Marine Corps News
Military helicopter noise sets mood for Australian crocodile mating
The sound of a military helicopter is reportedly encouraging reptile reproduction at a crocodile farm in Australia.
Thunderous reverberations from armed forces helicopters are reportedly driving Australian crocodiles to pursue romantic escapades.
According to Australia’s ABC Far North, low-flying Chinook helicopters have encouraged a unique mating phenomenon at a crocodile farm in Queensland, Australia.
While the racy reptiles may usually tune in to classics like Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” for mood-setting purposes, on select flight nights, under a waxing moon, it is these vibrations from the heavens that stir unencumbered desires for the semiaquatic beasts.
“All of the big males got up and roared and bellowed up at the sky, and then after the helicopters left they mated like mad,” John Lever, owner of the Koorana Crocodile Farm, told the Australian outlet following the incident.
“There’s something about the sonic waves that really gets them stirred up.”
Steamed up from rotary bladed aphrodisiacs, the farm’s 3,000-plus crocs are likely to yield a large crop of eggs this season, Lever added.
The Singapore Armed Forces regularly hold nearby bilateral military training operations and use the crocodile farm as a geographic marking point, the Australian outlet reported.
Despite the unique aerial influence, the incident is not the first time a reptile species was affected by a military aircraft cacophony. In this particular case, however, experts are still exploring the reasoning behind a breeding episode that would have made even Steve Irwin wince.
Some researchers told the Australian outlet that males may mistake the chopper sound for a scaly competitor looking to steal their crocodile crush. Others, meanwhile, suggested the crocs may be able to detect changes in barometric pressure, signaling the start of mating season.
Whether or not the tomfoolery from the deviant dinosaurs is included in the next David Attenborough documentary remains to be seen.
The Koorana Crocodile Farm was not immediately available to Military Times’ request for comment.
Could privatizing barracks help fix the lousy conditions?
The Army and Navy have a combined seven privatized barracks projects and are considering more.
Privatizing military barracks should not be seen as a silver bullet to slay all the problems that plague unaccompanied housing, but it could be the answer for some barracks at some installations, according to testimony at a recent congressional hearing.
Government Accountability Office auditors said the chronic neglect and underfunding of these living quarters — which has led to mold, overflowing sewage, doors that don’t lock, lack of heating and air conditioning, and other problems — could take years to fix.
That gloomy assessment for the House Armed Services quality of life panel left some lawmakers questioning whether the privatization of barracks could be an answer. But it’s not the first time they have asked.
At the direction of Congress in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, service and defense officials have been preparing a report on the feasibility of privatizing barracks. It was due to Congress in July.
Like privatized military family housing, this would involve entering into contracts with private companies to repair, renovate, construct and operate barracks. Based on testimony at the hearing, and the recent GAO report on the condition of barracks, it appears at least some of the services believe that privatization of barracks might work in some locations, but not all.
The Army and Navy, which already have a combined total of seven privatized barracks projects, are considering adding more, according to the GAO report.
The Army has privatized barracks at five locations, and is adding a sixth in the Miami area, where they’re planning a privatized housing community for both unaccompanied soldiers and military families assigned to the area. It will include 60 unaccompanied housing apartments and 75 family homes adjacent to U.S. Southern Command headquarters.
“We believe privatization will likely be feasible only at certain locations,” said Carla Coulson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for installations, housing and partnerships, in written testimony to the panel. The Army is also evaluating the possibility of privatizing certain additional barracks projects
The Army’s five privatized barracks — at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Liberty, North Carolina; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Irwin, California — typically house more senior enlisted personnel and aren’t managed as permanent party barracks would be. For example, unit integrity is not maintained in these projects, Coulson stated.
The Navy’s two privatized unaccompanied housing projects are at Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Station San Diego.
There are pros and cons to privatized barracks, said Elizabeth Field, director of GAO’s defense capabilities and management division, in her testimony before the panel.
“We did tour some privatized barracks, particularly in San Diego, and I have to be honest, they were in amazing condition,” Field told lawmakers. “They were way ahead of some of the government-owned barracks.”
Some installations have been more successful with privatizing barracks for slightly more senior enlisted members, according to Field. So, it might make more sense for those in the E-4, E-5 and E-6 range.
But the problems military families have had with privatized housing aren’t lost on anyone. Over the past several years, Congress has enacted massive reforms in response to their bitter complaints over mold, sewage backups, pest infestations and more. Legislation required the Defense Department and military services to address a raft of tenant concerns and improve their oversight of privatized housing. Even so, GAO has found that DoD needs to continue to improve privatized military family housing.
“One of the things we’ve learned from this audit is, whether it’s government-owned or privatized, if you don’t pay attention, if you don’t fund, you’re going to end up with poor living conditions,” Field said. The problems with barracks are not much different from problems with privatized family housing, she said.
“The only real difference is that the Defense Department has felt more pressure in recent years to fix the problems in family housing than it has to fix the problems with barracks.”
Service officials have learned from their experiences with privatized family housing.
“I do just want to offer, as we talk about privatized housing and then the possibility of privatized barracks, that we’ve learned lessons about not disconnecting, and maintaining our oversight and accountability,” said Robert Thompson, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. “I think we apply those today in the unaccompanied barracks. And I think the scale is a completely different issue as well.”
About 99% of military family housing has been privatized.
An option to consider
Privatizing barracks is “an option that should be explored,” Field said, adding that there are pros and cons.
For various reasons, privatization is not a “silver bullet” for barracks, she said. For starters, it’s a very different population. A barracks unit might be empty for months at a time when the service member goes on a deployment. Since privatized housing companies get most of their revenue from the service members’ Basic Allowance for Housing, occupancy rates are important to a project’s financial viability.
Housing more service members in privatized housing rather than government-owned barracks would cost the services more in BAH, because service members required to live in government-owned barracks are generally not eligible for BAH. At the same time, however, the costs of operating and maintaining the barracks would be borne by the housing company.
And there’s the issue of unit cohesion, especially for junior enlisted. Air Force and Marine Corps officials have expressed concerns about the negative effects of privatization on cohesion; neither of those services have privatized barracks.
Air Force officials told GAO auditors they also have concerns about whether privatized barracks would be cost effective at most Air Force installations. Defense officials have submitted a request to the Office of Management and Budget for consultation regarding a proposal for a privatized barracks project at one Air Force location. Service officials told GAO auditors that unique market conditions may make privatized unaccompanied housing workable at installations where there is limited housing supply off base and long commutes.
Marine Corps officials told the auditors they are conducting a study on the feasibility of privatized barracks at two bases, but don’t have any plans now to move forward on it.
According to the GAO report, auditors visited two installations with privatized barracks, observed living conditions, and met with service members living there. All the rooms met or exceeded DoD minimum standards for privacy and configuration and most included private bedrooms and bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens.
The seven privatized barracks projects were implemented between 1996 and 2013.
While privatization isn’t necessarily a panacea, “I do think that we have to use every possible tool available” to address the problem, said Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash.
A long-standing issue
The living conditions in barracks have been a persistent problem for decades. Field noted that GAO reported similar problems with barracks 20 years ago.
“Ten years ago, in a report to Congress, DoD lauded the progress it had made in modernizing its barracks program,” Field told lawmakers. “It stated that by increasing military construction funding, introducing new designs, offering more privacy and amenities and directing more maintenance funding to barracks, it had brought the modernization program closer to completion.
“The department also promised that military barracks would be adequately maintained over the long term,” she said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
The 31 recommendations GAO made could put the Defense Department on better footing to address the problems, she said.
But if it doesn’t implement all the recommendations “in a meaningful and timely manner, I would encourage you to consider putting those recommendations into legislation to make them statutorily required,” she said.
Army veteran volunteering in Ukraine reportedly killed during raid
A fellow Army veteran serving alongside Medlin in Ukraine announced the death of his friend.
Former U.S. Army infantryman Dalton J. Medlin was reportedly killed on Sept. 27 during a reconnaissance mission while serving as a volunteer fighter in Ukraine.
Though Medlin’s death has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. State Department, fellow Army veteran Ryan O’Leary, who served alongside Medlin in Ukraine as part of the all-volunteer “Chosen Company,” announced the death of his friend. Task and Purpose was first to report Medlin’s death.
Medlin, who used the call sign “Gimli,” first joined Chosen Company at the beginning of the year, O’Leary wrote.
“He was brave, fearless, dedicated, and always placed his brothers first,” he said. “He excelled as a grenadier and at soldiering in general. He stayed Laser focused both in and out of combat. ... His smile was contagious.”
The American volunteer soldier Dalton “Gimli” Medlin from Texas has been killed in battle against the Russian Army.— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) October 1, 2023
The info has been confirmed by his brother-in-arms @IhateTrenches
Rest in Peace Hero
At the time of publication, O’Leary was not available to comment further on the circumstances of Medlin’s death or the mission undertaken by Chosen Company, a unit made up of English-speaking veteran volunteers who serve alongside Ukrainian troops with the 59th Mechanized Brigade.
A State Department official told Military Times that while the department will not yet confirm Medlin was killed in action, officials are apprised of current reports out of Ukraine.
“We are aware of unconfirmed reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in Donetsk and we are continuing to seek additional information,” a department spokesperson said. “Our ability to verify reports of deaths of U.S. citizens in Ukraine is limited. In addition, not all U.S. citizen deaths may be reported to U.S. authorities.”
Current casualty numbers for Americans fighting in Ukraine also remain unclear.
“We do not have a number to offer,” the spokesperson added. “U.S. citizens are not required to register their travel to a foreign country with us, and we cannot track how many U.S. citizens have gone to a specific country.”
Medlin, who served in the Army between 2017 and 2021, was the recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, three Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Defense Service Medal, and an Army Service Ribbon, according to Army spokesman Bryce Dubee.
Marine vet marking Beirut attack anniversary with another 273-mile walk
Oct. 23 will mark the milestone 40th anniversary of the suicide bombing that killed 241 U.S. service members stationed in the Lebanese capital.
Marine veteran Paul “Doc” Doolittle has been saving up his vacation time from his job as a security manager for a software development company and working through some holidays.
And he’s shed some pounds over the past year.
But the 62-year-old didn’t do much training for his three-week, 273-mile walk around Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“My heart and my mind are in it, and my body will keep up,” Doolittle told Marine Corps Times in September.
For the fourth time, the Colorado resident is spending the first three weeks of October walking one mile for every name inscribed on the Jacksonville memorial to U.S. service members stationed near that North Carolina community who fell in Beirut and Grenada four decades ago. He said his mission is for as many people as possible to remember the fallen.
Oct. 23 will mark the milestone 40th anniversary of the suicide bombings that killed 241 U.S. service members — 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers — stationed in the Lebanese capital, along with 58 French peacekeepers and six civilians.
But there are 273 names on the Beirut Memorial Wall. The higher number reflects the other American service members from the Jacksonville, North Carolina, community who were killed in different attacks in Beirut between 1982–1984 and in Marine Corps operations in Grenada, or who died later from injuries resulting from the October 1983 bombing, according to the Beirut Veterans of America.
Most of the U.S. service members who died in the October 1983 attack came from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, a unit based at the nearby North Carolina base of Camp Lejeune.
The Jacksonville, North Carolina, community, deeply affected by the loss of so many residents, still holds a commemoration ceremony for the fallen service members each year.
Doolittle said he wants people to remember the magnitude of the tragedy for the Marine Corps community.
The 9/11 attacks were “horrific,” killing approximately 1 in 100,000 Americans, Doolittle said, using a rough estimate. The Beirut attack killed, using a similarly rough estimate, approximately 1 in 1,000 Marines.
“Our memories are erased or overwritten by other things, and this one just doesn’t deserve to be overwritten,” Doolittle said.
Doolittle, a son of Navy veterans, had started Marine boot camp in January 1981. On Oct. 23, 1983, he was an air defense controller stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.
He and the Marines around him were left “devastated, and just furious” — though he said he later grew to understand, from serving as an embassy security guard in Beirut, that the Lebanese people weren’t to blame for what had happened. Investigators ultimately concluded the Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist group now known as Hezbollah was responsible for the attack.
After serving in the Marine Corps for 10.5 years and exiting as a sergeant, Doolittle settled down near his final duty station, in Aurora, Colorado, he said.
As the 25th anniversary of the Beirut attack approached in 2008, the Marine veteran had read online about someone’s plan to walk in memory of the fallen service members. But that person lacked a specific plan, according to Doolittle.
So Doolittle decided to make his own plan, and a tradition was born.
Every five years, he has traveled to North Carolina and walked the 273 miles during the first 23 days of October. After departing his Airbnb each morning, he wends his way around Jacksonville, sometimes joined by others — if they are willing to walk when he walks, and stop when he stops, so he can stay focused on making his mileage and steering clear of cars.
The Marine veteran plans out his daily mileage in a spreadsheet. He starts out logging 15-mile days to get ahead of the curve. As his body becomes weary from the repeated exertion, he scales down his daily targets.
Doolittle plans several routes that will cover the necessary distances while giving him places to refill his water bottle or get ice, he said. As he gets into a rhythm, he may walk the routes in the reverse direction to mix things up. He said he especially likes the designated walking and biking trails, which are safer than walking alongside a road.
On Oct. 23, he walks just two miles, accompanied by anyone who would like to join him.
Doolittle said he was inspired to culminate with that two-mile stretch after, in 2008, he met a woman who had lost two loved ones ― both her husband and brother ― in the attack. Sometimes she has joined him on those two miles; in 2013, around 15 people participated in that final walk, he said.
Doolittle wears a shirt that announces to passersby that he’s on a “Walk to Remember” Beirut veterans on the anniversary of the attack. He’ll have on hand some extra shirts, which he said he sells as an awareness tool, not to make a profit.
In 2013, as he walked past a restaurant, a bearded cook emerged to admire Doolittle’s own “fairly unique and robust full beard,” Doolittle recounted. Then the cook read his shirt.
“And he said, ‘My dad’s on that wall,’” Doolittle recalled. “I had a hard time talking for a minute.”
In 2023, Doolittle will get some help in spreading the message about the anniversary from Ashley and Shaun Leonard, farmers in northern Texas whom Doolittle got to know after he found out they did a corn maze in 2022 commemorating the 1942 Doolittle Raid of Tokyo.
Doc Doolittle, who said he is distantly related to Army Air Corps Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, traveled to Canyon, Texas, to meet the Leonards. The coincidence led to a friendship, and Doolittle said he told them he’d provide financial support to whatever maze they grew the following year.
The Leonards’ 20-acre corn maze this year commemorates the Beirut attack.
After his walk this year, Doolittle said, he plans to head to Texas to see for himself the maze. For 2023, the red shirt he will wear on his walk has a thank-you to the Leonards on the back.
Doolittle stressed that the walk isn’t about himself.
“I’m doing what I do by my choice,” he said. “It’s about the 273 that paid the price. That’s my focus.”
Property company ordered to repay troops charged illegal rental fees
Federal lawyers claimed JAG Management Company tried to extract thousands in lease termination fines from troops forced to move because of military orders.
A national property management company accused of charging nine service members illegal rental fees has agreed to compensate the aggrieved parties and settle the case, the Justice Department announced Monday.
In a complaint filed Sept. 29, federal attorneys claimed that JAG Management Company, over a span of approximately two years, attempted to extract thousands in lease termination fines from troops forced to move because of military orders. The Virginia-based firm settled the case the same day, agreeing to pay $41,581 to the service members and a $20,000 civil penalty to the government.
Justice Department officials argued that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a 1940 law designed to stabilize the civilian lives of military personnel, grants members of the armed forces the right to “terminate a residential lease without penalty upon entering into military service or upon receiving qualifying military orders” — such as a deployment or permanent change of station.
Nine service members from four different branches living at a JAG property in New Jersey said the company demanded they repay thousands of dollars in rental concessions after terminating their contracts to deploy or PCS.
Some troops, fearful of stains on their credit scores, agreed to pay the fine, according to the complaint. One Coast Guard lieutenant who refused to cough up $2,120 in fees was allegedly hounded by debt collectors enlisted by the company.
“Service members should not have to pay any fees — much less exorbitant fees — to landlords when they are simply complying with their military orders and protecting our country,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a press release.
In addition to monetary compensation, JAG agreed to tweak its policies in accordance with the SCRA and retract the negative credit reports it had filed against the tenants.
Eyes like a hawk — birder finds US WWII tank shell near Mount Fuji
A birdwatcher in Japan reportedly found an American artillery shell, then waited a week to report it.
A Japanese green pheasant, a grey heron, a common kingfisher, a great spotted artillery shell. Wait, that last one’s not on the birder list.
A Japanese birdwatcher recently spotted an unexploded artillery shell near Mount Fuji, leading to an investigation by U.S. and Japanese authorities, Stars & Stripes reported.
The outlet said the unidentified man located the ordnance on Sept. 24, though he waited until Saturday to report it to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Camp Kita-Fuji. It remains unclear why the individual waited an entire week to disclose his find. Although, in the mysterious underground world of competitive bird watching, motives are known to birders alone.
An explosive ordnance team from Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, removed the artillery shell Monday, Camp Fuji’s commander told Stripes.
Col. Neil J. Owens, the base commander, told the outlet it was “a U.S. tank round” manufactured during World War II and was “likely fired by U.S. Forces in training” between the 1950s and 1960s. Owens added that the shell was “subsequently disposed.”
The U.S. State Department has acknowledged that the removal and defusing of unexploded American-made WWII munitions in Japan remains a critical effort worth investment.
So far, ordnance ornithology has not been taught in explosive disposal team exercises, but given the recent incident perhaps one will cry fowl on its absence from traditional training.
A spokesperson at the Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji did not immediately respond to Military Times’ request for comment.
Navy assembles F-35B clutch for first time
The part is critical in allowing the aircraft to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings.
The Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center East successfully assembled the lift fan clutch for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft for the first time.
Assembling the clutch without the part’s original manufacturer is critical to accommodate F-35 maintenance and repair as more enter service, according to the Navy.
The F-35B is the variant of the fighter jet the Marine Corps employs, as well as the United Kingdom and Italy. The aircraft can conduct short take-offs and vertical landings on amphibious ships, aircraft carriers and expeditionary airfields — thanks to the aircraft’s lift system that includes the clutch.
“The F-35B’s short take-off and vertical landing abilities offer the Fleet critical capabilities that cannot be duplicated by any other aircraft,” Capt. James M. Belmont, the readiness center’s commanding officer, said in a Sept. 28 Navy news release. “The lift fan clutch is a vital part of the aircraft’s lift system. Standing up this capability allows us to provide support for the F-35B that’s not available anywhere else in DoD.”
FRCE is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 542, also based out of Cherry Point, received its first F-35 aircraft in May.
“Even though it seems as if the F-35 has been around for a while, it’s still very new,” said Fred LeBrun, the readiness center’s F-35 capability establishment lead, said in the release. “It’s still ramping up. Flight hours are increasing. More countries are buying them. This multiplication effect places increased demands on the supply system for components.”
“It’s a key part of the lift system, so this is going to be critical for the depot to have this capability,” LeBrun said.
The part also poses challenges because of its complexity. For example, LeBrun said that a simpler part may have a 500- to 1,000=page component maintenance manual, while the clutch has a 10,000=page manual and accompanying modules for the artisan.
“The complication level on this component is right up there with producing an engine on the aircraft,” LeBrun said.
To learn how to assemble the part, the FRCE team underwent training at the Rolls Royce LiftWorks facility in Indianapolis. Rolls Royce is the original manufacturer for the lift fan clutch.
“We could see the way that they do things,” said Steven Murray, an aircraft engine mechanic at FRCE. “We had our industrial engineering technicians with us so they could tailor things to fit the way we do things here at the depot. Then, it was extensive training here — evolutions of disassembly and assembly to ensure we are doing it right.”
FRCE is the state’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider.
This Marine is taking challenge coins to new heights, crayons included
It’s both a challenge coin and a fun way to crack open a cold one.
For over 100 years, the challenge coin has been a symbol of esprit de corps among troops around the globe, tracing its roots back to World War I.
In the past, tokens have formally conveyed symbols of unit history or accomplishments. More recently, however, some artisans have produced more creative variants tied to military culture and humor.
One such minter is Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Spencer Garvin, owner of Sven Smash Designs and creator of a devil dog favorite, the crayon-eater coin.
“The best coin of all time has to be the crayon bottle opener,” Garvin told Military Times, noting the service’s crayon-eating trope.
Garvin’s crayon creation may be both a challenge coin and a fun way to crack open a cold one, but it is not simply some venture born out of boredom. Rather, Garvin was tasked with making a challenge coin, saw room to diversify the space and jumped at the chance.
“I was the commander’s driver in Marine Forces, Europe and Africa, in Stuttgart, Germany, and one of the tasks they had given me one day was that the commander needs a new coin,” he said.
Several rounds of edits with vendors ensued, but to no avail.
“After probably about 10 edits, [the commander] was like, ‘You know, we’re just gonna keep the one we have,’” Garvin said.
Garvin developed an idea for a separate coin on the side, however, and spent his own money to make it. He then sold his version among his unit.
“Everyone loved it,” he noted. “That was kind of the first coin that I designed.”
Now, years into the craft, Sven Smash has a catalog of coins inspired by everything from crayons to Pokemon, Harry Potter, and Funko Pop! designs — each with a military twist.
“The tradition of it has grown,” Garvin said, adding, “They’re [just] a little bit more eccentric than the classic challenge coin.”
Marine Corps deactivates its squadron for training F/A-18 pilots
The Marine Corps will still train aviators to fly the F/A-18 jet, but that training won't occur in a solely training-focused squadron.
Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 had its sundown ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, where it is based.
The Marine Corps will still train aviators to fly the F/A-18 jet, but that training will now occur in Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, rather than in a solely training-focused squadron, according to a 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing news release Tuesday.
That’s where the SharpSHooters — as Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 are called — will be moved, according to the squadron’s website.
“As a former commanding officer of the ‘SharpSHooters,’ I can attest to the squadron’s direct impact on the Marine Corps’ operational readiness today,” Brig. Gen. Robert Brodie, assistant commander of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in the release. “VMFAT-101 has shaped a critical element of naval aviation for a half-century, and the Marines and Sailors of the squadron remain pivotal in preserving that warfighting legacy and transitioning to the next generation of combat aviation.”
The Corps is slowly moving away from the older F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers in favor of the higher-tech F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Marines will continue to fly the Hornet until 2030, according to the news release.
The squadron was activated in 1969 to train McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II pilots, according to its website. In the late 1980s, it transitioned from the F-4 to the F/A-18.
Before Friday’s ceremony, the squadron marked its deactivation by “flying the barn,” launching 18 aircraft in one flight, according to a Saturday news release from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. More than 300 service members, veterans, family members and local supporters gathered for the ceremony that followed.
“Thousands of aircrew have passed through the halls of VMFAT-101 — fighter pilots, fighter radar intercept officers, fighter weapon systems officers, and it’s bigger than that,” Brodie said, as quoted in the release. “This squadron has trained more maintenance Marines than any other in the Marine Corps.”
Retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis Downing, who was senior enlisted leader of the SharpSHooters from July 2014 to February 2016, told Marine Corps Times the squadron was distinctive in that it had students and maintainers from both the Marine Corps and the Navy at the time. So he got the chance to learn about the Navy’s way of doing business.
Pilots who went through Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 emerged ready to deploy, Downing said.
The retired sergeant major said the deactivation didn’t come as a surprise.
“The capabilities are only getting faster and stronger for the Marine Corps,” Downing said. “It’s just time to move on to something a little more sleek and hopefully deadlier.”
Sailors, Marines are helping clean up wreckage of crashed F-35 jet
Hundreds of people from various agencies are helping recover what’s left of the aircraft and clean up the area where a Marine F-35 jet crashed Sept. 17.
Hundreds of people are participating in the effort to recover what’s left of the aircraft and clean up the area, Navy spokesman Erik Anderson told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.
They hail from the Navy, the Marine Corps, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, local law enforcement and fire-and-rescue services, and “other federal agencies and F-35 program stakeholders,” according to Anderson.
Navy Region Southeast is leading the effort, according to a news release Tuesday from that unit. The Marine components involved are Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Corps’ East-Coast-based aviation force.
“We appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from the Navy On-Scene Coordinator team as well as the community, and I would like to thank the local law enforcement and other agencies of Williamsburg County and South Carolina for their quick, professional response,” Col. Mark Bortnem, the air station’s commander, said in the release.
The Navy-led team is “working closely with local farmers to ensure continued agricultural operations in the area,” the news release reads.
The F-35B Lightning II fighter jet that crashed Sept. 17 temporarily went missing over South Carolina as its pilot ejected, landing in a north Charleston backyard. The pilot, whose identity hasn’t been released, told a 911 operator, “I’m not sure where the airplane is. It would have crash landed somewhere. I ejected.”
The Department of the Navy is investigating the crash, which wrecked an approximately $100 million jet. The crash, coming on the heels of two deadly Marine aviation mishaps, prompted the Marine Corps to ground aircraft for two days for a safety standdown.
The public affairs office at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, didn’t provide by time of publication the number of Marines involved in the cleanup effort.
Petition to retire Pat Tillman’s #40 jersey league-wide gains momentum
A petition for the NFL to retire Pat Tillman's jersey number has collected over 80,000 signatures.
Army Ranger Pat Tillman is forever remembered for his decision to leave behind a multimillion dollar professional football contract to serve in the military in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
In 2002, Tillman stepped aside from his role as a starting defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted. Tillman eventually deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 22, 2004, in a friendly fire incident. He was 27 years old.
Now, there is a movement to have Tillman’s jersey number, 40, memorialized and retired from the NFL altogether.
“To date, we have just over 81,000 signatures,” Sean Wilson, a Marine veteran leading the Change.org campaign, told Military Times in an email. “The growth of this movement has been phenomenal. We have campaigned from the streets of New York City to the streets of Tokyo, Japan.”
Wilson said the petition, which launched in 2021, has also been sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The next benchmark for the campaign will be reaching 150,000 signatures, he added.
“2024 will mark 20 years since Pat Tillman’s death, and we believe this is a great way to honor a great man,” Wilson said.
Today, the Pat Tillman Foundation — founded in 2004 by Tillman’s friends and family — continues to provide academic scholarships and development opportunities to service members, veterans and their spouses.
Camouflage uniform shortage prompts Marine Corps to relax attire rules
Unit commanders may allow the desert-colored camouflage combat utility uniform or the flame-resistant organizational gear, known as FROGs.
Leaders of Marine units can let their service members wear nonstandard uniform items amid a long-term shortage of the regular camouflage uniform.
The Marine Corps says it won’t have a full stock of the woodland-pattern camouflage combat utility uniform ― the everyday outfit for most Marines ― until summer or fall 2024. The shortage has prompted the top Marine leader to authorize unit commanders to allow the desert-colored camouflage combat utility uniform or the flame-resistant organizational gear, known as FROGs.
This flexibility is a rare step for a service that prides itself on adherence to strict uniform standards.
“What we cannot have is a situation where a Marine is wearing unserviceable cammies, because that looks bad for the Corps, and we can’t have a situation where that Marine is being given a hard time about those unserviceable cammies,” Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said in a video message to the force Thursday, using a nickname for the camouflage combat utility uniform.
“We’re going to get this fixed, Marines, but it’s going to take a little patience,” Smith said.
The commandant said he and Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, had just come back from a trip to the Indo-Pacific, where Marines repeatedly told them, “I can’t get cammies.”
Smith and Ruiz, who also appeared in the video, were wearing their service uniforms rather than cammies.
“The guidance to battalion and squadron leaders and above is to make decisions that uphold the high standards of our service while maintaining mission readiness and reducing overall impact on daily operations,” Maj. John Parry, a Marine spokesman, said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday, the day before Smith’s message.
“This does not mean a Marine may make a decision unilaterally to wear a different uniform or civilian attire due to a serviceability issue with their designated uniform of the day,” Parry said.
Marines have been struggling to find cammies at the Marine Corps Exchange — the “one-stop shopping destination” for Marines — or even at thrift stores, Marine Corps Times previously reported.
Marine recruits are supposed to receive three sets of woodland cammies and two sets of desert cammies, but the Marine Corps has been issuing two woodland sets and one desert set, Parry told Marine Corps Times in August. Recruits and new Marines have been doing entry-level training in flame-resistant organizational gear, typically reserved for deployments.
Meanwhile, Marines in the fleet have had to get creative with tailoring. Sgt. Ethan Underwood told Marine Corps Times in August that he knows Marines at Yuma, Arizona, who have patched up holes in cammies using Marine-pattern bandanas or scraps of old uniforms.
Chuck Lambert, CEO of American Apparel Inc, the primary manufacturer of the uniforms, told Marine Corps Times his company has had trouble producing enough items at the fixed price in the Defense Logistics Agency contract. Even as inflation increased and it became harder to find workers, he said, he couldn’t increase the price of items to pay for a big bump in wages.
“McDonald’s and a lot of the fast food guys are paying $2 and $3 more an hour than we could afford to pay,” the CEO said in August. “Where they could go up on the price of the hamburger, we can’t go up on the price of a uniform.”
The Defense Logistics Agency has awarded two additional contracts to companies to make the uniforms, potentially easing the shortage, according to Lambert and online records.
It’s unclear whether Marines in units that allow desert cammies will be able to get their hands on those uniforms, either. The website associated with the Marine Corps Exchange estimates the desert-colored blouses will be out of stock until fall 2024.
“Based on the current USMC course of action, the USMC desert camouflage uniforms are unavailable at this time on myNavyExchange.com,” Courtney Williams, a spokeswoman for Navy Exchange Service Command, confirmed in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times on Friday. “For any information and specifics regarding the uniform’s current stock levels or in reference to any decision-making on its resupply allocation, I’ll defer to the USMC and MCX.”
The desert cammies were, since 2008, the standard attire for Marines during the summer, as the Marine Corps’ attention was focused on wars in the Middle East. The Marine Corps in 2016 ditched that rule, making the woodland cammies the standard uniform year-round, with exceptions for deployments, training and certain installations.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Friday with a statement from the Navy Exchange.
F-35 program finishes years-late tests needed for full production
The complex simulations at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland were meant to test how well the F-35 would perform in real-world combat scenarios.
WASHINGTON — The F-35 program has completed a long-delayed series of crucial tests, which could pave the way for a decision next year to officially move the advanced fighter jet into full-rate production.
The Joint Simulation Environment tests, known as “runs for score,” were finished Sept. 21, as was the initial trial validation, F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Russell Goemaere said in an email to Defense News Friday.
The Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, will now analyze the data collected in the tests, which were conducted through much of September. DOT&E’s report on the F-35′s performance in the JSE tests could be delivered to Pentagon leaders by the end of December.
The Joint Simulation Environment’s 64 test trials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland were designed to put all three versions of the F-35 through a variety of in-depth scenarios, similar to situations they would likely encounter in real-world combat.
DOT&E said in a report released in January that those scenarios would include defensive counter-air, cruise missile defense, and combined offensive counter-air, air interdiction and destruction of enemy air defense trials.
The completion of the JSE tests marks a crucial step for the program — one that is needed before the F-35′s initial operational test and evaluation phase can be closed, and the Pentagon can make a Milestone C decision that officially authorizes it to enter full rate production.
In an interview with Air and Space Forces Magazine this month, the head of the F-35 program, Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt said a Milestone C decision would likely be made in early 2024. But Schmidt acknowledged to the magazine that the fighter is already being built at nearly full capacity, muting the effect a full-rate production authorization would have. Lockheed Martin typically aims to build roughly 150 F-35s each year.
The watchdog Project on Government Oversight has criticized the Pentagon for producing F-35s as if it were already in full-rate production, before such crucial tests were completed. POGO analyst Dan Grazier told Defense News earlier this year that if the F-35′s testing finds problems with the fighter before a full-rate production decision is officially made, it would mean hundreds of fighters already built and in use could need extensive retrofitting.
The Pentagon originally hoped to make a Milestone C decision on the F-35 in December 2019, but the deadline repeatedly slipped as the setup of the Joint Simulation Environment fell further behind schedule.
Creating the simulation environment proved challenging for the department, and the Pentagon struggled with the verification, validation and accreditation process. The tests fell years behind schedule.
In a roundtable with reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air Space Cyber conference earlier this month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he was confident the JSE would allow the F-35 to go through the tests it needs, and said it contained “a really remarkable set of capabilities.”
Kendall said many of the JSE test results would be classified.
Only Ukraine’s guardian angel docs know true toll of counteroffensive
The medical teams near Ukraine's front lines estimate they've treated tens of thousands of troops, injured in the counteroffensive.
NEAR BAKHMUT, Ukraine — “300s! 300s!” the medical staff shout as they race out from their clinic to meet incoming ambulances, donning surgical gloves as they run. Code “300″ is shorthand for wounded soldiers; they’re trying to keep those injured troops from becoming “200,” or dead.
It is around 10 a.m. in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine and a beaten-up old ambulance creaks up to the makeshift clinic’s doorway to unload two soldiers critically injured during a frontline assault raging just four miles away.
The medical team throws open the doors, loads the casualties onto stretchers, and carries them into an operating theater. The patients are wrapped in gold-foil blankets, one bleeding so profusely from the abdomen that he immediately gets most of the doctor’s attention.
The battlefield heroics of Ukraine’s soldiers are well-documented. Less well-known are the doctors, nurses and paramedics who risk their lives to save the injured. Troops call them “guardian angels.” Military Times was granted access to one of these frontline medical locations, known as stabilization points, in a village close to the heavily fought-over city of Bakhmut, on the condition we did not reveal its exact location.
Pumped full of morphine by battlefield paramedics to dull the pain, the injured men do not shout or scream, just making the occasional low moan. The medical team — consisting of at least one surgeon, an anesthesiologist and a few nurses — loads the badly injured man into a surgerical room and gets to work, stripping off his clothes and trying to sterilize and clean his wound and staunch the bleeding. After his condition stabilizes, they stretcher him back outside and into an ambulance waiting take him to a medical hospital in the nearby city of Kramatorsk.
Near the front lines
There are from 10 to 15 of these field hospitals set up around the various frontlines in Ukraine’s south and east. All are within Russian artillery range. Just a few days before we visited the clinic, a rocket landed in the courtyard, though no one was harmed.
In the background, we can hear consistent shellfire and can see the vapor trails of 155mm shells. “Nashy” (“ours”) the medics said as the shots ring out. A soldier accompanying us said that they are probably from U.S.-provided M777 howitzers that have been making a difference in the fight. While Ukraine has spent much of the war outgunned by Russian ordnance, almost all the artillery we hear seems to be coming from Ukrainian forces, who are slowly gaining the upper hand in this theater.
An hour or so later, I speak with the less badly injured of the two men. He introduces himself as Alexei, and he explains that he was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a group of Russian soldiers who were counterattacking a trench position the Ukrainians had captured near the town of Soledar, outside Bakhmut.
Being injured by small arms is an exception in this battlefield, where the doctors say around 80% of casualties are caused by enemy artillery. On the southern frontlines, where the Ukrainians are going up against heavily prepared Russian defensive lines, many casualties are from minefields. A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies called these “the most extensive defensive works in Europe since World War II.”
Since early June, the Ukrainians have been assaulting on three separate axes to try to liberate Russian territory. The first, in the Zaporizhzhia region, aims to cut the Russian land bridge to Crimea by taking the key town of Melitopol. Advancing Ukrainian forces initially incurred heavy losses but have made steady progress in recent weeks.
A second, starting from the Donetsk town of Velyka Novosilkya toward Mariupol, has been put on ice as the Ukrainians, due to American advice, have decided to focus most of their troops on the main effort in Zaporizhzhia, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The third is here, near Bakhmut. The Russians, led by the Wagner mercenary group, fought a year-long battle of extraordinary brutality to try to capture the city. Now, Ukraine’s most experienced forces, like the 3rd Assault Brigade, have been trying to encircle the city, and have made important tactical gains that threaten to cut off Russian supply routes to the city.
Last year’s Ukrainian counteroffensive successes in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions had given rise to hopes that they would be able to make a quick push to the sea to cut the Russian’s land bridge to Crimea.
But those hopes were quickly dashed in June, when Ukrainian troops lost a large number of Leopard tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles in those opening weeks to multilayered Russian defenses, including minefields 3- to 6-miles deep. A New York Times report said that as much as 20% of the donated Western gear was damaged or destroyed, although much of this could be repaired.
To save its equipment, and more importantly, its manpower, Ukraine has turned to a strategy of attrition, attempting to use its advantage in precision artillery to wear away at Russia’s ability to wage war.
The constant artillery exchanges mean that thousands of soldiers have come through this facility. “At the beginning of June, there were days when there were 120-130 patients per day because of the combat units’ activities,” said Oleh Tokarchuk, 47, a doctor from the small town of Kolyma in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. That’s 20 to 30 more than they have staff or operating theaters to cope with, he said.
And numbers of injured spiked to 200 or so a day when the town of Soledar itself fell to Russian forces in January this year. The mid-summer day we visited was blessedly slower than usual: only a dozen casualties while we were there, although we left before the evening shift, which is when the fighting often picks up.
Calm amid th chaos: caffeine, war and Wi-Fi
It is strange, the level of normality that can exist so close to the world’s fiercest fighting. Despite our proximity to the frontlines, there is perfect mobile internet connectivity. In lulls between patients, one nurse is using a computer to play the video game League of Legends, and another is scrolling Instagram and TikTok. In the small village where the hospital is located, a few civilians remain. A small shop remains open, and I can still pay for my Red Bull and chocolate bar with Apple Pay.
In the relative calm of a building on the outskirts of the city of Kramatorsk, we were received by a group of medics working at the stabilization point who had rotated out for a day’s rest. Lyuba, who asked to only be identified by her first name, had worked as a civilian doctor for eight years. Originally from the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, she enlisted as a volunteer in March 2022 and regularly works near the frontlines, together with other top-flight doctors.
“We are professionals — we don’t have paramedics who had 2- or 3-week courses and ran to the frontline,” she said. “There is always a senior doctor in a brigade with a nurse, a driver and a guard in dangerous zones.”
The life-threatening cases they deal with often require specialist surgery that would tax the best western hospitals, like the soldier who arrived unconscious with a traumatic brain injury.
“He got a bullet in his eye because of close combat. It was very difficult because the bullet was in the skull,” she said. Because of the surgeon’s skill, they were able to operate and save the soldier’s life.
In some cases, they treat people who see them as their sworn enemies, like the pro-Russian civilians in some of the Donbas villages. Ukrainians refer to them as those who are “waiting for the Russians,” she explained. They were treating one such man when he woke and saw that everyone around him was speaking Ukrainian.
“He started swallowing his blood, screaming that he wouldn’t allow us to collect his blood because Banderovtsy (Ukrainian nationalists) would use it for experiments! It was terrible,” she said. “The funniest thing was that when he was calmed down, he was moved to a hospital for civilians staffed by Polish doctors. Our guys laughed that when he wakes up, he will see the NATO army!”
Once, she said with a shudder, they even had to treat a wounded and abandoned Russian soldier, but they saved his life, not just out of a sense of professional duty but knowing that he could be valuable in an exchange for captured Ukrainians.
For medic Tokarchuk, what keeps him going is a sense of deep gratitude to the soldiers on the front line.
“Medics do a very important job, but it’s nothing compared to what the guys in the trenches are doing,” he said. “So, when one of them comes here and I can save the life of this hero lying on the table in front of me, it’s an honor.”
What’s next for the American soldier who ran into North Korea?
Pvt. Travis King arrived at a military base in Texas on Thursday, one day after North Korea announced that it would expel him.
DALLAS — An American soldier who sprinted into North Korea and was held there for two months before being returned to the U.S. is set to undergo medical testing and extensive questioning about his time in the isolated country before potentially facing charges under the military justice system.
Pvt. Travis King ran across the heavily fortified border from South Korea in July and became the first American detained in North Korea in nearly five years.
Pyongyang abruptly announced Wednesday that it would expel King, and he was flown to an Air Force base in Texas on Thursday.
Here’s what we know about King, his mysterious entry into North Korea and what’s happened in similar cases.
Who is he, and what happened?
King, 23, joined the Army in January 2021 and was in South Korea as a cavalry scout with the 1st Armored Division, according to military officials.
On July 10 he was released from a South Korean prison after serving nearly two months on assault charges. He was set to be sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he could have faced potential additional disciplinary actions and discharge.
Officials said King was taken to the airport and escorted as far as customs. But instead of getting on the plane, he left and later joined a civilian tour of the Korean border village of Panmunjom. He bolted across the border, which is lined with guards and often crowded with tourists, in the afternoon.
North Korea’s state news agency said King, who is Black, had said he entered the country because he “harbored ill feelings against inhuman mistreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”
U.S. officials have cast doubt on the authenticity of those statements, and King’s mother, Claudine Gates of Racine, Wisconsin, told The Associated Press she never heard him express such views.
It remains unclear why King crossed the border and why Pyongyang — which has tense relations with Washington over its nuclear program, its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and other issues — agreed to release him.
What happens next?
The coming weeks are likely to hold a battery of medical and phycological examinations as well as intelligence debriefings about his time in North Korea, a country few Americans enter.
King arrived early Thursday at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, according to the Pentagon. Along with the testing and questioning, he will also get a chance to see family.
King’s movements will likely be controlled while commanders learn what they can from him and decide what to do next, said Rachel VanLandingham, a national security law expert and professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. She said the probable next steps are formal charges under the military justice system, but they could take months.
“Based on their track record, I think they’re going to court-martial him,” said VanLandingham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, adding that the evidence against King appears “overwhelming” but he could also be discharged without charges.
King was declared AWOL but not considered a deserter. Punishment for going AWOL or desertion vary based on a number of factors that are complicated by King’s two-month absence and ultimate handover by North Korean.
The fact that he spent weeks in the secretive country would be unlikely to give him any leverage with the U.S. military over his punishment, said Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps. prosecutor and military judge.
“I don’t think that he would have been allowed to have seen anything of strategic or even tactical value that he might use as a bargaining chip,” Solis said. “I think he’s out of luck.”
What has happened before in similar cases?
The last active duty soldier returned to the U.S. by an adversary was Bowe Bergdahl, VanLandingham said.
Bergdahl was 23 when he left his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009, was abducted by the Taliban and was held captive and tortured for nearly five years. He later said he left to report what he saw as poor leadership within his unit.
Several U.S. service members were wounded while searching for Bergdahl. After his return in a prisoner swap, he was charged in military court with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl pleaded guilty to both charges in 2017, but a judge vacated his conviction this year.
VanLandingham said that while the two cases are not identical, the fact that the Army pursued a court-martial against Bergdahl suggests it will against King as well.
Officials said King was released in good health, unlike Otto Warmbier, another American recently held in North Korea.
Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was seized by North Korean authorities from a tour group in January 2016, convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
He spent 17 months in captivity before he was released and flown home in a coma, dying shortly afterward in June 2017.
While not providing a clear reason for Warmbier’s brain damage, North Korea denied accusations by Warmbier’s family that he was tortured.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin contributed to this report.
‘Muzzle’ pits veteran-turned-cop into quest for revenge, identity
"Muzzle" premieres Sept. 29.
Approximately a quarter of American law enforcement professionals have served in the military, according to the Department of Justice.
It is precisely that common professional transition that drew director John Stalberg Jr. to write and direct his latest film, “Muzzle.”
Starring Aaron Eckhart as a veteran-turned-police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department’s K9 Platoon, the film drops Eckhart’s character, Jake Rosser, into a shootout with drug dealers on the streets of Los Angeles. Amid the chaos, Rosser’s canine partner Ace is shot and killed.
Rosser’s subsequent quest for justice, one reminiscent of “John Wick,” eventually leads the officer down a rabbit hole of major conspiracy.
“He’s sort of forced to confront the animal in himself, the things he’s dealt with in his past through his combat experience,” Stalberg told Military Times.
In order to complete his mission, however, Rosser selects a new canine partner named “Socks,” a dog with a troublesome past that seems to mirror her human counterpart.
“We tried to reflect that literally by using mirrors, through a sequence where there’s a shattered mirror when he’s fighting a guy in an abandoned house in Bel Air,” Stalberg said. “We sort of have the mirror rocking from Socks to the reflection to Jake, back to Socks to Jake. There’s these kind of parallels throughout the film that Socks has this checkered background.”
The dog, in some ways, is also representative of the animal within Rosser that’s prone to getting loose.
“We wanted to create a personified version of Jake in the animal as a character in the film, but also a metaphor for what he’s dealing with,” Stalberg said. “It’s the trauma that he’s fighting to control. We sort of distilled it down to this movie about controlling your animal — the actual animal and the animal that’s inside him.”
“Muzzle” premieres on Sept. 29.
Milley says he’ll ensure family safety after Trump’s execution remark
Gen. Mark Milley said he'll take steps to protect himself and his family after comments by former President Donald Trump.
Outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told “60 Minutes” this week he will take “appropriate measures” to protect himself and his family following comments by former President Donald Trump suggesting Milley’s actions would warrant execution “in times gone by.”
Trump posted on social media last week alleging that the nation’s top military adviser colluded with China during the final months of the Trump administration, meriting the extreme punishment.
“This guy turned out to be a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States,” Trump wrote in a Sept. 22 post on Truth Social. “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”
Milley, who this week ends his four years as the nation’s top uniformed military leader, has repeatedly said his calls with his Chinese counterpart were appropriate and within the duties and responsibilities of his job.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley is responding to comments by former President Donald Trump suggesting that Milley deserves to be executed for communications the general had with China. https://t.co/gOlcC0rE41 pic.twitter.com/pSgO9mNcEY— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 27, 2023
“Look, I’m a soldier. I’ve been faithful and loyal to the Constitution of the United States for 44-and-a-half years,” Milley told 60 Minutes. “And my family and I have sacrificed greatly for this country. ... As much as these comments are directed at me, it’s also directed at the institution of the military. ... And the American people can take it to the bank that all of us, every single one of us from private to general — we’re loyal to that Constitution and will never turn our back on it no matter what.”
Although Trump picked Milley for the Joint Chiefs post, the two have endured a public back-and-forth that first escalated in the wake of a photo-op incident during civil unrest in the summer of 2020, which drew widespread disapproval as one juxtaposing the military with domestic politics.
Trump ally Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., called Milley a “traitor” and made a similar suggestion about deserving execution for working with Democrats to hurt Trump.
Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CNN Monday that there is “a legitimate fear” that if Trump were reelected as commander-in-chief, those who he has taken issue with, like Milley, could be retaliated against in some form.
“I’ve got adequate safety precautions,” Milley told 60 Minutes. “I wish those comments had not been made but they were. And we’ll take appropriate measures to ensure my safety and the safety of my family.”
Iranian Navy shines laser at US helicopter during ‘unsafe’ interaction
“IRGCN vessels shone a laser multiple times at the aircraft while in flight," according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy shined a laser at a Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter during “an unsafe and unprofessional” interaction in the Arabian Gulf on Wednesday, according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The incident occurred as the helicopter assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is deployed with the amphibious assault ship Bataan, conducted routine operations in international airspace.
“IRGCN vessels shone a laser multiple times at the aircraft while in flight,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Spokesman Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer said in a statement Thursday. “Fortunately, no injuries were reported and the aircraft was not damaged.”
“These are not the actions of a professional maritime force,” Chernitzer said. “This unsafe, unprofessional and irresponsible behavior by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately.”
The AH-1Z Viper, the Marine Corps’ primary rotary-wing ground-attack aircraft, provides close air support, anti-armor, armed escort, armed visual reconnaissance and fire support coordination capabilities under day, night and adverse weather conditions.
It is flown by a crew of two, a pilot in the back and a co-pilot/gunner in the front.
Vipers are fielded in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. Detachments from the HMLAs are deployed as part of Marine expeditionary units to support ship-based amphibious exercises and operations.
The Bataan and dock landing ship Carter Hall left Norfolk, Virginia, in July with more than 3,000 sailors and Marines onboard for a deployment that the Pentagon said was in response to Iran’s recent attempts to “threaten the free flow of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and its surrounding waters.”
Air Force F-35 and F-16 fighter jets and A-10 attack jets and the destroyer Thomas Hudner were also deployed after Iran tried to seize two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman on July 5, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.
The U.S. Navy destroyer McFaul intervened in both instances, forcing the Iranian vessels to depart the scene.
“One attempt included an Iranian navy ship firing upon the merchant vessel,” Singh said during a press briefing in July. “In light of this continued threat and in coordination with our partners and allies, the department is increasing our presence and ability to monitor the strait and surrounding waters.”
U.S. Central Command claims Iran has attacked or seized approximately 20 vessels since 2021.
American soldier who crossed into North Korea has returned to the US
Pvt. Travis King ran into North Korea while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:35 p.m. EST with a comment from the Pentagon.
SAN ANTONIO — The American soldier who sprinted into North Korea across the heavily fortified border between the Koreas more than two months ago was whisked to a Texas Army base Thursday for medical checks and interviews after his return to the U.S., according to the Pentagon.
While officials have said King, 23, is in good health and the immediate focus will be on caring for him and reintegrating him into U.S. society, his troubles are likely far from over.
King, who had served in South Korea, ran into the North while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18, becoming the first American confirmed to be detained in the isolated country in nearly five years. At the time, he was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, following his release from prison in South Korea on an assault conviction.
He was declared AWOL from the Army, but not considered a deserter. Punishment for going AWOL can vary, and it depends in part on whether the service member voluntarily returned or was apprehended. King’s two-month absence and ultimate handover by the North Koreans makes that more complicated.
King arrived in the early hours of Thursday at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, according to the Pentagon. He will undergo an array of medical and psychological assessments and debriefings, and he will also get a chance to meet with family.
Video aired by a Texas news station showed King walking off a plane. Dressed in a dark top and pants, he could be seen speaking briefly with people waiting on the tarmac. He shook hands with one before being led into a building.
At the Pentagon on Thursday, spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said King will be going through the reintegration process “for the immediate future.” She said the length of time often depends on the person involved.
“He’ll be going through medical screenings, medical evaluations, and then he’ll be meeting with professionals to assess his emotional and mental health well being and he’ll be meeting with counselors,” she said. “This is something that you can’t really put a timetable on.”
Many questions remain about King’s case, including why he fled in the first place and why the North — which has tense relations with Washington over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and other issues — agreed to turn him over.
The White House has not addressed North Korean state media reports that King fled because of his dismay about racial discrimination and inequality in the military and U.S. society.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that King made such complaints but verifying that is impossible.
On Wednesday, Swedish officials took King to the Chinese border, where he was met by U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, the Swedish ambassador to China, and at least one U.S. Defense Department official.
He was then flown to a U.S. military base in South Korea before heading to the U.S.
His detention was relatively short by North Korean standards.
Several recent American detainees had been held for over a year — 17 months in the case of Otto Warmbier, a college student who was arrested during a group tour. Warmbier was in a coma when he was deported, and later died.
North Korea has often been accused of using American detainees as bargaining chips, and there had also been speculation that the North would try to maximize the propaganda value of a U.S. soldier.
But analysts say King’s legal troubles could have limited his propaganda value, and Biden administration officials insisted they provided no concessions to North Korea to secure his release.
Lee and Baldor reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kim Tong-Hyung contributed from Seoul, South Korea.
Gen Z Marine lays out some ideas for fixing military recruitment
Some people think of Gen Z as the “everyone-gets-a-trophy generation,” 2nd Lt. Matthew Weiss said. But that’s not how he sees it.
Marine 2nd Lt. Matthew Weiss was watching a news segment in which senior military officers gave their thoughts on the military’s recruiting crisis when a thought occurred to him.
The generals and admirals who set policy — for whom he has immense respect, he stressed — joined the military 30 years to 35 years ago.
“Hey, a second lieutenant or a new private or lance corporal is the perfect person to actually be talking about these issues,” thought Weiss, now age 25.
So Weiss wrote a book, published in July by Night Vision Publishing, called “We Don’t Want You, Uncle Sam: Examining the Military Recruiting Crisis with Generation Z.”
At 21 chapters, the book covers a lot of ground: emphasizing ways the military can give back to society, increasing remote work options, offering shorter contracts, loosening marijuana policies, eradicating sexual assault and more.
The process of joining the military is still fresh for Weiss, who became a Marine only a year and a half ago, he told Marine Corps Times.
A native of Tenafly, New Jersey, he received a bachelor of science degree and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
After graduating in 2021, he worked at the defense company Anduril before heading to Officer Candidates School in January 2022. Graduating as a Marine officer was one of the happiest moments of his life, he told Marine Corps Times.
Weiss, now a signals intelligence officer stationed in Darwin, Australia, said his reasons for pursuing a commission were twofold.
“Internally, I am patriotic — I’ve always wanted to do something and serve,” he said. “Externally, though, I really saw this as an investment in myself, an investment in being able to learn how to be a leader, an investment in my career, for that matter. I think a lot of Gen Zers are like that now.”
But the Defense Department is having trouble attracting these young adults. In 2022, the services struggled to meet accession targets, and, in early September, with less than a month to spare, the Army had met only two-thirds of its target for the fiscal year.
Military leaders, recruiters and observers have blamed the recruiting challenges on factors ranging from the lure of the private sector to a new medical screening system to “woke” DoD policies to a lack of patriotism and a rise in obesity among Gen Zers.
Some people think of Gen Z as the “everyone-gets-a-trophy generation,” Weiss said.
But that’s not how he sees it.
The generation that grew up during the global financial crisis, the divisive 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and the COVID-19 pandemic has learned to strive in a “more difficult, more competitive world,” Weiss said. Social media, with its numerical feedback of how people stack up to others in the form of likes and followers, also fostered Gen Zers’ competitive streak.
The military needs to offer this generation competition and incentives, Weiss believes.
One approach Weiss proposes is for certain commands to give incentives to squads or units that outperform others. That could come in the form of money — like the “beer money” that accomplished Marine marksmen received in the early 20th century, Weiss said. Or it could come in the form of on-the-spot promotions or more funds for a unit’s birthday ball.
In Weiss’ view, the military also should revamp its policies about which medical conditions disqualify applicants for service. Increasingly, applicants have been forced to seek medical waivers, even for conditions, like allergies or long-healed broken bones, that Weiss thinks may not affect job performance.
Weiss said he doesn’t see his proposals as lowering standards. Rather, he argued, they would attract more qualified applicants, allowing the military to raise standards.
Marine Corps Times asked retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Jennings, 56, who worked in Army recruiting from 1997–2005 and has since worked in civilian recruiting, to weigh in on some of the ideas Weiss proposes.
Dropping the ban on people who have smoked marijuana? Yes. “It was just a farce,” said Jennings, who recalled it was difficult to find teens who hadn’t smoked marijuana in the late 1990s in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Loosening the medical requirements? The military should certainly work to approve waivers for psychological conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder prescriptions, Jennings said. The reason for the strict medical standards, in his view, is that the military wants to prevent people from dropping out of entry-level training because of medical conditions and receiving disability payments for life.
Shorter contract options? “All that is in correlation to how long you’re training,” Jennings said.
Service members receiving longer, more expensive training should have to stay in for longer, the retired soldier said.
Jennings’ view is that a lot of the recruiting challenges could be fixed by rethinking basic training for those in noncombat jobs.
The Marine Corps, in particular, has an emphasis on every Marine being a rifleman who would be ready to fight if needed ― an idea that is core to that service’s ethos.
While Jennings said he liked Army basic training, he didn’t find it particularly relevant to his initial job as a military policeman.
“If you’re joining the Army to be a cook, for example, you’re never going to throw a hand grenade,” he said.
Weiss said he doesn’t want everyone to agree with everything in the book. He just wants to spark discussion.
“Everyone has a say in recruiting, because everyone was recruited,” Weiss said. “Everyone, sort of by nature, has a valid opinion that should be counted and understood.”
What will it take to fix so many lousy barracks? lawmakers ask
"It will take years to address the chronic neglect and underfunding we uncovered" in barracks, GAO says.
Service members have told government auditors about rampant problems in their barracks — to include mold, broken heating and air conditioning systems, cramped rooms, overflowing sewage and much more — but not all service branches are asking troops about those living conditions.
“Service members have a lot to say and are eager for someone to listen,” said Elizabeth Field, director of the Government Accountability Office’s defense capabilities and management team.
“It will take years to address the chronic neglect and underfunding we uncovered,” she told members of the House Armed Services Committee’s quality of life panel Wednesday,
After listening to Field’s testimony, lawmakers said they want to know why some troops are living in such poor conditions, how much funding is needed to fix the problem, and how to ensure better oversight and accountability.
The recent GAO audit of 10 military barracks revealed that DoD has neither adequate information about the condition of barracks nor a complete understanding of how the poor conditions affect morale.
Military members could have let them know.
Mold was a common complaint, Fields said. She quoted one service member who said, “Mold in the barracks makes you feel expendable, like we don’t matter.”
Malfunctioning heating and air conditioning systems are another problem.
“One Marine said, ‘I often wake up at night sweating from the heat, itching from bedbugs and feeling like I am suffocating,’ " Field said.
Safety is also an issue. Some troops reported that their barracks room doors don’t lock, with one member alleging that sexual assaults happen more often than people think, Field said.
Ask the troops
Among the GAO’s 31 recommendations for improving barracks: DoD should require the services to survey troops in their unaccompanied housing in a consistent and comparable way.
The Navy and the Marine Corps are the only two services that survey service members about the quality of their barracks, and none of the services ask whether the condition of their barracks affects their decision about whether to reenlist, Field said.
Their reasons? Some service officials told GAO that troops living in barracks aren’t reliable when it comes to completing surveys or replying to email and telephone inquiries, so it isn’t worth trying to solicit their opinions. “Other officials told us that the condition of the barracks is not a key factor in military retention and therefore doesn’t merit inclusion as a topic in already lengthy surveys,” she said.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a retired Air Force brigadier general who heads up the military quality of life panel, noted that he served as base commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Offutt Air Force Base in his home state. If these conditions had been present in his barracks, he would have been fired, he said.
“Where has the accountability been?” he asked. “We need to put our finger on it and get it fixed. We can’t allow the situation to persist. It’s an issue not only of justice and dignity, but also of military readiness. When service members are preoccupied with their health and safety, they cannot focus on their mission.”
When the new panel began its work, Bacon assumed that they were going to hear primarily about service members and food insecurity. But as they visit bases, “we’ve actually heard more from our military members and family members about the quality of housing and the housing allowance,” he said.
“There’s an urgent need for DoD to implement oversight of our unaccompanied housing and to continue steadfastly in their mission to ensure military families in privatized housing are taken care of,” he said.
No quick fix
Barracks problems are the direct result of “many years of not looking closely at deferred maintenance, the investment,” said Carla Coulson, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for installations, housing and partnerships. “So, now we are, in effect, playing catch up.”
Service officials testified that they recognize there are significant problems and are taking steps to address the GAO’s recommendations. A year ago, the Army inspected every room of every barracks building, Coulson said.
The Army has committed to spending at least $1 billion a year on barracks, she said. From fiscal 2024 through FY 2028, the service can address 113 of the 300 barracks buildings in poor or failing condition, Coulson said. But it will take $6.5 billion — in addition to what they’re already spending— to address all the problems.
If barracks renovations and repairs aren’t fully funded, however, the Army will see 110 barracks in “good or adequate” condition slide down into the “poor or failing” category.
“We don’t make much progress unless we ensure we’re doing preventive maintenance,” she said.
Auditors found there was more sense of ownership of the barracks issue at the installation level.
“We spoke to a number of installation commanders who told us they felt sick about the conditions their junior enlisted service members were living in,” Field said. “They often recounted facing impossible choices between where to put limited funding.”
At one installation, she said, officials requested funds for a new barracks for 10 years in a row and never got the money. “That’s, in part, why installation commanders are throwing up their hands,” she said.
One aspect that troubled the auditors was that defense officials “very much had a hands-off approach to this topic,” Field said. At that level, officials couldn’t answer basic questions: How many barracks are there? Do they comply with standards? How many service members live in unaccompanied housing?
DoD needs to gather the information it needs — such as the condition of barracks — to make more strategic decisions about where to put limited resources, Field said. The department also needs to put uniform barracks standards in place. At th same time, the services need to reevaluate policies on who is required to live in barracks.
“Facility criticality” needs a whole new approach, said Robert Thompson, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. “The fact that these are their homes makes it mission critical.”
The services have been talking with defense officials about the need to identify “livability standards” for barracks, he said.
“It’s clear we have significant work ahead in our unaccompanied housing to provide safe, clean, reliable, comfortable and dignified places for our sailors and Marines to call home,” he said.
If DoD fails to implement all of GAO’s recommendations in a “meaningful and timely manner,” Field said the adency would encourage Congress to put them into law.
Bacon pointed to the roll Congress has played over the past few years to improve privatized family housing, passing legislation to address persistent problems.
“I think we have to do the same thing for our barracks,” he said. “We’re going to put a focus on it, a spotlight on it. But the services also have to tell us what they need.”
Where does your state rank in defense spending?
The Defense Department spent more money in Virginia than any other state.
There were few changes in this year’s rankings of states where the Pentagon spends the bulk of its defense dollars, according to the fiscal 2022 report from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.
The report tracks defense spending across all 50 states and the District of Columbia by totaling the amount of money spent per state on defense contracts and personnel. Virginia, which boasts the headquarters for the Defense Department and various naval bases, claimed the number one spot.
Only one state, meanwhile, dropped out of the top 10. Arizona replaced Washington at the 10 spot. However, the top 10 rankings only account for the number of dollars spent in a specific state. If the rankings were based on dollars spent in contrast to a state’s gross domestic product, Virginia, Hawaii and Connecticut would rank first through third, respectively.
See the total amount of DoD funds spent in each state below:
- Virginia ($62.7 billion)
- Texas ($58 billion)
- California ($56.2 billion)
- Florida ($30.2 billion)
- New York ($28.1 billion)
- Maryland ($26.4 billion)
- Connecticut ($22.3 billion)
- Pennsylvania ($17.9 billion)
- Massachusetts ($15.2 billion)
- Arizona ($15 billion)
- Washington ($14.6 billion)
- Alabama ($14 billion)
- Kentucky ($13.9 billion)
- North Carolina ($13.4 billion)
- Georgia ($13.4 billion)
- Colorado ($12.9 billion)
- District of Columbia ($10.8 billion)
- Illinois ($10.2 billion)
- New Jersey ($9.4 billion)
- Ohio ($8.9 billion)
- Missouri ($8.9 billion)
- Hawaii ($8.8 billion)
- Indiana ($8.6 billion)
- Michigan ($7.6 billion)
- Oklahoma ($7 billion)
- South Carolina ($6.3 billion)
- Utah ($6.1 billion)
- Mississippi ($5.7 billion)
- New Mexico ($4.6 billion)
- Alaska ($4 billion)
- Kansas ($3.7 billion)
- Maine ($3.6 billion)
- Wisconsin ($3.4 billion)
- Louisiana ($3.3 billion)
- Tennessee ($3.1 billion)
- Nevada ($3 billion)
- Iowa ($2.2 billion)
- Minnesota ($2 billion)
- Nebraska ($1.7 billion)
- Rhode Island ($1.6 billion)
- New Hampshire ($1.6 billion)
- Oregon ($1.2 billion)
- Arkansas ($1.2 billion)
- South Dakota ($1.1 billion)
- North Dakota ($0.9 billion)
- Idaho ($0.8 billion)
- Delaware ($0.7 billion)
- Montana ($0.7 billion)
- Wyoming ($0.6 billion)
- West Virginia ($0.6 billion)
- Vermont ($0.6 billion)
Military children’s art featured in White House showcase
First lady Jill Biden unveiled the Military Children's Corner installation, which will feature artwork by children from military families.
Visitors to the White House have something new to feast their eyes on, and perhaps learn from, too.
Jill Biden unveiled a new display, The Military Children’s Corner, in the East Wing hallway on Tuesday, featuring artwork by children from military families. It is part of her White House initiative, called Joining Forces, to support military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors.
The White House said the first lady hopes it will help the public learn about the 4 million kids whose parents are active duty service members, National Guard or reservists, or veterans.
The first lady was one of those kids; she’s the daughter of a Navy signalman. Two of her grandchildren also were tied to the military through their father, Beau, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard. He died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.
“They may not wear a uniform, but they serve our country, too,” Biden said in a written statement, adding that art by the military children she has met in recent years was like a “window into their own lives.”
“Inspired by their stories of kindness, ingenuity and strength, I wanted to bring their art and talents to the White House,” she said. “As visitors enjoy The Military Children’s Corner, I hope they also take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our military families.”
The initial display, located along the East Colonnade, features work by 11 artists, ranging in age from 8-19 and living at U.S. military installations in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Japan. It is among the first displays that tourists and other visitors entering the White House through the East Wing entrance will see. The artwork will be updated quarterly.
The display also features art by Rosita, of Sesame Street, whose father, Ricardo, is a veteran who uses a wheelchair after he was injured during military service.
82nd Airborne Chorus to compete in America’s Got Talent finals
The chorus will perform on NBC on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST.
The 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus will compete Tuesday night in the “America’s Got Talent” final against 10 other acts — and they’re “training to win.”
The ensemble has taken the television show by storm, racking up one of the most viral auditions of the season with their first-round rendition of “My Girl” by the Temptations — a performance that garnered favorable marks from all four judges.
For the live round, the group performed “I am Here” by Pink, with chorus members telling Military Times the song represented the ideals of 82nd Airborne values.
“We wanted to choose a song that not only had a good message for what the 82nd Airborne Division stands for, but really just put it out there to the American population that if there’s ever a need for troops for war ... we just want to let everybody know that we are here and we stand for America,” Staff Sgt. Marcus Gilbert said.
The show’s viewership voted the 82nd singers to advance to the season finale after the live round, a performance in which the soldiers knew they had to “bring something bigger” than traditional Army formations, Spc. Oscar Roldan said.
As part of their performance, the soldiers skipped around stage and executed coordinated movements, diverging from singing in a standard, lined formation. That show, chorus members told Military Times, was the first time the group had ever used choreography meant for the stage. Designing the routine, meanwhile, meant balancing performance art with the Army traditions of bearing and discipline, Roldan said.
“Obviously, we’re not going to get up there and do wigs, like avant-garde,” he added. “I think what we did was the right amount. ... We needed to do more and we needed to be more dynamic. But we also needed to do it in such a way that people now assigned what they saw to our representation of the military.”
As for the chorus’ song choice for such high stakes, the ensemble members remained tight-lipped.
“You know our policy — never let them know your next move,” Roldan said. “It’s gonna be different again, but I think this one’s really gonna touch America’s heart. I truly believe that.”
The chorus will perform on NBC on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. EST. Results of the competition will be released Wednesday by NBC.
Based in Fort Liberty, North Carolina, the chorus represents the 19,000 soldiers who serve in the 82nd Airborne Division. The division specializes in forcible entry operations, during which soldiers parachute into areas to make way for further military action. Soldiers of the 82nd are renowned for being able to deploy within 18 hours notice.
Congress may create medal to honor heroic military dogs
A new decoration that would honor military working dogs is included in the House version of the annual defense bill.
Military working dogs that are killed in action or perform an exceptionally courageous act may be eligible to receive a new decoration thanks to a provision included in the House version of the annual defense bill in Congress.
With the award’s creation, military dogs that have long worked alongside troops on and off the battlefield would be eligible to receive a formal, canine-specific decoration for their service. Dogs first earned an official role as four-legged U.S. fighters with the instatement of the Army K-9 Corps in 1942, though they had worked alongside their two-legged counterparts long before.
“Service dogs are not equipment,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who proposed the measure in Congress, told Military Times. Slotkin added that her life was consistently protected by working dogs during her time in Iraq with the CIA.
Slotkin introduced the amendment to the House version of the 2024 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in July, as a means of throwing courageous canines a bone. The measure is not currently in the Senate version of the annual defense bill and faces a long road ahead before it makes it out of the doghouse to be signed into law. Slotkin noted that she was named last week to the conference committee that will look to bridge the gap between the two versions.
Current forms of Pentagon recognition for military working dogs often come in conjunction with honors given to their handlers. A Military Working Dog Handler Certificate of Commendation may be awarded to handlers “for acts of valor or meritorious achievement on or after 13 August 2018, by such handlers and their working dog,” according to an Air Force memo. The certificate includes the handler’s information and may also include the military working dog’s name. Service members told Military Times they have also seen military canines awarded achievement medals in an unofficial capacity.
Six-year-old year old Rosco, a Belgian Malinois patrol drug detector dog, has been partnered with Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittney Turco since January.
“He’s the one doing most of the work using his … capabilities of a dog that a human can’t do,” said Turco, a canine handler with the 802nd Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. “I would say they are the true heroes at the end of the day.”
Approximately 275 dogs are trained each year at Lackland, where an internal breeding program is used to produce 10% to 15% of military working dogs, Christa D’Andrea, a spokesperson for the 37th Training Wing, told Military Times. Dogs at Lackland, also home to the 37th Training Wing’s 341st Training Squadron, go on to support DoD missions and other government agencies like the Secret Service.
There are currently around 1,600 military working dogs in service in various assignments around the world, D’Andrea said, with 77% of those roles serving in explosive detection capacities.
The measure to create the military working dog decoration is also included in a bill Slotkin introduced earlier this summer. The congresswoman, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, has previously championed legislation for military dogs, sponsoring in 2021 the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act as a means of connecting veterans with service dogs in their communities.
Other possible medals awarded beyond the scope of the Defense Department include the Dickin Medal from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals and those from the group Animals in War & Peace.
The nonprofit American Humane’s Hero Dog Awards offers another opportunity for pooches in the armed forces to earn an accolade for their service. Four-year-old German shorthaired pointer Buda is this year’s top military dog in the competition.
The black and white K-9 has participated in over 185 operational deployments and engagements, including performing safety sweeps of vessels, security at events like Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles and serving in response to bomb threats.
Buda and his handler, Petty Officer First Class Chase Leamer, 29, a maritime enforcement specialist with the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team West, have worked together for about two years.
“It would be awesome to have these dogs awarded as much as the normal service member is awarded for how hard they work,” Leamer told Military Times.
Slotkin’s office said this legislation, however, may not apply to the Coast Guard. Instead, Coast Guard pups fall under the Department of Homeland Security and are typically termed “explosives detection dog” or “explosives detection canine.”
“America’s bravest military men, women and military working dogs give so much to our country and need our support. Their sacrifices should be recognized,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, told Military Times in a statement. “We support efforts in Congress to create a new decoration for military working dogs who are killed in action or who perform courageous acts. It’s the right thing to do.”