11 things the Space Force must — and can't — do - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

11 things the Space Force must — and can’t — do

While the Pentagon has questioned the need for a dedicated Space Force, the U.S. is already a signatory to multiple space treaties that spell out its obligations in the final frontier. And there are already a number of missions being done by other forces that would clearly be the purview of an independent Space Force.

Here are nine things the Space Force must do — and two things it can’t.

Related video:


They probably won’t need so many graphical overlays to do it, though.

(U.S. Army)

Protect American satellites

American satellites are one of the most important parts of modern, digital infrastructure. They’re also extremely vulnerable. They’re under constant threat of striking debris that’s already flying through orbit and China and Russia both have demonstrated the capabilities to bring one down at any time.

A Space Force would likely be tasked with building countermeasures to protect these valuable assets. Oncoming missiles could be confused with jamming or brought down with lasers — but lasers can also serve as an offensive weapon against enemy satellites. Additionally, some spacefaring nations, including the U.S., are developing technologies that could allow them to seize enemy satellites and steer them into danger.

Tactical battles in space sound complicated.

(U.S. Air Force)

Identify enemy killer satellites and template attacks against them

Speaking of which, the Space Force will likely need intelligence assets to identify satellites with offensive capabilities and template ways to neutralize them quickly in a space war. Satellites could be the U-boats of a future conflict, and the best way to stop them before they can hide amidst the space junk is to take them out at the first sign of conflict.

Satellites are expensive. And hard to make. And worse to replace.

(U.S. Air Force)

Ensure plans for the replacement constellations are viable

But there’s no way that American defenses could stop all — or likely even the majority of — attacks. Luckily, DARPA and other agencies are already testing potential ways to rapidly rebuild capabilities after an attack.

They’ve tested launching moderate-sized satellites from F-16s as well as sending up rockets with many small satellites that work together to achieve their mission, creating a dispersed network that’s harder to defeat.

(Graphic by U.S. Air Force)

Figure out how to destroy space debris

We mentioned space debris earlier — and it’s important for a few reasons. First, it’s a constant threat to satellites. But more importantly for strategic planners, most methods of quickly destroying an enemy’s satellite constellation will create thousands (if not millions) of pieces of debris that could eventually destroy other satellites in orbit, including those of the attacking nation.

So, to create a credible threat of using force against other nations’ satellites, the U.S. will need a plan for destroying any space debris it creates. The most pragmatic solution is to create weapons that can kill satellites without creating debris, like the lasers and killbots. But those same lasers and killbots could be used to clear out debris after satellites are killed with missiles.

China has proposed a “space broom,” armed with a weak laser that could clear debris (and, purely coincidentally, might also be used to destroy satellites).

Air Force graphics are as complicated as Army graphics. I wonder if everyone thought it was the graphics that decided who got the Space Force? (You win this round, Air Force).

(U.S. Air Force)

Protect American industry in space

The U.S. military branches are often called to protect national interests. Among those national interests is business — and business in space is likely to be massive in the near future, from private space companies teasing the possibility of tourism to asteroid mining to zero-gravity manufacturing.

Of course, building the infrastructure to do these things in space will be expensive and extremely challenging. To make sure that America can still gather resources and manufacture specialized goods — and that the military and government can buy those goods and resources — the Space Force will be tasked with protecting American interests in space.

Just sitting here waiting to rescue someone.

(NASA photo by Tracy Caldwell Dyson)

Rescue operations

Another important task is recovering survivors of any accidents, collisions, or other mishaps in orbit. America has already agreed to a treaty stating that all spacefaring states will assist in the rescue of any astronaut in distress, but rescues in space will likely be even more problematic than the already-challenging rescues of submariners.

There is little standardized equipment between different space agencies, though Russia does share some matching equipment thanks to their access to Space Shuttle schematics when overhauling the Soviet space program. The Space Force will likely have to figure out ways to rescue astronauts and civilians in space despite equipment differences.

Yeah, you guys can hitch a ride. Did you bring your own spacesuit or do you need a loaner?

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

Provide orbital rides for other branches

While the Marine Corps has already done some preliminary work on how to move its Marines via orbit, little planning exists for the nitty gritty details of moving troops through space. All of the branches will likely develop some tools for moving personnel, but Congress will likely demand that the branches prevent unnecessary redundancy — like how the Army has its own boats, planes, and helicopters, but has to get most of its rides from the Navy and Air Force.

The Space Force will be the pre-eminent branch in space, and will likely need the spaceports and shuttles to match.

Learn to steer (or at least divert) asteroids

Currently, NASA has the lead on detecting near-Earth objects and preventing collisions, but the military generally gets the bigger budget and, as they say, “with great funds comes great responsibility.”

Luckily for them, there are groups happy to help. The B612 is a group of concerned scientists and engineers that is focused on developing plans to divert asteroids. So, Space Force can just focus on training and execution.

Do a bunch of paperwork

Of course, the Space Force won’t be all shuttle pilots and flight attendants — the admin folks will have a lot of paperwork to do, too. Another U.S. space treaty obligates America to provide details of every object it launches into space as well as every person who enters space.

All of those details that get passed when personnel enter or leave a country will also have to get passed when they enter or leave space, necessitating an admin corps who join the space force exclusively to pass paperwork.

If you think that makes the Space Force more boring, just wait until you see the things they, by treaty, aren’t allowed to do.

Super sexy — but also not allowed to be based on the Moon.

(U.S. Air Force)

No carrying weapons of mass destruction

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans any spacefaring nation from putting weapons of mass destruction in orbit or basing them on celestial bodies, like the Moon. So, no Space Marines with nuclear missiles in orbit. Rockets, bullets, and lasers? Maybe.

Nukes? No way. Gotta leave those back on Earth.

No building military bases on celestial bodies

Even worse news for Space Force personnel: They can’t have any dedicated military bases on celestial objects either, also due to that same Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The U.S. will need to renegotiate the treaty, build more space stations, or keep nearly all Space Force personnel on Earth, only sending them up for short missions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Shirron remembers he was several hours into a long convoy across the German autobahn when a military police officer leading the convoy pulled to the side of the road.


“What’s going on,” Shirron asked the soldier. “Why are we stopping?”

The soldier didn’t say much except that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“I was confused,” said Shirron, who was a sergeant at the time. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I thought there must be a mistake.”

Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Photo from Flickr user Michael Foran.

The terrorist attacks that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — would change the course of Shirron’s career, and that of countless other troops, and have lasting implications for Fort Bragg and the military.

Almost immediately, Fort Bragg tightened security to its highest level. Training, typically a year-round affair, stopped. Instead, soldiers and airmen were readied to respond to the attacks.

The first soldiers would leave Fort Bragg in the weeks following the attacks. Since then, they have been continuously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror.

Shirron, stationed in Germany in 2001 with the 1st Infantry Division, said he didn’t fully learn what was happening until several hours after the attacks.

First, his convoy was turned around and ordered to report to the closest US military installation. When they arrived at Wurzburg, then the home of the 1st Infantry Division, they were greeted by soldiers in full body armor with loaded weapons.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

The entire installation was on lockdown. Shirron and others were given space in an empty mailroom to rest and wait for orders.

Across the hall, he found about 40 soldiers gathered around a television, watching the news of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania

“Everything changed,” he said. “The Army gained a much greater purpose. And service became about something much greater than yourself.”

Shirron joined the Army in 1997, starting out in the Arkansas National Guard. He was a student at the University of Central Arkansas, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

In the Army, he found the purpose he was lacking. And less than a year later, he transferred to active duty as a fires support specialist.

“I liked what it taught me, not only about myself but about what the Army was,” Shirron said of his decision.

He served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before transferring to Germany.

In those years before the attacks, Shirron said, Army life was very different from what it was today.

“The worst part was that every six months or year, you were going to be gone for about 30 days for training,” he said. “That’s what everyone dreaded.”

Members of a Special Operations Surgical Team train with Green Berets. (USAF photo)

Training was less urgent and more monotonous, he said. Soldiers prepared for “Russian hordes” and other threats that didn’t seem real.

But after the attacks, training changed.

It was more focused and efficient. There was an urgency, a realism that had lacked before.

“The tempo picked up,” Shirron said. “We were grasping a new type of warfighting. Leaders understood the gravity of the situation and our methods were changing.”

Those who once dreaded month-long exercises now recognized that deployments would become part of life. They would serve for a year or more in countries they knew little about prior to the attacks.

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Sperduto.

Shirron said that prospect didn’t scare many out of the force. Instead, it created new resolve.

“Now, training was real,” he said. “Now, deployments were eminent.”

Shirron was approaching the end of a three-year enlistment when 9/11 happened. He soon would re-enlist for a six-year tour.

He said he wanted to serve his country when he joined, fueled by patriotism and a sense of duty. Things were different for those who joined in the days and weeks after the attack.

“The soldiers that came in after 9/11 — they knew immediately that they were going to fight,” Shirron said. “They joined because of 9/11. They wanted to do their part.”

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Others in the military today were too young to join in the wake of 9/11.

First Lt. Andrew Scholl, a member of the brigade staff for the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, was in fourth grade in Proctorville, Ohio, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I can remember there were some teachers being taken out of class and talked to in private,” Scholl said. “Next thing I knew, they came in and told us our parents would be picking us up.”

Scholl’s father arrived in full uniform. He was a lieutenant colonel serving as a professor of military science at Marshall University, and he did his best to explain to his son what had happened.

U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“It’s hard to wrap your head around that as a fourth-grader,” Scholl said.

Soon, his father was off to meetings at the Pentagon. Two deployments would follow — one for a year and another for six months.

Scholl said he never had thought much about serving in the military.

“Teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really had an answer before,” he said. “But after that day, it was ‘I want to be in the Army.’ Ever since that day, it’s all I wanted to do.”

Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Scholl said most young soldiers today don’t remember the attacks. They don’t remember a peacetime military. And that makes their service all the more impressive.

“They were born in 1997 and were growing up,” he said. “We’re still at war. There’s no clear end in sight.”

“If anything, I think that shows what kind of people are joining today,” Scholl added. “It speaks volumes for their character.”

Shirron has deployed three times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He served 15 months and 14 months in Iraq, and 11 months in Afghanistan.

In 2008, he attended the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He’s now assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as a lethal targeting officer.

U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army

He said the Army has changed much over the last 16 years, but that focus is still there.

“We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Shirron said. “But the burden on the individual soldier is only increasing.”

Today, the military juggles old and new threats, he said. There’s increased uncertainty in the Pacific, where North Korea continues to rattle sabers. And there’s budget uncertainty hanging over much of the force.

Shirron said he often looks back at how the Army and his own career was affected by Sept. 11.

“If 9/11 hadn’t have happened, I can’t say I would be here,” he said. “The world changed that day. I’m here now because of what happened that day. And definitely the military changed that day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here’s why

The Air Force munitions stockpile in Guam recently received a ten percent boost, according to the U.S. military.


A total of 816,393 munitions assets valued at over $95 million dollars were delivered to Andersen Air Force Base between Aug. 21 and Sept. 30, 36th Wing Public Affairs revealed in a statement Wednesday.

“The inbound munitions ensure required assets are available in theater to support national objectives,” explained Maj. Erik Schmid, 36th Munitions Squadron commander. “The munitions will increase the overall availability of day-to-day training assets and War Reserve Material stocks to support warfighting capabilities,” the statement introduced.

The commander of the Pacific Air Forces addressed the severity of the North Korean threat Monday while warning that the U.S. military remains ready to fight should that course of action be required.

“The North Korean nuclear weapons and missile development program is truly a threat to us all,” Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in Seoul, South Korea, adding, “While the United States will always seek peace over war, we remain poised to defend our ideals, our allies, and those who help preserve these international rules and norms.”

Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

The strategic air assets located at Andersen Air Force Base facilitate America’s continuous bomber presence in the Asia Pacific and are regularly used to warn North Korea of the dangers of threatening the U.S. and its allies.

B-1B Lancers, powerful bombers that are no longer nuclear capable but carry the largest conventional payload of any U.S. bomber, are regularly sent to Korea to train alongside South Korean and Japanese forces, conduct practice bombing raids, and carry out flybys near the inter-Korean border. These flights typically follow North Korean provocations, such as missile and nuclear tests.

With memories of the intense bombing campaigns of the Korean War still fresh in mind, Pyongyang tends to express outrage about the threat posed by U.S. flights around the peninsula. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho recently suggested that North Korea has the right to defend itself and could move to shoot down U.S. aircraft that get too close.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

As Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s final patches of territory, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given the once-powerful terror group an ultimatum: Surrender or die.


“Daesh members have to choose between death and surrender,” Abadi said, using a derogatory term for ISIS.

ISIS has suffered severe territorial losses and bell weather defeats in the past month, as a US-led bombing campaign and US-backed and trained forces ground the group down to its last legs.

Related: Here’s how much ground ISIS has lost

At a Department of Defense briefing on Oct. 24, the top US general, Joseph Dunford, said that at ISIS’s height, “we saw as many as 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 different countries.”

Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

At the same briefing, Brett McGurk the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, said the flow of foreign fighters had nearly stopped, and the group’s funding is at its “lowest level ever.”

McGurk pointed to ISIS’ own propaganda, which “about a year ago” stopped advising foreign fighters to come to Syria as the group was losing badly on the ground.

ISIS used to hold significant cities and oilfields in Iraq and Syria, but recent US-backed offensives have relegated them to a section of desert along the Iraqi-Syrian border, effectively trapping them.

Initially, after declaring the “caliphate,” or territory under ISIS’ ultra-hardline Islamic control in 2014, ISIS fighters proved potent on the battlefield rolling back Iraqi security forces. But after a US-led intervention that ultimately gained support from 75 countries, the terror group has nearly imploded.

ISIS fighters have been surrendering en masse after the fall of Raqqa.

The group carried out high profile attacks abroad, notably killing civilians in public places in London, Paris, and Brussels, but acting Department of Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke credits the US-led offensive keeping them on the run with preventing further attacks.

But after around 70,000 ISIS fighters have been killed, the group once bent on dying for its cause has begun to surrender en masse.

McGurk reported that ISIS surrendered in “large numbers” after the fall of its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

On Oct. 26, the Red Cross reported that it had gained access to the families of ISIS fighters in territories they once ruled.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event.

“Our soldiers need to be ready,” Dailey said. “Ready to do the basic skills necessary to fight and win on the battlefield. Soldiers need to have the physical … and technical skills to do their job, fight and win.”


Soldiers who participated in this year’s Best Warrior competition were among the first to run the Battle Challenge at AUSA. The winners of the Best Warrior competition will be announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army’s awards luncheon.

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

“PT is the most important thing you do every day. PT is a primary and fundamental thing soldiers do to fight. That is our job — fight and win our nation’s wars,” Dailey said. “AUSA put this together for us, and we couldn’t be happier.”

During the Battle Challenge, soldiers raced against the clock to be the fastest to complete a series of nine different soldier tasks. There is no prize for the winner — just bragging rights knowing that they bested some of the Army’s fiercest competitors.

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

“The Battle Challenge was fun,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Machado, a platoon sergeant with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and one of the Best Warrior competitors.

“During Best Warrior, we were working with some amazing competitors and the battle challenge capped off the event,” he added. “(AUSA) is a lot of fun and great opportunity to see all the things going on (in the Army), and in industry.”

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

AUSA’s annual meeting is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America, according to event officials. With the theme, “Ready today — more lethal tomorrow,” AUSA is driven to deliver the Army’s message through informative presentations from Army senior leaders about the state of the force.

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

The event also hosts more than 700 exhibitors, giving the estimated 300,000-plus attendees a hands-on opportunity to interact with some of the latest technologies from the Army and industry partners. Further, AUSA provides attendees with a variety of networking opportunities and panel discussions that define the Army’s role in supporting military and national security initiatives.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Beijing tests the waters by reinforcing missile sites in South China Sea

New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.


For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division.. (Dept. of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The latest move seems to have been months in the making, so it’s not in response to any particular U.S. provocation, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies‘ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China previously deployed close-in weapons systems, which often serve on ships as a last line of defense against incoming missiles, and have toggled on and off between positioning surface-to-air missiles on Woody island in the Paracel Islands chain. But this time it’s different, according to CSIS’ Bonnie Glasser, director of the China Power Project.

Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.

“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.

Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.

The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons ­systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.

Currently, the U.S. has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling the South China Sea, but that clearly hasn’t stopped or slowed Beijing’s militarization of the region, nor has it meaningfully emboldened US allies to speak out against China.

“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.

Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.

The HQ-9 missile systems placed in the South China Sea resemble Russia’s S-300 missile defense system, which can heavily contest airspace for about 100 miles.

According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.

Territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Public Domain | Voice of America)

“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”

The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.

Also read: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the U.S. in the South China Sea

Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.

“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Coast Guard and LinkedIn want to help spouses find jobs

Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan announced that the Coast Guard is officially a proud partner with LinkedIn to facilitate the employment of USCG spouses — especially during particularly challenging times, such as PCS moves or job loss.

“Military spouse employment is a very important aspect of a strong and resilient military family,” said Mrs. Pence. “Our work to develop a partnership with LinkedIn to include Coast Guard military spouses with LinkedIn premium access started last fall. We commend Microsoft and LinkedIn for working with the United States Coast Guard to expand their program to Coast Guard military spouses. This new collaboration will help spouses with employment opportunities and will make job hunting easier.”


LinkedIn and the Coast Guard have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Coast Guard spouses premium access to LinkedIn. The premium access will provide spouses with enhanced features to assist in finding employment through tools that allow them to expand their professional networks, research industries and specific companies, search for employment opportunities, and develop skills through online training to enhance employability.

Initial eligibility for the one-year Premium upgrade will be open for all USCG military spouses. An additional year of the Premium upgrade will be available for USCG military spouses who experience any of the events below:

  1. In receipt of PCS orders of the military member.
  2. Experiencing a job loss or downsizing.
  3. In a career change.
  4. Within 6 months of the Service member’s date of separation from the Coast Guard.

“We are committed to helping as much as possible, and today I’m glad we can make that next move a little bit easier through this partnership with LinkedIn,” McAleenan said. “And I want to thank LinkedIn for partnering with us on this. Helping families get settled in a new community after a PCS move will go a long way.”

To learn more about this new opportunity, requesting access or receiving training, check out the official ALCOAST or email the USCG Transition Team Program Manager, Rodney Whaley, Rodney.B.Whaley@uscg.mil.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat medics save lives after chaotic traffic accident

Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provided lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.

9th Hospital Center soldiers were conducting convoy operations along one of the post’s isolated training areas when they noticed a dark, brooding cloud of towering smoke from a rolled over truck.

As the convoy got closer to the smoke, they noticed an accident that involved two vehicles and one casualty on the road.

“When we got closer, we realized the extent of the accident,” said Cpt. Jillian Guy, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Field Hospital. “Everyone quickly realized that we were the first responders. Our main priority was to move the first casualty away from the burning vehicle and save his life.”


The convoy made a hasty stop and the soldiers quickly approached the first casualty bystanders had removed from the burning vehicle.

“My thought running up to the scene was to get him away from the burning vehicle as soon as possible and to control the bleeding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Newell, acting first sergeant for 11th Field Hospital. “I was also thinking that we didn’t know if he had injured his spine, so I knew we needed to use cervical spine precautions as soon as we got to him before we could move him.”

Medics took the lead relocating the casualty further from the burning vehicle using cervical spine precautions. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle’s fuel compartment exploded.

Once the casualties were removed from immediate danger, medics began providing aid to the more severely injured casualty.

“Soldiers swiftly delivered care to the first casualty applying a tourniquet for open bilateral femur fractures,” Guy said. “I saw the second casualty walking around disoriented so I grabbed two medics to help treat him.”

Medics applied tourniquets to the first casualty proficiently to control the bleeding and provided airway management and trauma care. The second casualty suffered from a suspected traumatic brain injury and facial trauma. The medics treated and stabilized both casualties until the emergency medical services arrived.

Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provide lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Yaeri Green)

Even after the EMS arrived, Newell, Sgt. Eric Johnston, combat medic team leader and Sgt. Mariela Jones, platoon sergeant, remained and continued to provide help.

“We were starting fluids, bandaging the wounds and placing the casualty on a spin board,” Newell said. “Once he was on a spin board, Sergeant Jones moved to provide airway until he was placed on a helicopter.”

The intervention did not stop until the casualties were evacuated. The first casualty was air evacuated by Baylor Scott White, and the second was taken to Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center by the EMS.

“The medics from three different companies quickly became one cohesive unit,” Guy said. “I have never been more proud of everyone on scene. Even the non-medical MOS soldiers did an amazing job with crowd control, driving vehicles safely to the scene and comforting others who had seen the trauma.”

When soldiers came across a situation that needed immediate aid, they reacted expeditiously and saved the lives of those casualties. Military police and EMS commended the Soldiers for their quick reaction, professionalism and proficient medical skill set.

9th Hospital Center soldiers are prepared to provide expert medical care at moment’s notice and they will continue to train in order to stay ready.

“Tragedy can happen at any time and you need to be prepared,” Johnson said. “It was an eye opening experience that nobody was expecting.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The 10 worst armies in the world

America has, by far, the largest, most powerful, well-equipped, and best trained military force to ever exist on Earth. This is probably why Americans can’t have any discussion about military spending without talking about which countries in the world can field an Army which even come close to the United States’.


Related Video

On the list of the top military spenders in the world, it’s a fairly well-known fact the U.S. spends as much on its military as the next five countries on said list, combined. Which is fine by the military, because golf courses, and flat screen TVs (and if you’re in the Marines, a barracks next to a river of sh-t) don’t come cheap.

What’s more valuable than talking about the best armies in the world is talking about the worst armies in the world. What good is all the training, equipment, and resources if a country still fields an army who can’t win? These ten armies make the Salvation Army look like a credible fighting force.

10. Costa Rica

The Costa Ricans have to be at the bottom of the list, as they have no armed forces to speak of. What they do have is an Army of wealthy Westerners who come to teach Yoga to other Westerners visiting Costa Rica. But no one will ever want to invade Costa Rica because these people will have to come with it. Other countries without a military force include Iceland, Mauritius, Monaco, Panama, and Vanuatu, all without the significant number of would-be yogis. Can you imagine a world without military service?

*shudder*

9. Iraq

What may have been the 4th largest army in the world under Saddam Hussein is now a shadow of its former self. Despite years of training from U.S. and British forces, as well as $26 billion in investments and military aid, the Iraqi Army has only 26 units considered “loyal.” On top of that, Iraqi lawmakers discovered 50,000 “ghost soldiers” in its ranks — troops who received a paycheck, but never showed up for work. In 2014, ISIS was able to overrun much of Western Iraq as Iraqi troops fled before the Islamist onslaught.

8. North Korea

On the outside, the North Korean Army looks like it’s the priority for the Kim regime. In many ways, it is. The border towns of Panmunjom and Kaesong, as well as Nampo (where a series of critical infrastructure dams make a concerted military effort necessary) and DPRK newsreel footage boast tall, strong-looking North Korean troops with new equipment, weapons, jeeps, and full meals. Deeper inside the Hermit Kingdom, however, the Army starts to look a bit thin. Literally. On a 2012 trip to North Korea, the author found most Korean People’s Army (KPA) troops to be weak and used mainly for conscripted labor. It would have been a real surprise if they all had shoes or could walk in a real formation. Most units appeared lightly armed, if armed at all.

7. Eritrea

A country is obviously great when it’s known as “Africa’s North Korea” in international relations circles. Eritrea’s armed forces has one of the highest concentrations of conscripted men of any army in the world, which it uses more for forced labor than to secure its borders or fight al-Shabab terrorists. This is the country so great that 2,000 people a month seek asylum in Sudan. Sudan is supposed to be an improvement. SUDAN.

6. Nigeria

Nigeria is struggling with an ISIS-affiliated insurgency from Boko Haram (of “Bring Back Our Girls” fame). Despite Nigeria’s oil wealth (the Nigerian oil industry is the largest on the continent), its military is ill-equipped to combat this Islamist uprising. One soldier described it to BBC as:

“Imagine me and you are fighting, we both have guns but while you are wearing a bullet proof vest, I’m carrying an umbrella.”

Soldiers in the country’s Northeastern Borno State are so underequipped, their armored vehicles don’t actually move. Some soldiers are known to flee with civilians as they tear off their uniforms.

Nigerian troops during Operation Flintlock 2007 (U.S. Navy Photo)

5. The Philippines

The President of the Philippines vowed to upgrade the country’s aging Navy and Air Force to the tune of $1.7 billion, the Philippine Congress passed a bill appropriating $2 billion for the effort and … that’s it. Despite the Chinese military buildup in the region, with aggressive moves by the Chinese to claim areas and build islands close to the Philippines, the Philippines’ Naval and Air Forces are still nearly 60 years old and its ships are old U.S. Coast Guard cutters.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

4. Tajikistan

The Tajik Army is a mess. Unlike other Soviet states after the fall of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan had no native units to absorb into its new independent government. The Tajik military was not built around old Soviet units. The Tajiks were left defenseless with only a Russian peacekeeping force. In 1994, they formed their own Army, which immediately resulted in a Civil War. Just what one might expect from a country whose capital is named “Monday.” Tajiks prefer the Russian Army because the pay is better. Those who are drafted are often kidnapped and then sometimes hazed to death.

3. Mongolia

Oh how the mighty have fallen. As a landlocked country, the Mongols have no Navy or need of one. Unfortunately they’re also locked between Russia and China and could not possibly defend themselves from either. In fact, if a Russian-Chinese war ever broke out, part of it would likely be fought in Mongolia. The Mongols have sent forces to assist the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, but their expertise is in teaching U.S. troops how to recognize and use (if necessary) old Soviet-built arms and equipment.

(DoD Photo)

2. Saudi Arabia

The Saudis are currently engaged in a coalition military operation in Yemen with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an effort to expel Houthi tribesmen from Sana’a and re-establish the Sunni rulers. And they can’t. The Saudis and Emiratis have naval and air superiority, superior training, material, and numbers on the ground, and the backing of U.S. intelligence assets. They’ve been there since March 2015 and the Houthis are still in the capital.

1. Afghanistan

Afghanistan makes the list despite the decade-plus of training from ISAF advisors. The sad truth is that all that nifty training doesn’t make up for the fact that the ANA will likely collapse like a card table when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan — if the U.S. ever leaves Afghanistan. Not that they can’t fight, but they can’t do much else. One advisor told al-Jazeera:

“In fact, talk to any coalition troops on the ground and they will tell you the Afghans can fight, but only after they have been fed, clothed, armed and delivered to the battlefield by NATO.”
Afghan National Army members receive training on the proper way to clear a room at Morehead Commando Training Camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 4, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cherie Thurlby)

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons ‘The Long Road Home’ might be the most realistic military show ever

This week, National Geographic will air the first episode of The Long Road Home. The miniseries is a scripted retelling of the beginning of the U.S. Army’s fight in the Siege of Sadr City of April 2004. What began with an uprising against the U.S. occupation forces in the Shia neighborhood of the capital led to a long protracted siege spanning years.


The Long Road Home is the story of an ambushed Army escort convoy from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. It’s based on the true story of a platoon forced to hole up in a civilian home and await rescue. With eight American soldiers lost in the initial fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood, the battle came to be known as “Black Sunday.”

Adapted from ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz’ book of the same name, the show meticulously created what might be the most accurate military story in film or television.

1. The show’s military advisors were in Sadr City that day.

Any military show or movie with an interest in authenticity is going to have veteran technical advisors on hand to tell the director when things are wrong. But in The Long Road Home, you can expect more than infantry badges and rank to be in the right place. You can expect the people and vehicles to be in Sadr City in the right places too.

The actors and 2-5 Cav vets from The Long Road Home talked to We Are The Mighty about their experiences making the show. (National Geographic)

Showrunner Mikko Alanne hired two veterans from Black Sunday – Eric Bourquin and Aaron Fowler – to be the show’s military advisors. If one of the actors needed to know how to wear a patrol cap, the two veterans could show him. But unlike most shows, if the director needed a minute-by-minute breakdown, he could ask the guys who were there.

“Personally, I like it,” says Fowler. “Because I’m a retired Sergeant First Class, so I have the anal-retentive part down. I’ve got lots of notebooks, and I have access to all the guys. If one of the actors had a question, I could get my phone and hand them the person that did the action they had questions about.”

Jeremy Sisto as Sgt. Robert Miltenberger in The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“Eric [Bourquin] was in the platoon that was pinned down on the roof and Aaron [Fowler] was among the rescuers,” says Alanne.

“I’m very proud to be a part of what happened and how it’s been handled. I’ve struggled with having to open up, because having such a wide spotlight cast on a pretty intense part of my life,” says Bourquin. “I learned things I didn’t know transpired. Because the whole time, I was stuck on the roof for four hours. People were out there trying to come in, to get us, so I’d been exposed to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of and that was healing too. This is honoring them. Now everybody’s gonna always know their story. With that being said, how could I not be involved?”

2. Raddatz’ interviewed everyone close to the fighting.

You don’t get to be the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent of a major network without being addicted to the facts. Martha Raddatz, who literally wrote the book on the events in Sadr City that day, was working for ABC News in Baghdad at the time when she heard about what happened. She ended up talking to everyone from 2-5 Cav that was still in country.

“This story came to me,” she says. “I was covering politics and policy when a general told me about this battle. I had to go talk to these guys. We did pieces for ABC News, for Nightline… I was just so stricken by them. I come from a foreign affairs background and I see presidents make policy and then I went over and saw the effects of that policy.”

Raddatz is still covering military operations in the CENTCOM area as of 2016.

She was introduced to the families through the soldiers who fought there that day.

“It will be with me forever,” Raddatz says. “It felt like they could all be my neighbors. One day they’re all in minivans with their kids, and in three days they’re in the middle of a battle. These aren’t a bunch of action figures, these are real human beings.”

3. Mike Medavoy is an executive producer.

If the name of a film producer doesn’t excite you, that’s fine. An executive producer’s name likely doesn’t carry a lot of weight with most of America.

In the case of The Long Road Home, however, the addition of Medavoy puts the miniseries in the hands of a guy who helped make the legendary war movies Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and The Thin Red Line (not to mention non-military films Rocky, Raging Bull, and Terminator 2).

4. The Long Road Home’s depiction of Army families is heartfelt and real.

When the cast arrived at Fort Hood and met the families of 2-5 Cav, they got just a taste of what living in a military family is like.

“I took away an incredible sense of community,” says actress Katie Paxton, who plays Amber Aguero, wife to Lt. Shane Aguero. “You felt that community from the soldiers. When you’re in war covering your sector, you’re covering the guy to your left. You’re covering the guy to your right. And those guys are your family. I never really understood that until I talked to soldiers.”

A still from the opening episode of The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“I grew up in the city as a city kid, and this totally dispelled all of my ideas of what the soldier was actually like,” says actor Ian Quinlan, who plays Spc. Robert Arsiaga. “There was a very significant through line between these soldiers – a lot of these guys joined after 9/11. It blew me away because as a New Yorker I didn’t know anyone in my immediate vicinity in New York who would ever think of that.”

“Hearing their stories, you just feel the goosebumps,” says Karina Ortiz, who plays one of the Gold Star Wives. “The soldiers leave and everything is fine at first, but then people start hearing things. Rumors. The waiting. The not knowing. I would get teary-eyed and just feel their pain. Or I’d feel their fear.”

Jason Ritter portrays Capt. Troy Denomy with Kate Bosworth as Gina Denomy on the set of The Long Road Home at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

The experience of recreating the events of April 2004 even had an effect on its veterans.

“One of the Gold Star Wives came up to me after the Fort Hood premiere and told me thank you,” Eric Bourquin says. “I don’t know why. Her husband died trying to come rescue us guys that were stuck on the roof. But the more I thought about it I realized everyone watching is going to see what the families and everyone involved goes through when shit happens.”

5. The showrunner’s background is in documentary.

“I was very cognizant from the beginning that real life people were going to be watching this,” says Mikko Alanne. “It was my hope that we would be able to use everyone’s real name, and so Martha and I worked very closely on reaching out to all the families.”

The two were very successful. The show originally premiered in Fort Hood’s Abrams Gym. After the show’s Los Angeles premiere, the veterans and Gold Star Families took the stage with their TV counterparts, to a standing ovation from an elite Hollywood audience. But the realism didn’t stop with cooperation.

A still from The Long Road Home. Sadr City was meticulously recreated on Fort Hood for these scenes. (National Geographic)

“So many of the families sent us their photographs, actual photographs used as props, or photographs of their homes for us to recreate,” Alanne says. “And it was very important to me the cast reached out to their real-life counterparts. Bonds were formed between the actors and the real life families, and everyone became infused with the same mission that Martha really started; that these families and these experiences would not be lost to history.”

6. The Fort Hood scenes are really Fort Hood.

When you see Fort Hood, Tex. depicted on screen, you can be sure that’s what Fort Hood really looks like. The show was shot entirely at Fort Hood. The cast even lived in base housing. More important than that, however, is the exact recreation of Sadr City built on Fort Hood that took the veterans on the base back to April 2004.

“The smell was the only thing that wasn’t exactly recreated,” says Fowler. “We veterans and Gold Star Families got to walk back to the streets of Sadr City that we would never get to go. It was an incredibly healing experience. Exposure therapy plain and simple.”

Eric Bourquin agrees.

“Being able to travel back to your battlespace without fear of being captured and ending up in a YouTube video is a gift that can’t be put into words,” he says. “Just like the guys that go back and visit France, or Korea, or Vietnam — it’s become a reality.”

A candid from behind the scenes of The Long Road Home on Fort Hood. (National Geographic)

The Long Road Home starts Tuesday Nov. 7 at 9pm on National Geographic.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens to your stuff if you’re declared dead…then turn up alive

ScrobTheFancyTurtle asks: Love your video on what happens when people are accidentally declared dead. But it got me wondering, what happens if you make a will, go missing, so your will is executed, then turn up alive later? Do you get your stuff back?

As we discussed in our article on what happens to a person who is accidentally declared dead and the process in getting declared alive again, tens of thousands of people die each year across the globe by a simple clerical error, at least as far as their respective governments are concerned. However, what we didn’t mention is that many thousands more people are more purposefully declared “dead in absentia” each year.


As you’ve probably surmised from the term used to describe these deaths, being declared dead in absentia occurs after a person goes missing. When this happens, their will is probated and estate settled. But what happens if they aren’t dead at all and turn up later, perhaps after helping a tempestuous, but lovable bunch of vertically challenged individuals reclaim their homeland from the clutches of the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities? How do they go about getting their stuff back, or do they even have any rights to it at all anymore?

To begin with, how does one go about getting declared “dead in absentia” in the first place? After all, in most countries adults are perfectly within their rights to uproot and go start a new life somewhere else without telling anyone, or even go on a lengthy adventure with a wizened grey wanderer.

Before we jump into the meat of all this, just a quick note, as this particular topic deals with estate distribution and the like, we’ll focus primarily on adults who disappear, though many elements of what we’re about to cover does also technically apply to children.

As with many things, there’s no uniform, worldwide policy concerning what exact set of circumstances need occur or even how long a person needs to be missing to be declared dead in absentia, though there are many similarities in the process from country to country.

In general, the courts will have to be directly involved in these cases and they will almost always err towards presuming the person is actually alive. However, if the person has been missing for a specific length of time, with no one who would otherwise normally hear from them having contact, and a diligent (unsuccessful) search has been conducted to find them, the courts will ultimately determine that the person indeed must be deceased, even if there is no direct, hard evidence that they are, in fact, dead.

As to the search, to dispel a popular notion frequently perpetuated by Hollywood, a person does not have to be missing for more than 24 hours before authorities in most countries will act. In fact, while almost all missing person cases are resolved of their own accord in relatively short order, in rare more legitimate missing person cases, every hour that passes reduces the probability that said missing person will be found and nobody is more aware of this than the authorities who deal with this stuff every day. Thus, they often actually recommend reporting missing people as soon as the person is determined to be missing.

That said, given there is only so much manpower available at any given time and, again, most missing person cases resolve themselves of their own accord rather quickly, the appropriate authorities do have to prioritize what cases they take on immediately. Thus, rather than strictly going by how much time has passed before an investigation is opened, they’ll weight a number of factors including the probability that the person is truly missing, and not just off doing something without telling anyone. If the disappearance is highly unusual given the person’s normal daily habits and no good explanation can be thought up for the disappearance, this will bump the case up in the priority list as a potential legitimate missing person case. Just as important in getting the authorities to look into the matter immediately is the probability that the person missing might be in some sort of peril given the known facts of the case.

Giphy

Once an investigation is started, if nobody in the person’s life seems to have heard from them or knows where they are, authorities usually resort to monitoring the person’s digitally trackable life, for example where applicable monitoring financial accounts, cell phone, email, social media accounts, etc., as well as checking if the person has attempted to go through any border check points. As you might imagine, disappearing without a trace in the modern world has become increasingly difficult, meaning these days authorities are much more frequently able to locate the person if they are indeed still alive, compared to even just a few decades ago.

It also helps that many people who are choosing to disappear from their previous lives are not trying to hide from authorities, so the use of personal bank accounts and the like tends to continue.

If they are found, the authorities will typically respect the person’s right to disappear from a former life, unless there are legal reasons not to, such as someone running from financial obligations or the like. As Miranda Napier of the Missing Persons Bureau notes,

If someone has elected to leave their friends and family… and we find them and they express this wish, then we would close the missing report and advise those making it that they were safe and well, but we would not be able to tell them where they were.

Speaking of financial obligations, when trying to decide if some missing person might actually be dead, authorities will also analyze whether the person missing might have had motive to go missing in the first place. For example, if they were having extreme financial difficulties, were in legal trouble, having relationship or family problems, etc.

As they move along in the process, authorities will also usually check with local coroners to see if any unidentified bodies have been found that match the description of the missing person.

But what about if all of this turns up nothing? Next, it becomes a waiting game. In regards to the length of time needed, as noted, this varies, but a commonly observed rule of thumb is that the person has to have been missing for at least 7 years, unless circumstances of their disappearance seem to indicate imminent peril, thus a high probability that the person is, in fact, deceased.

For example, many bodies couldn’t be identified or recovered when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, so people who worked there who went missing directly after would have an extremely high probability of being declared dead in absentia almost immediately should their loved ones request such of the courts.

The World Trade Center towers.

Few cases are so cut and dry, however, and in all cases you generally need to get a judge to agree with you, with the burden of proof lying with the people trying to get someone declared dead earlier than the required number of years. The judge in these cases will then determine if, given the evidence, the probability has shifted from presuming the person is alive to it being reasonable to presume they are dead, again usually erring on the side of assuming the person is still alive.

As former assistant attorney general of Illinois, Floyd Perkins notes, “Before seven years, anyone who wants you declared legally dead has to offer evidence that you’re not alive. But after you’ve been missing seven years, anyone who wants you declared alive has to offer evidence that you’re not dead.”

As for more specifics, in the United States the authority to declare someone dead in absentia falls to the states themselves, each of which have their own specific rules. For example, while most states go with the seven year general rule, states like Georgia and Minnesota instead go with four years.

Moving around to the other side of the world, in Italy, it actually takes 20 years for someone to be declared dead in absentia, barring compelling evidence to decree this sooner. In Poland, the time span is 10 years. In Russia, it’s 5. Like in many states in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, in the UK, there is a 7 year waiting period before the authorities can make this call.

It should be noted here that until the authorities declare the person dead, the missing person’s financial affairs are basically in a state of bureaucratic limbo. To illustrate the issues here, consider the case of Vicki Derrick, a woman whose husband Vinny went missing in 2003. After an investigation to locate Vinny turned up nothing, he was presumed missing by the police.

The problem was that in the eyes of the law Vicki’s husband was still alive and, thus, she was still married to him with all obligations that implies, still shared a mortgage on a house she could no longer afford with just a single income, but could also not sell because her husband wasn’t around to put his signature on the necessary paperwork to sell it.

Furthermore, Vickie couldn’t claim her husband’s life insurance policy nor access his personal accounts to settle his various financial obligations until the courts finally decided enough time had passed to declared him dead in 2011.

In a bizarre twist, Vinny’s body was found just two months after he was finally declared dead in absentia. As Vicki would later recount,

There was a huge sense of relief, which I felt guilty about. But at the same time I had already grieved. Deep down I think I knew the day he disappeared he wasn’t coming back. It was so out of character that something terrible must have happened for him not to come home.

It turns out that in the UK alone, while about 98% of the 250,000 or so people that go missing each year turn up within a week of their disappearance, about 1% of these people go missing for at least a year. In a little over half of these 1% cases, the person is ultimately either found dead or eventually declared dead in absentia, but the other half, over 1,000 missing people annually, turn up alive in the end.

As a direct result of cases like these, the government passed the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act in 2017 which, 90 days after the disappearance of the individual, allows the loved ones of a missing person to assume some degree of control over their affairs. Thanks to this, many of the problems people like Vickie faced can be avoided, mitigating the potential damage to a missing person’s financial situation as well as providing a degree of help in cutting through a lot of red tape for their loved ones during a tumultuous time.

No such nationwide laws exist in the United States and, thus, for example if any benefits would otherwise have been paid, the beneficiaries involved usually simply have to wait the required period for the death in absentia to be declared before they can begin receiving them, assuming they can’t offer a sufficient body of evidence to get the person declared dead early.

Alright, so that’s how you could potentially be declared dead and have your estate pass to others without actually being dead. So let’s now talk about your stuff.

In a nutshell, a person declared dead in absentia is, by the letter of the law, dead.

Shocker, I know.

As such, the actual process of probating their will is functionally identical to a more straightforward death in most countries. Likewise, death benefits will similarly be paid out in a timely manner, though some insurers may require a person making a claim in these cases to jump through a few additional hoops, such as providing evidence a good faith effort was made to locate the person before death in absentia was declared. With this information being necessary to declare a person dead in absentia anyway in most cases, this usually is a pretty easy hurdle to jump over at that stage of the game.

But let’s say after all this happens the “dead” person turns up very much alive and wants all their stuff back from the clutches of the Sackville Baggins. What happens then? This is a far more thorny legal issue and there’s little universal precedent in law to say what exactly should happen, though in the vast majority the court cases we could found, the heirs typically weren’t required to give anything back.

Sackville Baggins.

In the US especially what happens in this unlikely scenario varies slightly from state to state, with some dictating that the person has no right to any of their stuff back and others adding caveats, including Pennsylvania who deals with the matter perhaps most sensibly of any region we looked at.

Another example of a state with a caveat is Nevada, where a missing person has up to a year after legal proceedings to divide up the estate have begun to veto the whole thing and get their money and property back, despite having been previously declared dead in absentia. If a missing person turns up after this grace period, they will no longer have any claim to their former assets.

To give the missing person as much of a chance as possible to prevent this from happening if they are indeed still alive, a person laying claim to the estate to the missing person in this case must “give notice by publication”. This mostly just means doing something like putting an ad in a local paper or the like that they are going to make a claim on the estate, which is sure to be read by no one but the intern who processed the notice, but at least gives the appearance of accomplishing something, so is a bureaucrat’s dream law.

Moving on to Pennsylvania, the state law very sensibly requires anyone laying claim to a person’s estate who has been declared dead in absentia to secure a refunding bond before assets will be distributed. As Pennsylvania-based attorney Patti Spencer states, “The person entitled, a spouse or kid, has to post a refunding bond, before the property is distributed. If the person comes back… and someone else has her property, they have to give it back, and if they can’t, then this bonding company has to make it right.”

This is something that happened relatively recently as 2013 when a woman named Brenda Heist returned after her presumed death in 2003. She’d actually been living on the street for the last decade and hadn’t even been aware she had been declared dead.

UK law, as with many other countries we looked at, seems to more or less handle things about the same as the general U.S. court systems. If the person has been declared dead in absentia and sufficient time has passed, which is usually needed to get declared dead in absentia in the first place, the courts will usually rule that the heirs aren’t required to give anything back, though, of course, any heirs are free to do so at their own discretion. The courts simply usually won’t require them to do so if a lawsuit is raised over the matter, though, as with all things in life, their are exceptions.

But what about life insurance and various death benefits? As you might imagine, the insurance companies will almost always seek to get their money back, unless the cost to do so exceeds the amount paid out. But from whom do they try to get the money back from? While, as with so much of what we’ve just discussed it’s not universally true, if a missing person’s loved ones have them declared dead in absentia and then claim against their life insurance policy in good faith (and thus aren’t involved in any fraud here), they won’t generally be sued for the money back, or, even if they are, the courts are unlikely to side with the insurance company in these cases.

The life insurance companies tend to have much better luck going after the person who was incorrectly declared dead in absentia. After all, the missing person knows they are still alive and usually went missing on purpose, setting off the chain of events that required the insurance company to eventually pay out on a policy when they otherwise shouldn’t have been obligated if the missing person had just told someone they weren’t dead.

For example, consider the case of John Burney who disappeared, in this case in a way that made it seem very likely he was dead, in 1976 after getting in some rather hot water owing to mismanagement of his company, causing it to go bankrupt. About six years later, in 1982, he was found to be alive when he decided to return home to visit his father who had been seriously injured. Although Burney’s insurance company initially filed suit against the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy – specifically his wife and business partners – the courts ruled that they didn’t have to return the money. Burney, however, who didn’t receive a dime of that insurance money, did, to the tune of 0,000 (about id=”listicle-2632878398″.2 million today).

So to sum up, if you do happen to mysterious disappear and then turn up again after being declared dead, chances are your stuff will be gone unless your beneficiaries are feeling particularly generous and choose on their own to give it back. And should they have cashed in on a life insurance policy you had, assuming they really thought you were dead when they did it, you are likely going to be the one on the hook to pay that back, even if you didn’t benefit from it in any way. To add insult to injury, particularly if you live in the United States, prepare yourself for quite the lengthy ordeal in getting yourself declared alive again in the first place, with a number of rather severe consequences while you try to prove to everyone that you are, in fact, not dead.

Thus, unfortunately for the owner of a certain estate along Bagshot Row, given his disappearance most definitely was out of the ordinary for his normal behavioral patterns and, beyond that, he was last seen, at least in the film adaptation, noting he was “going on an adventure” (always a dodgy business), in either case those seeking his estate seem perfectly within their rights to have had him declared dead in absentia. Assuming Shire law did not have a grace period for legal right to recover an estate after such a declaration, like Nevada, it seems likely all property already auctioned off would not have been obligated to have been returned.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.