Rich Galen

Edward Snowden is still, as far as we know, hiding out in the transit lounge of an airport in Moscow, Russia. He is, as President Obama referred to him "a 29-year-old hacker" who leaked damaging information about what the National Security Agency is doing to, according to our government, protect American citizen from foreign attack.

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I had the honor of traveling to San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday to be present at what is known in the military as a Change of Command ceremony on the grounds of the Alamo.

The command that was changing was the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion from Lieutenant Colonel Joe Kushner to Lieutenant Colonel Jay Haley. The 717th is a subordinate unit of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade.

I was invited to attend by LTC Kushner who, when we met, was a young Captain in the Psychological Operations battalion in Iraq back in 2003. The commander of that unit was Mike Ceroli, now a full Colonel.

I wrote a weekly column during my "Ranger Rick" days and most of my travel was either with PsyOps or Military Intelligence convoys, because they had to go everywhere and some of those places were where I needed to go, too, so I got to tag along.

One of them was to Fallujah with then-LTC Ceroli.

During that particular adventure, Ceroli went to see how a small detachment of about a dozen PsyOp soldiers under the command of a young First Lieutenant were faring since they had gotten there the previous October.

I'm not exactly sure what the soldiers in the 717th Intelligence Battalion do, but it is involved with Signals Intelligence - SIGINT in the jargon - which has to do with plucking electronic traffic out of the air and sending it on to whomever they send it on to.

These are not contractors making $120,000 per year working for Booz Allen Hamilton in some cushy office job in Hawaii. The base pay for an LTC with 16 years in the military works out to about $92,000 per year plus allowances.

For the someone like Edward Snowden - a "29-year-old" with a GED - who is the equivalent of a Sergeant, his base pay would be more on the lines of $30,000 per year.

With all of the allowances permitted (hostile fire, family separation, hazardous duty, and - food) a sergeant can make as much as $57,600 per year - about half of what Snowden was reportedly making - but he or she has to be in a place like Afghanistan, not Hawaii, to make that much.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at