The Defense Department announced Dec. 30 a renewed effort to ensure veterans are aware of the opportunity to have their discharges and military records reviewed, according to a DOD news release.
Through enhanced public outreach; engagement with veterans’ service organizations, military service organizations, and other outside groups; as well as direct outreach to individual veterans, the department encourages all veterans who believe they have experienced an error or injustice to request relief from their service’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board, the release said.
With Friday’s announcement, the department is reaffirming its intention to review and potentially upgrade the discharge status of all individuals who are eligible and who apply, the release said.
Additionally, all veterans, VSOs, MSOs, and other interested organizations are invited to offer feedback on their experiences with the BCM/NR or DRB processes, including how the policies and processes can be improved, the release said.
In the past few years, the department has issued guidance for consideration of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its predecessor policies, the release said. Additionally, supplemental guidance for separations involving victims of sexual assault is currently being considered.
The department is reviewing and consolidating all of the related policies to reinforce the department’s commitment to ensuring fair and equitable review of separations for all veterans, the release said.
Whether the discharge or other correction is the result of PTSD, sexual orientation, sexual assault, or some other consideration, the department is committed to rectifying errors or injustices and treating all veterans with dignity and respect.
Veterans are encouraged to apply for review if they desire a correction to their service record or believe their discharge was unjust, erroneous, or warrants an upgrade.
Navy SEALs writing books about their craft is a common trope shared within the military community, and apparently it’s not too far from the truth.
In the wake of former SEALs Matt Bissonnette and Robert O’Neill sharing details of their involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid, the special operations elite have a spotlight on them. And while it doesn’t look like any other military unit is going to come close to that level of attention, a search of books published about special operations forces shows that SEALs indeed take the top prize.
“A critical tenant of our Ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.’ Our Ethos is a life-long commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service. Violators of our Ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare,” reads recent letter from Naval Special Warfare.
But that certainly hasn’t stopped the presses.
Using the non-scientific method of Amazon.com book search for common terms to describe America’s elite units, we found the tallies for books by or about:
To be clear, there is plenty of room for error here. “Delta Force” sometimes shows up when searching for “Special Forces” and vice versa. And books with “Navy SEAL” can have anything from a firsthand account of a mission to a cheesy romance novel.
But the numbers certainly show one thing: Recon Marines really need to step it up with their writing.
France’s special operators in Iraq are collecting intelligence on their own citizens and then distributing it to Iraqi forces, according to the Wall Street Journal. The intent appears to be ensuring that as few French citizens as possible learn to fight under ISIS tutelage and then conduct attacks at home.
An estimated 1,700 French citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and France has little reason to want any of them back. Gathering intelligence on the most dangerous of them and handing it over to the Iraqis is a convenient way to reduce the threat without violating French laws on extra-judicial killings.
The U.S. has killed Americans in drone strikes and firefights, but only one of them was specifically targeted. Anwar al-Awlaki was a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who preached a particularly anti-American and violent reading of Islam. He was targeted and killed in a drone strike in 2011.
France appears to be sidestepping the controversy that embroiled the Obama administration after the killing of al-Awlaki by outsourcing the dirty work.
Cartoon characters with machine guns, sexy pin-ups riding phallic bombs, and/or — for the more skilled — an array of Nazi Swastikas or Japanese Rising Sun flags indicating the number of aircraft or ships destroyed . . . these are just a few of the common images worn on the backs U.S. Army Air Corps pilots, bombardiers, and navigators in World War II.
Whether it was for good luck, a sense of home or belonging, or just because wearing a jacket featuring Bugs Bunny Pulling Hitler’s severed head out of a hat fueled stories for the grandkids, there’s no doubt these jackets will always be enduring icons of a hard-fought air war.
16. Props (see what we did there?) to this unit. This jacket looks pretty damn good for being hand painted:
15. After 35 bombing runs, this probably says it all. TWANNGGG:
14. Does that type look familiar? During WWII, the Walt Disney Company was much looser with its trademarks when it came to the war effort. Disney designed many of the unit and morale patches used by the Army Air Corps:
13. Native American imagery was a popular theme, not just because this imagery was born in the Western Hemisphere and is associated with the Western U.S. and Great Plains, but also because the percentage of Natives who serve in the U.S. military is disproportionately high:
12. Lady Liberty was every pilot’s best girl:
11. Not just an awesome jacket with great art, using German seems like a it would be a bigger F**k You to Hitler and the Nazis, and it’s a really funny name. Der Grossarschvogel translates to “The Big Ass Bird”:
10. John McClane preferred Roy Rogers, But the Lone Ranger is good too (Yippy Ki Yay, Motherfu**er):
9. Finally, a play on words using an aviator’s term:
8. This gets to the point faster than TWANNGGG:
7. The award for incorporating (what would become) the Air Force song:
6. The thing about being crazy is if you know you’re crazy, then you’re not crazy.
5. This way, you’d always remember your crewmen’s names.
4. Who among us hasn’t dated Ice Cold Katy at least once? This guy is a hero.
3. Nice use of the Air Corps star:
2. Ramp Tramp – n. military/aviation term for a semi-skilled or unskilled airbase flightline worker, typically a baggage handler or aircraft cleaner. Flight crew and skilled mechanics/avionics personnel would not be considered “ramp tramps.” This is a nice shout out:
1. The top spot has to go to this guy. There’s no room for scantily-clad women when you’re trying to work in 100 bombing runs, five Japanese aircraft kills, and 12 ships, one of them a battleship.
Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”
This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.
But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!
Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.
If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.
That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.
So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?
Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.
Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.
She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.
Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!
Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.
Bert Kuntz, Bison Union
You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.
These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”
Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.
Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.
(Military Influencer Conference)
Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference
Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.
The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.
The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:
“Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
Founders and Innovators
Empower – Milspouse Track
Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.
Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.
Coby Cochran, UnCanna
Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.
Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.
According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”
We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.
Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.
All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this episode, US Army vet Katie Robinson riffs on her experience as a theater major serving in Iraq.
The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.
That speedy plane was the North American X-15.
The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.
The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.
Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.
Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.
One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.
Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.
Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.
Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.
“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”
Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.
After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.
“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.
Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.
Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.
Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.
A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.
“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”
On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.
Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).
Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.
“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”
Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.
Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.
“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.
Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.
“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”
Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.
“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”
Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.
“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision. “He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”
The Pentagon has ordered an independent federal auditor to stop providing the public with key information about US war efforts in Afghanistan, accelerating a clampdown on data, such as the size of the Afghan military and police forces, that indicate how the 16-year-old stalemated war is going.
The crackdown on information comes just months after President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy aimed at breaking a battlefield stalemate by accelerating Afghan-led operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the country. Trump railed against the recent string of attacks in Afghanistan, and ruled out any US discussions with the Taliban as part of the effort to seek peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents.
The auditing agency, established by Congress and known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, revealed the new gag order in its latest three-month assessment of conditions in Afghanistan. The restrictions fly in the face of Pentagon assertions over the past year that it was striving to be more transparent about the US war campaigns across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Over the years, the SIGAR auditing effort has revealed many dubious practices by the US, including instances of contractor fraud. Since January 2016 it had published data on the number of governing districts controlled by Kabul, the number controlled by the Taliban, and the number that are contested.
John F. Sopko, head of the auditing organization, expressed disappointment that the Pentagon had forbidden release of the data on relative control of the governing districts.
“This development is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked ‘unclassified’ to the American taxpayer,” Sopko wrote.
“Aside from that, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress — many of whose staff do not have access to the classified annexes to SIGAR reports — and for the American public of how the 16-year-long US effort to secure Afghanistan is faring,” he added.
In response, the Pentagon said the US-led coalition of NATO and allied nations in Afghanistan made the decision to restrict the public release of the information.
The Defense Department told SIGAR that it doesn’t “have the authority to overrule the classification determination made by NATO Resolute Support,” said Lt. Col. Michael Andrews. He said that similar information was included in the department’s December 2017 semi-annual report to Congress, and the Pentagon encouraged SIGAR to use that data.
The Defense Department report said the Afghan government has control or influence over 60% of the population, while insurgents had control or influence over approximately 10 percent of the population, with the remainder contested.
In November 2017 Gen. John Nicholson described the Afghan government control during remarks to reporters at the Pentagon. He said it remained “roughly the same” as in 2016. “About 64% of the population is controlled by the government, about 24% live in contested areas, and the Taliban control the remaining 12%,” he said. He did not reveal the number of districts held by each side.
Sopko wrote that historically, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the government has been falling since his office began reporting on it, while the number controlled or influenced by the insurgents has been rising — “a fact that should cause even more concern about its disappearance from public disclosure and discussion.”
The war effort has sometimes faded from US public attention, even though the US has invested about $120 billion in reconstructing Afghanistan since 2002.
Sopko said in his report that the Pentagon also classified or otherwise restricted information that his organization had previously reported publicly, including such “fundamental metrics” of the Afghan military and police performance as Afghan casualty figures and most measurements of the battlefield capabilities of the Afghans military.
Lyndon B. Johnson had only been in office for a few months following the assassination of President Kennedy when he found himself on the campaign trail, mired in election year politics as he fought to stay in office.
His opponent was Arizona Governor Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative who fancied himself as representing the values of the “good ol’ days,” unimpressed by the social changes looming across the country. Goldwater focused on the spectre of the Soviet Union and the associated spread of Communism. More than once from the stump he railed that he would make North Vietnam into a “mud puddle” once he was commander-in-chief. Goldwater also decried the scourge of the “welfare state,” saying that the proliferation of entitlement programs would be the end of America as good, law-abiding Americans knew it.
Johnson, meanwhile, staked his campaign on what he called the “Great Society” — a series of programs designed to reduce poverty. He was also very determined to improve civil rights.
This political ad was designed to paint Goldwater as a loose cannon — one with an itchy nuke trigger finger.
The ad worked. Johnson’s victory over Goldwater in the national election remains the most lopsided in terms of popular votes (43 million to 27 million) and the sixth-most lopsided in terms of electoral votes (486 to 52). Johnson won all but six states (Arizona, which was Goldwater’s home state) and the Bible Belt from Louisiana to Georgia (primarily due to LBJ’s civil rights efforts).
Although Goldwater was embarrassed by the election results, his politics did become the framework for the current Conservative movement as well as the Libertarian Party.
In mid-December, the Army will receive the first of nearly 150 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles from British Aerospace for what is officially described as the “Engineering and Manufacturing Development” phase.
What they’re really doing is testing out the replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier in Army brigade combat teams.
The M113 does seem to be due for replacement. This vehicle is old — as in it entered service when John F. Kennedy won the presidency.
It’s stuck around for 56 years, even as it became obvious that it could not keep up with the M1 Abrams main battle tank nor the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The AMPV will likely continue its testing for at least another four years, according to an Army release. Per a handout from April 2012, the Army is looking for five variants of the AMPV.
The first is a General Purpose vehicle, capable of mounting a “crew-served weapon” (let’s be honest, it will likely be a M2 heavy machine gun), with a crew of two and capable of carrying six personnel.
This will often serve as an escort for convoys, medevac missions, and even be used as an emergency supply vehicle.
The next vehicle is a Medical Evacuation Vehicle, intended to pull wounded troops from the fight, and to help deliver medical supplies forward (to treat casualties on the spot and prepare them for evacuation).
The vehicle can carry four litter patients, six ambulatory patients, or a mix. Given that the AMPV is being used in the heavy brigade combat teams, this is meant to handle the aftermath of an armored vehicle being hit.
The third variant is the Medical Treatment Vehicle. You might think at first that this is redundant with the MEV, but these are very different things.
The MEV is intended to get wounded troops to medical treatment. The MTV is meant to be a place where troops are treated. This vehicle – really a mobile emergency room – will be also to carry one litter case, and has a crew of four.
The Mortar Carrier is variant number four. Pretty much the same 120mm mortar used in the mortar carrier variants of the M113 and the Stryker will be in the AMPV.
It will carry the crew for the mortar and 69 ready rounds.
The final version is the Mission Command Vehicle. This is where officers at battalion level and higher handle their fights. This vehicle will have a crew of two and two mission personnel.
In other words, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle looks to finally be the end of the line for the M113 … eventually. But there were over 80,000 M113s of all types produced, according to the current owner of the design, BAE Systems.
Military vehicles in an underground facility at US Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, September 9, 2015. US Defense Department/Glenn Fawcett
A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.
The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.
Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.
Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department
The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.
The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.
“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.
Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.
Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen
A changing strategic game
The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”
Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.
Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.
US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh
Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.
Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”
“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.
The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.
Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.
“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.
Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.
Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”