How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Southwest Asia Service Medal.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Units experimenting with pilot programs to address suicide

Seventy-seven National Guard members have died of suicide this year as of October, the month that the second annual Department of Defense Suicide Report was released. 

According to the report, 498 total service members died of suicide, including 89 National Guard members, in 2019. Since 2014, the rates of suicide have increased among active-duty members but have stayed consistent for the reserves and National Guard, the report revealed. In 2019, the suicide rate in the National Guard was 20.3 per 100,000, down from 30.8 per 100,000 two years ago, said Maj. Gen. Dawne Deskins, deputy director of the Air National Guard.  

Nearly 450,000 people comprise the National Guard this year.  

“I personally am uncomfortable talking about rates, because these are our people,’’ Deskins said. “These are our members of the National Guard, and the National Guard is a family. So when we lose someone, we’ve lost a coworker. We’ve lost a family member. We’ve lost a friend.’’  

Army Sgt. Rebecca Landry and Spc. Asia Jones highlight the importance of suicide prevention and awareness at Camp Taji, Iraq, June 5, 2019.
Army Sgt. Rebecca Landry and Spc. Asia Jones highlight the importance of suicide prevention and awareness at Camp Taji, Iraq, June 5, 2019. The National Guard has launched or participated in suicide prevention initiatives throughout 2019 amid a recent Department of Defense report that underscores the significant challenges the Guard faces in suicide prevention. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, is assessing how the coronavirus has affected the New York National Guard, U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Matt Kleiman said.  

“The time to do that is right now,’’ Kleiman said. “You can’t wait until it’s over. All of the things that our population deals with in this COVID environment that we’re in, we believe has an impact, but we want to see exactly what that impact is.’’ 

Kleiman is the director of the National Guard Warrior Resilience and Fitness division, which was formed last summer to develop programs that view health holistically. The number of its so-called pilot programs doubled from 11 to 22 this year and addresses mental-health issues through a variety of approaches. 

For example, the New Mexico National Guard is screening for suicide risk factors, including early childhood trauma, when men and women enter their unit. In South Carolina, “one-stop shops’’ for health and wellness have been instituted, while the Utah National Guard has developed a mobile app to aid in crisis intervention. The Vermont National Guard is testing a device that potentially could treat traumatic brain injuries and PTSD through magnetic e-resonance therapy. 

“What we’re hoping to do is establish a two- to three-year cycle for these pilots to test and then expand the ones [to other states] that seem to be promising,’’ Kleiman said.  

“A big part of our strategy has been putting directors of psychological health at our wings and our states, so these are full-time resources that — most of them are clinical social workers or psychologists — and they work with a command. They also work within that unit to disseminate information, make referrals when there is an event that occurs, whether it’s a suicide or a sexual assault or some adverse action.’’  

The National Guard has seen a 14% increase, year over year, in members accessing mobile vet-center support during weekends at the end of the 2019 fiscal year, stats from the National Guard Bureau showed. Other vet centers have seen a 44% spike in new members accessing their services. More than 3,600 National Guard members have been referred to vet centers this fiscal year, bureau data showed.  

At least 700 civilian providers have been trained in specific treatment protocols for working with National Guard personnel, the bureau said. 

“Anything that we do that makes behavioral health more about the natural rhythm, just something that’s very natural to do, is certainly something that we want to encourage,’’ Deskins said. 

And if that happens, one life — hopefully more — can be saved.  

“I’m pretty confident that if we keep doing it like we’re doing it, … over time, we would see a positive impact,’’ Kleiman said. 

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

popular

Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

 

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

 

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

 

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

 

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.

The US military’s recent Indo-Pacific Strategy paper, published June 1, 2019, goes further than perhaps any US document ever issued in how it might provoke China’s rage over what it sees as the most sensitive issue.

Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”


“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.

In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”

But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.

‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’

In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.

At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.

“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.

Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.

China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.

But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.

The arms are already moving

The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.

According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.

For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.

Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.

With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What really happens when a soldier goes AWOL

Joining the military isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Even if you sign up to be a mechanic or a veterinarian, you’re committing to a cause much larger than yourself. If you’re needed on the war front, you’ll be sent there. If you’re needed in battle, you’ll fight. Orders are given for a reason, and following them isn’t optional. 

For that reason, not showing up to your post is a big deal. Legally, soldiers who show up late or not at all can be punished severely. In practice, that’s not the whole story. 

Why is going AWOL such a big deal?

The culture of the US military is a huge departure from civilian life. In the military, individual freedom isn’t really a thing. Military members are like cogs in a machine. To run smoothly and safely, everyone must do the jobs assigned to them. When they don’t, the machine starts falling apart. During the Civil War, desertion was a crippling problem. Military forces simply can’t function properly when people don’t show up to the job they agreed to do. 

People go AWOL for a number of reasons.

The reasons for going AWOL, or absent without leave, vary. Technically, even briefly abandoning your post or showing up late is considered being absent without leave. When most people refer to going AWOL, however, they’re referring to desertion. After you’ve been AWOL for over 30 days, you’re considered a deserter. Desertion happens for countless reasons, like:

  • Having unrealistic expectations going in
  • Failing to adjust to military life
  • Experiencing issues with family while deployed
  • Avoidance of hazardous assignments
  • Issues with substance abuse

These are just a few of the many reasons that soldiers abandon their duties. Some simply have a change of heart. When they experience the stark reality of war, some soldiers decide they can no longer support it and flee. Regardless of the reason, shirking your responsibilities is a serious offense, with serious consequences. 

To deter would-be deserters, the maximum sentences are intimidating. 

If a service member fails to go to the appointed place of duty (I.E. shows up late or leaves early), they can be confined for a month, reduced to the lowest enlisted grade, and lose two-thirds of their pay for a month. If they’re absent from their place of duty for over three days but less than 30, they can be confined for six months, reduced to the lowest enlisted grade, and lose two thirds of their pay for up to six months.

The punishments for desertion are more severe. If a member deserts but returns to military control of their own free will, they risk losing all pay, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, dishonorable discharge, and confinement for two years. If they desert during a time of war, a court-martial can legally order life in prison, or even death. 

As terrifying as it sounds, in the 21st century, going AWOL is rarely punished so severely. 

The descriptions above, along with the full list here, demonstrate the maximum legal sentences. In practice, the military seldom actually presses charges to the fullest extent of the law. If you’re a minute or two late, you’re more likely to get a warning than a month of confinement. During the Iraq War, only about five percent of deserters were court-martialed, and hardly any served a day of jail time. 

For the most part, jail time is reserved for those whose absence was particularly detrimental to the mission. Those who advocate for desertion publicly are also likely to get to know the inside of a jail cell. For everyone else, you’re more likely to leave with a Bad Conduct Discharge and a slap on the wrist. (Along with losing the respect of all your superiors and the military community, of course.) 

The best way to limit the consequences of going AWOL? Own up.

If you’re currently AWOL, turning yourself in is by far the wisest choice. The longer you’re absent, the less likely you are to “get away” with desertion. Coming clean isn’t fun, but being honest is looked upon far more favorably than hiding. You should also consider using an attorney who specializes in military law to speak on your behalf so you know what to expect when you return to base. 

With all of that in mind, the only surefire way to avoid punishment is not to go AWOL in the first place. If you’re not 100% sure you can commit to military life and everything it entails, don’t enlist. If you’ve already enlisted, take your oath seriously and hang in there. You’ll thank yourself later.

MIGHTY FIT

3 hiking tips you hadn’t thought of from a U.S. Marine

One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.

While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.


How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works.

(Courtesy of the author)

Use dry deodorant to manage chafing

Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.

Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Also comes in handy if any of your buddies passes out early at a party.

(Courtesy of the author)

Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites

Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.

Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)

(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)

Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form

If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.

If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.

It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.

“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”


While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.

Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk
(Photo by JD Lasica)

“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”

In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.

The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.

The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.

“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.

He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
(NASA)

The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.

The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.

SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.

Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.

NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.

While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.

He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.

A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”

The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.


One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.

Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.

“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.

After answering the door, he ran into the street.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”

To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.

“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”

Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.

“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.

They immediately jumped into action.

Related: How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”

The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.

“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”

The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
A burned out car lies in front of the remains of a house that was destroyed by the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires destroyed more than 15,000 homes and caused more than $3 billion in damages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”

The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.

The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.

“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.

They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.

“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”

So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.

“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
Camp Guernsey Fire Department and Wyoming Air Guard firefighters train together at the Wyoming Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Training Facility in Casper. (Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)

The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.

“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”

In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.

“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”

Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.

“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”

But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.

Read Also: 16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”

Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.

“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”

Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.

“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, surveys the remains of his family’s home after the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires consumed more than 15,000 homes, and caused at least $3 billion in damage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.

“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”

Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.

“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”

Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.

“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”

“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”

Lists

6 of the best things about checking into your new infantry unit

In the military, service members come and go as their orders cause them to relocate frequently. This means, at a moment’s notice, you need to pack up your gear and move on to the next portion of your military career.


It’s all a part of the job.

Many troops embrace the change while others have a minor fear of the unknown, which is natural. Although military service can be highly unpredictable, moving on to a new unit or command has its perks.

Related: 6 ways to avoid being ‘that guy’ in your unit

These are the six best things about checking into a new infantry unit:

6. Make a lifetime of memories

Many infantry units just deploy to isolated combat zones, but others sail across the ocean. So, if you’re shipping out on a MEU, grab that shock-proof camera and take some damn photos.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
That moment when your ship pulls up to port and you’re standing at parade rest. Badass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Travis J. Kuykendall)

5. A change of scenery

You know that ratty looking place you once called your “workspace?” Yeah, it was kind of crappy, but you still made it work. Luckily, you’re moving on.

Although you might be working in another craphole, at least it’s at a different duty station that you probably chose — since you have a little more “say” where you go for your second command.

4. You could travel the world

Infantrymen and, now, some infantrywomen deploy on combat missions and or sails on ships the world over. You’d never have gotten to experience those moments if you hadn’t left the couch to go to the recruiter’s office.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals
How often can you say you helped get rid of a local Taliban infestation? Not too often. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long).

3. More of chance for advancement

Now that you’re at your new duty station and you have some experience under your belt, you might not have as much competition when it comes to picking up rank rate.

Importing some of the valuable lessons you learned from your previous unit can only boost your appeal — but don’t be cocky.

2. Create new brother and sisterhoods

In the infantry, you’ll meet tons of people from Texas and a few from the other states. Since you’re going to be spending a sh*tload of time with them, friendships tend to build themselves, and those will last for a while — like forever.

Also Read: 12 images that perfectly recall checking into your unit for the first time

1. A fresh start

Although the infantry community is small and your new first sergeant probably knows your old one, it’s still possible to get a fresh start and be better than you were in your previous unit… If you had a previous unit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff’s spouse saves veteran’s life on Veterans Day

Although Hollyanne Milley is probably best known for being the spouse of the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, she’s so much more. On Veterans Day, she saved a veteran’s life. And, it probably wasn’t the first time. 

Milley is a nurse with over 30 years of experience. She spent almost 20 years as a critical care nurse and has been a cardiac nurse for 15 years. Milley has maintained her career throughout her husband’s journey to becoming the top leader for the United States Armed Forces. Milley was attending a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery when she witnessed a veteran collapse behind her. Without hesitation, she quickly jumped in to assist.

Upon reaching him, Milley found the veteran unresponsive. She reportedly directed bystanders to call 911 and as she turned back to him, he’d stopped breathing. Milley began CPR, completing two cycles of chest compressions – which led to him finally taking a breath. She then turned him on his side and kept him calm while they waited for EMS. He was eventually taken away to receive medical care at a nearby hospital.

Although the veteran requested anonymity, he was reportedly very thankful for her immediate aid and encouraged other bystanders to learn CPR.

Milley voiced to multiple media outlets that it was a team effort, with others also running to aid the veteran in need. A VA physician and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman were among those who assisted. Milley encouraged the public to learn CPR so that they too could assist those in their community in the event of an emergency.

In a previous interview with Military Spouse Magazine, Milley shared that, “[My husband] has always supported my desire to have and maintain a career…I see spouse employment as a vital element of military retention. Military spouses are highly educated, resourceful and resilient.” 

Thanks to her dedication to her nursing career despite numerous moves and license transfers, Milly was able to save the life of this veteran. She has maintained her nursing career even through her husband’s most recent role as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Articles

Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

airaslt (powers w elders) A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.

“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.

It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.

Also Read: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah 

I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.

Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.

As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.

This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.

Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.

Take Jerry for example.

Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.

Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.

“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.

Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”

Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.

I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.

His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.

Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.

“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”

I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.

Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.

They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.

NOW: The Mighty Taps: 9 Famous Veterans Who Died In 2014

OR: Brigade Combat Team Is Headed To Iraq To Do Everything But Engage In Combat 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A deployed carrier has a coronavirus outbreak. Her husband is on board.

Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.


Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.

Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.

Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.

When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”

But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.

“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”

While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”

Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”

Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”

Articles

The Marine Corps was just bailed out by ‘the Boneyard’

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals


The United States Marine Corps recently announced plans to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to address a shortage of usable airframes. Seven more will be transferred from the Navy’s inventory to help address the shortage.

How short were the Flying Leathernecks? On average, a typical Marine squadron of 12 Hornets had only four operational planes. The shortage has had some serious effects on Marine Corps aviation, notably in deeply cutting training hours for pilots. Such a cut is bad news. A rusty pilot can make mistakes – mistakes that could result in a mishap that leaves the plane totaled, and a pilot killed or injured.

While some media reports paint this as a response to a very bad situation (and let’s face facts, the state of Marine Corps aviation – and naval aviation overall, for that matter – could be a lot better than it is), the fact remains that this is a highly-public case of a major investment paying off. This is because the “boneyard” is not really a boneyard. In fact, it is, if you will, comparable to an NFL’ team’s practice squad.

Officially, the boneyard is called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG, formerly known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). In essence, it is a place where the United States military puts its extra aircraft for safekeeping. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is very suited for this purpose. Located near Tucson, Arizona, the low humidity, and the fact that the soil doesn’t contain a lot of acid makes it a good place for the long-term storage of aircraft. There are a lot of planes there currently – over 3,800 as of June 15 of this year.

Here are a few highlights of the inventory that the 309th AMARG has on hand in addition to the 30 F/A-18C Hornets (of which 23 will be refurbished): 95 B-52G Stratofortresses, 12 B-52H Stratofortresses, 18 B-1B Lancers, 101 A-10 Thunderbolts, 47 A-6 Intruders, 50 Harrier GR.7 and GR.9 jump jets, 107 F-4 Phantoms, 166 F-15s, 484 F-16s, 64 F/A-18As, 31 E-2 Hawkeyes, 147 P-3 Orions, and 170 KC-135s. That is a lot of planes, to put it mildly.

To put it in terms of squadrons, this is a total of about seven bomber squadrons, eleven attack squadrons, 41 fighter squadrons, five airborne early warning squadrons, a dozen maritime patrol squadrons, and 14 squadrons of tankers. It’s almost a whole `nother Air Force! And this is what the investment in AMARG buys. In a major war, it would take time to ramp up production of fighters, bombers, attack planes, transports, and other planes. AMARG’s plane, while older than the ones on the front line, can still prove to be very valuable assets in buying time to get new planes built.

In the case of what the Marines are doing now, the 30 F/A-18Cs are doing just that. In essence, the Marines get two and a half more squadrons of their primary multi-role fighter to buy time for the F-35B to become operational. It is a stop-gap measure that, in essence, is being taken because the Marines made a pair of bad decisions in the past – to wit, putting all their eggs in the F-35B basket, and not buying into the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the Navy did.

This wasn’t the first time that AMARG has helped the Marines. During the War on Terror, the Marines pulled heavy-lift helicopters from AMARG to meet needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a classic example of the type of situation AMARG was intended to address. In the case of the F/A-18s being pulled out, this is more a case of mitigating the consequences for the Marine Corps decision to not buy into the Super Hornet and buying more time to get the F-35 operational. In essence, AMARG has bought time for the military to get new planes on-line. Again, it has fulfilled the measure of its creation.

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