  • A special supplemental clothing allowance of $830.56
  • Free lifelong travel on DoD military aircraft as a priority “Space-A” traveler. This benefit is subject to whether seats are available, hence the “Space-A” designation.
  • Priority level #1 (of 8) consideration when it comes to claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Exempt from co-payments for their medical care.
  • Access to MWR retail and lodging facilities (effective Jan. 1, 2020)
  • Invites to presidential inauguration events and  special recognition ceremonies at the state and local level
  • Some private companies offer special gifts, incentive programs, or access for Medal of Honor awardees and others receiving high military honors such as The Purple Heart. Individual programs and requirements may vary
  • Surviving spouses and dependent children of Medal of Honor awardees may, depending on the state, be eligible to receive added consideration for state education benefits
  • Special military burial honors including headstones with gold lettering and a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and a bugler.
  • A variety of non-military benefits. Those include special license plates, licenses, and ID cards with application requirements and availability varying by state
  • Interment at Arlington National Cemetery, if not already eligible
  • Children of awardees are offered automatic appointment to any military service academy they are qualified to enter, without regard to nomination or quota regulations. Normally, a nomination is required to enter a military academy such as West Point, and there is a rigorous screening process

Do Service Members Need Life Insurance?

Life insurance is one of the most important components of your personal financial plan. Unfortunately, life insurance is poorly understood, and breadwinners’ mistakes invariably cause great financial hardship for their survivors. The primary purpose of life insurance is to protect your survivors from the adverse financial consequences of your premature death.

If service members have no survivors, then it’s unnecessary to buy life insurance beyond the amount needed to pay for any outstanding debts or settle the estate.

If service members are married or have young children, then it’s prudent to have life insurance to insulate the family from financial disaster. service members who want to marry or have children soon should explore life insurance options.

How Much Life Insurance Do Service Members Need?

The general idea in determining life insurance needs is the estimate the family’s actual financial situation in the event of the policyholder’s death. Life insurance is not a measure of devotion to loved ones or a monument to self-importance. It is insurance in case of premature death, and it should be used to protect dependents against undue financial hardship.

If a service member is not alive to provide for his or her family, insurance coverage should be sufficient to enable them to live comfortably. service members should determine the expenses survivors would incur in the years following their death and the income they will receive. By matching income with expenses, policyholders can easily see any short-falls (there may be none) that are best covered by life insurance.

Plan for a basic monthly income for the family, plus additional needs such as education for the children, special medical care for predictable problems, and a reserve for emergencies. As life changes, some of the needs disappear. For example, if the policyholder’s children are grown and through college, there is no need to leave money for the children’s education. Thus service members need to reevaluate insurance needs periodically to make sure the survivors’ situation hasn’t changed. In any case, there is never a requirement to make the policyholder’s family wealthy upon his or her death; buy only the coverage for identifiable needs.

The first step is to estimate the monthly expenses the policyholder believes his survivors will face. If you don’t know where to start in estimating these expenses, a good rule of thumb is two-thirds of your present monthly income for those years when children will be at home, and one-half after they have left.

What Type of Policy Should You Buy?

Currently, an active duty service member may elect to take up to $250,000 of coverage for $.65 per month per $10,000 of coverage, regardless of age. This is very inexpensive insurance for older officers and noncommissioned officers. In effect, the large numbers of young service members make possible low premiums for the older service members.

For this reason, and because it is convertible after service members leave the service, SGLI should probably be the basic building block of a military family’s insurance program. However, military credit unions may offer a better policy at less cost than SGLI.

There are three main types of life insurance:

  • Variable – Has a flexible structure designed to allow greater return on the savings portion of the policy.
  • Permanent – Premiums are paid until your death but also build savings. This type of life insurance offers guaranteed premiums and guaranteed cash values. Some types offer cash value growth driven by the equity markets. While premiums are higher than you initially would pay for the comparable amount of term insurance, over time the permanent life insurance cost may be lower than term insurance.
  • Term – Lasts for a specific period; has no savings component. Term life offers the lowest initial premium expense. Over time, however, term insurance premiums can increase significantly. In the long run the cost may even surpass the cost of permanent life insurance.

Within these major categories, there are many variations that will allow you to meet your life insurance needs.