US Army

The first regular American fighting force, the Continental Army, was organised in June, 1775, to support militia forces in the War of Independence (1775-83). Disbanded in November, 1783, it was re-established during times of conflict such as the Mexican War (1846-48).

By 1860 there were 16,000 men in United States Army. During the Civil War this increased to over 1,000,000. This fell to 25,000 by 1875. Elihu Root reorganized the army after becoming secretary of war in 1899. This included the establishment of a General Staff in 1903 and improvements in officer training.

In 1914 the United States Army comprised 98,000 men, of whom some 45,000 were stationed overseas. The regular army was backed up by the 27,000 troops in the National Guard. In December 1914 General Leonard Wood helped to form the National Security League and began arguing for conscription as a means of increasing the size of the US Army. President Woodrow Wilson responded by increasing the standing army to 140,000 men.

When the USA declared war in April 1917, Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) under the command of General John Pershing to the Western Front. The Selective Service Act, drafted by Brigadier General Hugh Johnson, was quickly passed by Congress. The law authorized President Woodrow Wilson to raise a volunteer infantry force of not more than four divisions.

All males between the ages of 21 and 30 were required to register for military service. By 12th September 1918, 23,908,566 men had registered. Around 4,000,000 men were ultimately drafted into the armed services. Of these, 50 per cent served overseas during the war.

By July 1918 there were over a million US soldiers in France. General John Pershing deployed US troops to help the French defend the Western Front during the 3rd Battle of the Aisne in May and at the Marne in June. US troops also took part in the Allied attacks at Le Hamel and Canal du Nord before Pershing launched his own offensive at St Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.

More than 2 million troops eventually reached Europe but a large number arrived too late to see any action. The American Expeditionary Force suffered 264,000 casualties during the war. It has been calculated that 112,432 Americans died. Of these, around 50 per cent died from disease (mainly influenza).

About 200,000 Afro-Americans served in the US Army in Europe, but only 42,000 were classified as combat troops. Completely segregated, they fought with the French Army during the war.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, the United States Army was a small professional force of 175,000 men. General George Marshall was appointed Chief of Staff in September, 1939, and he immediately ordered the production of high performance tanks and the latest field artillery. In 1940 the first peace-time draft took place and by the summer of 1941 the army had 1,400,000 men.

When the United States entered the war plans were made to establish 105 divisions but in fact only 100 divisions were created before the end of the war. Under Marshall's direction, in less than four years, the army grew to a force of 8,300,000 men. Winston Churchill believed that Marshall's achievements were monumental and described him as the "organizer of victory".

In May, 1942, Dwight Eisenhower was made supreme commander of European operations. Based in London, he got on well with Winston Churchill, and together they planned the 1944 invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. By spring 1945, with powerful support from the Russian forces advancing from the east, the war in Europe was ended. Overall casualties were 234,874 dead, 701,385 wounded and 124,079 imprisoned.

The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 resulted in another expansion of the United States Army. Within a year the force had grown to 1,500,000 officers and men. Over 142,000 American troops were killed during the war. The existence of McCarthyism and the Cold War meant that army size was maintained and even after the Korean conflict had ended the army had over 850,000 men.

The United States Army grew again during the Vietnam War reaching 1,460,000 in the late 1960s. Between 1961 and 1973 over 56,800 were killed and another 153,300 were seriously wounded. With the withdrawal from Vietnam the army was returned to volunteer status.

Military History and Heritage

The Army Historical Program (AHP) includes all historical activities within the active Army, the Army National Guard of the United States, and the U.S. Army Reserve. The mission of the AHP is to preserve, critically interpret, disseminate, and teach military history provide historical advice and stimulate historical mindedness within the Army and throughout the nation.

PRESENTATION QUESTION What are the similarities and differences between Clausewitz and Sun Tzu? Which perspective do you think is more valid to make sense of contemporary security issues? “Know the enemy and know yourself in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.” Sun Tzu

The United States Army has been around for over 235 years it’s even older than the Declaration of Independence. Sometimes we think of history as the things that happened “way back then” – the things that happened to our grandparents and their grandparents and so on. The truth is, history is made every day. Someone in Georgia that graduates from high school this year, maybe someone from this high school, will someday be a Senator or General or Diplomat who participates in something historic. And that event will be studied by the students from the Class of 2061 or 2071, just like your class, the Class of 2011, is studying Vietnam, Civil Rights, Apollo 11 and the space race, and all those other things that happened 40 years ago.

Class on United States Military History (Army)

Class on Unit Designations and Modular Force History

Class on The Role and use of Army History

Class on Medal of Honor Information

Class on Basic Knowledge of Military History

The Annual Command History is a written account of the operations and activities of an Army organization, installation, or school. It is an objective record of the preparing organization’s performance for the previous year and serves as its institutional memory and guide for future operations. The commander uses the command’s annual history to add historical perspective to the decision-making process. It is a primary source of background facts in support of the staff and is used to orient new commanders and personnel on the organization’s mission, recent activities, accomplishments, and issues.

Historical support is required at all levels of wartime military operations to gather information and documentation for use in the official history of battles, campaigns, and other deployed operations of the Army. Historical support is provided by a theater historian, the theater historical staff, subordinate command historians and historical officers, and assigned or attached military history detachments/military history teams

Bonus Marchers evicted by U.S. Army

During the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover orders the U.S. Army under General Douglas MacArthur to evict by force the Bonus Marchers from the nation’s capital.

Two months before, the so-called 𠇋onus Expeditionary Force,” a group of some 1,000 World War I veterans seeking cash payments for their veterans’ bonus certificates, had arrived in Washington, D.C. Most of the marchers were unemployed veterans in desperate financial straits. In June, other veteran groups spontaneously made their way to the nation’s capital, swelling the Bonus Marchers to nearly 20,000 strong. Camping in vacant government buildings and in open fields made available by District of Columbia Police Chief Pelham D. Glassford, they demanded passage of the veterans’ payment bill introduced by Representative Wright Patman.

While awaiting a vote on the issue, the veterans conducted themselves in an orderly and peaceful fashion, and on June 15 the Patman bill passed in the House of Representatives. However, two days later, its defeat in the Senate infuriated the marchers, who refused to return home. In an increasingly tense situation, the federal government provided money for the protesters’ trip home, but 2,000 refused the offer and continued to protest. On July 28, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army to evict them forcibly. General MacArthur’s men set their camps on fire, and the veterans were driven from the city. Hoover, increasingly regarded as insensitive to the needs of the nation’s many poor, was much criticized by the public and press for the severity of his response.

The U.S. Army Chemical Corps: Past, Present, and Future

Today, newspapers and news desks use the words “weapons of mass destruction,” anthrax, smallpox, and nerve agents at least weekly, if not daily. Developing defenses against these unconventional weapons has been the mission of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps since its inception in 1917 as the American Expeditionary Force’s Gas Services. Yet, the path from the European fields of World War I to the Middle East deserts today has not been a straight or easy one. The Department of the Army has questioned the need for a Chemical Corps several times, despite the constant and growing proliferation of nation states and terrorist groups that appear intent on arming themselves with these weapons.

This article is not intended to address the broader history of chemical and biological (CB) warfare, the doctrine, tactics, or equipment developed to defend military forces from CB warfare agents, or the particular controversies that seem to crop up surrounding this poorly understood topic. Instead, this article will outline why the U.S. Army developed a Chemical Corps, what triumphs and failures the Chemical Corps has endured, and some interesting facts about the Chemical Corps leadership. Finally, the article will answer the ultimate question: Why today a Chemical Corps?

Modern chemical warfare can be viewed as being born in World War I, with the German Army’s successful use of chlorine gas on the fields of Ypres, Belgium, in April 1915. While the Germans, British and French lobbed chemical rounds at each other in the successive years of the war, the U.S. Army remained completely unprepared for this new weapon system up to the American Expeditionary Force’s arrival in France in the summer of 1917. GEN John J. Pershing appointed his chief engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Amos Fries, to form a Gas Service to train and equip his forces and to develop an offensive capability using British and French equipment. Back in the States, the War Department created the Chemical Warfare Service in June 1918 to organize the development of offensive munitions and defensive equipment (gas alarms and gas masks, primarily). MG William Sibert, the architect of the Panama Canal and former commander of the 1st Division, became the first chief chemical officer of the Chemical Warfare Service. The Army built four chemical warfare agent production plants on the grounds of Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland to produce chlorine, chloropicrin, phosgene, and mustard agent, producing more than 1,600 tons of agent by the end of the war. None of it, however, made it overseas prior to the end of the conflict. By the end of the war, the Chemical Warfare Service would include 1,680 officers and 20,518 enlisted personnel. Its insignia, designed in 1917, was a pair of crossed chemical retorts with a benzene ring in the center denoting its laboratory roots.

The First Gas Regiment, formerly the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame), would use British Stokes mortars and Livens projectors, and French artillery batteries, to employ thermite, high explosives, and chemical rounds during operations in Europe. Many U.S. commanders were reluctant to use chemical weapons, not having any experience in the highly weather-reliant weapon system and fearing German retaliation against their use. Regardless, the German gas attacks occurred, and eventually American forces responded in kind. Nearly one third of American casualties were gas-related, numbering about 70,000 in all, of which about one in sixty gas cases was a fatality. GEN Pershing noted “whether or not gas will be employed in future wars is a matter of conjecture, but the effect is so deadly to the unprepared that we can never afford to neglect the question.” While most military commanders would agree with that sentiment, their actions belied this wisdom.

Congress made the Chemical Warfare Service a permanent part of the Army in 1920, with duties to continue “the investigation, development, manufacture or procurement and supply of all smoke and incendiary materials, all toxic gases, and all gas defense appliances…” This endorsement was against the recommendations of Secretary of War Newton Baker and Army Chief of Staff Payton March, both advocates of eliminating the Army’s new chemical warfare capability. Amos Fries was promoted to major general and took over the Chemical Warfare Service in 1920. The interwar years were lean times for the Chemical Warfare Service. Indeed, the entire U.S. Army had been drawn down, and the Chemical Warfare Service worked closely with commercial chemical industries and the agricultural sector so that its personnel could maintain their skills. Still, its numbers dropped to less than 500 military and 1,000 civilian personnel.

The Geneva Convention of 1925 attempted to limit first use of chemical weapons, but allowed nations that were attacked with chemicals the right of retaliation. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty, voicing the concern that the nation needed an ability to protect itself through the development of an offensive capability. Between 1930 and 1941, the Chemical Warfare Service focused on refining its production of chemical warfare agents and developing better delivery systems. This included adding rifling to the Stokes mortar and creating the Army’s 4.2-inch mortar for the delivery of chemical warfare agents, smoke, and high explosives. Gas bombs were developed to take advantage of the creation of bomber forces, predicted by many to be the decisive combat arm of the next war. In 1934, the Chemical Warfare Service received approval for its distinctive unit insignia, a green dragon breathing flames, and its motto–Elementis Regamus Proelium–“Let Us Rule the Battle by Means of the Elements.”

While the Chemical Warfare Service had been modernizing its offensive and defensive capabilities, the U.S. Army remained unprepared for a conflict featuring chemical or biological warfare agents. More focused on developing modern armor, artillery, and airborne tactics, the Army leadership had ignored the Italian use of mustard agent in Ethiopia and the Japanese use of CB weapons in China. When formal war was declared in December 1941, the United States faced enemies on opposite sides of the world, both with CB weapons capabilities. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a “retaliation in kind” policy in June 1942, but in reality, this was a hollow threat–the U.S. Army had virtually no chemical weapons stockpiles and absolutely no biological warfare capability. The result of this declaration was the rapid investment in military infrastructure, notably numerous chemical ammunition plants, testing grounds, and defensive equipment production plants. The Army established Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkanas Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado Dugway Proving Ground, Utah Plum Island, New York Camp Detrick, Maryland Camp Sibert, Alabama and Camp Beale, California, among other CB warfare installations. By the end of the war, the Army had manufactured and shipped more than 146,000 tons of chemical warfare agents overseas for potential retaliation against German or Japanese use. Limited stocks of anthrax were created at Camp Detrick and sent to the United Kingdom prior to D-Day as a stand-by retaliatory capability.

More than 400 chemical battalions and companies were created during the war, numbering more than 60,000 military personnel at the peak of enlistment. American troops deployed with gas masks, impregnated suits, and information cards detailing the signs and symptoms of gas poisoning. Decontamination units landed right behind the infantry on the invasion beaches, prepared to clean the beachfronts for the troops if the Germans used chemical weapons to counterattack.

Indeed, the Germans had stockpiled more than a quarter million tons of chemical agents, including thousands of tons of nerve agents. While chemical mortar battalions were prepared to use chemical weapons, they were employed more as infantry commanders’ hip-pocket artillery support. Chemical smoke generator companies also supported combat river crossings and port survivability with large area smoke missions.

While the military had developed plans to employ chemical weapons as an aspect of the invasion of Japan, the use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki concluded the conflict without their use. The question of why CB weapons were not used in World War II is always one of great complexity. Some would believe that it was a question of the morality of CB weapons, but the discussions of military leaders such as Winston Churchill do not reflect that aspect. Rather, it may be that the warring nations were reluctant to employ CB weapons due to the desire to avoid the trench warfare and stalemate of the Great War. Certainly the major combatant nations invested in CB weapons and defensive material, just in case the other side started using them first. The discovery of nerve agents in Germany was undoubtedly a factor following the war in Congress’s decision to maintain the Chemical Warfare Service (again, against the suggestions of the War Department, already moving to develop its atomic force). On 2 August 1946, Congress codified the Chemical Corps as an official branch within the Army.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union began an intensive research and development effort into CB weapons, beginning with the new nerve agents tabun, sarin, and soman. It would take years to develop these agents into weapon systems and to develop defensive measures against this new class of agent. The Korean War initiated concerns that U.S. forces in Korea and Japan might face CB weapons supplied by the Soviets. These concerns caused a new wave of investment into the development of CB weapons stockpiles and defensive training, along with the activation of a new training center and school at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Again, while there was no CB warfare initiated during the Korean War, the Chemical Corps supported the Army’s combat operations. The 2d Chemical Battalion supported tactical combat operations with smoke obscuration and high explosives mortar support. The Chemical Corps built upon its development of incendiary munitions during World War II to support the use of napalm on the peninsula. The 4.2-inch chemical mortar would become so beloved by the infantry that they took control of the weapon system and the chemical mortar units in 1952.

Following the end of the Korean War, the Army initiated a revitalized effort to develop CB weapons for all of its weapon systems and maintain a robust tactical offensive capability. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps also expressed interest in developing CB weapons for their own platforms. Increasing concerns about the Soviet CB warfare capability and a desire to avoid nuclear warfare resulted in the development of a joint test center at Dugway Proving Ground and numerous open air tests of CB agents and simulants to better understand their potential effects on future battlefields. One of the largest open-air project was Project 112, which included Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD). These tests, conducted between 1963 and 1969, were designed to better understand the nature of CB weapons and how to develop better defenses against them. The high casualty count of the Korean War had also initiated the development of incapacitants, riot control agents, and herbicides, to develop tools that could accelerate the capitulation of the enemy without massive casualties.

In Vietnam, the Chemical Corps continued its support of combat operations through the employment of incendiary munitions, herbicides, riot control agents, and other efforts. The heavy use of herbicides and riot control agents would bring a storm of criticism upon the Army, with some critics suggesting the United States was violating the Geneva Protocol with the use of these chemical agents. While herbicides and riot control agents may be chemical in nature, they had not been (nor are they now) considered chemical warfare agents. Nonetheless, the storm of controversy resulted in a presidential executive order that prevented the employment of riot control agents by military forces without presidential approval.

A number of events occurred in the late 1960s that would result in the near-death of the Chemical Corps. The furor over the use of napalm, riot control agents, and herbicides in Vietnam continued to draw public debate against the Chemical Corps. In March 1968, the Army was accused of causing the incapacitation more than 4,000 sheep near Dugway Proving Ground as a result of a VX-spray open air trial. While the evidence was inconclusive, the Army agreed to settle the case and pay off the ranchers. Operation CHASE (Cut Holes and Sink ‘Em), a program to dispose of conventional and chemical munitions 250 miles out at sea, came to light, causing consternation that chemical agents would wash up onto the shore or that the ocean environment would be harmed.

In 1969, the United Nations issued a report calling for the elimination of CB weapons stockpiles worldwide. In the same month that the report was released, twenty-three U.S. soldiers in Okinawa were hospitalized due to exposure to low levels of nerve agent. This incident was the first public acknowledgement that the United States had chemical weapons stockpiles overseas. President Richard Nixon renounced the use of biological weapons and reaffirmed the U.S. policy of “no first use” of chemical weapons in November 1969, based upon the results of a National Security Council study executed that year. Congress significantly increased its interest in military CB weapons and passed a public law severely restricting open air CB agent training and testing.

These background issues had considerably raised the heat on the Chemical Corps, but no one was prepared for what happened next. In the summer of 1972, President Nixon announced the nomination of GEN Creighton Abrams as the next Chief of Staff of the Army. That same summer, GEN Abrams and a group of officers examined the difficult issue of reforming the post-Vietnam Army, which included the reduction of the Army’s strength by a third. On the same day that he was sworn into office (16 October 1972), the new Chief of Staff fired off a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel to chair an ad hoc study group with the purpose of developing options to consolidate the Chemical Corps into other branches of the Army, with a deadline of 30 November 1972. The group’s final recommendations included reducing the Chemical Corps as a special weapons department under the Ordnance Corps, moving the smoke and flame mission to the Engineers, and the protective clothing mission to the Quartermaster Corps. The Chief of Staff accepted these recommendations on 15 December, and Secretary of the Army Robert F. Froehlke agreed. The announcement to disestablish the Chemical Corps came on 11 January 1973.

This came as a huge shock to the rank and file of the Chemical Corps. When a colonel at Rocky Mountain Arsenal asked why this had happened, Abrams responded that the combat arms were the ones that had to live and die on the battlefield, and it was their responsibility–not some technician’s responsibility–to make sure they had a defensive capability against CB warfare agents. The Chemical Corps had become too technical, focused on laboratory and proving ground work, and were not seen as true combat support forces as the engineer and aviation units had become. The decision to disestablish the Chemical Corps had to go to Congress for final deliberation, as Congress had established the Chemical Corps in 1946 as a permanent part of the Army. Fortunately, Congress chose not to act immediately.

GEN Abrams died in office in 1974, and the results of the Arab-Israeli war on 1973 had come to show an increased interest on the part of the Soviet Union to develop defensive CB warfare equipment. As the United States had practically renounced its interest in this area, the concern was that the Soviet Union was planning to maintain that offensive and defensive capability for use in Europe. Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman withdrew the earlier recommendation to disestablish the Chemical Corps, and Chief of Staff GEN Bernard Rodgers authorized the resumption of commissioning officers in the Chemical Corps in October 1976. It was not until 1980 that the Army ChemicalSchool reopened at Fort McClellan and the research and development efforts at Edgewood Arsenal were back into full swing.

The 1980s was a renaissance era for the Chemical Corps, seeing a significant jump in the activation of chemical companies and detachments, development of new doctrine and training, and development and production of new protective masks, protective clothing, chemical detectors, collective protection equipment, and decontamination systems. Biological detection was still considered too tough of a nut to crack, but efforts were ongoing. These efforts paid off when, in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and President George H.W. Bush called for U.S. forces to respond. While the focus of the military had always been on the Soviet Union, here was an adversary with a proven chemical warfare capability and a suspected biological warfare capability.

In August 1990, there were few chemical defense specialists, extreme shortfalls of critical equipment, and few trained troops present in the Presian Gulf region. Because of a fortuitous six months of preparation, the coalition forces were able to field a trained and prepared force that was prepared for a CB contaminated battlefield. The expected attacks never came, although many false alarms kept soldiers’ nerves on edge. More than 4,000 chemical defense specialists were in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq, with new capabilities such as biological sampling systems, stand-off chemical agent detection, and new NBC reconnaissance vehicles. This depth of expertise is a primary reason why the Defense Department could say that U.S. forces had not been exposed to any offensive CB attacks from the Iraqi forces during the conflict. While there were chemical munitions blown up at the Khamisiyah depot in early March 1991, it is highly unlikely that any soldiers received dosages of nerve agents that would cause any ill effects. Several current medical studies have also stated the total lack of any evidence to connect Gulf War illnesses to any CB agent exposure.

The lack of CB warfare during the Persian Gulf conflict caused perhaps more questions than provided answers. One fault noted by Congress was the lack of uniform CB defense equipment across the force, a fault that had caused considerable grief in the first few months of the crisis. In 1994, Congress passed a law that forced all the services to combine their efforts into a single budget line that would be overseen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and run by the Army as the DOD Executive Agent. This executive agent role had actually existed since 1975, but granted no authority to force a standard set of equipment onto the other services. The result of this action has significantly improved the services’ CB defense capabilities by creating common detectors, warning and reporting software, protective ensembles, medical consumables, decontaminants, and collective protection equipment. There are few if any examples of such a successful joint program within the Defense Department.

The results of the joint CB defense program were most visible during Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Central Command had a wide assortment of military specialists and new CB defense capabilities to protect their forces against potential CB agents, including new protective clothing and masks, new chemical detectors, and a state-of-the-art biological detection capability. While the decontamination systems and collective protection equipment remained less than adequate, overall the force had a much greater capability than it had ten years previously. It should not need to be stated that everyone expected Saddam Hussein to direct the use of CB weapons in a “last-gasp” regime survival effort, yet once again, no CB weapons were used. This may have been in part due to the coalition’s total domination over the battle space that prevented any delivery systems from employing CB warfare agents.

So here the Army is today, having avoided any CB warfare conflicts for more than 80 years–why then do we need a Chemical Corps? While Russia has promised to eliminate its CB weapons stockpiles, the threat of CB warfare continues to proliferate with smaller nations. Despite the existence of treaties holding nations to not use these weapons, our forces will continue to require a strong counter proliferation capability, which includes the capability to defend against the use of CB warfare agents. History has shown repeatedly that it is those countries without a defensive capability that are often attacked with CB weapons. The use of CB weapons is not a question of morality nations use these weapons because they can significantly reduce the length of a conflict against their neighbors or even cause major powers to hesitate in any planned interventions. In this age of increasing deployments and engagement in non-nuclear conflicts, the threat of CB warfare will continue.

The recent concern over terrorist possession of CB warfare agents, to include toxic industrial chemicals, has resulted in a DOD-wide installation preparedness program with the intent of hardening U.S. military installations and facilities against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) hazards. Traditionally anti-terrorism efforts have focused on conventional threats. DOD installations and facilities are now increasing their focus on less probable, but high consequence incidents that involve CBRN hazards. The Chemical Corps, as the DOD executive agent for CB defense, is leading in the development of specialized doctrine, training, and equipment to address this unconventional threat that is now appearing in a domestic, peacetime environment.

Similarly, homeland security concerns have driven home the need to develop an executable strategy to protect civilians and critical infrastructure against these same potential terrorist CBRN hazards. While the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services may have the lead, they lack the subject-matter experts to appropriately address these threats. In both the military and civil anti-terrorism scenarios, CBRN hazards are not the most likely threat, but their unexpected use will have high consequences.

US Army - History

American Airborne Units in World War II
By Michael F. Dilley

This short history will cover those combat military groups, squadrons, battalions, regiments, divisions, and the one corps of U.S. airborne units in World War II. It will not include Army Air Corps units (such as the Air Commandos) or Troop Carrier units, or organizations that had American individuals in them who were airborne qualified and even made operational jumps, such as Army and Marine Corps members of the Office of Strategic Services (including those with Jedburgh teams and Operations Groups), or the multi-service, multi-national Special Allied Airborne Reconnaissance Force (which initially included women who had previously jumped into denied areas).

The first plan to use parachute forces by American units was developed during World War I. On 17 October 1918, Brigadier General William P. (Billy) Mitchell, a later proponent of strategic aerial bombing, conceived the idea of dropping an American division by parachute from bomber aircraft into an area in the vicinity of Metz, Germany. The details of the planning were developed by Major Lewis H. Brereton, a member of Mitchell’s Air Service staff. Brereton would later serve as the commander of the First Allied Airborne Army during World War II as a Lieutenant General. (The First Allied Airborne Army consisted of the American XVIII Airborne Corps, which included: the 17th Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division and the British I Airborne Corps, which included: the 1st Airborne Division and the 6th Airborne Division. Troop carrier units were also part of Brereton’s command.)

In the event, the plan for the Metz operation, which would have air-dropped the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, was cancelled because of the Armistice on 11 November that ended the war. In the intervening years between the world wars, the U.S. military establishment paid little attention to the idea of airborne warfare. Russia and Germany, however, developed forces within their respective militaries that relied on aerial delivery of troops, including by parachute and glider. The American Army conducted brief experiments in 1928 with parachute forces but discontinued them shortly after. It was not until 1938 that serious consideration of airborne warfare was again raised, this time at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This effort was in the form of exercises that involved the formation of doctrine for the employment of airborne forces.

The formation of American airborne units began on 26 June 1940, with the establishment of the Parachute Test Platoon (PTP) at Fort Benning, Georgia with volunteer members from the 29th Infantry Regiment. This unit was formed to test the feasibility of parachute operations in the U.S. Army. The PTP began training immediately and made its first jump on the morning of 16 August 1940. Although early military planners thought that paratroopers would most likely operate in small units against “communications and supply installation in enemy rear areas,” this concept soon changed. Eventually several Parachute Infantry Battalions (PIBs) were activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina Camp Toccoa, Georgia and Fort Benning. They were manned by graduates of the Airborne School. These battalions included the 501st, 502nd, 503rd, and 504th, as well as others. As decisions were made to create airborne divisions, these battalions were increased in strength to become Parachute Infantry Regiments (PIRs), generally with the same numerical designation. In a history not necessary to detail here, the 2nd Battalion, 503rd PIR was eventually redesignated as the 509th PIB and will be referred to that way hereafter.

The first group of glider pilots completed their training in June 1942. The first Glider Infantry Battalions (GIBs) were created on 5 September 1942 and soon after were upgraded to Glider Infantry Regiments (GIRs). By this time, decisions had been made to man the several airborne divisions with two or three PIRs and one or two GIRs, although initially the preference had been for two GIRs and one PIR. Soldiers in glider units, unlike the paratroopers, did not receive hazardous duty pay.

On 15 August 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division and the 101st Infantry Division were redesignated as airborne divisions at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana. The 82nd was assigned the following regiments: the 504th and 505th PIRs and the 325th GIR, along with parachute and glider field artillery, engineer, and other units (signal, military police, medical, intelligence, etc.). The 507th and 508th PIRs, originally deployed to England as the 2nd Airborne Brigade, were added to the 82nd when it deployed to England following operations in Sicily and Italy. The 507th and 508th were added because the 504th PIR had remained in Italy. Following the D-Day operations, the 507th PIR was transferred to the 17th Airborne Division and the 504th was brought back in to the division from Italy. The 82nd conducted combat jumps (two separate jumps on succeeding nights) in Italy, and combat jumps and glider operations in Sicily, France, and Holland.

The 101st was initially assigned the following regiments: the 502nd PIR and the 327th and 401st GIRs along with the same mix of additional units as the 82nd. Eventually the 501st and 506th PIRs were added to the division and the soldiers of the 401st GIR were split up between the 325th GIR (of the 82nd) and the 327th GIR. This led to the disbanding of the 401st. The 101st conducted combat jumps and glider operations in France and Holland.

The 509th PIB was always an independent unit throughout the war. It was deployed to England and eventually made the first combat jumps by American airborne units, in North Africa. It later operated in Italy and Southern France, where it also conducted combat jumps. The 503rd PIR remained an independent unit throughout the war and was deployed to the Pacific area of operations. The 503rd conducted combat jumps in New Guinea and the Philippines.

The 11th Airborne Division was activated on 25 February 1943 at Camp Mackall and contained the 511th PIR and the 187th and 188th GIRs, along with the same mix of additional units as the other airborne divisions. The 11th was deployed to the Pacific area of operations where its soldiers were cross-trained in parachute and glider operations. The 11th conducted combat jumps and glider operations in the Philippines.

The 17th Airborne Division was activated on 15 April 1943 at Camp Mackall and consisted of the 513th PIR and the 193rd and 194th GIRs, along with the same mix of additional units as the other airborne divisions. It deployed to England and then Europe (adding the 507th from the 82nd), where it fought during the war. The 17th conducted a combat jump and glider operation in Germany.

The 82nd, 101st, and 17th were incorporated into the XVIII Airborne Corps, which had been redesignated from the XVIII Corps on 27 August 1944. The XVIII Airborne Corps conducted combat jumps and glider operations in Holland and Germany.

The 13th Airborne Division was activated on 13 August 1943 at Camp Mackall and included the 515th PIR and the 88th and 326th GIRs along with the same mix of additional units as the other airborne divisions. Eventually, following its deployment to England, the previously independent 517th PIR, which had made a combat jump and seen action in Southern France, was added to the division. The 13th was kept in strategic reserve throughout the war, ultimately deploying to France in early 1945, but never was deployed in combat.

In addition to the 517th PIR and the 509th PIB, two independent battalions which had been formed in the Canal Zone (the 551st PIB and the 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion, a glider unit), operated under the auspices of the First Airborne Task Force, commanded by Major General Robert T. Frederick, the former commander of the First Special Service Force – see below. The First Airborne Task Force was a composite U.S., British, and French corps-sized unit that conducted operations in Southern France. All of these units conducted a combat jump and glider operation in Southern France. The First Airborne Task Force was disbanded in November 1944

The 541st and 542nd PIRs, formed from the 1st Airborne Training Battalion, conducted parachute training of soldiers at the Airborne School at Fort Benning and acted as a holding unit for soldiers who rotated through them to units overseas. Both units moved between Fort Benning and Camp Mackall. The 541st PIR was activated on 12 August 1943 at Fort Benning. In July 1945, the 541st was deployed to the Philippines and assigned to the 11th Airborne Division, pending operations directed against the Japanese home islands. Soon after arriving, the men of the 541st were reassigned to the other regiments in the 11th Airborne Division and the regiment was deactivated, much to the disappointment of its men.

The 542nd PIR was activated on 1 September 1943, also at Fort Benning. On 17 March 1944, the 542nd was deactivated and reactivated as the 542nd PIB, moving to Camp Mackall on 1 July 1944. At Camp Mackall, the 542nd tested new techniques and equipment for the Airborne Center Command Headquarters. On 1 July 1945, the 542nd was reflagged as the Airborne Center Training Detachment.

The 555th PIB, the only all-black airborne unit in the U.S. Army, was activated initially as a company on 25 February 1944 and was upgraded to a battalion on 25 November 1944. Although the 555th never left the States, it was given a classified mission to locate, disarm, and return as much of the equipment as possible for intelligence exploitation from Japanese balloon bombs. The baskets on these balloons contained incendiary devices on them. The balloons were being sent by the Japanese, in retaliation for the Doolittle Raid in 1942, along the prevailing winds to crash and start fires in North America. The 555th operated under the cover of military Smokejumpers with the U.S. Forest Service in California and the Pacific Northwest. The 555th also assisted in training pilots of the U.S. Navy in low level bombing operations in support of ground troops. All told, the 555th conducted over 1,200 individual jumps to fight 36 forest fires.

The First Special Service Force was the only military unit in the U.S. Army that was comprised of both U.S. and Canadian soldiers. Formed in response to plans to use a mechanized sled type vehicle in the snow in Norway, the Force was activated on 9 July 1942 at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena, Montana. Force men received training, with emphasis on night-time execution, in techniques of parachute operations, snow and mountain operations, and amphibious warfare. Their training also included the use of explosives for demolition and a new method of hand-to-hand fighting, known as the O’Neill System. Eventually, the plan to use the snow sled in combat was dropped. However, the Force continued to train for combat. The Force first deployed to Kiska, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands, where the operations plan called for one of its regiments to jump behind Japanese lines this jump was later cancelled and the entire Force was committed as a conventional infantry unit in the fighting, making an amphibious landing. The First Special Service Force fought in Alaska, Italy, and, as part of the First Airborne Task Force, in Southern France. The First Special Service Force was disbanded in December 1944 and the Americans from the unit, along with members of the 99th Infantry Battalion and the survivors of Darby’s Rangers (the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Ranger battalions), were incorporated into the 474th Infantry Regiment.

U.S. Marine Corps

The U.S. Marine Corps also became interested in parachute units. In October 1940, the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion (MPB) began its airborne training at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey. The 2nd MPB trained there as well, in December 1940. The 3rd MPB received its training at Camp Kearney, California, near San Diego. Soon after, a parachute training center was opened at Camp Elliot, next to Camp Kearney, and another training center was established at New River, North Carolina. These three MPBs were deployed separately to the Pacific and fought there in conventional infantry roles, including conducting some amphibious landings. Eventually, on 1 April 1943, the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment (MPR) was activated at Vella Lavella, in the New Georgia Group, and included all three of the MPBs. On 2 April 1943, the 4th MPB was activated and remained in a training status at Camp Elliot and later moved to Camp Pendleton, California where it was disbanded on 19 January 1944. Although the first three MPBs were deployed in combat operations, none of them conducted any operational jumps. A jump was scheduled onto the Japanese airfields of Kahili and Kara on Bougainville but the American planners cancelled the jump, fearing heavy casualties. Units of the 1st MPR fought on the islands of Guadalcanal, Gavutu, and Tanambogo in the Solomon Islands Bougainville the island of Choiseul and in other Pacific battles. All three of the MPRs were returned to the States by early 1944 and disbanded (along with the Marine Raider units) on 29 February 1944.

The development of the Marine glider program proceeded separately from its parachute program because Headquarters, Marine Corps did not envision gliders to operate with parachute units. In July 1941, the Marine Corps announced its intention to train 50 officers and 100 non-commissioned officers as glider pilots. Planning was also initiated to procure 75 12-man gliders to transport one “Air Infantry Battalion.” The design, development, and procurement of gliders became a difficult course and included many twists, turns, and changes of policy along the way. Glider pilot training eventually began in November 1941 at a civilian training course.

The first gliders were delivered in mid-December 1941 and additional training began at Paige Field, Parris Island, South Carolina. At the same time the Glider Detachment was created at Cherry Point, North Carolina. In mid-March 1942, Glider Group 71 (MLG-71) was formed to replace the Glider Detachment it had a proposed organization of 20 officers and 218 enlisted men. The group organization included Headquarters and Service Squadron 71 and Marine Glider Squadron 711 (VML-711), and was initially stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, Parris Island. Glider Group 71 was assigned to Fleet Marine Force for command and control. A more permanent base for Glider Group 71 was later established at Marine Corps Air Station, Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas. Glider Group 71 arrived at the base on 24 November 1942. A second base was established at Edenton, North Carolina but was never used for gliders. At least two others bases were designated but also were never used for gliders, one at Norman, Oklahoma and the other at Addison Point, Florida.

Eventually the Marine Corps decided that gliders were not suited to support the planned amphibious operations on the islands in the Pacific this spelled the end of the glider program. On 24 June 1943, that decision was formalized the Marine glider program was terminated and Glider Group 71 was disbanded.

Geronimo and the Paratroopers

From almost the earliest formation of airborne units in the U.S. Army, Indian names or symbols have been used by paratroopers. For example, the 501st PIR had used the symbol of an Apache war chief holding a lightning bolt below a chute canopy, with the word “Apaches” contained within the shroud lines of the parachute, superimposed over the name “Geronimo,” a famous Chiricahua Apache Indian leader of the American southwest. The 501st unit crest (distinctive insignia) shows an Indian symbol of a Thunderbird with the unit motto (“Geronimo”) on a scroll underneath.

The 506th PIR unit crest (distinctive insignia) features the Indian name for the mountain near Campo Toccoa, where the regiment trained. Currahee Mountain was the scene of many unit running and other training exercises. Currahee means “stand alone” or, sometimes, “we stand alone.” The insignia shows six parachutes descending onto a mountain. The paratroopers of the 506th adopted Currahee as their regimental motto because that was their objective behind enemy lines, to “stand alone.”

The First Special Service Force used several Indian-based ideas in its symbols. Although the First Special Service Force was not on jump status, all of its combat echelon soldiers were jump qualified a jump was scheduled for one of its regiments in Alaska but was cancelled at the last hour. The unit patch is in the shape of an arrowhead. The branch insignia for both officers and enlisted soldiers incorporated the crossed arrows of the Indian Scouts, which the First Special Service Force used with the written permission of the surviving members of the Indian Scouts. And the soldiers of the First Special Service Force, both Canadian and American, were referred to as “Braves.”

In addition to these various names and symbols, the cry “Geronimo!” is associated with early paratroopers as they exited the plane. This cry was later adopted by paratroopers in many units. So, how did this tradition get started? It began with the Parachute Test Platoon at Fort Benning in the summer of 1940. On the night before their first mass jump (they had already completed two individual tap-out jumps) four platoon members had been to the post theater to see the movie Geronimo. Later, over several beers, they discussed whether they would be afraid or even aware of their surroundings when they jumped out of the plane the following day. One of them, Private Aubrey Eberhardt, told the others that he would shout the name "Geronimo" when he jumped to prove he was not afraid. The others all thought this was a good idea and agreed to do the same thing. When the time came, all four of them followed through with their pact from the night before. With their actions that day they originated what became the jumping cry of American paratroopers. The division song of the 11th Airborne Division even contains this phrasing:

Down from Heaven comes Eleven
And there’s Hell to pay below –
Shout Geronimo: Geronimo!

Insignia used by units include:

The distinctive insignia of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment
(Photo by the author)

The distinctive insignia of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment
(Photo by the author)

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the First Special
Service Force
(Photo by the author)

Collar branch insignia worn by U.S. and Canadian officers of the First Special Service Force
(Photo by the author)

The “silver wings” of the paratrooper were designed by Captain (later Lieutenant General) William P. Yarborough when he was assigned to the 501st PIB. He had been chosen by the Adjutant General of the War Department to design and procure a suitable badge to be worn by qualified paratroopers as a symbol of their certification. He was authorized by his commander to accept whatever design he thought was acceptable. Yarborough made the initial design on 3 March 1941 and provided a copy to the Army Quartermaster General. The approval process of the wings design at the War Department took one week Yarborough’s design was formally approved on 10 March. With the assistance of Mr. A.E. Dubois, of the Quartermaster General’s office, an order of 350 wings was made to the company of Bailey, Banks, & Biddle of Philadelphia. The wings were delivered to the 501st on 14 March. As a final step, to protect the design from any unauthorized reproduction, Yarborough submitted his design to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for assignment of a patent. The patent was approved on 2 February 1943. The formal description of the badge is: “An oxidized silver badge 1-13/64 inches in height and 1-1/2 inches in width, consisting of an open parachute on and over a pair of stylized wings displayed and curving inward.” In order to be able to wear these wings personnel must have satisfactorily completed the prescribed proficiency tests while assigned or attached to an airborne unit or to the Airborne Department of the Infantry School, or participated in at least one combat parachute jump.

A badge for glider soldiers, similar to the paratroopers’ jump wings, was eventually designed and approved for issue and wear official approval came on 2 June 1944. Its formal description is: “An oxidized silver badge 11/16 inch in height and 1-1/2 inches in width consisting of a glider, frontal view, superimposed upon a pair of stylized wings displayed and curving inward.” In order to be eligible to wear the glider badge, personnel must have been assigned or attached to a glider or airborne unit or to the Airborne Department of the Infantry School, and satisfactorily completed a course of instruction or participated in at least one combat glider landing into enemy-held territory.

In the U.S. Army, the advanced qualifications of Senior Parachutist and Master Parachutist (symbolized by a star for Senior and a star and wreath for Master on top of the parachute canopy of the wings) were authorized in 1949.

The Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia, awarded to members of those services who have been awarded the Basic Parachutist Insignia (Jump wings, above) and have completed an additional five static-line jumps, was approved for issue and wear in 1963.

Navy and Marine Corps jump wings (Photo by the author)

* * *

Adleman, Robert H. and George Walton The Devil’s Brigade Philadelphia, PA Chilton Books 1966

Bergen, Howard R. History of 99th Infantry Battalion - U.S. Army Oslo, Norway Emil Moestue A-S 1945

Biggs, Bradley The Triple Nickels - America's First All-black Paratroop Unit Archon Books Hamden, CT 1986

Blair, Jr., Clay Ridgway's Paratroopers: The American Airborne in WW II New York Doubleday, 1985

Brereton, Lewis H. The Brereton Diaries: The War in the Air in the Pacific, Middle East and Europe, 3 October 1941-8 May 1945 New York William Morrow and Company, 1946

Breuer, William B. Geronimo! American Paratroopers in WWII New York St. Martin Press 1989

Burhans, Robert D. The First Special Service Force – A War History of the The North Americans 1942-1944 Washington, DC Infantry Journal Press 1947

De Trez, Michel First Airborne Task Force – Pictorial History of the Allied Paratroopers in the Invasion of Southern France Belgium D-Day Publishing 1998

Devlin, Gerald M. and William P. Yarborough Paratrooper! The Saga of the U. S. Army and Marine Parachute and Glider Combat Troops During World War II New York St. Martin’s Griffin 1986

Flanagan, Edward M., Jr. The Angels - A History of the 11th Airborne Division 1943-1946 Washington Infantry Journal Press 1948

Guthrie, Bennett M. Three Winds of Death - The Saga of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the South Pacific Chicago Adams Press 1985

Huston, James A. Out of the Blue – U.S. Army Airborne Operations in World War II West Lafayette, IN Purdue University Studies 1972

Raff, Edson D. We Jumped to Fight New York Eagle Books 1944

Rottman, Gordon L. US Airborne Units in the Pacific Theater 1942-45 London Osprey Publishing 2007

Updegraph, Charles L., Jr. U.S. Marine Corps Special Units of World War II Washington, DC History and Museums Division, HQ US Marine Corps 1972

The website for the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Museum, Fort Lee, Virginia for the official descriptions of the parachutist’s and glider wings.

Insignia are from the author’s collection, except for the Glider Badge and the Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia, which are from a different collection.


G9 integrates and delivers Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and services enabling readiness and resilience for a globally-responsive Army.

Morale, welfare, and recreation programs did not exist from the founding of the Army in 1775 until the start of the twentieth century. During that 125 year plus time span there were unofficial and informal forms of troop support such as the tradesmen who provided meals, clothing, laundering, and the trading posts which provided goods for purchasing. There was some limited Congressional oversight established in 1876 over “Post Traders.” The establishment of the Army “PX” or Post Exchange, by Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) followed in 1895, with oversight performed by the garrison commander’s office and all profits were used to support recreational activities for the troops.

The twentieth century saw many advances in the development of MWR programs. In 1903, Congress authorized the Army to build, operate, and maintain PXs, libraries, schools, recreation centers, and gyms for the troops. The Army Morale Division was established in 1918, the Army Motion Picture Service in 1920 and the Library Service in 1923. The establishment of these organizations led to the creation in 1941 of “Special Services.”

Special Services, with its own director, was the new name for the Army Morale Division. By 1943, Special Services encompassed all of Army Recreation Services, the Army Exchange (the precursor to the Army and Air Force Exchange [AAFES]), and the Army Soldier Show. By the end of World War II, Special Services had established the first Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) in Bavaria (FMWRC currently manages five AFRCs around the world) and, by 1950, an HQDA reorganization placed Special Services under the Army Adjutant General’s Office.

While the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services for the troops were constant and continually reviewed, services for their Families were much slower in development. Army Community Services was not created until 1965. In 1968 a Youth Activities Program was established and, in 1971, an Outdoor Recreation Program was begun. Schools were generally available, as was garrison housing, but throughout this time the mentality of “if the Army had wanted you to have a Family, it would have issued you one” still held. This thinking began to change with the establishment in 1981 of the first Family Advocacy Program, which was followed by the first Army Family Symposium in 1981.

The publication in 1983 of Army Chief of Staff General John A. Wickham Jr’s White Paper, The Army Family began to change how the Army provided for Soldiers and their families. The Army Family recognized the integral support role of Soldiers’ families. General Wickham’s initiative marked the first systematic effort to design programs and policies comprehensive enough to address Army family concerns as a whole. One year later, in 1984, The Year of the Army Family highlighted the importance of Army families to overall Army success. The concept of identifying issues for Army resolution through worldwide representation of Army family members morphed into the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP). AFAP became the vehicle through which policy became a tangible program for Soldiers and their families to take an active role in improving their lives.

The creation of the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center (CFSC) on 23 November 1984, under General Order Number 40, as a Field Operating Agency was also a direct result of General Wickham’s White Paper. The establishment of the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) under CFSC caused the Army to shift the focus of its MWR programs from a primarily Soldier orientation to one which now included their families, shifting how MWR operates on the garrisons and what services it provides. CFSC helped not only Soldiers with families, but single Soldiers too, through a network of MWR support programs, including child care, youth programs, schools, libraries, sports and athletics, financial counseling, spouse employment programs, in-theater support to deployed Soldiers, Family Readiness Groups, lodging, and fitness centers. MWR also manages its business operations based on “best business” principles to provide new MWR services and expand current ones through cost-effective savings.

In 1993, oversight of CSFC changed from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER), to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management (ACSIM). CSFC itself changed from a Field Operating Agency to a Direct Reporting Unit on 24 October 2006 when Installation Management Command (IMCOM) was activated and the Installation Management Agency (IMA) was deactivated. With the activation of IMCOM, CFSC became the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command (FMWRC) on 24 October 2006.

On 3 June 2011, the Family and MWR Command was deactivated in a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services became the G9 within the Installation Management Command.

Through all of the name changes, the mission of MWR has remained constant. Army MWR exists because the U.S. Army states it “…is committed to the well-being of the community of people who serve and stand ready to defend the nation, to enhance the lives of Soldiers, their families, civilian employees, and military retirees.” The mission is to serve the needs, interests and responsibilities of each individual in the Army community for as long as they are associated with the Army, no matter where they are.

Family and MWR, seeks to bridge the gap between the garrison and the local community, and contribute to the Army’s strength and readiness by offering services that reduce stress, build skills and self confidence for Soldiers and their families.

This classic Disney and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ mashup is great

Posted On April 29, 2020 15:47:12

It’s definitely not canon, but this video of Gunnery Sgt. Donald Duck ripping into new recruits from the Disney Universe is hilarious, featuring Goofy trying to pull off a satisfactory war face as Pluto attempts to keep a straight face and the Duck rips into them both. Full Metal Jacket has never been so whimsical.

In the clip, made with a little audio engineering and one of the best scenes from Full Metal Jacket, Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey join the Marine Corps and run right into one of the angriest characters from classic Disney, Donald Duck, now a gunnery sergeant and drill instructor in the “beloved corps.”

Duck had a long and storied military career by the time the Vietnam War rolled around, jumping behind enemy lines and attacking Japanese camps during World War II. But, oddly enough, Pluto served in the same war. He was a private in the Army during World War II, assigned to guard artillery emplacements against attacks by saboteurs and chipmunks.

He wasn’t particularly great at it, so maybe that’s why, two decades later, he’s just a recruit in Marine Corps basic.

Or, you know, alternate theory: The Full Metal Jacket mashup is just a fun joke on the internet and not actually part of the characters’ storylines. Since it’s clearly not sanctioned by Disney and features Donald Duck letting out a string of profanities and a few colorful suggestions, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say this isn’t canon.

Still pretty funny, though.

Avalos has some other good Full Metal Jacket mashups in his Facebook feed, but I still think the best Full Metal Jacket mashup came from YouTuber Tyler P. who put the movie’s audio over Santa’s workshop from the old claymation Christmas movies.

Full Metal Jacket and the late, great R. Lee Ermey are the gifts that keep on giving. The movie and the man have taught us life lessons, made us laugh out loud, and even had leading roles in our favorite video games.

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US Army - History

"Chevron" is an architectural term denoting the rafters of a roof meeting an angle at the upper apex. The chevron in heraldry was employed as a badge of honor to mark the main supporters of the head of the clan or "top of the house" and it came to be used in various forms as an emblem of rank for knights and men-at-arms in feudal days. One legend is that the chevron was awarded to a knight to show he had taken part in capturing a castle, town, or other building, of which the chevron resembled the roofs. It is believed from this resulted its use as an insignia of grade by the military.

The lozenge or diamond used to indicate first sergeant is a mark of distinction and was used in heraldry to indicate achievement.

Chevrons were sewn on the sleeves of uniforms with the point down from approximately 1820 to 1903. They were worn with the points both up and down between 1903 and 1905 after the first reversal from "down" to "up" was authorized on 1 May 1903 in Army Regulation No. 622. This confusion period, from 1903 to 1905, was the result of the color change in the chevrons provided for in the regulation which also directed a standard color for each branch, corps, or organization and replaced the gold-colored chevrons. Because of the number of gold insignia available, troops were permitted to wear the old-type chevron until the supply became exhausted.

To assure uniformity in both color and position of the new colored chevrons, War Department Circular 61, dated 30 November 1905, stated that the points of the chevrons would be worn points upward. It also provided for the following colors as had been directed in Army Regulation No. 622, dated 1 May 1903. The colors were: Artillery-scarlet Cavalry-yellow Engineers-scarlet piped with orange Hospital Corps-maroon piped with white Infantry-light blue Ordnance-black piped with scarlet Post QM Sergeant-buff Signal Corps-orange piped with white West Point Band-light blue and West Point Detachment-buff.

As early as 1820, chevrons were worn with the point down, although there was not an official direction of this to appear in regulations until 1821 when chevrons were authorized for both officers and enlisted men. Circular No. 65, 1821, stated that" "Chevrons will designate rank (both of officers through the rank of captain and enlisted men) as follows: Captains, one on each arm, above the elbow, and subalterns, on each arm below the elbow. They will be of gold or silver lace, half an inch wide, conforming in colour to the button of their regiment or corps. The angles of the chevron to point upwards.

Adjutants will be designated by an arc of gold or silver fringe, (according to the colour of their trimmings), connecting the extreme points formed by the ends of the chevron. Sergeant Majors and Quartermaster Sergeants will wear one chevron of worsted braid on each arm, above the elbow. Sergeants and senior musicians, one on each arm, below the elbow, and corporals, one on the right arm, above the elbow. They will conform in colour to the button of their regiment or corps." Before this time, an officer’s rank was indicated by epaulettes worn on the shoulder. This regulation also indicated the first use of the arc as part of the chevron.

Chevrons continued to be worn points downward during the 1800’s. AGO Order No. 10, dated 9 February 1833, stated "Chevrons will be worn with the point toward the cuff of the sleeves." Article 1577 of the revised United States Regulations of 1861 stated "The rank of non-commissioned Officers will be marked by chevrons upon both sleeves of the uniform coat and overcoat, above the elbow, of silk worsted binding on-half inch wide, to be the same color as the edgings of the coat, point down."


1775. A general order was issued from Headquarters at Cambridge that "Sergeants may be distinguished by an Epaulette or stripe of red cloth, sewed upon the right shoulder the Corporals by one of green." The organizational charts indicated the enlisted personnel consisted mainly of sergeants, corporals, musicians, and privates.

1776. By early 1776 an approximately standard Continental Infantry Regiment had emerged consisting of a headquarters and eight companies, each company with four sergeants, four corporals, two drummers or fifers and 76 privates. According to the Journals of the Continental Congress, later in that year all battalions were given a non-commissioned headquarters element consisting of a sergeant-major, a quartermaster sergeant, a drum major and a fife major, all to be appointed by the regimental commander. This is the first mention of the rank of sergeant-major.

1792. During this year the military service was expanded to include sergeants-major, quartermaster sergeants, senior musicians, sergeants, corporals, farriers, artificers, saddlers, musicians, trumpeters, dragoons and privates.

1796. Senior musicians disappeared, but principal musicians apparently took their place farriers and saddlers titles were united sappers and miners appeared and trumpeters disappeared.

1799. Principal musicians were succeeded by chief musicians sappers and miners disappeared and the titles artificers, saddlers and blacksmiths were combined.

1800. Principal musicians again appeared while chief musician disappeared and the designations of farriers and saddlers, sappers and miners, and a separate title of artificers, were authorized.

1802. Enlisted men were designated sergeants-major, teachers of music, sergeants, corporals, musicians, artificers and privates.

1808. Sergeant-majors, quartermaster sergeants, principal musicians, sergeants, corporals, musicians, artificers, saddlers, farriers and privates were the titles of enlisted personnel.

1812. Blacksmiths and drivers of artillery were added to enlisted grade titles.

1815. Designations of enlisted personnel were again simplified to sergeant-major, quartermaster sergeants, principal musicians, sergeants, corporals, musicians, artificers and privates. 1832 . During this year the designation "enlisted men for ordnance" appeared.

1833. The designations of chief bugler, bugler, farrier and blacksmith were additional titles during the year.

1838. The title "enlisted men for ordnance" was changed to "enlisted men of ordnance".

1847. The title of principal or chief musician, principal teamster and teamster were added to the list.

1855. The title of ordnance sergeants came into being.

1861. During the Civil War, many new designations came into being. The following is a complete list of designations: sergeant majors quartermaster sergeants commissary sergeants leaders of bands principal or chief musicians chief buglers medical cadets ordnance sergeants hospital stewards regimental hospital stewards battalion sergeant majors battalion quartermaster sergeants battalion hospital stewards battalion saddler sergeants battalion commissary sergeants battalion veterinary sergeants first sergeants company quartermaster sergeants sergeants corporals buglers musicians farriers and blacksmiths artificers saddlers master wagoners wagoners privates enlisted men of ordnance.

1866. The following titles disappeared: leaders of bands battalion hospital stewards chief buglers medical cadets battalion commissary sergeants battalion saddler sergeants, battalion veterinary sergeants buglers and enlisted men of ordnance. The following new titles were established: saddler sergeants trumpeters, chief trumpeters privates (first class) and privates (second class).

1869. The title chief musician again appeared and a first sergeant in the corps of engineers was established.

1889. Post quartermaster sergeants, private hospital corps, general service clerks and general service messengers were established.

1899. Electrician sergeants, sergeants first class, drum majors, stable sergeants, mechanics and cooks were established.

1901. The title post commissary sergeant, regimental commissary sergeant, and color sergeant were established.

1905-1919. The designs and titles varied by branch and there were 45 different insignia descriptions in specification 760, dated 31 May 1905, with different colors for different branches. General Order No. 169 dated 14 August 1907 created a wide variety of insignia. Specific pay grades were not yet in use by the Army and their pay rate was based on title. The pay scale approved in 1908 ranged from $13 for a private in the engineers to $75 for a Master Signal Electrician. The system identified the job assignment of the individual, e.g., cooks, mechanics, etc. By the end of World War I, there were 128 different insignia designs in the supply system.

1919. Prior to 1919, the insignia of private first class consisted of the insignia of the branch of service without any arcs or chevrons. The Secretary of War approved "an arc of one bar" for privates first class on 22 July 1919.

1920. The number of insignia was reduced to seven and six pay grades were established. War Department Circular No. 303, dated 5 August 1920, stated the chevrons would be worn on the left sleeve, point up, and to be made of olive drab material on a background of dark blue. The designs and titles were as follows:

Master Sergeant (First Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of three bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron.

Technical Sergeant (Second Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of two bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron.

First Sergeant (Second Grade): Three chevrons, and an arc of two bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron. In the angle between lower chevron and upper bar a lozenge.

Staff Sergeant (Third Grade): Three chevrons and an arc of one bar, forming a tie to the lower chevron.

Sergeant (Fourth Grade): Three chevrons.

Corporal (Fifth Grade): Two chevrons.

Privates First Class (Sixth Grade): One chevron.

1942. The grades of Technician in the third, fourth and fifth grades were added by War Department Circular No. 5, dated 8 January 1942. Change 1 to AR 600-35, dated 4 September 1942, added a letter "T" to the formerly prescribed chevrons for grades three, four and five.

The first sergeant was moved from the second grade to the first grade per Change 3, AR 600-35, dated 22 September 1942. This change described the first sergeant’s chevron as - - Three chevrons and arc of three bars, the upper bar of arc forming a tie to the lower chevron. In the angel between lower chevrons and upper bar, a hollow lozenge. This change also included the material as khaki chevrons, arcs, T, and lozenge on dark blue cotton background or olive-drab wool chevrons, arcs, T, and lozenge on dark blue wool backgrounds.

History of the NCO (from FM 7-22.7)

You are a leader in the same Army that persevered at Valley Forge, held its ground at the Little Round Top, turned the tide of a war at St. Mihiel and began the liberation of a continent at Omaha Beach. You lead soldiers from the same Army that burst out of the Pusan Perimeter, won against enormous odds at the Ia Drang Valley, fought with determination at Mogadishu and relieved terrible misery in Rwanda. Leaders like you and soldiers like yours conducted intense combat operations in Afghanistan while only a short distance away others supported that nation’s rebuilding and still others fought fires in the northwestern US. Throughout the history of the Army the NCO has been there, leading soldiers in battle and training them in peacetime, leading by example and always, always – out front.


The history of the United States Army and of the noncommissioned officer began in 1775 with the birth of the Continental Army . The American noncommissioned officer did not copy the British. He, like the American Army itself, blended traditions of the French, British and Prussian armies into a uniquely American institution. As the years progressed, the American political system, with its disdain for the aristocracy, social attitudes and the vast westward expanses, further removed the US Army noncommissioned officer from his European counterparts and created a truly American noncommissioned officer.

The Revolution

In the early days of the American Revolution, little standardization of NCO duties or responsibilities existed. In 1778, during the long hard winter at Valley Forge, Inspector General Friedrich von Steuben standardized NCO duties and responsibilities in his Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (printed in 1779). His work, commonly called the Blue Book, set down the duties and responsibilities for corporals, sergeants, first sergeants, quartermaster sergeants and sergeants major, which were the NCO ranks of the period. The Blue Book also emphasized the importance of selecting quality soldiers for NCO positions and served a whole generation of soldiers as the primary regulation for the Army for 30 years. In fact, part of Von Steuben’s Blue Book is still with us in FM 22-5, Drill and Ceremonies and other publications.

Von Steuben specified duties of the noncommissioned officer. The Sergeant Major served as the assistant to the regimental adjutant, keeping rosters, forming details and handling matters concerning the “interior management and discipline of the regiment.” The Sergeant Major also served “at the head of the noncommissioned officers.” The Quartermaster Sergeant assisted the regimental quartermaster, assuming his duties in the quartermaster’s absence and supervising the proper loading and transport of the regiment’s baggage when on march. The First Sergeant enforced discipline and encouraged duty among troops, maintaining the duty roster, making morning report to the company commander and keeping the company descriptive book. This document listed the name, age, height, place of birth and prior occupation of every enlisted man in the unit.

The day-to-day business of sergeants and corporals included many roles. Sergeants and Corporals instructed recruits in all matters of military training, including the order of their behavior in regard to neatness and sanitation. They quelled disturbances and punished perpetrators. They forwarded sick lists to the First Sergeant. In battle, NCOs closed the gaps occasioned by casualties, encouraged men to stand their ground and to fire rapidly and accurately. The development of a strong NCO Corps helped sustain the Continental Army through severe hardships to final victory. Von Steuben’s regulations established the foundation for NCO duties and responsibilities from 1778 to the present.

During the early stages of the American Revolution the typical Continental Army NCO wore an epaulet to signify his rank. Corporals wore green and sergeants wore red epaulets. After 1779, sergeants wore two epaulets, while corporals retained a single epaulet. From the American Revolution to World War II the noncommissioned officer received his promotion from the regimental commander. Entire careers were often spent within one regiment. If a man transferred from one regiment to the next, he did not take his rank with him. No noncommissioned officer could transfer in grade from one regiment to another without the permission of the General in Chief of the Army this was rarely done. Without permanent promotions of individuals, stripes stayed with the regiment.

The Purple Heart

Three NCOs received special recognition for acts of heroism during the American Revolution. These men, Sergeant Elijah Churchill, Sergeant William Brown and Sergeant Daniel Bissell, received the Badge of Military Merit, a purple heart with a floral border and the word “merit” inscribed across the center. In practice this award was the precursor to the Medal of Honor introduced during the Civil War. After a long period of disuse, Badge of Military Merit was reinstituted in 1932 as the Purple Heart and is a decoration for members of the armed forces wounded or killed in action or as a result of a terrorist attack.

Rank Insignia

In 1821 the War Department made the first reference to noncommissioned officer chevrons. A General Order directed that sergeants major and quartermaster sergeants wear a worsted chevron on each arm above the elbow sergeants and senior musicians, one on each arm below the elbow and corporals, one on the right arm above the elbow. This practice ended in 1829 but returned periodically and became a permanent part of the NCO’s uniform before the Civil War.

In 1825 the Army established a systematic method for selecting noncommissioned officers. The appointment of regimental and company noncommissioned officers remained the prerogative of the regimental commander. Usually regimental commanders would accept the company commander’s recommendations for company NCOs unless there were overriding considerations. The Abstract of Infantry Tactics, published in 1829, provided instructions for training noncommissioned officers. The purpose of this instruction was to ensure that all NCOs possessed “an accurate knowledge of the exercise and use of their firelocks, of the manual exercise of the soldier and of the firings and marchings.”

Field officers and the adjutant frequently assembled noncommissioned officers for both practical and theoretical instruction. Furthermore, field officers ensured that company officers provided proper instruction to their noncommissioned officers. The sergeant major assisted in instructing sergeants and corporals of the regiment. Newly promoted corporals and sergeants of the company received instruction from the First Sergeant. The first sergeant of that time, like today, was a key person in the maintenance of military discipline.


The Civil War

During the 1850’s major changes occurred in US Army weaponry. Inventors developed and refined the percussion cap and rifled weapons. Weapons like the Sharps carbine added greatly to fire power and accuracy. The increased lethality of weapons did not immediately result in different tactics. The huge numbers of casualties in the American Civil War proved that technological advances must result in changes to battlefield tactics. Operationally, the Civil War marked a distinct change in warfare. No longer was it sufficient to defeat an enemy’s army in the field. It was necessary to destroy the enemy’s will and capacity to resist through military, economic and political means. This became the concept of total war. The war required a large number of draftees and unprecedented quantities of supplies.

During the Civil War, noncommissioned officers led the lines of skirmishers that preceded and followed each major unit. NCOs also carried the flags and regimental colors of their units. This deadly task was crucial to maintain regimental alignment and for commanders to observe their units on the field. As the war progressed, organizational and tactical changes led the Army to employ more open battle formations. These changes further enhanced the combat leadership role of the noncommissioned officer. New technology shaped the Army during the Civil War: railroads, telegraph communications, steamships, balloons and other innovations. These innovations would later impact the noncommissioned officer rank structure and pay.

Since its founding on 14 June 1775, the Army normally expanded in wartime with volunteers, with the professional soldiers forming the basis for expansion. The Civil War in particular brought a huge increase in the number of volunteer soldiers. This policy endured to some extent until world commitments and the stationing of troops overseas in the 20th century required the Nation to maintain a strong professional force.

In the post-Civil War era the Artillery School at Fort Monroe reopened to train both officers and noncommissioned officers. In 1870 the Signal Corps established a school for training officers and noncommissioned officers. Because both the Artillery and the Signal Corps required soldiers to have advanced technical knowledge to operate complex equipment and instruments, these were the first schools established. Efforts to provide advanced education for noncommissioned officers in other less technical fields, however, failed to attract supporters. Army leaders thought experience and not the classroom made a good NCO.

Military Life on the Frontier

During the Indian Wars period, enlisted men lived in spartan barracks with corporals and privates in one large room. Sergeants lived separately from their men in small cubicles of their own adjacent to the men’s sleeping quarters. This gave enlisted men a sense of comradeship, but allowed little privacy.

During the 1870s the Army discouraged enlisted men from marrying. Regulations limited the number of married enlisted men in the Army and required special permission to marry. Those men who did marry without permission could be charged with insubordination. They could not live in post housing or receive other entitlements. Still, nature proved stronger than Army desires or regulations. Marriages occurred and posts became communities.

Barracks life in the 1890s was simple, with card games, dime novels and other amusements filling idle time. Footlockers contained personal possessions, along with military clothing and equipment. Soldiers during this period maintained handbooks that contained a variety of information, including sections entitled, “Extracts from Army Regulations of 1895,” “Examination of Enlisted Men for Promotion,” “Take Care of Your Health,” “Extracts from Articles of War,” and others. In the back there were three sections for the soldier to fill in: “Clothing Account,” “Military Service,” and “Last Will and Testament.” Soldiers carried these handbooks for a number of years and provided an accurate record of the important events in his Army life.

The increase of technology which accompanied modernization greatly affected the NCO Corps during the last half of the 19th Century. The number of NCO ranks grew rapidly each new advent of technology created another pay grade. The Army was forced to compete with industry for technical workers. In 1908 Congress approved a pay bill which rewarded those in technical fields in order to retain their services. Combat soldiers were not so fortunate. A Master Electrician in the Coast Artillery made $75-84 per month, while an Infantry Battalion Sergeant Major lived on $25-34 per month. Compare that with a Sergeant of the Signal Corps ($34 – $43 per month).

Enlisted Retirement

In 1885 Congress authorized voluntary retirement for enlisted soldiers. The system allowed a soldier to retire after 30 years of service with threequarters of his active duty pay and allowances. This remained relatively unchanged until 1945 when enlisted personnel could retire after 20 years of service with half pay. In 1948 Congress authorized retirement for career members of the Reserve and National Guard. Military retirement pay is not a pension, but rather is delayed compensation for completing 20 or more years of active military service. It not only provides an incentive for soldiers to complete 20 years of service, but also creates a backup pool of experienced personnel in the event of a national emergency.

The Army began to explicitly define NCO duties during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The five or six pages of instructions provided by von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States in 1778 grew to 417 pages in the 1909 Noncommissioned Officers Manual. While an unofficial publication, it was widely used and the chapters describing the duties of the First Sergeant and Sergeant Major included common forms, a description of duties, what should and should not be done and customs of the service. The Noncommissioned Officers Manual included a chapter on discipline that stressed the role of punishment in achieving discipline. The manual stated that the purpose of punishment was to prevent the commission of offenses and to reform the offender. However, this section repeatedly stressed that treatment of subordinates should be uniform, just and in no way humiliating.

The Modern Rank Insignia

In 1902 the NCO symbol of rank, the chevron, rotated to what we would today call point up and became smaller in size. Though many stories exist as to why the chevron’s direction changed, the most probable reason was simply that it looked better. Clothing had become more form fitting, creating narrower sleeves in fact, the 10-inch chevron of the 1880s would have wrapped completely around the sleeve of a 1902 uniform.


World War 1

World War I required the training of four million men, one million of which would go overseas. Corporals were the primary trainers during this period, teaching lessons that emphasized weapons and daytime maneuvers. Training included twelve hours devoted to the proper use of the gas mask and a trip to the gas chamber. After viewing the differences in American and foreign NCO prestige, American Commanding General John J. Pershing suggested the establishment of special schools for sergeants and separate NCO messes. The performance of noncommissioned officers in the American Expeditionary Force seemed to validate these changes.

In 1922 the Army scheduled 1,600 noncommissioned officers for grade reductions. Although this was necessary to reduce the total force and save money, it caused severe hardships for many noncommissioned officers, especially those with families. Also, post-World War I budget reductions and the Great Depression led to irregularities in pay: often the soldier received only half his pay, or half his pay in money and half in consumer goods or food.

The rapid pace and acceptance of technology during the late 1930s caused the Army to create special “technician” ranks in grades 3, 4, & 5 (CPL, SGT & SSG), with chevrons marked with a “T.” This led to an increase in promotions among technical personnel. The technician ranks ended in 1948, but they later reappeared as ‘specialists’ in 1955.

The typical First Sergeant of this period carried his administrative files in his pocket-a black book. The book contained the names of everyone in the company and their professional history (AWOLs, work habits, promotions, etc.). The book passed from first sergeant to first sergeant, staying within the company and providing the unit with a historical document. The first sergeant accompanied men on runs, the drill field, training, or the firing range. He was always at the forefront of everything the company did.

World War 2

With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States found itself in another major war. Mobilization greatly increased the numbers of Army noncommissioned officers. Ironically, mobilization, combined with other factors, created a staggering growth in the percentage of noncommissioned officers to total forces. The proportion of noncommissioned officers in the Army increased from 20 percent of the enlisted ranks in 1941, to nearly 50 percent in 1945, resulting in reduced prestige for many noncommissioned officer ranks. Coupled with this growth in numbers the eight-man infantry squad increased to twelve, with the sergeant then staff sergeant, replacing the corporal as its leader. The rank of corporal came to mean very little, even though he was in theory and by tradition a combat leader.

Basic training in World War II focused on hands-on experience instead of the classroom. NCOs conducted all training for soldiers. After basic training, a soldier went to his unit where his individual training continued. The major problem was that the rapid expansion of the Army had led to a proportionate decrease in experienced men in the noncommissioned officer ranks. Making this condition worse was the practice of quickly advancing in rank soldiers who showed potential while combat losses reduced the number of experienced NCOs.

Fighting in the Pacific and Europe required large numbers of men. Millions of men enlisted and America drafted millions more. Still the Army suffered from manpower shortages. In 1942 the Army formally added women to its ranks. By 1945 over 90,000 women had enlisted in the Army. Women served in administrative, technical, motor vehicle, food, supply, communications, mechanical and electrical positions during the war. After the war women continued to serve in a variety of roles in the Army. As a result of the continued growth of technology, a new emphasis on education began in the post-World War II era. This emphasis encouraged the young soldier to become better educated in order to advance in rank.

NCO Education I

On 30 June 1947 the first class enrolled in the 2d Constabulary Brigade’s NCO school, located in Munich, Germany. Two years later, the US Seventh Army took over the 2d Constabulary functions and the school became the Seventh Army Noncommissioned Officers Academy. Eight years later AR 350-90 established Army-wide standards for NCO academies. Emphasis on NCO education increased to the point that by 1959 over 180,000 soldiers would attend NCO academies located in the continental United States. In addition to NCO academies, the Army encouraged enlisted men to advance their education by other means. By 1952 the Army had developed the Army Education Program to allow soldiers to attain credits for academic education. This program provided a number of ways for the enlisted man to attain a high school or college diploma.

In 1950 an unprepared United States again had to commit large numbers of troops in a war a half a world away. The North Korean attack on South Korea stressed American responsibilities overseas. Containment of communist aggression was the official policy of the United States. This meant that American commitments in Asia, Europe and the Pacific would require a strong and combat-ready professional Army. During the Korean War the NCO emerged more prominently as a battle leader than he had in World War II. The steep hills, ridges, narrow valleys and deep gorges forced many units to advance as squads. Korea was the first war America fought with an integrated Army. Black and white soldiers together fought a common foe.

In 1958 the Army added two grades to the NCO ranks. These pay grades, E-8 and E-9, would “provide for a better delineation of responsibilities in the enlisted structure.” With the addition of these grades, the ranks of the NCO were corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, master sergeant and sergeant major.

America’s strategy of containment continued after the Korean War and the Nation set a course to help its ally South Vietnam defeat communist aggression. In 1965 America made a major commitment in ground troops to Vietnam. The Vietnamese Communists fought a long drawn-out war, meant to wear down American forces. Because no clear battle lines existed it was often hard to tell foe from friend. In 1973 a formal cease-fire signed by American and North Vietnamese delegations ended American troop commitments to the area.

Vietnam proved to be a junior leader’s war with decentralized control. Much of the burden of combat leadership fell on the NCO. With a need for large numbers of NCOs for combat duty, the Army began the Noncommissioned Officer Candidate Course, with three sites at Fort Benning, Fort Knox and Fort Sill. After a 12-week course, the graduate became an E-5 those in the top five percent became E-6s. An additional 10 weeks of hands-on training followed and then the NCO went to Vietnam. However, senior NCOs had mixed feelings about the program (sometimes called the “shake-and-bake” program). Many of these senior NCOs thought it undermined the prestige of the NCO Corps though few could say they actually knew an unqualified NCO from the course.

Sergeant Major of the Army

In 1966 Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson chose Sergeant Major William O. Wooldridge as the first Sergeant Major of the Army . The SMA was to be the primary advisor and consultant to the Chief of Staff on enlisted matters. He would identify problems affecting enlisted personnel and recommend appropriate solutions.


NCO Education II

After the US ended conscription following the Vietnam War, it became increasingly clear NCOs needed more sustained training throughout their careers. NCO education expanded and became formalized in the 70s and 80s. Today’s NCO Education System includes the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC), Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course (BNCOC), the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course (ANCOC), and the US Army Sergeants Major Course (USASMC). The Sergeants Major Course first began in January 1973 as the capstone training for the Army’s most senior NCOs. The Sergeants Major Academy also operates three senior NCO courses outside NCOES that are designed to train NCOs for particular positions. These are the First Sergeant Course (FSC), the Battle Staff Course (BSC) and the Command Sergeant Major Course (CSMC). In 1986 PLDC became a mandatory prerequisite for promotion to staff sergeant. This was the first time an NCOES course actually became mandatory for promotion.

In 1987 the Army completed work on a new state-of-the-art education facility at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, further emphasizing the importance of professional education for NCOs. This 17.5 million-dollar, 125,000 square foot structure allowed the academy to expand course loads and number of courses. As the Noncommissioned Officer Education System continues to grow, the NCO of today combines history and tradition with skill and ability to prepare for combat. He retains the duties and responsibilities given to him by von Steuben in 1778 and these have been built upon to produce the soldier of today.

Grenada and Panama

The murder of Grenada’s Prime Minister in October 1983 created a breakdown in civil order that threatened the lives of American medical students living on the island. At the request of allied Caribbean nations, the United States invaded the island to safeguard the Americans there. Operation Urgent Fury included Army Rangers and Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. This action succeeded in the eventual reestablishment of a representative form of government in Grenada. After Manuel Noriega seized control of his country in 1983, corruption in the Panamanian government became widespread and eventually Noriega threatened the security of the United States by cooperating with Colombian drug producers. Harassment of American personnel increased and after a US Marine was shot in December 1989, the US launched Operation Just Cause. This invasion, including over 25,000 soldiers, quickly secured its objectives. Noriega surrendered on 3 January 1990 and was later convicted on drug trafficking charges.

The Gulf War

In August 1990 Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. The US immediately condemned Iraq’s actions and began building support for a coalition to liberate Kuwait. Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, ignored the demands of over 36 nations to leave Kuwait. In response, coalition forces began deploying to Saudi Arabia. On 12 January 1991 Congress authorized the use of military force to liberate Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm commenced 17 January 1991 as the coalition initiated an air campaign to disable Iraq’s infrastructure. After five weeks of air and missile attacks, ground troops, including over 300,000 from the US Army, began their campaign to free Kuwait. On 27 February 1991, coalition forces entered Kuwait City forcing Iraq to concede a cease-fire after only 100 hours of ground combat.

Somalia and Rwanda

In the early 1990s Somalia was in the worst drought in over a century and its people were starving. The international community responded with humanitarian aid but clan violence threatened international relief efforts. The United Nations formed a US-led coalition to protect relief workers so aid could continue to flow into the country. Operation Restore Hope succeeded, ending the starvation of the Somali people. US soldiers also assisted in civic projects that built and repaired roads, schools, hospitals and orphanages. A history of ethnic hatred in Rwanda led to murder on a genocidal scale. Up to a million Rwandans were killed and two million Rwandans fled and settled in refugee camps in several central African locations. Conditions in the camps were appalling starvation and disease took even more lives. The international community responded with one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts ever mounted. The US military quickly established an atmosphere of collaboration and coordination setting up the necessary infrastructure to complement and support the humanitarian response community. In Operation Support Hope, US Army soldiers provided clean water, assisted in burying the dead and integrated the transportation and distribution of relief supplies.

In December 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President of Haiti, in an election that international observers deemed largely free and fair. Aristide took office in February 1991, but was overthrown by the Army and forced to leave the country. The human rights climate deteriorated as the military and the de facto government sanctioned atrocities in defiance of the international community’s condemnation. The United States led a Multinational Force to restore democracy by removing the military regime, return the previously elected Aristide regime to power, ensure security, assist with the rehabilitation of civil administration, train a police force, help prepare for elections and turn over responsibility to the UN. Operation Uphold Democracy succeeded both in restoring the democratically elected government of Haiti and in stemming emigration. In March 1995 the United States transferred the peacekeeping responsibilities to the United Nations.

The Balkans

During the mid-1990s, Yugoslavia was in a state of unrest because various ethnic groups wanted a separate state for themselves. Serbia attempted through military force to prevent any group from gaining autonomy from the central government. Serbian forces brutally suppressed the separatist movement of ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo, leaving hundreds dead and over 200,000 homeless. The refusal of Serbia to negotiate peace and strong evidence of mass murder by Serbian forces resulted in the commencement of Operation Allied Force. Air strikes against Serbian military targets continued for 78 days in an effort to bring an end to the atrocities that continued to be waged by the Serbs. Serbian forces withdrew and NATO deployed a peacekeeping force, including US Army soldiers, to restore stability to the region and assist in the repair of the civilian infrastructure.

The War on Terrorism

Terrorists of the al-Qaeda network attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3000 people and destroying the World Trade Center in New York City. The United States, with enormous support from the global community, responded with attacks on the al-Qaeda network and the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan that was providing it support. Operation Enduring Freedom with US and allied forces quickly toppled the Taliban regime and severely damaged the al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. US Army NCOs and soldiers continue to play a leading role in the war on terrorism and provide security to the Nation.


Full Spectrum Operations

Today the Army’s operational doctrine covers the full spectrum of operations. That means stability, support, offense and defense operations. What that means to you is to conduct good training and make sure your soldier meets the standards. Effective training is the cornerstone of operational success. Training to high standards is essential for a full spectrum force the Army cannot predict every operation it deploys to. Battle-focused training on combat tasks prepares soldiers, units and leaders to deploy, fight and win. Upon alert, initial-entry Army forces deploy immediately, conduct operations and complete any needed mission-specific training in country. Follow-on forces conduct pre- or post-deployment mission rehearsal exercises, abbreviated if necessary, based on available time and resources.

The Operational Environment

America’s potential adversaries learned from the Gulf War that to oppose US forces on our terms is foolhardy at best and may even be suicidal. As demonstrated by terrorist adversaries, we can expect that our enemies in the future will attempt to avoid decisive battle prolong the conflict conduct sophisticated ambushes disperse combat forces and attempt to use information services to its advantage – all while inflicting unacceptable casualties on US forces.

The operational environment and the wide array of threats present significant challenges. Army forces must simultaneously defeat an adversary while protecting noncombatants and the infrastructure on which they depend. This requires Army leaders to be adaptive and aware of their environment.

Depending on your mission and location, you and your soldiers, or perhaps the local population may be the targets of a terrorist attack. An adversary may try to use you in an information campaign to destroy US resolve. The more vital your units’ mission is to the overall operation the more likely it is that an adversary will attempt to target you in some way.

The Information Environment

All military operations take place within an information environment that is not within the control of military forces. The information environment is the combination of individuals, organizations and systems that collect, process, store, display and disseminate information. It also includes the information itself. The media’s use of real-time technology affects public opinion and may alter the conduct of military operations. Now, more than ever, every soldier represents America – potentially to a global audience.

Technology enhances leader, unit and soldier performance and affects how Army forces conduct full spectrum operations in peace, conflict and war. Even with its advantages, the side with superior technology does not always win in land operations rather, the side that applies combat power more skillfully usually prevails. The skill of soldiers coupled with the effectiveness of leaders decides the outcomes of engagements, battles and campaigns.


The NCO has a key role in Army Transformation, perhaps the premier role. As the Army becomes a more deployable, agile and responsive force, some units will reorganize, receive new equipment and learn new tactics. The NCO, as the leader most responsible for individual and small unit training, will build the foundation for the Army’s objective force. New technology enables you to cover more ground and maintain better situational awareness. But individual and collective tasks are more complex, requiring small unit leaders to coordinate and synchronize soldiers’ efforts and the systems they employ to a degree never before seen.

Our Army has always benefited from NCOs who could and did display initiative, make decisions and seize opportunities that corresponded with the commander’s intent. These qualities are more important than ever in Army Transformation. Despite technological improvement and increased situational awareness at every level – the small unit leader must still make decisions that take advantage of fleeting opportunities on the battlefield.

Lieutenants and Colonels

"Lieutenant" comes from the French "lieu" meaning "place" and "tenant" meaning "holding." Lieutenants are placeholders. The British originally corrupted the French pronunciation, pronouncing the word, "lieuftenant," while Americans (probably because of French settler influence) maintained the original pronunciation.

While majors outrank lieutenants, lieutenant generals outrank major generals. It comes from British tradition. Generals were appointed for campaigns and often called "captain generals." Their assistants were, naturally, "lieutenant generals." At the same time, the chief administrative officer was the "sergeant major general." Somewhere along the way, "sergeant" was dropped.

Gold is worth more than silver, but silver outranks gold. It is because the Army decreed in 1832 that infantry colonels would wear gold eagles on an epaulet of silver, and all other colonels would wear silver eagles on gold. When majors and lieutenant colonels received the leaves, this tradition could not continue. So silver leaves represented lieutenant colonels and gold, majors. The case of lieutenants is different: First lieutenants had been wearing silver bars for 80 years before the second lieutenants had any bars at all.

Colonel is pronounced "kernal" because the British adopted the French spelling "colonel" but Spanish pronunciation "coronel" and then corrupted the pronunciation.

Watch the video: Evolution of American Army Uniforms. Animated History (January 2022).