The United States Army’s mission is to provide ground forces for American military operations and wars. Since the founding of the country, the Army has played key roles in major military campaigns, from the Revolutionary War to World Wars I and II to the Iraq War and current ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Military operations in Iraq were the source of much controversy for the Army, including scandals involving prisoner abuse and fraud by Army contractors. The war in Afghanistan has also had its share of scandals, including the abuse of Afghan corpses by U.S. soldiers, and the murder of 16 innocent civilians by a U.S. Army sergeant.
The United States Army is the oldest branch of the U.S. armed services, originating during the Revolutionary War as the Continental Army. It fought its first major battle at Lexington and Concord during the war for independence, which lasted until 1783. Due to fears that a standing military might constitute a threat to the fledgling democracy, the new U.S. government disbanded the army and navy following the war. This left the United States in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis England, which continued to maintain military forces near the Great Lakes and to harass American shipping.
Following the seizure of several American ships in the early 19th century, the U.S. government declared war on England in 1812. At the dawn of the conflict, the U.S. Army totaled approximately 12,000 officers and men, including an estimated 5,000 new recruits. The War of 1812 was marked by numerous military failures, including the capture and burning of Washington D.C., by British forces.
For the next 40 years the Army was preoccupied with helping settle the American West, as Manifest Destiny encouraged settlers to move into the outer reaches of U.S. territory. The U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845 provoked the outbreak of the Mexican-American War that lasted from 1846 to 1848. When the war began, the U.S. Army had only 8,600 officers and men, and almost half were assigned to frontier defense. Because more than 30 years had elapsed since the last war, most of the soldiers had no combat experience. In response to the manpower shortage, Congress authorized the president to call up 50,000 volunteers, who, after receiving a bare minimum of training, left for Mexico.
In spite of the its lack of battle-tested veterans, the Army succeeded in winning the conflict and forcing Mexico to give up not only Texas, but the territories that would be become Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, California, Nevada, and Utah.
The Civil War (1860-1865) marked the greatest test for members of the Army up until that time. Just as the rest of the country became divided over the secession of the Southern states, officers and enlisted men in the Army had to choose between fighting in the Union Army or the Confederate Army. Robert E. Lee was among the Army’s best generals whose loyalty resided with the Confederacy. Although the Union Army enjoyed advantages stemming from the North’s industrial superiority, Lee’s Confederate forces won several early victories in the war, including the Battle of Bull Run. The Union Army was forced to shake up its leadership as a result of these embarrassing losses, and it was not until the accession of generals Ulysses Grant and William T. Sherman that the Union Army began to turn the tide of the war in favor of the North.
For the remainder of the 19th century, the Army was engaged in numerous bloody conflicts with Native American tribes, as Americans continued settling the West. The Dakota War of 1862 involved the death of several hundred U.S. soldiers and Native Americans, along with the trial of 300 Sioux on counts of murder and rape by American military tribunals, many resulting in death sentences. Most of the death sentences were commuted, but on in December 1862, 38 Dakota Sioux men were hanged by the Army in the largest mass execution in US history. The most infamous event between Army soldiers and Native Americans came at the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where 500 troops gunned down 300 Sioux men, women, and children.
World War I marked the beginning of the U.S. Army’s introduction to modern warfare. The conflict featured the use of new forms of warfare, including tanks and chemical weapons, for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) led by Major General John “Black Jack” Pershing. Of the more than 500,000 “doughboys” to serve in the AEF, approximately 234,000 were wounded and 50,000 were killed in action or died of wounds. Some AEF soldiers (almost 8,000) participated in an aborted invasion of Russia to help support the “White Army” during the Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Czars.
Following the end of WWI, Army veterans were promised by Congress a bonus payment of $1,000, although payment wasn’t due until 1945. As the Depression deepened in 1932, some 12,000 to 15,000 veterans and their families began to converge on the nation’s capital demanding immediate payment of the bonus. The so-called “Bonus Army” camped out in shantytowns outside Washington, D.C., and eventually grew to 25,000 in population. When the Bonus Army became too much of an embarrassment to President Herbert Hoover, the regular Army was called out to disperse the veterans, resulting in several deaths.
When world war reached the United States for a second time in 1941, the U.S. Army was called upon to help America fight a two-front war. In the European Theater, American GIs under the leadership of generals George Patton, Mark Clark, and Omar Bradley participated in key engagements in North Africa, Italy, and the Normandy invasion that led to the liberation of France. Elements of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division also played a historic role in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last-ditch attempt to stave off. In the Pacific Theater, Army units participated in “island hopping” campaigns to capture key island regions from Japanese forces. GIs encountered intense fighting during successful campaigns on Guadalcanal, the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, New Guinea, and the Philippines, among other engagements.
Contrary to earlier post-war periods, the era following WWII was not marked by a downsizing of the Army. Instead, infantry and armored divisions were maintained, if not expanded, as part of the United States preparation for potential hostilities against the Soviet Union. U.S. Army divisions made up a significant portion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces guarding Western Europe, and other American units saw heavy action in the Korean War.
During the Cold War (circa 1947–1991, a period of tensions between the U.S. and its NATO allies and the USSR and its communist allies), the Army developed a role in America’s strategic nuclear weapons. While the Air Force controlled missile silos, the Army was charged with providing a defense against nuclear attack. This responsibility ranged from manning early-warning radar systems to developing tactical missiles to shoot down ballistic nuclear-tipped missiles fired at the U.S. Early efforts (pdf) included the Safeguard system using Spartan and Sprint missiles. Later the Patriot missile system was deployed during the Gulf War to help defend Israel from Scud tactical ballistic missiles fired by Iraq.
Also during the Cold War, the Army ramped up its intelligence division. Earlier intelligence efforts during World War I and II concentrated on protecting Army communications and signaling systems from being acquired by the enemy. As espionage activities between the U.S. and Soviet Union grew in scope, the Army expanded its own efforts of counterintelligence. In time the Army created the 66th Military Intelligence Group in Germany, the 470th Military Intelligence Group in Panama, the 500th Military Intelligence Group in Japan and the 501st Military Intelligence Group in Korea.
Army intelligence gathering got out of hand, however, during the Vietnam War, as Army agents were ordered to spy on war protesters and Army personnel who refused to fight in the war. With the advent of large-scale antiwar protests, the Army argued that the files of the FBI, Justice Department and other agencies were not adequate for its intelligence needs. The Army extended its purview into areas normally reserved to regular law enforcement bodies, which was done without congressional approval, and in some cases, clandestine activities were done without the knowledge of Army civilian officials. The Army compiled dossiers on between 2,000 and 5,000 individuals and numerous political organizations, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Army also circulated to base commanders a six-volume “blacklist” of dissidents and their organizations.
The Army’s spying on Americans during the Vietnam War added to the marring of its reputation during the 1960s and early 1970s. While 38,000 soldiers died in combat, the war’s unpopularity at home led to heated protests, and many soldiers were labeled “baby killers” following reports of atrocities. The worst such incident occurred at the village of My Lai where elements of the 23rd Infantry Division murdered almost 500 South Vietnamese. The controversy also exposed an attempt by the Army’s leadership, led by General William Westmoreland, to cover up details of the incident. Army leadership was accused of similar attempts to limit the American public’s knowledge about military activities in the Vietnam War. These efforts became apparent after the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. Meanwhile, Army rank-and-file suffered from numerous cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and undiagnosed medical conditions stemming from chemicals, such as Agent Orange, employed by the U.S. military.
During the 1970s, after the U.S. pulled out of South Vietnam, the Army went through a period of decline as young Americans turned away from military service and the federal government did away with the draft. With the election of President Ronald Reagan, however, the federal government made a concerted effort to revitalize the reputation of the U.S. military. The Army revamped its recruiting and marketing campaigns (“Be All You Can Be”) to appeal to a new generation of young recruits. Military campaigns in Grenada and Panama were used to emblazon a new patriotism in the country, culminating in the U.S. army’s significant role in the Gulf War in 1990-1991. Operation Desert Storm showcased the military’s arsenal of high-tech weaponry, including the Army’s Abrams Tank, which served as the backbone of American armored units that rolled across Iraq with lightning quickness. The minimal number of U.S. casualties gave the Army a new sense of invincibility, even though many veterans later suffered from serious undiagnosed maladies known as Gulf War Syndrome.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Army became an integral part of the Bush administration’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) campaign. Army Rangers and other Special Operations units played key roles in the invasion of Afghanistan to route al Qaeda and its Taliban allies governing the country. Army armored divisions led the 100,000-strong invasion of Iraq in 2003 that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein in a matter of just a few months. But with the end of the fighting against the Iraqi army, U.S. soldiers soon were confronted with a different, more elusive enemy in the form of Iraqi guerrilla fighters using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried along roadsides. Again and again Army units suffered small, but mounting casualties in roadside bombings while commanders and politicians debated whether ground forces were deployed in sufficient numbers to quell attacks or if any progress was being made in winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. This latter concern was thwarted by revelations of abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel (see Controversies).
Until 2007 President George W. Bush steadfastly refused to increase the number of Army units in Iraq. Finally, in the wake of the 2006 election that saw Republicans lose control of Congress to Democrats, the President ordered the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops. With increasing Iraqi protests over the ongoing occupation of its country, the U.S. negotiated and signed an agreement with the Iraqi government in 2008 for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama completed the troop withdrawal that December, but a residual staff of 2,000 diplomats has remained behind in the U.S. Embassy, along with 14,000 contractors.
In Afghanistan, U.S. military operations did not cease following the 2001 ousting of the Taliban. With NATO support, the U.S. military has continued to battle Taliban guerrilla forces while supporting the country’s corrupt regime headed by President Hamid Karzai. It has also staged ongoing CIA-operated drone attacks on enemy troops in neighboring Pakistan, some of which have killed innocent civilians. Those collateral deaths, along with the secret Navy SEALS operation on Pakistani soil to assassinate notorious al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, have outraged Pakistan and shaken its relationship with the U.S.
In 2009, President Obama increased U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan by 30,000 and announced his plan to withdraw all troops by 2014. Given shrinking support for the war in the U.S. and NATO, and plagued by repeated scandals—the murder of innocent Afghan civilians and the abuse of Afghan corpses by members of the U.S. Army, along with the revelation of the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base—President Obama announced that 23,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end of September 2012, and all remaining troops removed by the end of 2014.
The United States Army’s mission is to provide ground forces for American military operations and wars. Combat forces generally consist of foot soldiers, or infantry, or soldiers who man tanks and artillery that make up armored units. Other Army personnel provide a variety of support duties, from engineering to medical care to fuel and food.
To facilitate coordination and effectiveness in combat, the Army separates its personnel into groupings, or units, of different sizes. The smallest of these units are squads, composed of four to 10 soldiers. Platoons consist of three or four squads (or 16-40 soldiers); companies, three to four platoons (100-200 soldiers); battalions, three to five companies (500-600 soldiers); brigades, three or more battalions (3,000-5,000 soldiers); divisions, three brigades (10,000-18,000 soldiers); and corps, two to five divisions. A hierarchical structure of these units, plus a listing of the type of ranks that command each units, is found in the Army’s Operational Unit Diagram.
The Army employs a vast array of weapons and equipment as part of its military operations. Examples of its military hardware include aircraft, air defense artillery, anti-armor weapons, indirect fire systems, individual & crew-served weapons & equipment, nuclear, biological, chemical defense equipment, tracked vehicles and wheeled vehicles.
Army forces deployed overseas, currently numbering about 196,248, come under the command of different geographical regions. US Army Central (USARCENT) covers the Middle East, parts of northeast Africa and southwest Asia. Central Command also oversees the Army’s ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, where, as of June 2012, there were reportedly 103,700 soldiers deployed. Some of the units stationed are:
Among the Army’s other regional commands is US Army North (USARNORTH), which covers all of North America. US Army South (USARSO) covers Central and South America. US Army Europe (USAREUR) covers Western and parts of Central Europe, including Bosnia. US Army Pacific (USARPAC) covers most of the Asia-Pacific region except Korea which comes under the command of the Eighth Army (EUSA).
In addition to the geographic commands, the Army has US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) which oversees all of the Army’s elite commando units, or Special Ops, including Airborne, Rangers, and Night Stalkers.
There’s also the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) which is responsible for transporting Army units and supplies around the world. This is different from US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), which oversees the strategic deployment of Army units throughout the world.
US Army Material Command (AMC) is the Army’s lead office for procurement and developing new weapons and other materials used by soldiers. AMC’s motto is, “If a soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, communicates with it, or eats it—AMC provides it.” Much of what the command provides to the Army is through defense contractors (see Stakeholders).
US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) controls the Army’s operations and facilities that support U.S. nuclear forces and missile defense, including radar systems and new anti-missile defenses.
US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) plans and conducts intelligence, security, and information operations for Army commanders, as well for the president and other top federal officials. INSCOM underwent downsizing following the end of the Cold War, but has seen a resurgence of its mission since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.
US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) is responsible for providing all facets of medical care to Army personnel. It runs eight Army medical centers, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which was the source of much controversy in 2007 (see Controversies).
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) not only has designed buildings and infrastructure for the Army but also important water projects throughout the country, from dams to levees. The Corps was one of many federal entities blamed for the flooding of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck (see Controversies).
US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command (Army) (NETCOM/9thSC(A)) is the primary component for maintaining communications between all units and levels of the Army.
US Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC) is the Army’s primary criminal investigative organization responsible for the conduct of criminal investigations in which the Army is, or may be, a party of interest. CID Special Agents conduct criminal investigations that range from death to fraud, on and off military reservations and when appropriate, with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
US Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) oversees testing centers and facilities that examine and analyze weapons and non-weapons systems employed by the Army and other segments of the Department of Defense. Among the facilities that ATEC manages is the White Sands Missile Range, long a key research locale for testing new rockets and missiles.
All of the aforementioned commands can be viewed as part of the Army’s entire organizational command structure.
From the Web Site of the Department of the Army
The United States Army’s mission is to provide ground forces for American military operations and wars. Combat forces generally consist of foot soldiers, or infantry, or soldiers who man tanks and artillery that make up armored units. Other Army personnel provide a variety of support duties, from engineering to medical care to fuel and food.
The Department of the Army spent more than $1.2 billion on more than 7,000 contractor transactions between FY 2002 and FY 2012, according to USASpending.gov. The five top types of products or services purchased were automatic data processing (ADP) and telecommunications ($314,944,001), administrative support ($127,010,467), engineering and technical services ($114,571,087), miscellaneous items ($97,126,086), and social rehabilitation services ($94,941,954).
The top five contractors who have been recipients of this spending are:
1. CRGT Inc. $305,113,447
2. United Solutions and Services LLC $125,461,652
3. Research Analysis and Maintenance Inc. $97,504,910
4. The Salvation Army $90,477,999
5. Government of the United States $53,619,541
Almost all of the weapons, equipment and supplies used by the U.S. Army are provided through defense contractors. For FY 2013, about $19.6 billion is earmarked for procurement. Of that total, $6.3 billion is targeted for aircraft, with funding for modernization going to the Chinook ($1.4 billion), the Black Hawk ($1.2 billion), the Apache ($1.2 billion), and $518 million for 19 unmanned Gray Eagle systems. The Army is requesting about $2 billion for missile and ammunition procurement, including the Patriot Advanced Missile Capability-3 program, which includes a funding request for 84 missiles and 38 launchers. The Army is also asking for $1.5 billion for tracked vehicles, including $379 million for the Stryker vehicle, $204 million for the Abrams tank, and $184 million for the Bradley Program modifications.
According to USAspending.gov, in FY 2007, 79,087 different companies received Department of Defense contracts totaling $312 billion. However, the top six companies— Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and BAE Systems—received almost one-third of that money.
General Dynamics manufactures the M1 Abrams tank, the Army’s main battle tank. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle, another mainstay of armored units, is built by BAE Systems Land and Armaments. The Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle is made by General Dynamics.
The primary assault rifle used by soldiers since Vietnam is the M16, built by Colt, which also builds the Army’s M203 Grenade Launcher. The Army had planned to replace the M16 with the XM8 Light Assault Rifle, produced by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch, but the contract was cancelled in 2005. The Army also relies on Beretta for its 9mm pistols.
In many cases the manufacture of a weapons system involves multiple defense contractors. Components of the Army’s Apache attack helicopter include the airframe (Boeing) and fire control radar (Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin). The Black Hawk helicopter is built by United Technologies and General Electric. The Chinook transport helicopter is provided by Boeing, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, and Robertson Aviation.
The Patriot Missile System is built by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire command-link guided) Missile System is a product of Hughes (missiles), Hughes and Kollsman (night sights) and Electro Design Manufacturing (launchers). The Army employs several types of Howitzer artillery cannons produced by Rock Island Arsenal, Watervliet Arsenal, Seller Instruments, and Royal Ordnance, UK.
The Army also utilizes contractors to provide a variety of logistics and other services. A subsidiary of Halliburton, long known as an oil services provider with strong ties to the Bush administration, was until 2006 providing soldiers with food, shelter and communications with friends and family back home through a billion-dollar exclusive-rights contract (see Controversies).
Private security contractors also have been hired by the Army to provide specially trained personnel for operations in Iraq. This included the hiring of employees of CACI International Inc. and the Titan Corporation who wound up implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal (see Controversies).
Gay Soldier Booed at Republican Presidential Debate
A gay Army captain was booed by Republicans during the 2012 presidential primary when the issue was raised of how to deal with homosexuals in the military.
At a debate of GOP candidates in Orlando, Florida, Army Capt. Stephen Hill, who appeared at the event via YouTube video, told the audience that he’d had to lie about his sexuality in order “to serve the country he loved.”
“My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?” Hill asked the candidates.
Several loud boos echoed through the debate hall following Hill’s question.
“And none of the candidates so much as uttered a peep about the shockingly overt display of bigotry and disrespect for someone who was risking his life in an immoral war of choice being waged to serve interests championed by most Republicans,” wrote Brett Wilkins at Moral Low Ground.
A few months later, Hill and his husband, Joshua Snyder, filed a lawsuit against the federal government for equal spousal benefits. He claimed his rights were being violated because the military would not grant Snyder benefits.
Debate Crowd Booed Gay Soldier (Z. Byron Wolf, ABC News)
Candidates Silent After Audience Boos Gay Solider During Republican Presidential Debate (by Brett Wilkins, Moral Low Ground)
Booed At GOP Debate, Gay Soldier Now Campaigns Against DOMA (by David Taintor, TPM)
Capt. Stephen Hill, Gay Soldier Booed At GOP Debate, Pushes For Marriage Equality (by Erin Mershon, Huffington Post)
Comments Over Covert Operations Into North Korea
U.S. Army General Neil Tolley was relieved of his command following controversial remarks about secret incursions into North Korea by American special forces.
Tolley said at a Florida conference in May 2012 that U.S. and South Korean commandoes had parachuted into North Korea to spy on underground installations.
A few weeks after making his remarks, Tolley was replaced as the top commander of special operations in South Korea. The Army claimed the move was planned all along and that it had nothing to do with Tolley’s statements.
Tolley later said he was not misquoted. But he did insist he misspoke. He claimed the U.S. has at no time sent special operations forces into North Korea, which is technically still at war with South Korea because the two lands never signed a peace treaty when the Korean war ended in an armistice in 1953.
Controversy Follows Comments on Military Operations in N.Korea (The Chosunilbo)
US General Who Misspoke on North Korea is Replaced (by Paula Hancocks, CNN)
U.S. General Admits He Misspoke On North Korea (by Paula Hancocks, CNN)
Canceled Programs Cost Billions
The U.S. Army has wasted billions of dollars each year canceling weapons programs, according to an internal study.
A group of advisers assembled by the Army determined that canceled programs consumed between $3.3 billion and $3.8 billion annually since 2004.
The lost dollars represented an average of 35% to 45% of the Army’s yearly budget for development, testing, and engineering.
Among the cancellations in recent years was the costly Future Combat Systems program.
Army leaders have tried to assuage Congress by explaining that canceled programs can be “harvested” for parts and used in other programs.
For instance, new technology developed for the canceled Future Combat Systems 155mm artillery weapon was used for Paladid, a self-propelled howitzer. Another example involved reinvesting funds from the canceled Comanche helicopter program back into other aviation efforts.
Army Harvests Technology From Canceled Programs (by Kris Osborn, Army News Service)
Soldiers Burn Qurans
Riots erupted in Afghanistan during February 2012 after news broke that U.S. troops had burned 100 books, including Qurans, at Bagram Air Base. The Army personnel responsible reportedly removed the holy books from the base library as part of a planned purge of some 2,000 books that were believed to be holding potentially extremist messages and notes placed in them by detainees at the base.
At least 30 Afghans died during the riots, which lasted several days, and six American service members were killed in three separate incidents.
After conducting two investigations, the U.S. military punished six Army soldiers for burning the Qurans.
But no criminal charges were brought against the four officers and two non-commissioned officers. Instead, they received administrative discipline, which was severe enough to end their careers in the service.
Quran Burning Investigations Completed (by Barbara Starr, CNN)
Military Punishes Soldiers For Quran Burning, Marines For Urinating On Taliban Corpses (by Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, NBC News)
No Criminal Charges for Soldiers in Koran Burning (by Luis Martinez, ABC News)
2012 Afghanistan Quran Burning Protests (Wikipedia)
4 Killed In Afghanistan Amid Outrage Over Quran Burning (by Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN)
U.S. Probe Of Koran Burning Finds 5 Troops Responsible, Officials Say; Afghans Demand Trial (by Kevin Sieff, Washington Post)
U.S. Troops Pose with Deceased Afghan Bombers
U.S. paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division were caught in 2012 having taken photos with the remains of dead Afghan suicide bombers.
A platoon from the 82nd was sent out two years earlier to recover the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber in Afghanistan’s Zabol province. After inspecting the body parts with local police, the soldiers posed for photos next to the corpse’s severed legs.
The same platoon did a similar thing a few months later when soldiers posed for pictures next to the remains of three insurgents who had accidentally blown themselves up.
The Army promised a full investigation and to “take appropriate action” against those involved.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who had asked that the photos not be published, publicly apologized for the incident, which followed other embarrassing episodes involving American military personnel. Those included a video showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses, the burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base, which sparked riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans, and the slaughter of 16 Afghan civilians by an Army sergeant who attacked two villages in a single night.
U.S. Troops Posed With Body Parts Of Afghan Bombers (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)
Controversial Afghan War Photos: Readers React (Los Angeles Times)
US 82nd Airborne Soldiers Posed for Photos with Body Parts of Dead Afghan Resistance Fighters (by Bret Wilkins, Moral Low Ground)
Murder of Afghan Civilians
An Army sergeant was arrested in March 2012 for murdering 16 civilians, including nine children, and wounding six other people, in southern Afghanistan.
The killings took place during a single night, during which Staff Sergeant Robert Bales methodically gunned down Afghans in two different villages.
In addition to taking steroids and drinking alcohol, Bales reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving four combat deployments. He also suffered a concussive head injury during his service.
Bales was seen returning to his remote special operations base after the shootings with his clothes covered in blood. Military investigators determined that DNA evidence on his clothing matched the blood from one of the shooting scenes.
In addition, some of Bales’ fellow soldiers said the 39-year-old sergeant had practically admitted to killing people that night outside of the base.
The Army planned to seek the death penalty against Bales if he is convicted of the murders, while the defense would likely raise mental health problems as a mitigating circumstance.
Army Seeks Death For Sgt. Robert Bales In Afghan Shooting Rampage (by Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times)
Army Sgt. Robert Bales charged with murdering 17 Afghans (by Craig Whitlock and Richard Leiby, Washington Post)
Sixteen Afghan Civilians Killed In Rogue U.S. Attack (by Ahmad Nadem and Ahmad Haroon, Reuters)
Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Leads to Bestiality Question
Following the repeal of the military’s anti-homosexual policy, the Obama administration was attacked for allegedly trying to remove restrictions on bestiality.
The revocation of “don’t ask, don’t tell” required the Defense Department to update the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To facilitate this task, Congress added language to a defense appropriations bill that would have eliminated a clause prohibiting sodomy and bestiality from the UCMJ.
Pentagon officials said the changes were simply legal housekeeping, due to the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sodomy prohibition years ago, and that bestiality was already prohibited by other sections of the UCMJ.
Nevertheless, the bill’s language produced cries from animal rights advocates and conservatives who feared the administration was signaling that it was okay to have sex with animals.
Language Banning Sodomy, Bestiality To Stay In UCMJ (by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)
Controversial U.S. Military Bases
The U.S. military controls vast amounts of real estate in 46 countries and American territories for use as Army, naval, and air bases. But five bases in particular have created controversy for various reasons over the years (and at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $14 billion).
Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, placing it in an ideal strategic location. From there, the U.S. military can launch missions to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, particularly Afghanistan. It has garnered bad press because the U.S., which leases the base from Great Britain, kicked out 2,000 of the island’s original inhabitants without concern or compensation and rounded up their animals and gassed them.
Incirlik Air Base in Southern Turkey has been vital for conducting operations in nearby Iraq. It also houses nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Russia has never been happy about the location of nukes so close to its southern flank, and Turkish leaders have at times objected to certain missions conducted from the base.
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is perhaps the most famous of controversial American bases, due its role in detaining hundreds of terrorism suspects without trial.
The Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan has played a key role in supplying the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Russia, which once controlled Kyrgyzstan under the former Soviet Union, wants the U.S. out of the base so it can reassert its influence on the former satellite.
Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa, which is part of Japan, has been used by the U.S. since World War II for staging operations in Asia. The Japanese actually pay Washington for using the base, which doesn’t sit well with many in Japan. Also, several high-profile rape cases involving American servicemen and Okinawan women have made the base a hotbed of controversy.
Five Expensive US Military Bases Spark Controversy Abroad (by Patrick Winn, GlobalPost)
Diego Garcia Military Base: Islanders Forcibly Deported (by Sherwood Ross, Global Research)
Guantánamo Bay: The Most Dangerous Prisoners In The World In Chains (by Sean Rayment, The Telegraph)
Russia Strengthens Its Hand In Central Asia (by John Drennan, Central Asia Newswire)
Racist Attack and Murder of Asian-American Soldier
Eight American soldiers serving in Afghanistan were charged in connection with the shooting death of a fellow soldier.
In October 2011, Private Danny Chen, 19, was found dead in a guard tower in Kandahar province with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Following an investigation into Chen’s death, the Army brought charges against eight soldiers who hazed and harassed the private to the point that he wanted to kill himself.
A lawyer for Chen’s family told the media that soldiers called Chen “Jackie Chen” while using a derisive accent. He was also dragged across a floor, had stones thrown at him and was forced to hold liquid in his mouth while being held upside down as part of a hazing ritual.
Five of the eight soldiers were charged with negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter. Others were charged with making a false official statement, dereliction of duty, and assault consummated by battery.
But none of the soldiers were convicted of negligent homicide.
Chen’s platoon leader, First Lt. Daniel Schwartz, was kicked out of the Army for his role in the ordeal. Most of the others received light sentences in a military prison and all were demoted in rank.
Soldier Says Chen Shared Suicidal Thoughts (Associated Press)
Pvt. Danny Chen's Platoon Leader To Be Removed From Army; 1st Lt. Daniel L. Schwartz Last Soldier To Be Punished In Case (by Drew Brooks, Fay Observer)
Death of Asian-American Soldier Prompts Debate About Army Culture (by Arun Venugopal, WNYC)
Rapper Soulja Boy Banned from U.S. Military Bases
Rapper Soulja Boy was heavily criticized in 2011 by current and former members of the U.S. military after releasing a new song that said “f—k” the Army and federal law enforcement.
In the song “Let’s Be Real,” Soulja Boy raps the lyrics: “F—k the FBI and the Army troops/ Fighting for what/ Be your own man.”
The timing of the song’s release also was controversial, coming near the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
In response to criticism of “Let’s Be Real,” the rapper issued an apology to members of the military.
“When I expressed my frustration with the U.S. Army, not only did my words come out wrong, I was wrong to even speak them,” Soulja Boy said in a prepared statement. “So, I write this to give my sincerest apology to all members of the United States military services, as well as their families that were offended by my most recent lyrics.”
He also promised free concerts to soldiers. However, many in the Army signed a petition to get Soulja Boy banned from all military bases.
Soulja Boy To Be Banned From U.S. Military Bases Because Of Song (by Jessica Sinclair, Long Island Press)
Soulja Boy Causes Controversy Over Anti-FBI & Army Lyrics (by Mark Iraheta, Complex Music)
Gates Ends Controversial “Stop Loss” Policy
After years of complaints from soldiers and their families, the U.S. Army ended its controversial policy of “stop loss,” which allowed the service to keep men and women in uniform—and sometimes send them back to war—after their commitments were over.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who pushed for ending stop loss, announced in 2011 that the practice had ended.
The military justified stop-lossing soldiers because of the manpower needed to fight two wars at once, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan.
Regardless of this need, Gates said he had been troubled by the practice, calling it a strain on soldiers and those who depend on them back home. In addition, the method also has been used to deploy troops to Somalia, Haiti, and other places.
Approximately 120,000 soldiers were subjected to stop-loss orders by the time the policy was revoked.
Gates Makes Good On Promise To End Controversial 'Stop Loss' Policy (by Larry Shaughnessy, CNN)
Stop-loss Policy (Wikipedia)
After making disparaging remarks about President Barack Obama and his advisers, Army General Stanley McChrystal was forced to resign in 2010 as the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.
In an article published by Rolling Stone magazine, McChrystal mocked Obama and his national security team. The general also said the president was unprepared for their first private meeting, and McChrystal was critical of the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, former Army General Karl Eikenberry.
McChrystal was called back to Washington after the story broke, and after meeting with Obama, tendered his resignation.
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” Obama told the media. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”
Obama replaced McChrystal with General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and the former commanding general in Iraq.
Why Is General McChrystal Teaching an Off-the-Record Course at Yale? (by Gian Gentile, The Atlantic)
Army Body Armor Fails Testing
The U.S. Army tried, and tried again, to correct problems with body armor being provided to soldiers fighting overseas.
In 2009, the Army had to overhaul its methods for testing body armor plates after the equipment experienced repeated failures. The problem was discovered by the Defense Department’s inspector general (IG) who found that three of eight armor designs that had been certified as safe later failed in tests. As a result, the IG recommended that the Army recall 16,413 body armor plates.
In an effort to correct the situation, the Army ordered all suppliers of military body armor to have their materials tested at the Army’s Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Maryland.
Prior to that, contractors were permitted to test their products at private labs certified by the U.S. National Institute of Justice.
Two years later, the IG again reported bad news with the Army’s body armor. The 2011 report said the Army failed to properly test five million plates of body armor that were to be used to protect soldiers on the battlefield.
The IG said the testing was either improperly done or not done at all.
Army’s Procedures for Testing Body Armor Stir Controversy (by Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense)
Army’s Body-Armor Testing Spurs Debate (Associated Press)
Army Fails Test of Body Armor for Troops (International Business Times)
U.S. Military Fires on Reuters Journalists
Two employees of the British news service Reuters were attacked in 2007 by a U.S. Army helicopter seeking out insurgents in Baghdad, Iraq.
A video taken from the Apache helicopter that was released by WikiLeaks in April 2010 showed the Army pilot firing on men on a Baghdad street. Two of the individuals—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—turned out to be an Iraqi photographer and a driver, both of whom worked for Reuters.
The two men died as a result of the strafing. For two years afterward, Reuters sought investigations into the deaths, but the U.S. military withheld information claiming it was classified.
IRAQ: Controversial Video Of U.S. Military Shooting (Los Angeles Times)
Namir Noor-Eldeen (Wikipedia)
Controversial Rule on Soldiers Getting Pregnant Is Reversed
A controversial order from a U.S. Army general in Iraq that punished soldiers for getting pregnant, or impregnating another soldier, was reversed by senior commanders in 2009, effective in 2010.
The no-pregnancy rule, written to include the possibility of punishments ranging from minor disciplinary action to court martial, was imposed by Major General Anthony Cucolo, commander of American forces in northern Iraq. His aim had been to underscore the fact that a soldier weakened a unit by leaving it because of pregnancy. The order affected 22,000 soldiers, including 1,682 women.
During his command, eight women became pregnant. Four were given letters of reprimand, while the other four were not punished because they were not deployed at the time they were impregnated.
Three of the men involved in the pregnancies were also reprimanded.
War-Zone Pregnancy Punishments Being Dropped (by Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press)
Defense Contractor Moonlights with Prostitution Ring
While supporting the U.S. military in Iraq, a manager of a major defense contractor operated a prostitution ring on the side.
Barry Halley, a former project manager for Worldwide Network Services, said his site manager—who was employed by DynCorp—moonlighted as a sex ring operator. The customers of the nefarious operation were other American contractors.
Halley added that a coworker of his was killed while traveling in an unsecure car, due to the fact that the armored car he should have been using was being utilized to transport prostitutes from Kuwait to Baghdad.
The prostitution ring was eventually shut down after DynCorp executives got wind of what was going on.
The incident reminded some of an earlier controversy involving DynCorp, when some of its workers were involved in a Bosnia sex-slave trade.
Due to red tape and jurisdictional loopholes most private companies such as DynCorp avoid prosecution for such crimes committed overseas.
Contractors Gone Wild (by Bruce Falconer, Mother Jones)
Military Contractor Skullduggery Afoot In Iraq (by Jason Linkins, Huffington Post)
DynCorp Used Amored Car To Transport Hookers (No World System)
Bible Verses Imprinted on Rifle Scopes
A weapons manufacturer in Michigan came under scrutiny in 2010 after it was revealed the company’s rifle scopes—which were sold to the U.S. military—included references to the Bible.
Trijicon, whose mission statement said it strove to follow morals “based on Biblical standards,” had provided scopes to the Army and the Marines for use in Iraq and Afghanistan—primarily Muslim nations.
What Trijicon had done was print numerical Bible passages near the scopes’ stock numbers. For instance, one read JN8:12, which referred to John 8:12. (“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”)
Including religious references on the equipment violated U.S. military rules that prohibit proselytizing by service members. The controversy threatened to cost Trijicon, which had several multimillion-dollar contracts with the Pentagon.
Shortly after the news broke, the company said it would stop the practice of engraving Biblical references on products sold to the government. It also offered to provide modification kits for removing such engravings on sights already produced and sold to the military.
Michigan Weapons Company Trijicon Takes Flak Over Soldiers' Rifle Scopes Branded With Bible Verses (by Stephanie Gaskell, New York Daily News)
Trijicon Biblical Verses Controversy (Wikipedia)
Trijicon Biblical Verses Controversy (Facebook)
Medal of Honor Video Game Banned from Bases
Army commanders decided in 2010 to ban the sale of a controversial video game on bases due to its option to allow players to kill American soldiers as members of the Taliban.
Along with the Air Force, the Army said it was highly inappropriate to permit the Medal of Honor video game to be sold to military personnel when the U.S. was still fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In addition to American officials being unhappy with the game, Britain’s Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox called the game “tasteless” because players could also kill British soldiers.
The game’s developer, Electronic Arts (EA), said it understood the reaction from the military and military families whose loved ones had been killed or injured by the Taliban.
“I think it is a fair point… We do stir up some feelings, although it’s not about the war, it’s about the soldiers… We can’t get away from what the setting is and who the factions are, but in the end, it’s a game, so we’re not pushing or provoking too hard,” Patrick Liu with EA DICE development studio said.
“Medal of Honor” To Be Pulled from U.S. Military Bases (by Evan Narcisse, IFC)
Medal of Honor (2010 Video Game) (Wikipedia)
US Outraged Over Controversial PC Game (The CEO Game)
'Play as Taliban' angle controversial in 'Medal of Honor' (by Matt Peckham, PC World)
Ban Against Showing Images of Military Coffins Lifted
After nearly 20 years, the Department of Defense in 2009 lifted its ban on showing images of military coffins coming home from war.
The decision overturned a 1991 rule established under President George H. W. Bush that prevented the media from taking photos and video of the coffins of dead American soldiers arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Critics of the ban accused the government of trying to hide the human cost of war by not showing images of coffins to the American public. The military said the ban protected the privacy of families of the deceased.
The change came with one important restriction: Images still can’t be taken if families of the deceased don’t agree to it.
With the ban lifted, the coffin bearing the body of Air Force Staff Sergeant Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Virginia, was the first of a service member to be photographed in 18 years. Myers, 30, was killed by a roadside bomb near Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
Defense Chief Lifts Ban on Pictures of Coffins (by Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times)
Pentagon Lifts Media Ban On Coffin Photos (Associated Press)
A Coffin, a Flag, a Photograph (The New York Times)
In March 2008 The New York Times reported that a newly formed defense contractor was supplying the Army with old and unusable munitions for Afghanistan military forces. AEY Inc., which operated out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces following the awarding of a $300 million contract by the U.S. Army.
The company had provided ammunition that was more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging. Much of the ammunition came from aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO had determined to be unreliable and obsolete and had spent millions of dollars to have destroyed. In purchasing munitions, AEY has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.
Furthermore, tens of millions of rifle and machine-gun cartridges were manufactured in China, making their procurement a possible violation of American law. The company’s president, Efraim E. Diveroli, was secretly recorded in a conversation that suggested corruption in his company’s purchase of more than 100 million aging rounds in Albania.
The Army suspended the company from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian. The NYT investigation also revealed that AEY’s leadership included a 22-year-old vice president who previously worked as a licensed masseur.
While Diveroli awaited trial, another company he owned, Ammoworks, continued to engage in arms sales. In January 2011, Diveroli was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy.
Supplier Under Scrutiny on Arms for Afghans (by C.J. Chivers, New York Times)
Army Probes Iraq Contracts
In August 2007 the Army announced that it would review as many as 18,000 contracts awarded over the past four years to support U.S. forces in Iraq to determine how many were tainted by waste, fraud, and abuse. The contracts collectively were worth almost $3 billion and represented every transaction made between 2003 and 2007 by a contracting office in Kuwait, which the Army had identified as a significant trouble spot.
Among the contracts reviewed by the Army were awards to former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which had received billions of dollars since 2001 to provide food and shelter services to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The announcement by Army Secretary Pete Geren came as the number of criminal cases related to the acquisition of weapons and other supplies for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had grown to 76, while 20 military and civilian Army employees had been indicted on charges of contract fraud.
Between 2009 and 2011 a number of U.S. Army contracting officers stationed in Kuwait and Iraq were convicted and sentenced for fraud, bribery, money laundering, and other crimes.
Army to Examine Iraq Contracts (by Richard Lardner, Huffington Post)
Iraq Reconstruction Funds: Forensic Audits Identifying Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (Office of the Special Inspector General for IRAQ Reconstruction)
Cockerham bribery case (Wikipedia)
KBR Employee Indicted
In July 2007 it was reported that Anthony Martin, 58, a former employee of KBR Inc., pleaded guilty to receiving more than $200,000 in kickback payments for awarding $13 million in subcontracts to a Kuwaiti company. The Justice Department said the kickback payments were incorporated into the prices of the subcontracts paid by the military.
KBR, a one-time subsidiary of oil services giant Halliburton, was required to provide the U.S. military with 50 semi tractors and 50 refrigeration trailers for a six-month period. Martin admitted in a federal court to participating in a kickback scheme in which the Kuwaiti company agreed to pay Martin 50 Kuwaiti dinars—approximately $170—per semi tractor per month under any government subcontract Martin awarded to the company.
On June 17, 2003, Martin awarded a $4.67 million subcontract to the Kuwaiti company. Under the kickback agreement, according to the Justice Department, Martin was to receive kickback payments of approximately $50,240, including $10,000 Martin already had received as an advance.
During the plea hearing, Martin admitted to additional illegal conduct in his award of another subcontract to the same Kuwaiti company in July 2003. On July 11, 2003, Martin solicited bids in an e-mail sent to a number of potential subcontractors—including the managing partner of the Kuwaiti company—to supply 300 semi tractors and 300 fuel tanker trailers for a six-month period.
In June 2008, Martin was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and ordered to pay $200,505 in restitution.
Army Contractor Pleads Guilty to Kickback Scheme: A civilian contractor for the U.S. Army pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme with a Kuwaiti company while supporting U.S. military supply lines between Kuwait and Iraq. He faces up to 10 years in prison for his crimes. (by Josh Cable, GovPro)
Walter Reed Neglect Exposed
Walter Reed Medical Center was long considered the jewel of the Army’s medical care system. But after two wars, first Afghanistan then Iraq, the hospital found itself overrun with patients suffering serious medical and psychological conditions. An expose by the Washington Post revealed that many soldiers were being housed in sub-standard facilities that included decaying, mold-infested walls, mouse droppings, dead cockroaches, stained carpets, and cheap mattresses.
Other wounded soldiers were forced to stay in nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army because the number of patients had exceed the total of staff by 17 to one. Seventy-five percent of the troops polled by Walter Reed said their experience was “stressful.” Suicide attempts and unintentional overdoses from prescription drugs and alcohol, which is sold on post, also occurred.
Major General George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview that a major reason outpatients stayed so long at the hospital, contrary to the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, was that the Army wanted to hang on to as many soldiers as it could, “because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution.”
Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility (by Dana Priest and Anne Hull, Washington Post)
Halliburton Subsidiary Dropped by Government
Following an audit of its billing to the U.S. Army, KBR Inc., a one-time subsidiary of oil services giant Halliburton, lost its billion-dollar contract to provide food, shelter, and communications services to U.S. troops in Iraq. The decision to drop KBR came after several years of attacks from critics who saw the contract as a symbol of politically connected corporations profiteering on the war. KBR’s parent, Halliburton, was once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water. Company officials denied the allegations. Army officials defended the company’s performance, but also acknowledged that reliance on a single contractor left the government vulnerable.
The Pentagon planned to split the work among three companies, with a fourth firm hired to help monitor the performance of the other three. In spite of the controversy, it was announced that KBR would still be eligible to bid on the work, along with DynCorp International and Fluor Corp. However, the Army claimed that U.S. commanders in Iraq urged against bidding for the job, claiming that bringing in a new contractor would be too disruptive during the process of troop withdrawals. Consequently, in May 2010 the Army announced that KBR was awarded a no-bid contract worth $568 million, including a four-year option that, if exercised, would be worth $2.77 billion. The decision was announced mere hours after the Justice Department said it was pursuing a lawsuit against the company over accusations that KBR took kickbacks for its Iraq work.
Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal: Logistics Contract to Be Open for Bidding (by Griff Witte, Washington Post)
Use of Iraq Contractors Costs Billions, Report Says (by James Risen, New York Times)
KBR to Get No-Bid Army Work as U.S. Alleges Kickbacks (by Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg)
Army Corps of Engineers and Katrina
Following investigations into the cause of flooding in New Orleans in 2005, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took responsibility for levee failures that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Reports showed the levees failed because they were built in a disjointed fashion using outdated data.
Katrina damaged 169 miles of the 350-mile hurricane system that protected New Orleans and was blamed for more than 1,570 deaths in Louisiana alone. An investigation by the Corps found that serious work began on New Orleans’ hurricane protection system in the 1960s after Hurricane Betsy flooded the city in 1965. But over the decades, funding slackened and many parts of the system were not finished by the time Katrina hit.
The result was a disjointed system of levees, inconsistent in quality, materials and design, that left gaps exploited by the storm, the Corps report said. Also, engineers did not take into account the poor soil quality underneath New Orleans and failed to account for the sinking of land, which caused some sections to be as much as 2 feet lower than other parts.
Four breaches in canals that ran through New Orleans were caused by foundation failures that were “not considered in the original design of these structures,” the report said. Those breaches caused two-thirds of the city’s flooding.
Katrina Report Blames Levees: Army Corps Of Engineers: 'We've Had A Catastrophic Failure' (CBS News/Associated Press)
Army Corps Is Faulted on New Orleans Levees: Panel Says Studies Foresaw Failure, Urges New Scrutiny (by Joby Warrick and Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post)
Five years after Katrina, Army Corps still dragging its feet on reforms (by Sue Sturgis, Facing South)
Bribe Inquiry Involves Army Special Ops
Federal investigators uncovered a bribery scheme as well as accusations of improper influence involving millions of dollars in battlefield equipment used by Army Green Berets and Rangers. The investigations examined the hiring of a former Special Operations Command official by a military contractor as well as financial contributions by military contractors to a nonprofit organization that ran social events for the Special Forces. Among those under investigation was Gen. Bryan Brown, who headed the command until July 2007.
A civilian procurement official at the command, William E. Burke, pleaded guilty in federal court to having accepted bribes from an individual who represented military contractors seeking to equip commandos. The Special Forces command also investigated all of the contracts handled by Burke since 1999 to see whether Special Forces troops received inferior equipment as a result of the kickbacks.
As a result of the scandal, the Pentagon began looking into accusations, made by current and former employees, that a former military procurement official who oversaw millions of dollars in Boeing Company contracts went to work for Boeing after leaving the command.
Burke was convicted and sentenced to three months probation, six months of home detention and fined $4,500.
Bribe Inquiry Looks at Sale of Field Gear to Military (by Leslie Wayne, New York Times)
Pat Tillman Cover Up
Following the 9/11 attacks, NFL star Pat Tillman did the unheard of. He walked away from a million-dollar career playing pro football in order to enlist in the Army. Wanting to fight al Qaeda and capture its leader, Osama Bin Laden, Pat wound up serving in the Army Rangers along with his brother, Kevin.
Pat Tillman’s enlistment grabbed the attention of the nation—and the highest levels of the Bush administration. A personal letter from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thanked him for serving his country. Instead of going to Afghanistan, as the brothers expected, their Ranger battalion was sent to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Tillmans saw combat several times on their way to Baghdad. In early 2004, they finally were assigned to Afghanistan.
On April 22, 2004, the Tillmans’ Ranger company was searching for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in a village called Manah when one of their Humvees became disabled. The unit proceeded to split up, and during an ensuing firefight with Taliban fighters, Pat Tillman was killed. Tillman’s death came at a sensitive time for the Bush administration—just a week before the Army’s abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as “an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”
His killing was widely reported by the media, including conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, who called him “an American original—virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.” His May 3, 2004, memorial in San Jose drew 3,500 people and was nationally televised.
Not until five weeks later, as Tillman’s battalion was returning home, did officials inform the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed accidentally by his fellow soldiers in a case of “friendly fire.” The Tillman family was outraged and sought the help of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to find out why they had not been told the truth sooner about Pat’s death. A House committee investigated the matter, and eventually the Army censured a three-star general, Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., for failing to follow procedures requiring him to notify the Tillman family and top officials about the investigation into the possibility of friendly fire. Some critics contended Kensinger was merely a scapegoat to avoid those higher up in the chain of command from being implicated in the scandal, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Testifying before a House investigative committee in 2007 and confronted by one U.S. Congressman with the suggestion that he engaged in a cover-up, Rumsfeld shot back, “You have nothing to base that on. You have not a scrap of evidence or a piece of paper or a witness that would attest to that. I have not been involved in any cover-up whatsoever.”
A U.S. Army report, plus additional transcripts and investigative documents, disclosed that U.S. soldiers on the scene knew instantly that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, and that the first Army investigator knew within days of his death that he had been shot by fellow soldiers. High-ranking Army officials, including theater commander Gen. John P. Abizaid, were also aware of this information days before Tillman’s funeral service. In spite of this, official reports of Tillman’s death claimed that he was killed by enemy fire, and critical evidence was destroyed.
The last soldier to see Tillman alive later testified to Congress that superiors ordered him not to reveal the truth to Tillman’s family. Pat’s brother Kevin, testifying before a congressional oversight committee, characterized the government’s false reports as a “manufactured narrative.”
Retired General Is Censured for Role in Tillman Case (by Neil A. Lewis, New York Times)
Family Demands the Truth: New inquiry may expose events that led to Pat Tillman’s death (by Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle)
Tillman's Fellow Ranger Admits Cover-Up (CBS News)
Review of Matters Related to the Death of Corporal Patrick Tillman (Inspector General, DoD) (pdf)
Torture at Abu Ghraib
Once U.S. military forces toppled the government of Saddam Hussein, the Army took control of one of the legendary dictator’s infamous prisons: Abu Ghraib. The prison occupied 280 acres with over 4 kilometers of security perimeter and 24 guard towers, making it a virtual city within a city. Abu Ghraib was where Saddam Kamal (head of the Special Security Organization) oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners during the reign of Saddam Hussein. As many as 4,000 prisoners were executed by Iraqi security personnel at Abu Ghraib Prison in 1984 alone.
In late April 2004, with the prison under the control of the U.S. military, photographs surfaced that depicted abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners held at the prison. Some of the pictures depicted U.S. soldiers, both men and women in military uniforms, laughing and giving thumbs-up signs while posing with naked Iraqi prisoners made to stand, stacked in a pyramid or positioned to perform sex acts.
It turned out that a criminal investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command had already been underway since 2003 to look into allegations of prisoner abuse by the 320th MP Battalion. The findings of that investigation were revealed in the Taguba Report, which found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. The systematic and illegal abuse of detainees was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th MP Battalion.)
Some of the wrongdoing included breaking chemical lights and pouring phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack.
The report also contained information about private contractors who were supervising interrogations in the prison. One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young male prisoner but was not charged because military law had no jurisdiction over him. The investigation named CACI International Inc. and the Titan Corporation in the scandal.
A year later, more disturbing revelations surfaced about Army doctors and the medical care system at Abu Ghraib. Some military doctors helped inflict distress on prisoners, while amputations were performed by non-doctors and chest tubes recycled from the dead to the living.
The fallout from the scandal resulted in the removal of 17 soldiers and officers from duty, and seven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and September 2005, the seven soldiers were convicted in courts martial, sentenced to federal prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, and his former fiancée, Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to 10 years and three years in prison, respectively. The commanding officer at the prison, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, was demoted to the rank of colonel.
The Abu Ghraib Scandal You Don't Know (by Adam Zagorin, Time)
Abu Ghurayb Prison (Global Security)
The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos (Anti War)
Torture at Abu Ghraib (by Seymour Hersh, New Yorker)
After being told by a panel of experts in 2011 that its acquisitions process had been wasting too much money for decades, the U.S. Army promised to embark on full-scale reform.
Over the course of 20 years (1990-2010), the Army canceled 22 major programs at a cost of about one billion dollars a years, representing some 25% of available research and development funding.
“The gravity and scope of the problems necessitate comprehensive, urgent action if the Army is to improve significantly its acquisition of materiel and services,” wrote Gil Decker, a former Army acquisition executive, and retired Army General Lou Wagner, who served as commander of the Army Materiel Command. Both Decker and Wagner were part of a comprehensive study of the Army’s purchasing process.
The study recommended 76 changes for the Army to make. The service agreed to enact 63. One of the reforms involved hiring nearly 2,000 more acquisition workforce personnel—including contract specialists, systems analysts, and engineers—by 2015.
The Army promised to complete the majority of recommendations by the summer of 2012. It had completed fewer than 30 of them by spring 2012.
U.S. Army Says It’s Making Progress in Acquisition Reform (by Kate Brannen, Defense News)
Acquisition Reform ... For Real (by Dan Ward, Armed Forces Journal)
Army Embracing Acquisition Reform (by Kris Osborn, U.S. Army)
Information Technology Patterns May Guide Army Acquisition Reform (by Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine)
Army plans to hire nearly 2,000 acquisition personnel to avoid wasting billions annually (The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech)
Improved Army acquisition process must meet the needs and challenges of the warfighter (Association of the United States Army)
Army Strong: Equipped, Trained and Ready (Secretary of the Army)
Army defends progress in acquisition reform (by Amber Corrin, FCW)
Should Army medevac helicopters be armed?
The U.S. Army has had a longstanding policy of not arming its helicopters used to rescue wounded soldiers. But during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a debate has erupted over whether the Army should continue this policy.
Medevac helicopters are not allowed to land in a dangerous area unless supported by at least one other helicopter that is armed with guns and rockets. This procedure has resulted in instances where a medevac was delayed from picking up wounded because supporting helicopters were not available.
The death of Army Spec. Chazray Clark in September 2011, who had three limbs severed by a roadside bomb and then waited an hour for a medical helicopter, was one of the instigating factors in reviving the debate. The medevac chopper had to wait for an armed escort before being sent to his aid.
Proponents of arming the helicopters claim the current policy is costing the lives of men and women who weren’t saved in time.
Supporters of arming medevac helicopters say it is necessary to make this change to avoid soldiers slowing dying on the battlefield. A group of 20 members of Congress wrote to the Pentagon in 2011, questioning the need to keep things as they are. Arming medevacs would eliminate costly delays when regular combat helicopters can’t get to an area in time, supporters of changing the policy say.
Should Army Medevacs Be Armed? (by Charles Hoskinson, Politico)
Army officials disagree with the idea of arming medevacs. To do so would add considerable weight to the aircraft, which could infringe on its ability to carry wounded soldiers. Weight is the enemy of a helicopter, Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, surgeon general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press. Too much added equipment, like machine guns, could result in helicopters not getting off the ground fast enough or high enough to avoid enemy fire.
GI’s Death Sparks Debate Over Arming Medevacs (by Deb Riechmann, Associated Press)
The Real Reason Why Army Medevac Helicopters Fly Unarmed (Medevac Matters)
Is a U.S. volunteer army sufficient?
The U.S. Army has relied on an all-volunteer force to man its units since 1973, when the government abolished military conscription (the draft). This system has remained in place, and with little debate, until the U.S. launched its wars on terror by invading Afghanistan and Iraq within a period of two years. Some claim an all-volunteer force is working, while others say the current plan places too much strain on reservists.
Those who favor sticking with an all-volunteer force say there is no need to go back to a draft. They point out that the best thing about a volunteer Army is those who are in it are there by choice, and because of that, they are more dependable in combat. With volunteers, the ranks are filled with a greater sense of pride, whereas to rely on draftees could mean the introduction of reluctance or anger within units. The proof is in recent history, supporters of an all-volunteer army say, claiming the U.S. has been demonstrated to have the most effective military in the world.
The All-Volunteer Army After Twenty Years: Recruiting in the Modern Era (by Thomas W. Evans, SHSU.edu)
Opponents of an all-volunteer army say when America is at war, it is best to use the draft, just as the government did many times, such as to fight World War II and Vietnam. With the war in Afghanistan stretching longer than 10 years, during which the war in Iraq was also fought for seven years, the country’s military has been stretched too thin. This development forced the Army to rely heavily on National Guard and Reserves, putting extra strain on part-time soldiers. The draft must be brought back to alleviate this trouble, while still providing the necessary manpower to win the conflict at hand.
Draft Or Volunteer Army: Our Nation’s Best Interest (by Col. Robbie Asher, U.S. Army War College)
Chief of Staff, U.S. Army: George W. Casey, Jr.
General George W. Casey, Jr. has served as the Army’s Chief of Staff since April 10, 2007. He first joined the Army in 1970 as a second lieutenant of infantry following his attendance at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Casey’s other higher education credentials include a master’s degree in international relations from Denver University and serving as a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Throughout his career, Casey has served in operational assignments in Germany, Italy, Egypt, Southwest Asia, and the United States. He has commanded at every level from platoon to division. His principal staff assignments have been as chief of staff, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; operations officer and chief of staff, V (US/GE) Corps, Heidelberg, Germany; deputy director for politico-military affairs, Joint Staff; commander, Joint Warfighting Center/J7, U.S. Joint Forces Command; director strategic plans and policy and director of the Joint Staff; 30th Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army.
He commanded a mechanized infantry battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado; a mechanized infantry brigade at Fort Hood, Texas; served as assistant division commander for maneuver and support in the 1st Armored Division in Bosnia and Germany; and commanded the 1st Armored Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
Prior to becoming Army Chief of Staff, Casey was the commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq until February 2007. He voiced skepticism of President Bush’s decision to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, instead wanting to focus on training Iraqi forces. He later testified before Congress telling lawmakers that President Bush had ordered thousands more troops into Iraq than was needed. Casey’s controversial remarks included complaints about the Army being stretched too thin and reaffirming Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s criticism of President Bush on military shortages.
Bush poised to name new Iraq commander (by Mark Tran, The Guardian)
Army is worn too thin, says general: Calls force not ready to meet new threats (by Bryan Bender, Boston Globe)
General Raymond T. Odierno has served as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army since September 7, 2011. As such, he has been a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a council of senior uniformed officers in the Defense Department who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consists of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS), and the Military Service Chiefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the National Guard Bureau.
Born September 8, 1954, in Dover, New Jersey, to Raymond J. (an Army sergeant during World War II) and Helen Odierno, Raymond T. Odierno grew up in nearby Rockaway and graduated Morris Hills High School, where his mother worked, in 1972. Odierno earned a B.S. in Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1976, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Field Artillery. He later earned an M.S. in Nuclear Effects Engineering at North Carolina State University in 1986 and an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies at the Naval War College in 1990.
Over 36 years of service, Odierno has commanded units at every level, and served overseas in Germany, Albania, Kuwait and Iraq. After early career assignments in Germany, Odierno was assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he commanded two batteries and served as a battalion operations officer from August 1980 to May 1984, when he began his Master’s program at North Carolina State University, earning his degree in 1986.
After three years’ service at the Pentagon, Odierno returned to Germany, where he served as a battalion executive officer and division artillery executive officer and was deployed for the Gulf War of 1990-1991. He later commanded the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division, and the Division Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division.
From October 2001 to June 2004, Odierno commanded the 4th Infantry Division, including during the War on Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004. From April 2004 to May 2006, Odierno was Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he was the primary military advisor to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. From December 2006 to February 2008, he served as the operational commander of the “troop surge,” and served as the commanding general of all forces in Iraq from September 2008 to September 2010. Most recently, from October 2010 to August 2011, Odierno commanded United States Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.
General Odierno is married to his high school sweetheart, Linda. They have three children: Tony, Katie, and Mike; and three grandchildren. His oldest son, retired Army Captain Tony Odierno, lost his left arm in combat in Baghdad in 2004; in honor of all wounded soldiers he threw the ceremonial first pitch of the 2009 World Series.
U.S. Military Leader in Iraq Talks of “Thinning the Lines” (by David S. Cloud, New York Times)
The Surge in Iraq: One Year Later (by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, Heritage Foundation)
Fulfilling his promise of appointing Republicans to his administration, President Obama turned to Republican Congressman John M. McHugh to serve as Secretary of the Army. McHugh represented New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which includes the large Fort Drum Army base, as well facilities owned by the nation’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin. McHugh has typically received large campaign donations from Lockheed Martin employees, as well as from employees of other defense contractors, including Boeing and General Dynamics. One recent press report alleges that he placed more than $40 million in “earmarks” into a 2010 defense spending bill, including more than $8 million benefiting Fort Drum, but McHugh has defended those actions as beneficial to his constituents.