"They say history is being made here every day: "We're the 89th (Military Airlift Wing) and we fly the President. That's history. But history is not paying my rent or anything else," lamented Staff Sgt. James R. Saddler.
Saddler has recently returned to the United States from Wiesbaden, Germany, only to find -- to his chagrin -- he has been assigned to Andrews Air Force Base.
Saddler, who has a wife and two children, works in the communications section of the 89th Military Airlift Wing. He said he wanted to be transferred down South where the cost of living is cheaper.
He has discovered his meager military paycheck does not stretch to meet the high cost of living in Washington area. Saddler said he has to work part time at the base commisary bagging groceries to supplement his military paychecks, which is about $550 per month.
For 28-year-old Saddler, and hundreds of other military personnel like him, the cost of living -- excluding housing -- is about 2 to 3 percent more in the Washington area than the national average, according to Maj Brigham Shuler, a Defense Department spokesman.
"When housing is added, it gets even worse," Shuler said.
Although Saddler has reenlisted twice and plans to reenlist again, he says poor military pay eventually may force him to leave the Air Force.
Others at Andrews also complained about the low military pay. More than 20 airmen said poor pay might be a factor in considering whether to continue with the military.
For Frank Milavec, of Los Angeles, a 26-year-old civil engineer at Andrews with a wife and daughter, "the prices are too high."
He complains, "Only the people on base can afford to live in Washington area. We are barely surviving...I hope they read this in Washington and do something about our pay."
It's bad, but not that bad," said Airman Basic Tyron Walls, 19, of Baltimore. Walls lives on base, which he said has helped cut costs.
The lowest-paid airman receives $397.50 a month, according to the current military pay scale. If he is married and lives off base, he receives an additional $142.50 per month for housing. If the airman lives on base, he will not receive the housing stipend, but his housing will be provided free of charge.
In the median range, a captain with 10 years experience receives $1,464.60 a month. If married and living off base, he will receive an additional monthly housing allowance of $271.20.
In the top scale, the highest-ranking general receives up to $3,360.20 per month. If married and living off base, he will receive an additional $424.20 for housing.