As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads into its summit in Warsaw, Poland, next week, questions continue to arise about the role of NATO in today’s threat environment. Everyone from Secretaries of Defense to Donald Trump have criticized NATO in the past few years, much of which has been focused about roles, cost-sharing, and purpose.
First, why was NATO founded, and what was its original purpose? According to NATO’s website, NATO originally existed for three primary reasons:
– Deterring Soviet expansionism – Forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent – Encouraging European political integration
NATO originally had only twelve members, but today it has expanded to include twenty-nine. At the time of the original signing, Europe was in both political and economic shambles after World War II and the Soviet Union was tightening its grip on its newly controlled satellites while stirring up conflict elsewhere. Three articles of the NATO charter (out of fourteen) were especially relevant:
– Article 5 allowed for a collective defense in case of an attack against alliance members (although Article 6 limited the scope of how an attack against an alliance member was defined) – Article 2 allowed for cooperation on non-military projects – Article 3 set the groudwork for military cooperation and required minimum levels of member military funding (set at 2% of gross domestic product)
In the entirety of NATO’s history, Article 5 has only been invoked once – in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, leading to the eventual NATO takeover of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. However, NATO has been involved in military operations throughout the world, including patrols against Somali pirates, intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, and refugee operations in the Aegean Sea.
Criticism of NATO
Criticism of NATO typically centers around two core arguments:
– NATO is no longer relevant since the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union (EU), particularly as it relates to America’s security – NATO partners are not shouldering their part of the burden
The first criticism recognizes the fact that the world is a fundamentally different place than the world into which NATO was born. No longer is there a defined, fixed enemy that threatens to roll over or nuke Europe, per say (more on modern Russia later). Now we live in a world of asymmetric threats: terrorism (not just state-sponsored, but international fundamentalist organizations and home-grown extremists), cyber criminals, and many more. The European Union is now the primary vehicle for non-military cooperation amongst European nations, despite its occasional fragility. Europe has rebounded in economy, infrastructure, and unity, yet the United States still insists on being NATO’s leading member. NATO has also expanded to include states that are significantly less capable of defending themselves than the older members, and by doing so has essentially bound itself to being the “big brother” looking out for the little guys (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/it-time-america-quit-nato-15615). NATO’s unnecessary expansion, critics argue, actually causes greater harm in terms of damaged diplomatic relations than it reaps in the benefits of additional allies.
The second criticism has been leveled at NATO members by a wide-ranging group that includes Donald Trump and Secretaries of Defense Gates, Panetta, and Hagel. It’s not all political grandstanding – historically, of the twenty-nine countries in NATO, very few actually rise to the levels of funding required by Article 3. In fact, only five members actually made the 2% mark in 2015. The United States accounted for over 72% of the NATO defense expenditures last year. Critics question why the United States is willing to spend so much on NATO when the members most directly threatened aren’t. Recent world economic downturns have further reduced already low military spending.
Arguments for NATO
While proponents of a continued NATO will rarely argue with the need for members to contribute more to their own security, they take issue with the idea that NATO is outdated and irrelevant. First, not all NATO members are members of the EU. Norway, Albania, Iceland, and Turkey (and maybe soon the United Kingdom) are all NATO members that are not included in the EU framework. Therefore, NATO still provides an avenue for economic and military cooperation between the United States, the EU NATO members, and the non-EU NATO members. Second, while the USSR is gone, Vladimir Putin’s Russia behaves an awful lot like Putin misses his KGB days. Russia’s actions in Georgia and Ukraine scare many of the USSR’s former satellite countries, and their actions in Syria and provocative air and sea intercepts and probing of NATO member countries’ patrols and territory are disconcerting to say the least. While critics rightly point out the dangers of accepting more and more countries under the Article 5 umbrella, they miss the training opportunity that this threat provides. New NATO members are frequently more willing to train and procure interoperably than older NATO members with an established, modern military and procurement chain.
Is NATO outdated as a purely military force? Quite possibly, but it’s worth as a relationship building tool remains. Poland recently agreed to deploy special operations trainers and surveillance aircraft in support of the fight against Daesh. The talks that led up to that agreement came during NATO discussions (http://www.dodbuzz.com/2016/06/22/kiwis-and-poles-bolster-non-combat-roles-against-isis-in-iraq/). Membership in NATO creates something of a quid pro quo situation, especially for newer, smaller members. The alliance agrees to protect the member, but in return there is an expectation that the member will provide resources to NATO missions, and new members are far more eager to meet that expectation than older ones, as they receive more perceived benefits.
have resisted the idea of creating one, as they prefer the cooperative model of NATO to the idea of a centrally managed European Army. The United States could still manage its many European alliances individually, but losing the NATO framework would certainly make it more complicated.
While there are solid arguments to be made both for and against NATO in its current state, realistically there is very little chance of NATO dissolution. However, the world of 2016 is very different from the world of 1949, and NATO must remain open to evolution to confront the threats of today while preparing for the threats of tomorrow.
About the author
Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.
For a large portion of our military force the idea of financial readiness plays second-fiddle to tactical, physical and mental readiness. While this is not necessarily a bad thing it is something that we need to work on as an organization. This is due to the fact that being financially unready can create secondary and tertiary effects that can delude the mission at hand. When someone spends most of their day worrying about the next paycheck they are less likely to be mission ready. Over the course of this article I will attempt to give some ideas of how to be financially prepared and set yourself up for life both in and out of uniform. These practices range from creating a budget to preparing for retirement.
In order to create your personal roadmap to financial freedom you must know where you are and where you want to be. At its core is the first idea of creating a budget. For many this is the hardest part because it forces you to take a serious look at where you currently stand financially. In some cases you may find that you are doing things right and in others you may be confronted with some hard truths. There are many tools on the internet to assist in creating a budget or you can ask a financial advisor who can work with you. Some advisors will build a budget for free while others will require payment for the service so make sure you ask before they start.
As a part of your budget you will want to ensure a 6-month minimum nest egg for emergencies. That nest egg should be your priority if you don’t have one. Another extremely important portion of your budget is ensuring that you give a portion of your paycheck to a “personal fund.” This fund will allow you to take vacations, buy niceties and pay for hobbies. If you don’t do this then you will have a harder time keeping to the budget over the long term.
Once you have created a budget that will give you an idea of where you currently stand. So the next step is determining where you want to be. The easiest place to start is to look at what your dream for retirement looks like. However, when it comes to this stage create at least three retirement plans. One for the dream, one for the acceptable and one for the absolute requirements. It is important that you do this so that when you get to the next step you have flexibility and a realistic outlook. As a part of this you will need to figure out exactly how much each of those plans will cost based on estimated retirement age, expected length of retirement, where you plan on retiring and what you plan on doing.
Now that we have established the two anchors to our finances we can create the vessel to get us there. If you did your budget correctly then you will have a much easier time during this phase. At the start of this phase you will set goals for the years between your current age and expected retirement age. I typically suggest using 1, 3, 5 and then every 5 years afterword’s. The idea is to create a savings and investment plan that will get you to your dream retirement. I highly recommend working with a financial advisor for this even if you consider yourself financially savvy. That advisor will help keep emotion out of it and ground your expectations in reality. They will also provide a profile of your financial personality that will guide your investments into the future.
By doing all of these steps you will have a complete picture of your financial world. For some of you this picture may be less than impressive. Do not let this get you down because now that you have an accurate picture you can begin to “right the ship” so to speak. By following the plan that you create you will not only improve the quality of your life but you will actively be working towards the life that you want.
For those of you who created your plan and were able to realistically and honestly say that you are ahead of your requirements do not let up. If you lose sight of your end goal then you may spend money unnecessarily and end up behind. Being behind is not where you want to be. The closer you get to retirement the harder it will be to adjust your investments without taking risks that should be avoidable. You may also want to set a stretch goal to ensure that you keep on track.
As each one of you follows these simple steps at some point you will see how much can be accomplished that you may have pushed off years ago. The idea is that with a budget and roadmap to the future you will no longer have to wonder if you are doing the right thing. You will know that you are pursuing your aspirations in life and that in itself will provide the freedom each of you desires. I will leave you with this last piece of advice; financial advisors are not the enemy and working with one will make life a lot easier on the financial side.
If you want to talk specifics for any of these things RE Factor Tactical can provide my contact information.
About the Author
Collin is a 13 year veteran of the US Army, where he has served in various units and holds MOS’s in Armor and Logistics. He has deployed to the Horn of Africa as a Mil-2-Mil trainer in Djibouti and Rwanda as well as a deployment to Afghanistan working directly with the Mongolian Expeditionary Task Force. Collin has also trained with nearly a dozen other nationalities both stateside and deployed. Stateside he works as a Budget Analyst and was a Financial Advisor for several years. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army or the US Government.
For more information on financial services visit our friend Julia Bourlakov
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” ~Isaac Newton
This is not a political rant or a suggestive post on what we as the United States need to do moving forward in foreign policy but rather a look at how one event in international politics can lead to great changes in world diplomacy.
Yesterday the United Kingdom voted for to leave the European Union. This existential move now threatens the entire stability of the EU and its quest as a unified economic powerhouse that began following WWII.
In 2011 the United States pulled troops out of Iraq, leaving a de facto Shiite government in place at a time where the nation’s stability lingered in the hands of an unfit military and militia groups. The Shiite government soon emplaced century old tactics between Shiite and Sunni and gave power to Shiite politicians and families while oppressing Sunni groups. This led to distention and eventually the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) led by the Sunni radical Al-Baghdadi. The void of the US and allied troops left the Iraqi military weak and unable to suppress the ISIS uprising. The terrorist group quickly took over large portions of western Iraq and soon spread into Syria. Because Syria was engulfed in a civil war the Al Assad Government of Syria was unable to protect its Eastern front which eventually led to an almost autocratic ISIS nation spreading across Western Iraq and Eastern Syria.
The war-torn nation eventually led to large groups of Syrian refugees spreading from Iraq and Syria to the European Union as men, women and children attempted to flee the conflict zone. Destabilization of the region leaked into neighboring countries, causing larger swaths of refugees trying to escape to the EU who welcomed the refugees in the millions.
The massive influx of refugees into the EU created an acidic political climate among European leaders who argued over the decision as to whether they could and or should support the fleeing refugees. One of the major opponents of the refugee sanctuary was Britain, a nation that offers its high residence levels of public services at the expense of the taxpayers. UK leaders argued that their economy was unable to support the large amounts of refugees who migrated within the EU and were not paying taxes. The burden of taking care of the refugees began to destabilize the economy and eventually led to the UK leaving the European Union.
The exit of the UK from the EU now threatens the world economy and will undoubtedly create a period of economic turmoil. While the EU, UK, and world economies may stabilize quickly, we will most likely see a period of panic and political discontent among allied nations.
While this isn’t the only reason, the UK left the EU it is certainly a catalyst. One could argue that the UK set itself on a course to leave the EU years ago however the reason geopolitical events play a vital part in could be blamed as the missing piece. Also, refugees are also fleeing from war-torn regions of Africa, so we can’t say the influx of refugees originates solely from Syria. However, they do hold the lion’s share. In the end, it is important for world leaders to look at how short-term political actions can create a large negative impact on international affairs.
What else can happen from here?
A weaker EU arguably strengthens the Russian might that threatens surrounding nations, Europe, and the United States. An exit creates a destabilized region in which any number of powerhouses will step up to fill the power vacuum. While it’s difficult to see how this will effect the EU economy, it could lead to some nations such as Spain and Greece who struggle to keep themselves out of economic turmoil to tank. Also, this departure may push other countries within the EU to leave in fear or going down with an already sinking ship. In the end, Britain’s departure could lead to the complete separation of the EU and a completely destabilized region.
“The challenges we face collectively today are both traditional dilemmas and unconventional threats that transcend national borders. We must be prepared with a collective solution. We must train together and develop a unified response. We must train together to strengthen our trust. And we must train together to increase our understanding – of each other and our shared interests.” MG Gregory Bilton
In today’s multinational environment we are confronted with an ever-changing international landscape. This environment is complex and takes years of painstaking work to understand, prepare for and execute the missions that are required. When working with our non-US counterparts, we are tasked with building a lasting relationship that intertwines our unique skillsets into one cohesive fighting force. If we do not foster these relationships, we can find ourselves alone on the battlefield. I will attempt to give guidance on some of the proven methods I have used to build upon both existing partnerships and those that are newly created. One note before I get started is that these techniques will need to be flexible as each nation has different values and cultural norms that must be accounted for, as well as the mission you are conducting, will vary.
The first thing to note is that patience is the single greatest attribute that can be displayed. These partnerships will not develop overnight. Even well-established partnerships will go through growing pains whenever there is a change in personnel. The amount of time it takes will vary and in some cases, due to an operational requirement, not be enough to be anything more than a bandage until ample time is available. A point worth making is that none of the relationships I have built over the years have taken more than a week to make operational and I still have friends to this day in each of these partnerships.
One of the easiest parts of any relationship, new or old, is finding common ground to which both parties can relate. Since most of the readers here are service members, this is a solid common ground to start with. Due to the stature that military service holds in almost all cultures, it is easy to see how this would work. Start with basic infantry tactics and see where it leads. In Rwanda, I took the first few days just to watch how they operated and tried to see how the U.S. system could be incorporated. It turns out that despite our differences we had quite a bit in common.
Another relatively easy way to incorporate yourself is to learn a few key phrases in your partner’s language. I spend quite a bit of time learning basic phrases both before and during my time with each group. The amount of respect you earn from this is immeasurable because it shows mutual respect for one another. They are going to attempt English for us so we must attempt to repay this kindness.
The last thing I will discuss and arguably one of the hardest hurdles to overcome will be the desire to correct them. This tends to be especially hard for NCO’s due to the U.S. system that emboldens our NCO’s to mentor and train. It is important to remember that these Soldiers that we are working with were trained before your arrival and the majority of the things they do are because of that training. Never go into a partnership assuming that our way is the only way to fight. If you do this, I guarantee you will have a much harder time working with them, and in some cultures, the damage may be nearly unrepairable.
When building or establishing a partner nation relationship understand that there will be hiccups and there will be tension. Do not let this interfere with the mission at hand and work together to overcome and adapt to each other’s personal differences. I have successfully built partnerships with nearly a dozen nations from five continents, and I have used these techniques in each one. If you are unwilling to at least attempt to create partners in today’s operational environment, then you will inevitably have a tougher time as you move upwards in your career. We are just too global of an organization to accept anything other than international cooperation. One more thing, these are not the only methods that can be used, but they are a foundation to success and can be scaled for unit operations.
About the Author
Collin is a 13 year veteran of the US Army, where he has served in various units and held MOS’s in Armor and Logistics. He has deployed to the Horn of Africa as a Mil-2-Mil trainer in Djibouti and Rwanda as well as a deployment to Afghanistan working directly with the Mongolian Expeditionary Task Force. Collin has also trained with nearly a dozen other nationalities both stateside and deployed. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Army or the US Government.
US military service members can receive different added pay bonuses on top of their base pay for a number of different reasons. So what are these differing payments and who gets them?
Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP)- is pay given to service members who hold special positions such as Special Operations or EOD. There are six tiers of SDAP paid on a monthly basis.
SD1- This is given to White House positions as well as air traffic controllers
SD2- This is given to Command Sergeants Major and Sergeants Major assigned to a Two Star General position, some cyber positions, some White House personnel, RL-1 level air traffic controllers, CID agents and some other specialized units.
SD3- Given to squad leaders and platoon sergeants serving with warrior transition units, CSMs assigned to a three star general, and supervisors within the White House staff.
SD4- Some special mission units (SMUs), NCOs within the 75th Ranger Regiment, soldiers assigned to the 160th SOAR, some recruiters, drill sergeants, supervisors within the White House staff.
SD5- Some special mission units, CMF-18 (Special Forces) soldiers and EOD.
SD6- Some special mission units and the Sergeant Major of the Army.
Jump Pay, $150/mo- This is given to any service member on jump status. The service member must be on jump status in order to receive the pay, not just jump qualified.
High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) Pay- $225/month. This is given in place of jump pay and is given to HALO certified personnel on HALO jump status.
Demo Pay- $150/mo. Given to select engineers, SMUs, Special Forces Engineer Sergeants, Navy SEALs and other duties where personnel are required to handle explosives as part of their job description.
Dive Pay- Given to various positions to include dedicated divers, combat divers (Special Forces, PJs etc.) and Navy SEALs
Type of Diving Duty
Training at dive school 1
Diver second class
Diver first class
Combat Diver 2
Marine Diving Officer 3
Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB)- FLPB is given to service members who receive a payable score on the DLPT or Defense Language Proficiency Test. The payment amount depends on the language but is up to $500 for a single language and $1000 for two languages.
Toxic Duty Pay, $150/mo- Given to service members working with aircraft missiles containing toxic materials.
Experimental Stress Duty Pay, $150/mo- Given to service members assigned to experimental stress duty.
Hazard Duty Pay- Hazard Duty Pay is paid out to a number of different personnel for a number of different reasons. The pay ranges from $150-250/mo. Officer air crew members receive the highest amount.
Assignment Incentive Pay- This is given to personnel who are involuntarily extended on combat tours. The pay can be up to $3000/mo for some missions.
Hardship Duty Pay- This is given to military personnel living in austere conditions while on deployment. The pay can be $50, 100 or 150, depending on the location.
Family Separation Allowance, $250- Given to service members assigned to duty locations without their families.
Flight Pay- Flight Pay is given to pilots and air crew and ranges from $125-$840/mo depending on years on flight status and rank.
Career Sea Pay- This is given to military personnel who are assigned to lengthy sea assignments. The pay is based on rank and years at sea and ranges from $20-750/mo.
Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay, $225/mo- This is given to anyone serving in a designated area such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines or Pakistan where they are in danger of hostile fire, land mines or other forms of imminent danger.
Submarine Duty Pay- Paid to sailors serving on a submarine. The pay is based on both rank and time on duty and ranges between $75-875.
While this isn’t the full list it does cover most of the pays available. Other special pays include Veterinary Pay ($100/mo), Dental Pay and Medical Officer Pay.
The death of SO1 Charles Keating IV on May 3, 2016, in Iraq marks the third U.S. military death in operations against Daesh. Once again, America’s attention is drawn to the conflict (it’s not a war, at least not officially) raging across the globe. So where are we exactly in the fight?
According to the Pentagon and news sources, the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq is going well. Estimates place Daesh territorial losses at 40% of what they controlled at their peak, and foreign recruitment at 20% of their peak. Intelligence indicates that Daesh’s administrative and warfighting functions are feeling the strain of losing land and money to coalition airstrikes and ground forces. The strain was most recently highlighted by the announcement that the salaries paid to Daesh fighters would be significantly reduced. Daesh remains a determined enemy, however, as demonstrated by the resistance that Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian forces (both government and militia) are facing as they continue to press their attack.
With the good news out of the way, this is going to be a long fight. I saw a column somewhere (and I apologize to who made it originally, because I honestly can’t remember) that compared fighting the Daesh ideology to squeezing a balloon full of water – if you squeeze it tightly in one place, the water just moves and bulges up in another.
In the last year, Daesh and associated lackeys have struck in France, Belgium, Turkey, Yemen, Indonesia, Egypt, the United States, Bangladesh, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Push it back to January of last year, and you can add Bosnia, Denmark, and Tunisia to the list. Not all of these were directly Daesh-ordered; some attacks were lone wolfs under inspiration, but it demonstrates what analysts consider one of their strongest points – their ability to reach out via social media and attract disaffected people to their cause. The U.S. military is only now officially beginning to respond to this front with their own offense, although the limited reporting available indicates they are achieving significant success in disrupting communications and financial transactions.
Even the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria has simply caused Daesh to bulge up in another location – Libya. Daesh’s strength is estimated at over 6,000 fighters in Libya, and they exercise significant control over the town of Sirte and its surrounding area. Banks seized during the takeover of Sirte provide some funds, as do seizures of oil tankers off the
coast, but Daesh has not yet been able to exploit the oil fields surrounding Sirte. Intelligence agencies believe that Daesh is preparing Sirte to be their new headquarters should they lose Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, their current hubs. Daesh is also believed to be reaching out to Boko Haram in an effort to recruit fighters to its cause from across Africa. U.S. forces are already conducting training in concert with host nation forces in Africa to prepare those forces to be the front line against Daesh expansion.
The media coverage of the battle against Daesh ebbs and flows, depending on whether they view Daesh or Beyonce, the Kardashians, and the distraction du jour as more important on a given day, but the war itself is ongoing, hot, and expanding.
Joel is an 11 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.
Meet the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. This behemoth is set to join the U.S. Naval fleet this year and is going through it’s finishing touches as we speak. The USS Gerald R. Ford will be a class of carriers that is set to replace the current Nimitz-Class carriers. Let’s take a look at some of the new vessel’s key features that make it a state of the art carrier.
Length: 1,106 ft (337m)
Top Speed: Over 30 knots ]
Height: 250 ft
Aircraft carried: Over 75
Distance: 20-25 years
Cost to build: $12.8 billion + $4.7 billion in research and development
The new Gerald R. Ford Class carriers are expected to be able to launch 25% more aircraft a day with 25% less crew members than the current Nimitz Class carriers. It also comes outfitted with updated radar, armament and ballistic protection.
In all the new carrier took over 10 years and took almost 5,000 workers to complete. While the Navy found a few issues with the carrier during testing it is confident the new carrier will out perform the Nimitz Class carriers and will be worth the almost $13 billion price tag. The ship comes with quieter sleeping quarters, a gymnasium, improved air conditioning and a specialty coffee shop.
Chapter 1, title 4 of the US Code governs the use and display of the US Flag. While there are no laws that punish those who violate this code (there used to be but it was later repealed as unconstitutional) it is still important to know the proper etiquette of wear and use of the flag when placing it on your kit or uniform.
The Pentagon states that the end each state’s Attorney General has the responsibility to set the policy on the proper etiquette governing the nation’s flag. In addition the US code outlines some guidelines that you should be aware of and dispels a few myths.
If worn on one side, the flag should be worn in a manner that displays the union (stars) as moving in the wind- What this means is that when wearing the flag on the right shoulder of a uniform, right side of a vehicle or any other moving platform the stars should lead the flag. This causes the flag to often appear “backwards”. In reality the flag is being worn in the manner that if it was freestanding it would fly. It is important to note that is a guideline set forth by the US military, not by the US Code.
There is no law/code the governs the proper direction or wear of the US Flag on uniforms or kit- There are a lot of people out there who lose their minds when they see a flag being worn “backwards” on a shirt, hat or other piece of kit. In reality the only part of the US Code that mentions wear of the US flag on a uniform states “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.” (4 U.S. Code § 8 (i)- Respect for flag). Further, the US Code determines that the wear of the US Flag on a uniform is “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”
While there is no US Code that governs the direction or wear of the US Flag, service members should consult their respective uniform guides for further information regarding the proper wear and appearance of the US flag on their uniform or kit.
The flag should never be displayed with the union (stars) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property (4 U.S. Code § 8 (a)- Respect for flag).
Each state’s Attorney General sets the policy for the wear/use/display of the US Flag– Since the law does not specifically address the positioning of the patch, a decision is left to the discretion of the organization prescribing the wear. This means at the end of the day, how you wear the flag, as long as it’s not disrespectful or in violation of the US Code, is up to you. However, you may contact your state’s Attorney General for further guidance.
The US Flag should never have anything added to it- The US Code states “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.” (4 U.S. Code § 8 (g)- Respect for flag). This means that companies who sell patches that add their company logo or other mark on it are in violation of the US Code.
The US Flag should be displayed at the top of any group of patches- “No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America…” (4 U.S. Code § 7 (c) Position and Manner of Display).
Never wear the flag in a location that would cause it to become soiled, damaged or torn. “The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.” (4 U.S. Code § 8 (e)- Respect for flag). This one is tough, especially when wearing your flag on a kit that is drug through the mud during combat operations. While this can be interpreted in a number of different ways you should take it that you should take every effort to place the flag in a location on your kit that is the least likely to become damaged or soiled such as your shoulder, chest or helmet. In the end, as long as you aren’t purposefully disrespecting the flag you good. We purposefully make our flags out of a PVC material that allows them to be cleaned post mission. You should make every effort to keep your flag/s maintained in a respectful manner and if you flag becomes damaged you should dispose of your flag in a respectful way. The US Code states “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” (4 U.S. Code § 8 (k)- Respect for flag.
The take away here is that as long as you aren’t disrespecting the flag you are most likely good to go. You should attempt to keep the flag out of the dirt and take every effort to respect the flag. If you are a stickler for flag etiquette keep in mind that people wear the US Flag on their kit or uniform because they are proud of their nation and what the flag represents. If you feel they are violating a specific code you should educate them on the proper code but also keep in mind that they are most likely not breaking the rules purposefully. In the end we fully support anyone who wants to proudly display the US flag as it instills patriotism, banal nationalism and loyalty; something that is lacking in our current state of affairs.
4 U.S. Code § 7 Position and manner of display
The flag, when carried in a procession with another flag or flags, should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag’s own right, or, if there is a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
(a) The flag should not be displayed on a float in a parade except from a staff, or as provided in subsection (i) of this section.
(b) The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat. When the flag is displayed on a motorcar, the staff shall be fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
(c) No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy. No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof: Provided, That nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the headquarters of the United Nations.
(d) The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right, the flag’s own right, and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
(e) The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs.
(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.
(g) When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.
(h) When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.
(i) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
(j) When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.
(k) When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.
(l) The flag should form a distinctive feature of the ceremony of unveiling a statue or monument, but it should never be used as the covering for the statue or monument.
(m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff, and the same authority is provided to the Mayor of the District of Columbia with respect to present or former officials of the District of Columbia and members of the Armed Forces from the District of Columbia. When the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia, issues a proclamation under the preceding sentence that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory, or possession or in the District of Columbia because of the death of a member of the Armed Forces, the National flag flown at any Federal installation or facility in the area covered by that proclamation shall be flown at half-staff consistent with that proclamation. The flag shall be flown at half-staff 30 days from the death of the President or a former President; 10 days from the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress. The flag shall be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day. As used in this subsection—
(1) the term “half-staff” means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
(2) the term “executive or military department” means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of title 5, United States Code; and
(3) the term “Member of Congress” means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.
(n) When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
(o) When the flag is suspended across a corridor or lobby in a building with only one main entrance, it should be suspended vertically with the union of the flag to the observer’s left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north, when entrances are to the east and west or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.
4 U.S. Code § 8 Respect for the flag
No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.