The Navy doesn’t need another aircraft carrier right now, admiral nominated to lead Pacific operations says

aircraft carrier
Sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis sail alongside the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the Pacific Ocean, May, 5 2015.

  • The 11 aircraft carriers in Navy has are what the military needs, Adm. John Aquilino said Tuesday.
  • Aquilino said the size of that force “is correct” to meet current needs “unless additional challenges show themselves.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US has the number of aircraft carriers it needs to meet requirements across the globe – unless “additional challenges show themselves,” the four-star admiral nominated to oversee military operations in the Asia-Pacific region said.

The 11 aircraft carriers in the military’s arsenal – as currently required by law – are what the force needs, Adm. John Aquilino said during a Tuesday Senate confirmation hearing. Aquilino has been nominated to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Aquilino was asked by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., whether the Navy has enough carriers to deter China in the Pacific while still operating in the Middle East and elsewhere.

“We’ve complied to the law [with] 11, but is that enough though?” Wicker asked Aquilino. “Just tell us – we need to know. We can change the law of the land if we get enough votes.”

Aquilino said carrier strike groups are a tremendous form of deterrence, but demurred on saying the Navy needed more.

“I think currently that the size of that force is correct unless additional challenges show themselves,” he said.

aircraft carrier
USS Carl Vinson leads US and Indian navy ships during exercise Malabar 2012.

Navy aircraft carriers are in high demand across the globe, but the service faced criticism from Congress when leaders in 2019 proposed retiring one early to invest in new technologies. USNI News reported this month that Pentagon leaders are again considering a reduced carrier force structure as part of its upcoming 2022 budget submission to Congress.

Resistance from lawmakers is likely. Wicker released a statement Monday calling for a bigger Navy in response to growing presence at sea from Russia and China. He urged the Biden administration to embrace a military plan released under President Donald Trump to increase the fleet to 405 manned Navy ships by 2051.

“If we do not ramp up shipbuilding dramatically, it will be more and more difficult to prevent a future conflict with our adversaries,” Wicker wrote.

Bryan McGrath, a retired surface officer and naval consultant, said while he has great respect for Aquilino, he believes the admiral is wrong to think 11 carriers are enough for the Navy to carry out its global requirements. McGrath cited ongoing trouble with carrier maintenance, readiness woes, and the need for extended or double-pump deployments that have weighed on the force.

The 11-carrier requirement was made law at about the same time as the Navy’s 2007 maritime strategy, which enshrined a “two-hub” presence in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean.

Eleven is the minimum necessary carrier count to support the two hubs with continuous coverage, McGrath added, given maintenance and transit-time requirements.

Whenever two carriers are needed in one of those hubs though – which happened last year in response to Iranian threats and again just last month in the South China Sea – “the brittle relationship between that number of carriers and that number of hubs comes into stark relief,” he added.

aircraft carriers
USS Theodore Roosevelt, bottom, USS Ronald Reagan, middle, and USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, November 12, 2017.

And today, the US is also now dealing with a resurgence from Russia in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, McGrath said.

“The nation cannot ignore Europe as a theater for carrier operations, and in fact, it hasn’t,” he said. “And so for several years, we’ve taken the minimum number of carriers necessary to fill two hubs continuously and attempted to time share in a third, even as we desired multiple carriers in one or more of those hubs in this period.”

McGrath made the case in 2015 for a 16-carrier Navy. That many carriers could support continuous coverage of “three hubs indefinitely,” he wrote, “with little or no risk of gap.” He said he stands by that argument, adding, “if anything, today’s security environment is more pressing than when I wrote these words in 2015.”

Last week, Adm. Phil Davidson, who currently leads Indo-Pacific Command, told lawmakers there’s no substitute for having an aircraft carrier in the Pacific to counter China’s growing presence in the region.

The Navy is also still considering reactivating another numbered fleet in the Western Pacific, Davidson said. The Japan-based US Seventh Fleet currently oversees Navy operations all the way from India down to Antarctica and up past Japan to the Kuril Islands.

– Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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This may be the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber’s first outdoor hangar

B-21 Raider bomber
An artist’s rendering of the B-21 at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

  • The Air Force has built a prototype shelter for the new B-21 bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
  • It is one of a few mock-ups that the service is testing to find the most effective and affordable option for the bomber.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Air Force has begun constructing prototype shelters in anticipation of someday housing its next-generation bomber, B-21 Raider.

The service has erected a temporary prototype “Environmental Protection Shelter” at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, one of a few mock-up models that Air Force Global Strike Command and the B-21 Program Office are testing to find the most effective and affordable option for the Long Range Strike Bomber, according to release.

“Environmental Protection Shelters help extend the life of the aircraft and reduce required maintenance by limiting UV exposure, limiting snow accumulation and melt, and limiting icing/de-icing operations experienced by the aircraft over time,” Col. Derek Oakley, the command’s B-21 Integration and System Management Office director, said in the release.

“These shelters also help us generate sorties more quickly by eliminating the need to always have to move aircraft in and out of hangars,” he said in the March 3 announcement.

Ellsworth Air Force B-21 hangar shelter
The B-21 Raider Environmental Protection Shelter prototype at Ellsworth Air Force Base, February 26, 2021.

Air Force Magazine reported last week that the shelter is 200 feet wide and 100 feet deep, which is also big enough for the B-2 Spirit bomber. While the B-2’s wingspan runs 172 feet, it’s unknown how long or wide the B-21 aircraft may be.

The Air Force has said deliveries of the Raider, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, will begin in the mid-2020s. But the service has been careful not to broadcast details in order to protect its technology.

The Air Force is weighing just how many prototype shelters to place at each of the chosen B-21 bases. In 2019, the service named Ellsworth to become the first operational B-21 base; it will also host the bomber’s first formal training unit. Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is the service’s preferred alternative.

Dyess and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are expected to receive B-21 Raiders “as they become available,” the service said at the time.

Following an environmental study, the Air Force will make its formal decision this summer on the final bases to host the B-21.

The service chose Ellsworth as its first EPS hangar location because its “weather conditions offer the opportunity to collect the most diverse amount of data,” according to the release.

“We will collect a few years of data on these shelters and then incorporate that data into the final Environmental Protection Shelter design,” Oakley said.

Any needed bomber maintenance will occur in indoor maintenance hangars, which is routine, he added.

Ellsworth Air Force B-21 hangar shelter
Contractors place a pair of beams for the B-21 Environmental Protection Shelter prototype at Ellsworth Air Force Base, January 28, 2021.

In January, service officials held a virtual B-21 industry day to discuss various construction projects.

Other facilities the B-21 will need, such as a low observable maintenance hangar to repair stealth coating and a general maintenance hangar, are in the planning stages, officials said.

The Air Force has said it plans to procure at least 100 Raiders, rounding out its bomber inventory to 175, including its B-52 Stratofortress fleet.

However, Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has often proposed a bomber force of more than 200 aircraft.

“We’ve said publicly that we think we need 220 bombers overall – 75 B-52s and the rest B-21s, long term,” Ray told Air Force Magazine last year.

The Raider passed its critical design review in December 2018, a pivotal milestone for the program.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Marine Corps gets rid of men’s-only allowance for underwater after audit finds inequities in uniform costs

camouflage uniforms marines
  • The Marine Corps has removed an allowance for underwear that was only given to men and adding a new allowance for women’s dress shoes.
  • The changes come after an audit that revealed systemic inequities in clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Marine Corps has removed a clothing replacement allowance for underwear that was only allotted to men and added a new replacement allowance for female dress pumps following an audit of policy.

A Government Accountability Office report released this month revealed systemic inequities in out-of-pocket clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members – a reality colloquially known as the “Pink Tax.”

The watchdog organization found that some enlisted women paid more than $8,000 out of pocket over the course of a career for clothing, while some men actually ended up with allowance overages they could pocket. The disparity, the GAO found, was largely the result of the higher costs of some women’s uniform items, and costs of essentials not included in clothing calculations that were higher across the board for women.

The investigation also prompted the individual military services to review their own policies and calculations. For the Marine Corps, this resulted in the discovery of inequity and a move to change.

“Beginning in fiscal year 2021, enlisted [Marine] males will no longer receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for underwear, according to the officials,” GAO officials wrote in their report. “Currently, males receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for their underwear, but females do not.”

Women Marine Karate
Recruits watch a Marine Corps Martial Arts demonstration, July 21, 2011.

The report added that there had been no annualized replacement allowance for female Marines’ dress pumps, even though they were listed as a required uniform item. Going forward, it said, there would be an additional replacement allowance, apart from the current $50 one-time allotment.

“According to officials, this was an oversight and the Marine Corps plans to fix this to ensure female enlisted service members receive an annualized standard cash clothing allowance for dress pumps,” GAO officials wrote.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps Uniform Board and Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, Master Sgt. Andrew Pendracki, told Military.com via email that underwear was issued to Marines in their initial sea bag and was considered a personal item to be purchased at the individual’s expense following recruit training.

“During the GAO audit, it was noted that male Marines were receiving an annual replacement allowance to maintain drawers as late as [fiscal year 2020],” he said. “A review of past annual Minimum Requirement Lists (MRL) indicated that the drawers have not been on the MRL for at least 20 years and, as such, a clothing replacement allowance should not have been paid.”

A similar allowance did not exist for female Marines.

The annualized line item for men’s underwear is not much: 72 cents, Pendracki said. It will be removed in the fiscal 2022 MRL, he noted.

The new annualized allowance for women’s dress pumps may make a more substantial difference to Marines’ wallets: Female Marines will now get $16.66 per year to maintain and replace their dress shoes.

In the GAO report, officials emphasized that the root issue was equity: equal pay for equal work.

“The equity principle also calls for the concept of equal pay for substantially equal work under the same general working conditions,” the report states. ” … Specifically, comparability refers to the specific items of basic pay, basic pay-related items, allowances, and benefits.”

– Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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The Pentagon is looking for a new way to check social media to prevent extremist behavior in the military

Capitol siege
Supporters of President Donald Trump wearing gas masks and military-style apparel inside the Rotunda after breaching the US Capitol building, January 6, 2021.

  • The Defense Department says it “is examining a scalable means” to screen social media as a part of background checks.
  • The statement, included in recently distributed training materials, indicates plans for a much more aggressive and methodical approach to monitoring troops’ social media, one expert said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Pentagon is looking for a new way to screen social media as part of its background check process, in an effort to prevent extremist behavior in the ranks.

The Defense Department “is examining a scalable means of implementing social media screening in conjunction with background investigations,” Pentagon officials said in suggested training materials distributed for a stand-down to discuss extremism. The military-wide pause in operations was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The reference appears in a “common questions and answers” section, in which the Pentagon anticipated troops might ask about checking social media belonging to service members, civilian DoD employees and prospective recruits.

The suggested response notes that when service members and DoD civilians submit an SF-86 form to begin a background investigation process, they consent to having their publicly available social media information reviewed. The FBI now screens social media for extremism and criminal activity, the document states.

But Anthony Kuhn, an attorney with the law firm Tully Rinckey who specializes in security clearance issues, said in an interview Tuesday that the Pentagon’s statement indicates it plans to take a much more aggressive and methodical approach to monitoring troops’ social media in the wake of the January 6 ransacking of the Capitol by a violent mob.

The military doesn’t really have a formal process for doing so now, he said. Typically, a service member draws attention for extremist or other problematic social media posts after a third party sees them and alerts the military.

capitol siege trump suporters
Trump supporters inside the US Capitol, January 6, 2021.

Kuhn said he represents several people who have had their security clearances jeopardized due in part to social media posts, so the military does look at it in at least some cases. But he added that the momentum for doing so will probably keep growing.

Troops are allowed to have and express their own political opinions, Kuhn said, as long as they follow certain guidelines, such as not doing so on duty or in uniform.

But the training materials spell out how service members’ activities can run afoul of the military’s standards, such as by advocating for violence or sedition against the government.

Service members are not allowed to “actively advocat[e] supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology and causes,” the training materials state. They also cannot actively participate in organizations that “advance, encourage or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity or national origin,” or “the use of force, violence or criminal activity” to deprive people of their civil rights.

Extremist groups often try to recruit current or former service members for their skills and to gain legitimacy for their cause, according to the training materials.

“It’s about extremist ideology, and that can take many forms,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a gaggle with reporters Tuesday. “It’s not just about white supremacy, but about extremist ideologies, including [those of] a criminal nature.”

In the new Pentagon training materials, officials said that, while troops have First Amendment rights to speak freely and assemble peaceably, the military must still assess their character, honesty, discretion, judgment and trustworthiness when deciding whether they are reliable enough to have access to classified or sensitive information.

Actions that could disqualify service members include supporting, being involved or associating with, or expressing sympathy for those attempting, training for, or advocating sabotage, espionage, treason, terrorism or sedition against the United States, the training documents state.

national guard dc
National Guard members on the US Capitol grounds on February 13, 2021.

Those who associate or sympathize with people or organizations seeking to use force, violence, or other illegal or unconstitutional means to overthrow the federal or state government; prevent federal, state or local government personnel from performing their official duties; to gain retribution for perceived wrongs caused by the government; or to prevent other from exercising their legal or constitutional rights, could also find themselves disqualified, according to the training materials.

“Any doubt is resolved in favor of the national security,” officials said.

Kuhn said the Pentagon’s language suggests it might add social media checks to its continuous evaluation process, which already uses computers and investigators to track clearance holders and flag any financial trouble, criminal arrests, or emerging drug or alcohol problems.

Tracking violations of DoD regulations’ Guideline A, which requires “allegiance to the United States,” has been difficult to monitor, he said.

“That could be anything from liking a comment on a social media post that’s buried somewhere on the internet, all the way through openly advocating violence against the government or a government official,” Kuhn said. “They’re trying to figure out a system to track that kind of behavior, those types of red flags. Right now, there isn’t one.”

Service members who like and interact with posts by extremist groups such as the Three Percenters, a paramilitary organization that opposes federal government intervention in local affairs, could find that activity flagged by screening, Kuhn said.

Due process still applies, and the service member wouldn’t automatically lose their clearance, he said, but there would likely be an investigation.

“I think that’s going to be very common, moving forward,” Kuhn said.

Three Percenters
A member of the AAF III% militia folds the American flag after a rally at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

This could mean automated scanning of accounts on Facebook or Twitter, or even sites such as Parler that do not ban users who post extremist content, he added.

And while the military could start by only periodically reviewing social media posts when troops need background checks, Kuhn said he expects that, before long, it would be expanded into a practice of real-time monitoring to catch whether troops are involved in emerging threats.

“They will be using whatever technology they have available to them at this point to be able to monitor, in real time, social media posts and groups they have concerns about,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve already started” working on a continuous monitoring system after the shock of the January 6 Capitol attack, and the apparently disproportionately large number of rioters with military backgrounds.

Kuhn also expects that background investigations or periodic reinvestigations for renewals of security clearances will include closer looks at social media.

– Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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6 reasons the Battle of Iwo Jima is so important to US Marines

iwo jima marines
Marines on the beach at Iwo Jima.

No historical account of World War II would be complete without covering the Battle of Iwo Jima.

At first glance, it seems similar to many other battles that happened late in the Pacific War: American troops fiercely fought their way through booby traps, Banzai charges and surprise attacks while stalwart dug-in Japanese defenders struggled against overwhelming US power in the air, on land and by sea.

For the United States Marine Corps, however, the Battle of Iwo Jima was more than one more island in a string of battles in an island-hopping campaign. The Pacific War was one of the most brutal in the history of mankind, and nowhere was that more apparent than on Iwo Jima in February 1945.

After three years of fighting, US troops didn’t know the end was near for the Japanese Empire. For them, every island was part of the preparation they needed to invade mainland Japan.

The 36-day fight for Iwo Jima led Adm. Chester Nimitz to give the now-immortal praise, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Here are six reasons why the battle is so important to Marines:

1. It was the first invasion of the Japanese Home Islands

Iwo Jima 3
Naval craft maneuver during the invasion of Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945.

The Japanese Empire controlled many islands in the Pacific area. Saipan, Peleliu and other islands were either sold to Japan after World War I or it was given control of them by the League of Nations. Then, it started invading others.

Iwo Jima was different. Though technically far from the Japanese Home Islands, it is considered to be part of Tokyo and is administered as part of its subprefecture.

After three years of taking control of islands previously captured by the Japanese, the Marines were finally taking part of the Japanese capital.

2. Iwo Jima was strategically necessary for the United States’ war effort

Iwo Jima 7
US Marine Corps amtracs and medium tanks bogged down in the soft black volcanic ash of Iwo Jima, February, 1945.

Taking the island meant more than a symbolic capture of the Japanese homeland.

It meant the US could launch bombing runs from Iwo Jima’s strategic airfields, as the tiny island was directly under the flight path of B-29 Superfortresses from Guam, Saipan and the Mariana Islands.

Now, the Army Air Forces would be able to make bombing runs without a Japanese garrison at Iwo Jima warning the mainland about the danger to come. It also meant American bombers could fly over Japan with fighter escorts.

3. It was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the Marine Corps.

Iwo Jima 9
US Marines on the beach inch their way up a sand dune toward Mount Suribachi during the initial invasion of Iwo Jima, February, 19, 1945.

Iwo Jima is a small island, covering roughly 8 square kilometers. It was defended by 20,000 Japanese soldiers who spent a year digging in, creating miles of tunnels beneath the volcanic rock, and who were ready to fight to the last man.

When the battle was over, 6,800 Americans were dead and a further 26,000 wounded or missing. This means 850 Americans died for every square mile of the island fortress. Only 216 Japanese troops were taken prisoner.

4. More gallantry was on display at Iwo Jima than any other battle before or since

Iwo Jima 14
Marines on Iwo Jima stand by as Japanese soldiers in a pillbox are hit with liquid fire, February 27, 1945.

Iwo Jima saw more Medals of Honor awarded for actions there than any other single battle in American history.

A total of 27 were awarded, 22 to Marines and five to Navy Corpsmen. In all of World War II, only 81 Marines and 57 sailors were awarded the medal.

To put it in a statistical perspective, 20% of all WWII Navy and Marine Corps Medals of Honor were earned at Iwo Jima.

5. US Marines were Marines and nothing else on Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima 15
Two dead US Marines, covered by ponchos, and four Japanese soldiers lie within a few yards of each other on Iwo Jima, February 28, 1945.

The US has seen significant problems with race relations in its history. And though the armed forces weren’t fully integrated until 1948, the US military has always been on the forefront of racial and gender integration. The Marines at Iwo Jima came from every background.

While African Americans were still not allowed on frontline duty because of segregation, they piloted amphibious trucks full of White and Latino Marines to the beaches at Iwo Jima, moved ammunition and supplies to the front, buried the dead and fought off surprise attacks from Japanese defenders. Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental in taking the island. They were all Marines.

6. The iconic flag-raising became the symbol for all Marines who died in service

iwo jima
US Marines raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s photo of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi is perhaps one of the best-known war photos ever taken.

Raising the American flag at the island’s highest point sent a clear message to both the Marines below and the Japanese defenders. In the years that followed, the image took on a more important role.

It soon became the symbol of the Marine Corps itself. When the Marine Corps Memorial was dedicated in 1954, it was that image that became the symbol of the Corps’ spirit, dedicated to every Marine who gave their life in service to the United States.

– Blake Stilwell is a former airman who just did his best to honor the Marines who fought and died at Iwo Jima. He can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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The Air Force just sent the first B-1B bomber to the ‘boneyard’

B-1B Lancer
A B-1B takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, October 11, 2017.

  • The Air Force has taken the first step in its plan to divest 17 B-1B bombers in the coming months, sending the first Lancer to the “boneyard.”
  • The divestments will reduce the active B-1 fleet to 45 aircraft, and the service plans to retire all of them by 2036.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The first B-1B Lancer bomber has headed to the Boneyard, Air Force Global Strike Command announced Wednesday.

It’s the first step in the Air Force’s plan to divest 17 of the bombers in coming months, reducing the active B-1 fleet to 45 aircraft.

“Beginning to retire legacy bombers, to make way for the B-21 Raider, is something we have been working toward for some time,” said Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, in a news release.

“Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to status quo, and that’s just to fix the problems we know about. We’re just accelerating planned retirements,” Ray said in the release.

The service first retired 33 of the aircraft in 2003.

A single B-1 aircraft was spotted flying over Arizona earlier Wednesday; an Air Force spokesperson confirmed that aircraft was headed to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. Davis-Monthan houses the “Boneyard,” where retired aircraft are kept for parts or future use. B-1s are also stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

In the fiscal 2021 budget request, the Air Force proposed retiring 17 B-1B bombers from its 62-aircraft fleet in order to better sustain the most functional planes. Officials on Wednesday said a small number of the sweep-wing bombers are in a state that would require “approximately ten to 30 million dollars per aircraft to get back to a status quo,” according to the release.

The service plans to retire the entire fleet by 2036.

Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber
An airman salutes a B-1B Lancer that is being divested prior to its final launch from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, February 17, 2021.

Lawmakers allowed the service to go ahead with retirements, but said officials must provide a new bomber roadmap strategy detailing how its current “bomber aircraft force structure … enables the Air Force to meet the requirements of its long-range strike mission under the National Defense Strategy,” according to the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The strategy is due this month.

The law mandates that the bombers kept at the boneyard will be preserved well enough for their parts to be used for other bombers.

The Air Force spokesperson said that while final details are still being evaluated, 14 bombers will head to Davis-Monthan’s aircraft boneyard by the end of September.

Plans for the remaining three are still up in the air, but the bombers will likely be sent to Edwards Air Force Base, California for test purposes, or to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma for depot management and structural evaluation, the spokesperson said.

In 2012, the Air Force began the Integrated Battle Station, or IBS, modification for the B-1 – likely the largest and most complicated modification the bomber will see. The enhanced navigation and communication system upgrade – completed in September 2020 – cost the service roughly $1.1 billion, officials said.

Still, due to heavy use in the Middle East over a decade as the only US supersonic heavy-payload bomber, the Lancer fleet has seen repeated breakdowns and required extensive maintenance.

The repeated deployments caused the aircraft to deteriorate more quickly than expected, Ray said in 2019.

Ridding the fleet of these 17 bombers “will not affect the service’s lethality or any associated maintenance manpower,” officials said.

“Retiring aircraft with the least amount of usable life allows us to prioritize the health of the fleet and crew training,” Ray said, adding that fewer aircraft gives maintainers the ability to devote more time and attention to the remaining fleet.

The B-1 is capable of carrying both precision-guided and conventional bombs; plans are underway to make it more versatile for future operations.

In August 2019, the Air Force proved it could transform the Lancer to hold more ordnance, a first step toward carrying hypersonic weapons payloads.

B-1s have also been busy conducting flights around the world.

Over the last few months, the bombers have been spotted conducting multiple high-visibility patrols – known as a dynamic force employment – in the Indo-Pacific region, most notably across the East and South China Seas.

Last May, bombers from Ellsworth held their first-ever training mission over Sweden near the Arctic; B-1s will deploy to Norway in coming days for similar training, the Air Force said this month.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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Nearly 90% of military hazing complaints come from the Marine Corps

Drill Instructor Yelling Marine Corps
  • An annual report on hazing in the military shows that the Marine Corps had the lion’s share of hazing complaints and substantiated hazing incidents.
  • The data is a troubling snapshot taken shortly after the Marines faced national scrutiny over hazing episodes at boot camp at Parris Island in┬áSouth Carolina.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A year after a Marine drill instructor was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for hazing Muslim recruits, throwing one in an industrial dryer and figuring in another’s death, data shows that nearly nine out of 10 hazing reports in the military still came from within the Corps.

An annual report on hazing within the military, obtained via a public-records request, shows that the Marine Corps, the smallest Defense Department service by population with the exception of Space Force, owns the lion’s share of hazing complaints and substantiated hazing incidents. The data, from fiscal year 2018, shows that 256 of 291 total hazing complaints that year, more than 88%, were made in the Corps, and 91 of 102 substantiated hazing incidents took place among Marines.

The Navy was a distant second, with 17 complaints and 10 substantiated incidents; then the Army, with 13 complaints, none substantiated; and finally the Air Force, with five complaints, one substantiated. At the time of the reporting, 71 total complaints had been found unsubstantiated, 110 were pending a decision and eight were inconclusive or unknown.

The data, released to Military.com this month, provides what could be a troubling snapshot taken shortly after the Marines faced national scrutiny over hazing episodes at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina.

Recruit Raheel Siddiqui reportedly jumped to his own death in 2016 from the third floor of a Parris Island building after abuse at the hands of a drill instructor, who received 10 years for maltreatment and other crimes at a Parris Island court-martial. Other Marines who trained recruits were found to have inflicted chemical burns requiring skin grafts – the result of forced physical training on a bleach-covered floor – and ordered naked trainees to run back and forth, then jam together against the walls of a shower.

In all, eight drill instructors faced some level of punishment over the Parris Island hazing scandal amid national attention, and investigations resulted in a slew of recommendations for change. And that same year, a crackdown on hazing within 1st Marine Division in California resulted in at least 18 Marines getting kicked out of the Corps, and 30 spending time in the brig.

Amid all that, the 2018 data seems jarring.

But some say the information paints a more complicated picture: one of a service that is aggressively tracking abusive behavior while others overlook the problem.

New accountability measures

The 2018 report is the first-ever Pentagon-wide survey of hazing. It was mandated by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis earlier the same year as part of a sweeping new policy implemented to deter harassment and abusive behavior in every form within the ranks. Mattis’ order, building on a previous 2015 memo from then-Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, set a December 31, 2018, deadline for services to turn over the first 18 months of hazing data they’d collected, and required annual reports to follow.

The order also set a definition for hazing: a “form of harassment that … physically or psychologically injures, or creates a risk of physical or psychological injury … for the purpose of: initiation into, admission into, affiliation with, change in status or position within, or a condition for continued membership in any military or DoD civilian organization.”

The newly obtained report does not contain details on specific hazing incidents or complaints, but does break substantiated episodes into categories: physical, psychological, written, verbal and nonverbal.

In the Marine Corps, 60% of hazing incidents were physical and 32% verbal, with the remainder nonverbal. The other services had a similar breakdown; only the Navy had substantiated episodes of psychological hazing, with six incidents.

While the report doesn’t indicate the origin of hazing complaints or the dates they were made, it does contain some information on when hazing happens and who it happens to.

Unsurprisingly, almost all substantiated hazing happened on duty in 2018. Nearly 100% of military hazing victims were junior enlisted service members, in the ranks of E-4 and below and, with few exceptions, under the age of 25. While most of the perpetrators were also junior enlisted, some 20% were E-5s and E-6s, and eight offenders were senior enlisted troops or junior officers.

Within the entire Defense Department, only eight of the troops who reported being hazed were female.

Data shortfalls

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Recruits drill at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

While the majority of hazing offenders and complainants were white, the data does fall somewhat short. There’s no indication of the racial breakdown of victims and offenders in specific incidents, or what conditions lead to certain kinds of hazing. There’s no information, either, to indicate the severity of hazing incidents or their short- and long-term impact on victims.

What does seem evident, though, is that the 2018 data regarding the ratio of hazing reports by service is not an anomaly. A data sketch from fiscal 2017 also obtained by Military.com shows 233 out of 299 hazing reports that year came from the Marine Corps, and 109 out of 136 substantiated incidents occurred in that service.

While DoD did not release fiscal 2019 data, and a fiscal 2020 report has not yet been provided to the services, Marine Corps officials did provide data showing that reports of hazing decreased markedly within the service in 2019. That year, there were 188 total complaints in the Corps, and 47 substantiated hazing cases, officials said.

“Hazing has no place in a disciplined and professional military force and is not tolerated in any form in the Marine Corps. Hazing degrades our warfighting capabilities by destroying our Marines’ confidence and the trust they place in their fellow Marines and in their leadership. All complaints of hazing are taken seriously,” Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com.

Carlock added that all hazing complaints are tracked “from the initial complaint/allegation through adjudication” and that the service stresses bystander intervention and urges Marines and sailors to report all hazing they observe.

A 2015 study by the Rand Corporation did find that the Marine Corps was the most consistent of any service apart from the Coast Guard at providing specific anti-hazing training and offering additional training at various career intervals, with annual refreshers. Gaps were still present at that point, however; the report found anti-hazing instruction in the Corps was lecture-only and lacked group discussion and structured assessment.

But the grim wake-up calls from the recent high-profile hazing incidents may mean the Marines track the issue better and more consistently than other services. That’s the contention of Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat who has made it a priority to end military hazing and increase accountability.

Chu’s nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, took his own life during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 following hazing by his peers. Three Marines faced criminal charges in the wake of his death; two were acquitted and one was sentenced to 30 days in a plea agreement.

“The real truth is that hazing in the military is still obscured by bad and incomplete data,” Chu told Military.com in a February 5 statement. She cited a Government Accountability Office report she had required showing that, as of early 2016, the Corps alone consistently tracked both substantiated and unsubstantiated hazing reports.

“This doesn’t mean that the Marines are more likely to have a hazing problem, but that the other branches fail to report theirs,” she said in the statement. “Still, what this troubling data reveals is that hazing and disunity are still pervasive problems in our military, which is bad for our national security and the health and safety of the men and women in uniform who risk everything for us.”

Cultural Influences

It’s likely, however, that culture also plays a role in the picture the data shows. The Marine Corps has the youngest average age of any service, the most male and the most junior in rank. The service prides itself on being the most physically demanding, as well, and many recruits arrive at boot camp with a perception of the Corps informed by films like “Full Metal Jacket” and “A Few Good Men” – movies in which brutal Marine Corps hazing incidents are main plot points.

In a 2020 law review article in the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, authors Gregory S. Parks and Jasmine Burgess explore the psychological, cultural and organizational causes of military hazing.

In one notional example underscoring their research, they profile “Darrius Ima,” a Marine Corps drill instructor who himself was hazed as a recruit and believes he’s justified in passing down the tradition.

“Darrius believes, not only that there is a low probability of him being caught and reprimanded for the hazing but also that, and erroneously so, that the majority of the Marines community values hazing,” the authors write. ” … In sum, Darrius is morally disengaged around the issue of hazing. He tries to justify his conduct by offering a purely positive rationale for hazing – e.g., that it builds bonds.”

Drill Instructor Yelling Marine Corps

Parks, a professor of law at Wake Forest University and expert on all kinds of hazing who spoke to Military.com February 5, said changing a cultural perspective on an issue such as hazing can be a lengthy process.

“Organizational culture is crucial,” he said. “What are the dynamics at play within an organization over the course of maybe decades or generations, and why is it hard to disentangle that. It makes it very difficult to swim upstream and buck the system when you receive a lot of critical feedback from peers.”

He added that the military, and particularly the Marine Corps, which demands and prizes high levels of physical prowess and mental toughness, may be more prone to training and rituals that cross the line into hazing.

“There are these physical components, but there’s also the psychological aspect of putting people through the paces,” he said. “It’s probably easier to amplify that.”

The newly obtained data does indicate that being found to have hazed a peer or subordinate will affect a service member’s career, even if it doesn’t end it. For fiscal 2018, 100% of substantiated hazing offenders received some sort of discipline.

In the Marine Corps, 174 perpetrators received a total of 365 corrective or disciplinary actions. One-third of all disciplinary actions for Marines were at the administrative level, and a little more than half consisted of non-judicial punishment. Unit-level punishments are shielded from public release, and therefore difficult to track.

Some 44 Marines faced hazing-related charges at various levels of court-martial; the Corps was the only service to send anyone to court-martial over hazing.

“We continue to train and educate all Marines and instill in them that these behaviors are inconsistent with our core values and we will hold perpetrators accountable,” Carlock, the Marine Corps spokeswoman, told Military.com. “A failure to act and respond is not only inconsistent with who we are but it also degrades our traditions, threatens our cohesion and morale, and detracts from mission accomplishment.”

– Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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For the first time ever, the Marine Corps will train women at its all-male West Coast boot camp

Marine Corps recruit boot camp Parris Island
A recruit receives instructions on the range prior to live fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, November 12, 2019.

  • The Marine Corps is sending women to its all-male West Coast boot camp in San Diego for the first time.
  • The Corps already trains women at its other recruit depot in South Carolina, but the service is preparing to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For the first time ever, the Marine Corps is about to send dozens of women to its all-male West Coast boot camp as the service prepares to meet a congressional mandate to make its entry-level training coed.

About 60 female recruits will begin training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February, multiple officials told Military.com. The plan is part of a test run as the Marine Corps experiments with ways to end its long-held tradition of separating enlisted recruits by gender when they arrive at boot camp.

The service has historically trained female recruits only at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. But it is required by law to end that practice within five years at Parris Island and within eight at San Diego.

Three women will also graduate from the Marine Corps’ West Coast drill instructor school this week, officials said. The new drill instructors will be part of the team responsible for training the incoming female platoon.

Commandant Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps’ top general, said during a Defense One event in September that the service would “run a couple of trials this wintertime” in which it would move female drill instructors from South Carolina to San Diego “and train recruits on the West Coast to see how this is going to work.”

It was not immediately clear at the time whether that meant the drill instructors would train the male recruits already there, or women as well.

Marine Corps recruit San Diego
Drill instructors correct a new recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, March 30, 2020.

The recruits will be assigned to a coed company once they get to San Diego. The company will follow the training model Parris Island has been using over the last two years to train men and women together in the same company.

The first-ever gender-integrated company, which included one female platoon and five male platoons, graduated from Parris Island in March 2019. Several more coed companies have since completed training together there.

Lawmakers have pressed the Marine Corps to train men and women together after all combat arms jobs opened to women and a high-profile scandal highlighted the troubling way some male Marines treated their female colleagues. The requirement to end the practice was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law last December.

Leaders have said that the coed companies that have graduated at Parris Island have performed as well, if not better than, some all-male or all-female companies.

“If anything, it went a little better because there’s a little bit more competition with [each platoon] going, ‘No, we need to beat them,’ or ‘We can’t let them beat us,'” now-retired Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the former head of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com last year. “So there was a little bit of that effect. But other than that, there was no real difference.”

The female recruits that will ship to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February have already been notified that they won’t be training at Parris Island, officials said. The women, like most men who train in San Diego, will ship from states west of the Mississippi River.

The Marine Corps is also studying, as part of meeting its congressional mandate to make boot camp coed, the possibility of training all its recruits at a new site rather than shipping them to separate coasts. That has led to outcry from South Carolina politicians who are pushing back against closing the historic Parris Island base.

– Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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Former soldier who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghans and 7 other former troops and contractors are asking Trump for pardons

US Army Robert Bales
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, August 23, 2011.

  • At least eight former service members and Blackwater security guards convicted of war crimes have filed petitions seeking pardons or clemency from President Donald Trump.
  • Among them is Robert Bales, a former Army staff sergeant who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in 2012.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

At least eight former service members and Blackwater security guards convicted of war crimes have filed petitions seeking pardons or clemency from President Donald Trump, including a former Army staff sergeant who pleaded guilty to killing 16 Afghan men, women and children.

Getting action from Trump in the case of former Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was “admittedly a long shot,” but “we’d be remiss if we didn’t try,” his lawyer John Maher, a former military Judge Advocate General, told Military.com Thursday.

Bales, now 45, pleaded guilty in a 2013 general court martial to avoid the death penalty on charges of going off alone at night from his base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in 2012 to kill three Afghan men, four women and nine children, including a 2 year old.

Bales then set fire to the bodies, according to his guilty plea.

He has been serving a life term without eligibility for parole in the maximum security section of the military’s Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The killings, believed to be the worst atrocity carried out by a single American soldier in the Afghan war, triggered widespread demonstrations against the US military presence.

Maher said Bales had had an exemplary record in three previous combat tours in Iraq prior to the incident and “then he goes out and kills 16 people. No one ever determined whether he was in his right mind.”

Bales had been taking the antimalarial drug mefloquine, which can have adverse psychiatric effects, leading to violence in some patients, according to Maher.

Bales’ use of mefloquine was not presented at court-martial to determine whether he had the mental capacity to enter a guilty plea, Maher said.

At his sentencing hearing, Bales also said he had been taking the steroid stanozolol to get “huge and jacked,” and then added that, “There’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did.”

Although a pardon for Bales is likely out of the question, Maher said he was asking that Trump consider commuting the sentence to 20 years, or ordering a new trial.

In a December 2 petition to Trump filed with the Justice Department’s pardon attorney, Maher asked that the president to “disapprove the findings and the sentence in this court-martial, or grant a full and unconditional pardon, or commute the present sentence to 20 years confinement” at Fort Leavenworth.

Robert Bales
US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in March 2012.

The filing included a personal plea to Trump from Bales, in which he cited previous pardons granted by the president to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Matt Golsteyn. Lorance was convicted of second-degree murder after he was found to have ordered platoon members to fire on Afghan men on motorcycles in 2012, resulting in the deaths of two. Golsteyn had been facing court-martial over his killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker in 2010.

Bales also cited the case of former SEAL Master Chief Eddie Gallagher, whose demotion was reversed by Trump after he had been acquitted at a court martial of killing a prisoner.

“All these men committed violations of the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and most of these men spent less time on the ground in hostile fire areas than I, they all outranked me, and all made more money than I,” Bales said.

He asked that Trump afford him “the same level of clemency that has already been shown to others.”

“Please let me return home to be a husband and a father. Without your involvement, I may never be able to go home,” Bales said.

Maher has the support of the United American Patriot advocacy group and the Justice for Warriors Congressional Caucus, led by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Among other cases the lawyer is handling, the “most promising” for Trump’s possible action, he said, was that of four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards, convicted in federal district court in Washington, DC, in 2014 of various counts of murder, manslaughter and weapons charges in the 2007 killings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square of 17 Iraqis. All four men had military backgrounds.

The defendants claimed that they opened fire in response to an ambush, but US Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement that the guilty verdicts were ” a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war.”

Maher said the defendants – Paul A. Slough, Dustin L. Heard, Nicholas A. Slatten and Evan S. Liberty – were the victims of prosecutorial misconduct and political pressure from the Obama administration.

Several sources, Maher said, told him that the arguments for pardon in the Blackwater case had been made known to Trump and “the president’s view of that is very friendly.”

Speculation that Trump would issue a rash of pardons before leaving office was triggered by his November 25 pardon of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Flynn pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat, but with a new defense team he sought to retract his guilty plea. In May, the Justice Department asked to drop the case, but the request was blocked by federal district court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

Trump’s pardon made the arguments for and against proceeding in the Flynn case moot.

The White House has been silent on whether Trump would issue more pardons before leaving office but several news outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have reported that Trump is considering more pardons, including a possible preemptive pardon for himself.

However, the petitions for pardon, clemency or commutation of sentences for other former members of the military have largely gone unnoticed.

Lorance had served six years of a 19-year sentence when Trump issued his pardon in 2019. He is now petitioning to clear his record of the conviction, Maher said.

Lorance was attending law school and the record of conviction would likely block him from ever being admitted to the bar, Maher said.

In an October interview with Military.com, Lorance said that if admitted to practice law, he would seek to reform the UCMJ.

Clint Lorance
Clint Lorance on “Fox & Friends,” November 18, 2019.

Maher, backed by United American Patriots, has also filed a petition for pardon for former Army 1st Sgt. John Hatley, who was released on parole in October from Fort Leavenworth after serving 11 years on what initially had been a life sentence.

Hatley had been convicted at court-martial of participating in the premeditated murders of four Iraqi prisoners in 2007.

Maher has also filed for pardon or commutation of sentence for former Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the alleged ringleader of a self-styled “kill team” who was convicted of participating in the murders of at least three Afghans in 2009 and 2010. The group also allegedly took body parts as trophies.

In January 2020, Gibbs filed suit in federal court seeking to have the conviction overturned, claiming that his original defense lawyer failed to present testimony disputing his role in the killings. Gibbs has been serving a life sentence at Fort Leavenworth.

According to a November report by the Pew Research Center, Trump has issued far fewer pardons or sentence commutations than any of his recent predecessors.

Citing Justice Department data, the Pew report said that by mid-November Trump had granted 28 pardons and 16 commutations, the lowest total of any president since William Mckinley, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

By contrast, former President Barack Obama granted 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations in his eight years in office, the Pew report said.

– Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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