5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

From brutal trench warfare in World War I to fighting the Nazis and challenging Soviet Russia during the Berlin Airlift, Army Reserve forces have faced the perils of combat for more than 100 years.

The Army Reserve started as a medical force designed to fortify the Army’s shortfall of combat doctors. In 1902, Secretary of War Elihu Root proposed the creation of a volunteer reserve to augment the regular Army and National Guard in wartime, and on April 23, 1908, the Medical Reserve Corps, with 160 medical professionals, was launched, with one simple mission: keep Soldiers alive.


Today, that force has grown to more than 205,000 citizen soldiers spanning a wide range of specialties. That includes 11,000 civilians and 2,075 units residing and operating in every state, 5 U.S. territories, and 30 countries.

Reservists, who say that deployment rates have skyrocketed since 9-11, give much credit to their employers and family members.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

“We don’t serve in a vacuum. We can’t do what we do without the support of our employers. With the increased op tempo there has been increased time away from home and our employers,” Col. Richard Bailey, Commander, 804thMedical Brigade, told Military.com in an interview.

As the Army Reserve honors its 110th anniversary, let’s take a closer look at the some of its highlights over the past century. Here’s to citizen soldiers!

5 defining moments from a century of war

1. World War I

About 90 reserve forces mobilized in World War I to fight the Germans across the European continent. One-third of them were medical doctors. Treating wounds during World War I was no small task, as injuries ranged from bayonet injuries to gunshots resulting from deadly trench warfare.

2. Fighting the Nazis: World War II (1941-1945)

During World War II (1941-1945), the Army mobilized 26 Army Reserve infantry divisions. Approximately a quarter of all Army officers who served were Army Reserve Soldiers, including over 100,000 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps graduates. More than 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers served in the war.

3. Challenging Soviet Russia: Cold War and the Berlin Airlift

The Army Reserve was mobilized twice during the Cold War; over 68,500 Army Reserve Soldiers mobilized for the Berlin Crisis (1961-1962), during which time the Soviets insisted that Western forces withdraw from Berlin. As forces on both sides escalated, conflict was imminent, but ultimately avoided, as U.S. Soldiers followed President Kennedy’s words: “We seek peace, but we shall not surrender.”

4. Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq led to a call-up of approximately 84,000 Army Reserve Soldiers to provide combat support and combat service support in the Persian Gulf theater and site support to American forces around the globe.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Monte Swift)

5. Global War on Terrorism (2001-Present)

Since 9/11, approximately 218,000 Army Reserve Soldiers have been activated in the Global War on Terrorism. Today, approximately 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers serve through the Army’s five- year, rotational force generation model.

While deployed to Iraq, Bailey ran a combat hospital and treated life-threatening injuries nearly every day.

“We had two rockets come in and explode on the compound and the base had many incursions on the perimeters. A lot of things happen outside the wire but on a daily basis it would come to our doorstep. We saw gunshots on a daily basis,” Bailey said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.


“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”

In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.

Related: Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Johnson (right) with his F-105, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, 1967. (Source: This Day in Aviation)

Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.

“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”

After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.

Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
The POW/MIA flag was created by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.

“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
American hero and Vietnam Veteran Maj. Harold Johnson. (Source: Iowa Public Television/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video for Harold Johnson’s heroic tale of surviving a nearly six-year stint in a Vietnamese POW camp.

(IowaPublicTelevision, YouTube)
Articles

The first time the US tested an EMP weapon was a doozy

It was 1962 and only four days after Independence Day, but people living on the islands dotting the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to New Zealand were about to see a light show brighter than any July Fourth fireworks display in history.


More ominously, many of those same people would get a taste of how a single nuclear weapon could wipe out a nation’s electrical grid – and the U.S. military at the time had no clue how damaging the results would be.

Codenamed Starfish Prime, it was part of a series of nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Pentagon. Some of those tests included launches from Johnston Island of the U.S. Air Force’s PGM-17 Thor intermediate range ballistic missiles with live W49 thermonuclear warheads.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
The aurora from a U.S. nuclear test in space, dubbed Starfish Prime, could be seen as far away as Hawaii. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The purpose: rocket the warheads to the edge of space and detonate them to determine whether thermonuclear fireballs could be used to destroy incoming nuclear warheads from the Soviet Union.

Crazy? Perhaps – but keep in mind the events of the age.

In 1958, the Soviet Union called for a ban on atmospheric nuclear testing and abided by a self-imposed moratorium. Eventually, the United States followed suit. During 1959, neither superpower tested any nukes, but the brief lull in testing did not last. Soon, both nations were back at it.

In 1961, the Soviets detonated the humongous “Tsar Bomba.” Though capable of a 100 megaton yield, scientists decided to dial back Tsar Bomba’s destructive power to reduce the chance of fallout. At about 50 megatons, it still is the most powerful nuclear explosion in history. In fact, Tsar Bomba was so powerful, its heat caused third-degree burns on the exposed flesh of Soviet observers more than 60 miles away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNYe_UaWZ3U
So, in a twisted, Cold War, Dr. Strangelove kind of way, launching nukes into space made sense.

Starfish Prime was really the third launch attempt for the U.S. – the first missile was destroyed seconds into its flight and the second blew up on the launch pad. Both incidents rained nuclear contamination down on the Johnston Island test facility.

But on July 9, 1962, the third Thor missile performed flawlessly and lifted its payload into space.

The 1.4 megaton warhead detonated about 240 miles above the Pacific Ocean – and then all hell broke loose.

“Most fortunately, these tests took place over Johnston Island in the mid-Pacific rather than the Nevada Test Site, or the electromagnetic pulse would still be indelibly imprinted in the minds of the citizenry of the western U.S., as well as in the history books,” Lowell Wood, a physicist and expert on EMP at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Congress in 2004. “As it was, significant damage was done to both civilian and military electrical systems throughout the Hawaiian Islands, over 800 miles away from ground zero.”

In Hawaii, the effects were almost immediate: streetlights blew out, circuit breakers tripped, telephone service crashed, aircraft radios malfunctioned, burglar alarms sounded, and garage door openers mysteriously activated.

As the flash from the nuclear explosion dimmed, an aurora formed in the sky that could be seen for thousands of miles. One reporter in Hawaii wrote, “For three minutes after the blast, the moon was centered in a sky partly blood-red and partly pink. Clouds appeared as dark silhouettes against the lighted sky.”

The high-energy radiation not only created a massive light show; it temporarily altered the shape of the Van Allen Belt – part of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth that actually protects the planet from solar storms that could destroy life on the world’s surface.

The Van Allen Belt had only been discovered four years earlier by University of Iowa physicist James A. Van Allen. The bands of high-energy particles held in place by strong magnetic fields were first seen as a threat to early space explorers – or a possible weapon to use against the Soviet Union.

In fact, there are historians of the Cold War who argue that there is compelling evidence indicating that both the United States and the Soviet Union contemplated exo-atmospheric nuclear explosions to blow up the Van Allen belt either to permit space travel or destroy their respective enemy.

Fortunately, there is no evidence that either the U.S. or Soviet nuclear testing in space permanently damaged the magnetosphere. As the weeks and months went by, however, there were other casualties from the Starfish Prime blast. At least six satellites – including Telstar, the world’s first telecommunications satellite – were either damaged or destroyed by passing through the lingering radiation belt left by the detonation.

Scientists and the military were stunned by the results of Starfish Prime. They knew about EMP, but the effects of the blast far exceeded their expectations.

Despite the very public detonation of the weapon, the cause of the power failures and satellite malfunctions remained secret for years, as did a new discussion that began: how a single nuclear weapon might be used to cripple a nation in one blow.

It is a discussion that continues to this day as those in the national security community consider how a weapon like Starfish Prime detonated over or near the United States could plunge the country into darkness.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new artillery destroys targets without GPS

The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.

The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of an unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuse built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.


Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.

The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.

“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.

BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
A U.S. Army M109 howitzer.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica A. DuVernay)

“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.

Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.

GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attack without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envision as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.

The rise of near peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air, and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit attach a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to an AV-8B Harrier II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Veronica Mammina)

Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers, and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation, and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.

Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.

At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite comms, harden networks, and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.

The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radiofrequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.

Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.

Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer range weapons and sensors.

This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — …”it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
popular

Unidentified flying object buzzes American Airlines flight

On Sunday, February 21st, at approximately 1:19 PM CST, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 2292 was added to the ranks of those who have had an encounter with an unidentified flying object, or as they tend to be known today, an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP).

The pilot, nearing the end of a flight from Cincinnati to Phoenix, witnessed a “cylindrical object” fly over his Airbus A320 near Clayton, New Mexico. He radioed air traffic control in Albuquerque with this message:

“Do you have any targets up here?  We just had something go right over the top of us – I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing – moving really fast right over the top of us.”

The transmission was recorded by Steve Douglass, an investigative journalist, photographer and “self-avowed Stealth Chaser,” as his blog, Deep Black Horizon describes. Douglass has a room full of monitoring equipment that would be the envy of most small airports, as can be seen in his interview with KVII out of Amarillo. Douglass actually found the 20-second transmission while searching for audio of a mayday call from a Denver flight that had an engine catch on fire.

“It was a pure coincidence,” Douglass told The Arizona Republic. “I was just as surprised as everybody else was.”

He said a bit of excitement and elevation in the pilot’s voice caught his attention. Listen to the audio here:

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

American Airlines was initially dismissive of the claims about the intercepted message after an inquiry by Tyler Rogoway of The War Zone, but then confirmed the incident about 48 hours later with a brief statement:

Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21. For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed that up on Wednesday:

A pilot reported seeing an object over New Mexico shortly after noon local time on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
(Wikimedia Commons)

While the parties involved are predictably tight-lipped after such a dangerous event at 36,000 feet, these statements do tell us a couple of things, as noted by Rogoway. The FAA’s statement indicates that this isn’t simply a mishap where two aircraft ended up in the same airspace, and American Airlines referring questions to the FBI adds quite a bit of intrigue, suggesting the need for an investigation beyond the resources of the FAA.

So what was it? For what it’s worth, the spokespeople for all military bases in the area (White Sands Missile Range, Holloman AFB, and Kirtland AFB) have no explanation for what happened. No missile tests and no military flights were in the area according to the military, and Douglass has a log of all activity on Deep Black Horizon that confirms this. The FAA also having nothing on radar pushes this into UFO territory. The Southwest United States is obviously no stranger to bizarre occurrences and unexplained aircraft. A very similar unsolved air mystery was witnessed by multiple pilots over the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona almost three years ago to the day.

Go back a few more years, to five Navy F/A-18 pilots who told the New York Times about mysterious objects that had “no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” as reported in the 2019 article. One encounter nearly resulted in a collision and prompted an after-action report from an unnamed pilot.

“These things would be out there all day,” Lt. Ryan Graves, one of the Super Hornet pilots, told the Times. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Radar of the unidentified flying object

The videos above were released by the Pentagon last year to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real,” but that seems to have only whetted the appetite of UFO enthusiasts more. Fortunately, a bill that was introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Intelligence Authorization Act, was passed last July and includes provisions for the Department of Defense to reveal what they know to Congress about unidentified flying objects by this summer. It is anyone’s guess how much might be revealed, but it definitely bears watching.

While the American Airlines pilot’s description of what he saw is very brief, it is plausible that the “long, cylindrical object” he saw was the same as these “Tic-Tac-shaped” vehicle that these other pilots have described. That said, more details are definitely needed, and there still may be a much more reasonable explanation for the incursion. Let the debate begin as to whether this is extra-terrestrial life, a military smokescreen, or a completely separate scientific phenomenon. Regardless, it is another fascinating event that’s added to the catalogue of the unexplained, and another potential piece of the UFO puzzle that might be closer to being solved soon.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the F-117 Nighthawk was so groundbreaking

When you think of goblins, the mythical creatures portrayed in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films might come to mind. Traditionally, the goblin has been a mischievous, sneaky monster. So, in one sense, it’s fitting that this cunning creature found its way into the nickname of the first operational stealth aircraft.

The F-117 Nighthawk was nicknamed the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” mostly due to its handling characteristics — after all, it didn’t look like a conventional plane and it required computer assistance to remain in controlled flight. It might not sound ideal, but those were some of the realities of flying the first operational stealth fighter. Well, more accurately, it was a light bomber that usually carried two GBU-10 laser-guided bombs or four GBU-12 laser-guided bombs.

While most planes using laser-guided bombs on high-value targets often faced greater risk, the F-117 was perfectly suited for the task.


The reason? It was extremely hard to detect on radar. It was, for all intents and purposes, invisible to enemy forces on the ground, effectively negating many surface-to-air missiles of the time. With that, the F-117 was able to operate at the best possible altitude and fly the best possible profiles for covertly deploying laser-guided bombs.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

F-117s en route to Saudi Arabia.

(USAF)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-117 was initially in service in 1983, a “black project” that operated in the Nevada desert for five years until the Air Force officially acknowledged it. The plane made its combat debut in Panama, where the planes achieved their objective. In Desert Storm, they hit many heavily-defended targets, flying 1,200 sorties with no losses. Often, the only warning that a F-117 was attacking was when its target blew up.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

A F-117 gets fuel from a KC-10 Extender.

(USAF)

The F-117 also saw combat over the Balkans, where one was shot down, and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the introduction of the F-22 Raptor, the F-117 was eventually retired and taken back to the Nevada desert, where these high-tech Goblins lurk in case they’re needed again.

Learn more about this sneaky plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJv722N5OtA

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special Marine band remembers connection to Bush

As the nation mourns the passing of one its finest patriots, current and former members of the Marine Band remember President George H. W. Bush as a man whose love of music and uncommon graciousness elevated the unique relationship between the Chief Executive and “The President’s Own.”

“Although President Bush served as our Commander-in-Chief before my time in ‘The President’s Own,’ the close relationship he developed with the Marine Band is well-known,” Music Adviser to the White House and Marine Band Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging. He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”


Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.), Marine Band Director from 1979-96, recalled memories of President Bush with great ease. “Of all the presidents I served, he was the most conversive and was the kindest man in the world,” he said. He recounted how the president would make a point to bring the guest of honor from each state dinner over to Bourgeois and the Marine Chamber Orchestra to make introductions. “It was very much like being a part of the family,” Bourgeois said. It was during President Bush’s administration, in February 1990, when Bourgeois led the Marine Band on an historic 18-day concert tour of the former Soviet Union as part of the first ever U.S.-U.S.S.R. Armed Forces band exchange. “The president was integral to making that tour happen and while we were there we saw the end of the Soviet Union,” he said.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

“The President’s Own” remembers and honors George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America.

(Official White House Photo)

On a more light-hearted note, Bourgeois recollected an event on Dec. 7, 1992, when the Marine Band performed Hail to the Chief at a White House holiday reception for the president’s staff. At the end of the fanfare, an unlikely gentleman made his way through the crowd and took the podium: comedian Dana Carvey, known for his uncanny impression of the president. But it was the annual Gridiron Club dinner where Bourgeois witnessed President Bush in a truly nostalgic moment. It was March 1993 and Gridiron president, Los Angeles Times bureau chief Jack Nelson, sat at the center of the head table with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton on one side of him and former President George H. W. Bush on the other. As Bourgeois led the Marine Band to the dais for The Star-Spangled Banner, he saw both Clinton and Bush lean over to whisper to Nelson. Nelson later told Bourgeois that President Bush commented that there are many things he won’t miss about being president but the Marine Band isn’t one of them.

Few members of the Marine Band can boast of a better first performance at the White House than former Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw, USMC (Ret.). Although he had performed at the White House before May 14, 1992, this was the first time he performed solo in the private residence. As he played a medley of Broadway show tunes from “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” President Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stood in the well of his piano where he overheard the two leaders discuss perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “President Bush was always a gentleman and always came over to shake my hand and thank me,” he said.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Inaugural Parade of George H.W. Bush.

(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)

Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Wilson, violinist and current string section commander, joined the Marine Chamber Orchestra in 1990, halfway through President Bush’s term. What impressed him about the president was that he always made a point to go out of his way to acknowledge and thank the musicians for their participation at assorted events, even if it meant shaking off his handlers to seek out the orchestra. It was during President Bush’s tenure that Wilson and several other musicians founded the Free Country ensemble and one of their early performances was at President Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush’s wedding to Robert P. Koch at Camp David on June 27, 1992. In addition to Free Country, the Marine Band provided a brass quintet in the chapel for the ceremony and a dance band for cocktail hour. After the event, as the musicians packed up their instruments to leave, President and Barbara Bush found them to shake each of their hands, ask their names, and thank them for their music. Wilson said from that day forward, President Bush remembered his name and called him Pete each time he saw him at the White House. “He had an amazing ability with names and people,” Wilson said.

At a congressional picnic Wilson was singing with Free Country and he recalled President Bush seemed to appear from out of nowhere and shook hands with each of the musicians as they performed. Wilson considers it a point of pride that he was able to greet Bush and not lose a beat during the fast-moving lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” It was another event, however, that Wilson can never forget. The Marine Chamber Orchestra was performing at the White House on Jan. 16, 1991 and President and Mrs. Bush were greeting visitors in a receiving line. Wilson noticed then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell walk up to the president in his green service uniform to pull him away. Bush didn’t come back to the event. When Wilson returned to Marine Barracks Washington, the news on the television in the lounge was reporting the first bombing attacks on Baghdad and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

President Bush is accosted by a gorilla carrying mylar balloons in celebration of the President’s 65th birthday, South Lawn of the White House, June 12, 1989.


“We all recall how very kind and appreciative he was of everything the band did at the White House,” said Former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC (Ret.). “Mrs. Bush was also wonderful. I do especially recall the two Desert Storm victory parades, one in New York City and one in Washington. I marched and played in both. In NYC the crowds were so big that we hardly had room to get the band through the streets at certain points. There was ticker tape, but also all kinds of paper, including big stacks of continuous feed letter sized paper that were a challenge to get through. President Bush and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were in the reviewing stand and were so happy and proud. It’s not often the band gets to do a big street parade in good, not freezing, weather and it was a thrill to participate.”

“I remember several occasions at the White House that President Bush, upon seeing members of the Marine Band, would pause his entourage just long enough to personally thank the members of the Marine Band and relay how much he, the First Lady and the staff appreciate our musical contribution,” said former bassoon player Master Sgt. Dyane Wright, USMC (Ret.). “He stated that the music by members of the U.S. Marine Band is what they enjoyed the most about their White House events.”

“I will always remember President and Mrs. Bush as being unfailingly gracious, kindhearted and appreciative toward the members of the Marine Band,” recalled Former Director Col. Timothy W. Foley, USMC (Ret.).

The late Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Corrado, USMC (Ret.), served ten presidents from 1958-2003. His wife Martha reflected on “Charlie’s” many, many encounters with President Bush and recalled in particular when the president requested Corrado to perform at his residence at Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 10, 1991, while he and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan prepared for the upcoming Economic Summit of the Industrialized Nations in London. “I was jealous that he got to go!” she said. “He played in the sunroom while the meetings took place and the family was very appreciative of him being there.”

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

George H.W. Bush poses with Marine Band Drum Major MSgt Gary Peterson at the annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.

Former principal cello Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcio Botelho, USMC (Ret.), remembered an equally memorable performance for President Bush: “It was my first year in the band and sometime between April and June I was at home when I got a call from work. The question was, ‘How quickly can you get to the Barracks? Because we have to go to the White House.’ I came in right away and we immediately departed to the White House. Only three of us went, since we were the only available musicians: concertmaster Master Sgt. Bruce Myers, violinist Gunnery Sgt. Jim Diehl, and myself. President Bush was having a working lunch with Lothar de Maizière, the newly-elected prime minister of the old GDR (East Germany) and the White House staff had discovered that the PM had been a musician. At the time we were told he had been a cellist. Anyway, we rushed in to the house, put our cases in the mezzanine level holding room and went up to the state floor. President Bush and the PM had dined in the state dining room and we set up in the Blue Room. No sooner had we set up, the president and his guest walked in and took a seat about six feet from us. Bruce called out a tune: Haydn’s London Trio No. 3, 1st movement. We played it, they thanked us, we returned to the barracks. Possibly the shortest performance I ever played at the White House.” Botelho was also quoted in a Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990 issue of the Marine Band’s newsletter Notes saying, “It’s surprising because even though we are performing background music, people often make it a point to compliment us. In fact, at all of the state dinners the President and Mrs. Bush have greeted us and thanked us at the end.”

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

President George H.W. Bush escorts Queen Elizabeth II of England during a State Dinner at the White House on May 14, 1991.

(Official White House Photo)

In 2011, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library requested a Marine Band uniform for a new exhibit featuring a baby grand piano from the Bush’s collection. Then-Drum Major Master Gunnery Sgt. William L. Browne, USMC (Ret.) prepared the uniform and personally fitted the mannequin that would wear it. After Browne took the uniform to the tailor for alterations and cleaning, he carefully packed it in his carry-on luggage and traveled to College Station in December 2011 to ensure that it was installed correctly. He arrived to find the mannequin sitting at the piano with permanently bent legs that presented some technical challenges. He assisted curator Susanne Cox in putting the mannequin in place on the bench at the piano and made last minute adjustments to the fit and appearance. One thing he couldn’t adjust, however, was the length of the mannequin’s hair. “I know how hard it is to give a mannequin a haircut so I made an exception just this once,” he said with a wry smile. Browne was honored to participate in this exhibit for the senior former President Bush. “Every time I’ve seen him at an event, he and Mrs. Bush always made a point to come over to thank the band,” he said. “At my very first presidential event as Drum Major in 2008, President Bush stopped me in the hallway to say how much he appreciated the band and how good it was to hear us.”

The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Col. Fettig, will perform one last time for President Bush at his funeral service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Selections include Gustav Holst’s Nocturne from A Moorside Suite, Kevin Siegfried’s arrangement of “Lay Me Low” from Shaker Songs, Aaron Copland’s Our Town, Paul Christiansen’s arrangement of “My Song in the Night,” John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and Samuel Augustus Ward’s “America, the Beautiful.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russian nuclear warheads provided electricity for the US for 20 years

Even today, people can go on YouTube and watch videos of old military parades from the days of yore, when the Soviet Union was a constant threat to the United States. Part of those old parades included a drive by of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles driven on the back of trucks. If you watched one of those old videos between 2005 and 2013, there’s an excellent chance your computer was being powered by one of the nuclear warheads driving by. 

For two decades, the United States received uranium shipments from the former Soviet Union to use in its electric-generating nuclear power plants. The Russians would take their old warheads, get the weapons-grade nuclear material from them, turn it into fuel and sell it to private companies in the U.S. 

It all started after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the newly-formed Russian government had neither the will nor the funds to secure its nuclear stockpile. 

Philip Sewell was an employee of the Department of Energy in the early 1990s. It was his job to go to Russia’s old Soviet nuclear sites and determine the situation there. What he reported back was unsurprising at best, downright scary at worst. 

He told NPR the military facilities he found were mostly abandoned shells, with very few people around them. Windows were broken, gates and doors were unlocked, and it seemed like anyone could walk right in, take some nuclear material and walk out. 

There were 20,000 warheads’ worth of decommissioned nuclear material in the buildings. He and the U.S. State Department needed to find a means of securing it in a way that the new Russian government would care about. So he pitched the idea of creating an entire industry around it. The Russians were hesitant. 

energy plant fueled by nuclear warheads
Nuclear power produced electricity in the US for decades.

“It was a matter of pride, principle and patriotism,” Sewell told NPR. “Even though they didn’t need that excess material, [and] they didn’t have the money to protect it, they didn’t want to let go of it.”

But they needed the money. The Russian economy was in ruins after the fall of the Soviet Empire. Millions were out of work and the country had to rebuild a capitalist system in a hurry. Sewell’s solution was a winner for everyone involved. 

The United States was able to secure weapons-grade uranium, nuclear power companies got much-needed material to power their businesses, and the Russians got a $17 billion income stream from the deal. 

But the deal came to an end in 2013 when the last of the agreed-upon uranium was delivered to the United States. Russia was not in as much financial hardship as it was in the early 1990s and now it can find more and better uses for uranium. 

Still, with the weapons decommissioned and the nuclear fuel spent, we can sit comfortably in front of our smartphones knowing 20,000 fewer nukes are pointed at us.

Military Life

4 of the worst things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

In 1942, the government purchased some land in beautiful Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service. Thus, Camp Pendleton was born.

Several years later, Camp Pendleton became the home of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, countless brave service members, and their families.


5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton

Known for its beautiful beaches and sprawling landscape, there are a few drawbacks to getting stationed on the historic grounds…

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

It’s harsh, but true.

It’s a huge military town outside the gates

Marines and their families typically live just outside the gates and you’ll see them while out on liberty — they’re everywhere. So, good luck dating someone who isn’t attached to the military somehow. You’ll have to drive an hour or so before you leave the true confines of the camp.

The camp encompasses more than 125,000 acres and houses thousands of Marines inside. Now, step outside the camp’s gates, and it still feels like you’ve never left.

If you get stationed in Camp Pendleton and think you’ll somehow be an individual — you won’t.

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Oh, we know that.

Seeing paradise nearby is torture

Occasionally, when you’re out in the field training, you’ll see a beautiful beach and a bunch of civilians out there enjoying themselves. You’ll wish it was you.

But no, you’re stuck mining a post pretending to be deployed in Afghanistan for the next 72 hours.

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You’re all alone.

The infantry is in the middle of nowhere

If you’re stationed in the Division aspect of the camp and you need to head over to main side to the large PX, you’re going to have to get in a car and drive at least 20 to 25 minutes.

Now, if you don’t have a car, then your options are limited. Good luck getting someone to take you all the way over there — it’s mission.

Marines hike supplies up a hill during a training exercise.

Hiking those freaking hills, man

The hills of Camp Pendleton are famous throughout the Corps. 1st. Sgt’s. Hill in San Mateo (62 Area) is one of the most notorious natural obstacles over which Marines will climb to either visit the Sangin Memorial or to get that daily PT.

Compared to flat landscape of Camp Lejeune, the hills of Camp Pendleton can be a huge pain in the ass.

Articles

This Pearl Harbor hero refused to abandon his ship

December 7, 1941, is a heartrending day for Americans — even 75 years later.


Despite the solemn reminder that over 2,000 individuals perished that day, the instances of self-sacrifice and valor offer a source of inspiration to Americans.

Captain Bennion of the USS West Virginia is one of those men, immortalized forever for his stubborn refusal to give up his ship or abandon his men during one of America’s darkest hours.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion. (Photo courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

Mervyn Sharp Bennion was born in Utah Territory in May of 1887. He successfully graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, ranked third in his class. His roommate, Earl C. Metz, recalled the Mormon farmer’s sharp mind during his academic years. “He was able to concentrate mentally to a degree I have never seen equalled. He could read over a thing once and he had it. He had a perfectly marvellous brain and mental processes,” Metz recollected.

After graduation, Bennion served aboard the USS North Dakota as a lieutenant during the First World War. He methodically rose in the ranks of the Navy until he received command of the USS Bernadou in 1932. He returned to the Naval War College for a short time, and served as an instructor. On July 2, 1941, Bennion assumed command of the USS West Virginia of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. A little over five months after receiving the command he would be dead.

His brother, Howard Sharp Bennion, published an account of his deeds in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Bennion was casually shaving in his cabin on the morning of December 7 before heading out to church service. This stillness in his cabin was disrupted when one of his sailors burst through the door and alerted him that a wave of Japanese aircraft was headed directly toward the vessel.

Bennion rushed to the deck and issued a series of orders to prepare for the imminent attack. It was not long before a low flying Japanese torpedo bomber dumped three bombs on the West Virginia, causing severe damage and tearing a hole in its side.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

On his way to the Flag Bridge a fragment of metal tore through the air and gashed Bennion in the abdomen. The projectile nearly decapitated him, tearing his torso to shreds and damaging his spine and left hip. He was unable to move his legs and his entrails protruded from his stomach.

A pharmacist’s mate came to his aid and placed a makeshift bandage over the mortal wound. Bennion demanded that the man go attend to other wounded sailors and continued to issue orders amid the chaos.

Bennion refused to be moved an inch from his location until the first Japanese attack ended. During the lull before the second wave arrived, he finally permitted himself to be placed on a cot under a sheltered position on the deck.

As he lay protracted and in agony, he resumed issuing commands and receiving reports when the second wave struck an hour later.

Due to the combination of the loss of blood and shock, he began to lose consciousness. A few of his men tied him on a ladder and carried the makeshift stretcher to the navigation bridge out of the way of flames and smoke engulfing the vessel.

Barley coherent and somehow still clinging to life, Bennion again ordered his men to leave him and look after themselves. Roughly 20 minutes later he passed away, one of the thousands of Americans to perish that day.

One officer who remained alongside Bennion to the end proudly proclaimed that “the noble conduct of Capt. Bennion before and after being wounded met the highest traditions of the naval service and justified the high esteem in which he was universally held. I consider it my great good fortune to have served under him.”

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
The USS West Virginia continued to serve as an active battleship throughout the Pacific, and was present for the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945. (U.S. Navy)

Bennion’s body was transported home and buried with honor in Utah. He was afterward awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership. His citation read: “For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”

Despite being incapacitated early in the action at Pearl Harbor, Bennion refused to abandon his ship and nobly encouraged his men until the bitter end.

popular

8 advantages of having Marine veterans as friends

The Marine veteran is a gold mine of experience and practicality. Marines are realists who call it like it is — and that can be a major advantage if you have a thick skin and a sense of humor.


Just ask us about the Legend of Wagner and the thing he loves.

 

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
You might want to be careful Googling that Wagner thing.

Note: The Marine Infantryman is a particularly elusive breed. Companionship with outsiders is rare but does occur more often in post-service life. Their namesake is “03,” which is derived from the first two numbers of their MOS. They are fiercely loyal and take care of their own.

1. You won’t find a better drinking buddy

All Marines can trace their lineage back to a common birthplace of Tun Tavern. Our cultural traditions involve copious amounts of alcohol and an occasionally shaky moral compass. When you’re the tip of the spear, party like it.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
They insist.

2. They’re prepared for anything

Marines have a plan for zombies, the apocalypse, and natural disasters. Personally, I have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in my car. It’s better to have than have-not in an emergency, even if it’s basic.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
But he brought coffee.

3. They pay attention to detail, all the time

Marines are very good at cleaning. It’s almost like it was drilled into them or something…

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Silent but deadly (to germs and tough stains).

4. They are unparalleled travel companions

Marines like to show off how savvy they can be while off the grid. They have the innate ability to find the best food, lodging, and parties. Actual survival techniques may vary.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Avoid following Marines in North Carolina.

5. They want you to succeed

Veterans are a cut from a different cloth of society. Marines are honest — albeit indelicate — when stating the facts, but it comes from a good place. When people want to see you fail, they’ll do it in silence. If you need a kick in the ass to get your sh*t together, Marine buddies will provide it.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
They’ll be your bear.

6. Marines love comedy

When life gets rough, all you can do is laugh. So, Marines laugh a lot. Rest assured that if you tell a Marine a dark joke, no judgment will be passed. However, prepare yourself for one of our own, because it’s going to change your life.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

[Slays in Marine humor]

7. They’re great with animals

Our pets have better healthcare than we do. We’ll do anything to keep our little buddies healthy and happy. When shown compassion or leadership, animals have been known to join a wild pack of patrolling Marines.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Even when things get ruff.

8. Marines are romantic

Marines excel at two things: fighting wars and making babies. Anyone who has deployed can testify to a newfound appreciation for the opposite sex. They’re going to make the most out of every opportunity to get lost in the throes of passion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

All the times ISIS’ leader was declared killed in action

The ‘caliph’ of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently lost his son in combat in Syria — but no one really cares about that. The Syrians and Russians were probably hoping to ice his reclusive father, who is probably the world’s most wanted man at the moment.

Unfortunately, the only problem is that the world has “killed” that guy before — several times over. Baghdadi has survived more unbelievable attacks than anyone in any Fast and Furious movie ever.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war
Baghdadi survives again.

The reward for killing or capturing Baghdadi currently sits at a cool $25 million, but even offering that kind of reward hasn’t led to conclusive intelligence on where and when to hit the reclusive leader.


5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Baghdadi gets lucky once more.

March 18, 2015

Baghdadi was struck by coalition aircraft while straddling the border between Iraq and Syria. This led to ISIS’ need to have a serious talk about who replaces Baghdadi if he dies. His physics teacher stood in as caliph of ISIS while he recovered from his “serious wounds.”

In real life, the coalition confirmed the strike happened but had zero reason to believe Baghdadi was hit. Later, ISIS leaks news of a spinal injury on the caliph that left him paralyzed. While the extent of his injuries weren’t really known (like… is he actually paralyzed? And why would ISIS tell anyone?), militants vowed revenge for the attempt on his life.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

And he really wasn’t even in the convoy.

October 11, 2015

The Iraqi Air Force claims they hit a convoy carrying Baghdadi in Anbar Province on its way to an ISIS meeting, which was also bombed. After the IAF declared his death, rumors that Baghdadi wasn’t even in the convoy began to swirl.

Because he was still alive.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Someone in ISIS probably died in that airstrike, it just wasn’t him.

June 9, 2016

Iraqi television declared that Baghdadi was wounded by U.S. aircraft in Northern Iraq. No one confirmed this, which, if you think about it, could just happen every day. He’s survived before only to be bombed and then “bombed” again later — just like he did this time around.

Maybe it was a slow news day for Iraqi TV.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Another miraculous escape from U.S. aircraft.

June 14, 2016

Islamic news agencies reported the leader’s death at the hands of coalition aircraft, but the United States asserts it cannot support that claim (but it would welcome such news). The strike supposedly hit the leader’s hideout in Raqqa in an attempt to decapitate the Islamic State.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Tackling the ISIS problem head on.

October 3, 2016

The ISIS caliph was supposedly poisoned by a “mystery assassin” in Iraq and the terrorist group immediately began a purge of his inner circle, looking for the mysterious poisoner. Baghdadi and three others are said to have suffered from the poisoning, but little is known about the aftermath.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Literally never happened.

May 28, 2017

This time, Russia gets credit for icing the caliph. The Russian Defense Ministry investigated if Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft near Raqqa actually managed to kill Baghdadi. The mission of the sorties was to behead the terror group by taking out a number of important leaders, including Baghdadi if possible. The Syrian Observatory for human rights, however, reported that no such airstrike even happened that day.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

June 10, 2017

Just four days after allied forces begin an assault on Raqqa, Syrian state television says Baghdadi was killed by a massive U.S. artillery barrage aimed at the ISIS capital while visiting ISIS headquarters in the Syrian city.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Gotta catch him first.

June 23, 2017

A Russian politician claimed Baghdadi’s death at the hands of Russian aircraft. Iranian state media backed up these claims. A few days later, a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “confirmed” the death of ISIS’ leader. Iraq and the United States say they cannot corroborate the news.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

He survived so many airstrikes I’m running out of Fast and Furious references.

July 11, 2017

Chinese state newspaper Xinhua reported that ISIS confirmed the death of Baghdadi in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and that a new caliph would be announced soon. This announcement came in the days following the recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces. Kurdish leaders disagree with the assessment.

The manhunt is on.

As 2018 came around, coalition spies were able to track the elusive leader to specific places on three separate occasions. Each time, he was able to slip away. His current status, whether he’s still in hiding or even alive at all, is unknown by most.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should you enlist in the military or commission as an officer?

I know a lot of veterans who based their military careers on whichever recruiting office they walked into first. That’s one way to go about signing your life away to Uncle Sam, but it’s not what I would recommend. The military is a major commitment and will probably affect the rest of your life, whether you serve for four years or forty.

The biggest factors that go into your military experience are which branch you join and whether you enlist or commission as an officer. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the differences between officers and enlisted personnel across the five branches of the military.

We’ll cover everything from pay and benefits, mission execution to culture.


5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

How to Join

Qualifications for enlisting in the military:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Meet the age and fitness requirements
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test

For each branch, enlisted personnel begin their military experience with a form of boot camp. It is a strenuous introduction to military life, from the medical in-processing to the physical training to the hazing discipline. After about eight weeks of boot camp, enlisted personnel will receive their first duty assignments (probably at a job-specific training location) and they’ll be ready to actively serve in the military.

Qualifications for commissioning in the military:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Meet the age and fitness requirements
  • Have an undergraduate degree
  • Complete an officer training program

In order to earn a commission into the United States military, officer candidates must complete an officer training program. Two options for cadets without college degrees are to attend a military academy, such as West Point or the Air Force Academy, or to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending the qualified college of their choice.

Academy cadets and ROTC cadets will learn about the military while completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Half-way through their studies, they will attend a summer boot camp, much like the enlisted boot camps except that cadets will already be expected to meet physical fitness and academic requirements. For officer candidates, boot camp is the rite of passage that will elevate cadets to the leadership fundamentals portion of their training.

Once academy or ROTC cadets graduate and receive their degrees, they commission into active duty and receive orders for their first assignment, which, like enlisted personnel, will probably include a job-specific training.

A third route to becoming an officer is to complete an Officer Candidate School (or Officer Training School, depending on the branch). Cadets who already have college degrees will undergo a three-month training program that includes military academics and leadership training as well as boot camp. Once complete, OCS/OTS cadets will commission just like academy and ROTC cadets.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Missions

Enlisted personnel make up 82% of the military. They are primarily responsible for carrying out military operations. The remaining 18% are officers, who are responsible for overseeing operations and enlisted personnel.

Officers will have a head-start on managerial experience, commanding personnel at the mid- to senior-level corporate executive level. They hold a commission from the President of the United States, a position that comes with more authority and responsibility.

Enlisted personnel, however, are the subject matter experts. They will have the hands-on application of the mission and as they rise in rank they will also rise in leadership authority and experience. Enlisted personnel are also expected to continue their education while on active duty and many earn degrees and vocational training that can translate to a civilian career after their service.

Mission requirements and experience will vary depending on your military career and assignment location. A career in cyber operations might mean the mission is conducted over the internet, where the officer’s role is to aggregate information collected by enlisted personnel. A career in the infantry might mean that an officer is coordinating weapons and targets as enlisted personnel fight in combat.

That being said, there are certain career fields only available to officers or enlisted. A prime example: Air Force pilots are officers.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Pay Tables

Officers will start out at a higher pay grade than enlisted personnel, though enlisted service members are eligible for a variety of bonuses that can be quite substantial. Officers will also receive higher benefits such as monthly Basic Allowance for Housing. You can see from the charts below, however, that year-for-year and promotion-to-promotion, officers tend to make about twice as much money as enlisted personnel from monthly basic pay alone.

Monthly rate of enlisted basic pay

Monthly rate of officer basic pay

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Education

Let’s say you want to serve in the military to help pay for college.

Veterans (enlisted and officer) who meet qualifications are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a program that will help pay for college classes or an on-the-job training program after military service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes tuition and BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) assistance so it’s a major benefit when veterans transition back to civilian life.

But it’s not precisely equal for everyone.

According to the VA, “If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program.”

In other words, after a typical four-year service commitment, the average enlisted veteran will qualify for a paid college degree (and the Yellow Ribbon Program can supplement tuition that the GI Bill might not cover, at a private school for example).

The average officer, however, will not qualify for the GI Bill after a four-year service commitment. Here’s why:

Tuition and fees for the military academies is free for officer candidates. ROTC cadets also compete for varying degrees of scholarships to cover their college expenses in addition to receiving stipends during training.

In other words, most officers receive a college degree and then they serve in the military. If they want to earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they will have to serve additional time beyond their initial service commitment. Over time, officers accrue a percentage of the GI Bill.

So, if you’re still in high school and you’re trying to decide what you want to do in the military and what career you might want after the military, it could make sense to enlist first and gain professional experience then go to college courtesy of the GI Bill in the field you want to pursue.

As an alternative, you can complete your officer training and earn your first degree, serve in the military and gain professional experience similar to that of mid-level professionals, then either separate after your service commitment and pursue a civilian career or continue to serve longer and accrue GI Bill benefits for your next degree.

There are no wrong options here – it all depends on whether you know what career you want, whether it aligns with your potential military career and what kind of degree or vocational training would support you.

5 times the Army Reserve made a difference in a century of war

Culture

Officers tend to be older when they join the military, having already obtained their undergraduate degree. They are also trained with an emphasis on leadership and responsibility. Furthermore, active duty officers generally have the option of living off-base as opposed to barracks. For many of these reasons, officers get into less trouble than enlisted personnel while on active duty.

A 2015 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Department of Defense revealed that 17% of active-duty officers were female – up from their share of 12% in 1990. And 15% of enlisted personnel were female in 2015, up from 11% in 1990.

According to the DoD’s 2018 Statistical Data on Sexual Assault, 88 percent of sexual assault reports were made by enlisted personnel.

Both officers and enlisted make critical contributions to the United States military. Their experiences will vary from location to location and job to job. They will also vary based on their branch. Be sure to read about the differences between each branch of the military to decide which one is best suited for you.

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