View Full Version : Military Chat Transcript with Master Sgt. Jason Tudor

12-28-2008, 08:02 AM
From the AW Chatroom, December 27, 2008. Minor editing for clarity, spelling, and enter/exit messages.


<Jason> Ok, welcome all.

<Jason> I'm going to do a lot of typing. And work from the top down. Stop me when you have a question. So, I'll go through organization of the American military services first and how they work with allied forces. Then I'll get into service specifics. Then try to clear up a few myths. Then we'll get into direct Q's and A's as you have them. However, again, if you need me to stop, just type STOP in all caps and I'll wait for your question or comment. Cool? Ok, here we go.

<Disa> cool, thanks Jason for your time and all

<Jason> When you think of the American armed forces, think of these three words:

<Jason> organize
<Jason> train
<Jason> equip

<Jason> That's what each of the 4 services does. USA has four armed services:

<Jason> The Army
<Jason> The Navy
<Jason> the Air Force

<Jason> And the marines. But technically the Marines are part of the Navy, and they hate that, but that's how it goes. Each service varies in size. And all are headquartered at the pentagon. As an aside, the Coast Guard IS a military service during a bona fide time of war. That means right now, the Coast Guard IS a military service because of the war on terror. So, the goal of each service is to ... here it comes ...

<williebee> Hi gang. So Jason, are you another DINFOS Trained Killer?
<Jason> organize, train and equip forces for war
<Jason> Yes, I am, 1988 grad
<williebee> ah, I was a few years before you. 84

<Jason> The Army Organizes, trains and equips ground forces. The Air Force OT&Es air forces. The navy water and the marines protect naval forces. And that's also how they get their monies. So, when budgeting, each service has a separate and distinct budget. The Navy's is the largest, because it has to maintain all those ships. The Army 2nd, The AF third, and Marines.

<Jason> Everybody with me so far?

<Disa> yep
<Bahamut> yep
<Jason> Cool ...
* Hollow was in Navy so knows this.

<Jason> Now, the services also have intermixed roles. For instance, we all have reconnaissance roles, so we all have drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy has airplanes. So does the Air Force and marines. The Army even has a few airplanes. And helicopters of course. But they serve in separate roles. For instance, Navy airplanes generally guard the fleets, but, they have been used to drops bombs on Baghdad too. The Army also has boats. So does the Navy. And so on. So, things are more intermixed then you might believe.

<Jason> Now, sizes ...because size matters. The Air Force has about 320,000 people. The Navy about 450,000. The Army has about 400,000. And the Marines have about 118,000.

<Don> CG?

<Jason> Not sure about the CG, but I;d guess about 80,000. Add them up, throw in the civilians, and you get about 3 million employees, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. And there are about 7 million retirees floating around too. So 10 million people with a military connection not counting those who separated. Not retired.

<Jason> And I haven;t mentioned Guard and reserve, but will now. The Reserve forces are like glasses in your cupboard. You have, say, eight glasses you always have in the rotation.Your favorite Steelers cup. The Guinness pint glass. And others. But when one breaks ...You go to the cupboard and get out the replacement. Or when guests come over, same deal. That goes for Reserve forces. When we run out of soldiers to do jobs, Reserve forces are supposed to come in and fill. And do. So does the Guard.

<Jason> But who can tell me the difference between the Guard and Reserve, show of hands? Tick tock ... No hands? No worries. The Guard serves its individual state unless its a time of war, then it can get mobilized. So, i mentioned 3 million. Add in the guard and reserve forces, were talking about 4.5 million total forces available to fight.

<Jason> Now, let's back to OTE. Organize. Train and ...Equip. See, the military services do not fight wars.

<Don> Stop
<Jason> I'll wait for your reaction.
<Jason> Go Don
<Don> didn't you say the 3 mill included civvies?
<Jason> Yes.
<Jason> Civilian DOD workers

<Don> so with reserves, maybe 2 mill soldiers? Fighters vs support?
<Jason> Yes, but 80 percent of the force is support and civilians CAn deploy to war now. So, really, about 3.2 million total.
<Don> ah, ok, thanks
<Jason> :)

<Jason> Anyway, back to who fights wars -- those are called COMBATANT COMMANDS. US Central Command is one. So is US Southern Command. The military has a "Command" in EVERY region of the world. US European Command is located in Stuttgart Germany. So, when we go to war ... Military forces are like Lego pieces. The Combatant Commander requests forces. For instance, he may want two fighter aircraft units to protect the skies. The *might* come from the Air Force, but could come from the Navy. He also might want two battalions of infantry. Or other soldiers. Those would probably come from the Army, but might come from the Marines.

<Jason> Anyway, the combatant commander ultimately fights wars. And he mixes and matches the forces together to make an army that fights it. But the Air Force, Army, Marines,and Navy don;t fight wars on their own. They are, for lack of a better phrase, contract employees. The services OTW to suit the combatant commanders and right now the biggest customer is Central Command.

<Jason> We should probably talk about each service and how each is basically built.
<Don> OTW?
<Jason> OTE, sorry

<Jason> I'll use the Air Force since i know it best, but its the same structure as the other services. The Air Force is headquartered in DC. The HQ is called the Air Staff. The leader of each service is called a "chief of staff" except the navy and marines. The Navy is called the Chief of Naval Operations. The Marines have a commandant. From the HQ, the AF breaks out into nine divisions. Things like Air, Space, Training, Cargo airlift and so on.

<Jason> The other services break out this way as well, just different jobs and directions. So, in Air Force, Air Mobility Command (www.amc.af.mil (http://www.amc.af.mil)) is the same as Navy's SeaLift Command. Then, the military breaks out into smaller units from there. I'd get into all of it, but its minutia. And its well worth visiting the services Web sites if you want that. In the Air Force the smallest unit is an element, about five people. The largest is a command, about 120,000 people. Still with me?

<Don> yes

<Jason> Ok, on we go. Let's talk about people. Each military service has three distinct personnel groups. Civilians. Enlisted people. Commissioned officers. Let's start with commissioned officers. Officers earn a bachelor's degree (minimum), get screened and then receive a commission from the United States. They are leaders and highest-level managers. In the civilian sector, they are VP material, that sort of thing. About 15 percent of any military force is officers. The other 85 percent of the military force are enlisted people. The ones that sign up out of high school, learn a vocation, and serve a term, wear stripes, and so on. The pay is less because the skills aren't as specialized and they are easier to recruit and train.

<Jason> Officers are harder to keep, esp ones in the most critical skills: Flying, Special Operations, and more, but there are enlisted skills that are hard to keep as well. SpecOps is a bigee. In any case, enlisted folks to the grunt work. The proles of the organization. The civilians also provide support to the forces in a number of ways.

<Jason> For officers, there are 10 levels of rank. These differ from service to service. However, in the Army, AF and marines the ranks are the same. They start at lieutenant and end at general. The guy who runs the CIA is a retired O-10, General, Air Force. Schwartzkopf was a lieutenant general, O-9. GW Bush got out of the Alabama guard as a first lieutenant (i think). And so on. In the Navy, the ranks have different names. A lieutenant in the Navy is a Captain in the Air Force. A captain in the Navy is a Colonel in the Air Force. And so on.

<Jed> Is it true that the Navy is the senior service?
<Jason> No.
<Jed> are you sure :D

<Jason> The Army is the oldest service, though the marines dispute this. However, if you want to talk age, it's the Marines. What matters really is in Congress. And in Congress, the Navy holds serve. :) All righty. So, we were talking about people. Let's talk about how the military has changed since 9-11. The military mission used to be solely focused on fighting the Col War. If you're in this room, and served at some point, you know this. However, the Cold War ended. And it left a lot of msart people stnding around and saying, 'OK what now?" We had HUGE numbers of forces in Europe. But no war in Europe to be ready for.

<Jason> We were literally waiting for the Russians to come rolling through the Fulda Gap and whack Europe. Never happened. So, we had to do something with all those excess forces.We also had to figure out what do to rather than training to wait around and fight a war. So what happened? 9-11 happened. And some stuff before that. But 9-11 codified things we knew we had to do. Get smaller. And learn how to fight from door to door. A B-52 is no good against a group of terrorists hiding in caves ...or so they tell me.

<Jason> So, all the services changed their mantras. How could we better fight the "war against terrorism?" Which is a lot like asking how do we fight the war on drugs. But we made some siginifcant changes. Like personnel. The AF was 622,000 when I joined in 1987. Its 325,000 today. Other service did the same thing. Cut to the bone. Cold War budgets were no more. And budgets now are even more skimpy. AF has cut back on flying training hours by 25 percent in the last 6 months. So, lots of changes. And you know Mr. Rumsfeld was the catalyst for a lot of that.

<Jason> Anyway, so now the services are focused on the middle east. And wherever else "terror" might lurk. But ...We still are technically at war with Korea. North Korea I mean. And have about 76,000 troops there. But we're mostly worried about China there, so it makes sense to keep forces there. How we doing?

<Don> isn't that technically a 'police action'?
<Don> hangin in there
<Jason> No, technically its a war. We never signed as armistice.
<Disa> yikes
<Don> war was never declared

<Jason> The East Coats Elite Intelligencia like to point this out whenever possible. Still a war, that's why we're there. Well, you know. Ok, just a few more things and we'll do Q&A.
<Don> yeah, nm, please continue

<Jason> Some facts and fiction: Movies never accurately depict military life. Like any other lives, there are subtleties. Top Gun is a big offender. Black Hawk Down is fairly accurate, based on what my friends say.

<Andrhia> Ah, Top Gun, the most expensive Navy recruiting film ever made
<Jason> I think you'd be surprised at how much military people are just like you and me. Most have shift work or 9-5 jobs. Families. Bills. Mortgages.
<Andrhia> My mom was Air Force :)
<Disa> my Dad was Army

<Jason> Key here is that like many who sign contracts, military people do too. And the typifying difference is this--there is no other job where you sign a contract that says, "I will die for what I'm doing." Mil contracts do. "Prepared to give my life in its defense." Also, ALL military people are SWORN to protect the constitution of the United States. Not the president.

<Andrhia> Hmm. What do Blackwater contracts say?
<Jason> Not the government
<Andrhia> Well, obviously not about the constitution.
<Jason> Just the constitution.
<Andrhia> But maybe about the dying.

<Jason> And military life is not for everyone. It's for some. And some stay for 21 years (me). And some leave after 6 months just because it ain't for them ...And that's that. OK, I've been typing for 45 minutes. And this chat is logged and will be available afterward.

<Don> Interesting info, Jason, thanks. :)
<Jason> So let's go to questiosn if you have them.
<Jason> Oh Wait! Andrhia.> You brought up Blackwater. Let's talk about them for a sec.
<Don> please do
<Jason> BW pays about $160,000 a year to its guys, on average. Some more some less.
<Andrhia> Whoa. I didn't know it was that high.

<Jason> Almost ALL of them are former SpecOps guys. Who were getting paid $45,000 a year. See why they'd bolt? There's a reason why sometimes we bitch about military pay and that's one of them. In order to keep qualified people, you have to pay them. Blackwater is paying them. A friend of mine made $1,500 a day in Afghanistan in October, stayed 45 days. So the math. :)

<Jason> OK, let's go back to questions! Toss em out folks, don't be bashful!

<Don> how do civilians (BW) get treated as military combatants by the opposition? They're not actually US soldiers, does Geneva apply?
<Jason> Yes. And it depends on what position they serve. Most commanders don't LIKE the idea of getting a civilian deployed.
<Don> It seems wrong to me that we can have civilians on the battlefield.
<Don> exactly
<Jason> They also cost a lot MORE to deploy then a soldier

<Don> and they're loyal to their own chain of command
<Jason> No.
<Andrhia> I'm curious how similar the branches of the service are, in terms of internal culture
<Jason> They are loyal to whatever chain they are in or they get fired. Hundreds, Andrhia. Good catch.
<Andrhia> I know there's a lot of rivalry and cracking wise, not unlike college football teams have.

<Jason> The services did a study. Well, lemme come back to that
<Andrhia> Hehehe :)
<Bahamut> I have a winding question when you're done

<Jason> Each service's culture is HUGELY different. OK, Bah. HUGELY different. How we use ranks when we speak. How we address people. How money is spent. Its all different. But even INSIDE the services it is different from one unit to the next. The study I mentioned said the services were too "tribal" in nature. Too many patches and identities, and it was killing how we did business in an efficient and productive way.

<Andrhia> Fascinating.
<Jason> Make sense, And?
<Andrhia> Yeah, it does
<Jason> And does that answer?
<Andrhia> I guess like regional differences.
<Jason> Ok, bah, yours.
<Andrhia> Thanks :)
<Jason> Very much like regional diffs.
<Don> thanks, Jason

<Bahamut> Okay, forgive me if I missed it (had to step out), but in a nutshell, what are some of the lines of command and how many does each oversee.
<Jason> We talked a bit about that earlier and it will be on the log. But key is big to small. HQ to element.

<Jason> A little trivia: "Full metal Jacket," the movie.
<Pamster> That movie freaked me out
<Jason> R. Lee Ermey (who hit on my ltitle sister once) played the drill sergeant.
<Pamster> its one of my hubby's favs too
<Jason> And fairly accurately. He was not cast for that part, he was initially an advisor. Because he was in the Marines.

<Pamster> Wow that's cool Jason
<Jason> Got out as a staff sergeant (e-6) on a medical discharge after he hurt his back. The producers of the film overheard Ermye doing the drill sergeant bit with the actor. Liked Ermey more, and cast him. The rest is movie history.
<Don> that's cool.
<Bahamut> nice
<Jason> He also plays Dr Greg House's father on "House." Any other questions?

<Don> Question: Where could we find a discussion of size of units; squad, company, brigade, etc.
<Jason> Don, good one. Lemme see what I can dig up and get back to you.
<Don> thanks
<Jason> official sites don't have them either.
<Bahamut> Me too please
<Don> When writing it's handy to know those relative figures.
<Jason> Yes, it is! It really is.

<Don> I'd hate to deploy a squad when it should be a brigade, lol.
<Pamster> Are there any good reference books for this subject?
<Jason> Brigade = HUGE
<Pamster> For writer's yet?
<Jason> squad = 16
<Jason> Pam, tons.

<Jed> what's the largest ac in the us navy?
<Jason> Not for writers specifically.
<Don> yeah, see my point? :)
<Jason> Largest AC in US Navy is C-130, i think. :)
<Jed> sorry, acc
<Pamster> Ah for the layman interested in military operations then I assume.

<Jason> But there are some good references.
<Jason> Right. The military is a huge 3200 tentacled octopus. And it's so diverse and part of so many things in our lives. It's an amazing thing since it became a "professional' military after WWII. Official web sites, BTW, are: www.af.mil (http://www.af.mil/) Air Force, www.navy.mil (http://www.navy.mil/) Navy, www.usmc.mil (http://www.usmc.mil/) Marines, www.army.mil (http://www.army.mil/) . There's some recruiting stuff there but weed through it. You'll find TONS of fact sheets bios and accurate history. www.uscg.mil (http://www.uscg.mil/), Also www.afrc.af.mil (http://www.afrc.af.mil/) Air Force Reserve.

<Jason> Largest Aircraft carrier, he asks ...is the USS Ronald Reagan. I think it goes 1,200 feet long. Please PM if I can help you research something. And thanks for attending tonight! Good night!

<Jed> oh i have one more -- is there really a secret stargate base under cheyenne (sp?) mountain?
<Jason> There's a base.
<Don> Thanks for speaking. Very informative. :)
<Disa> thanks Jason
* ChaosTitan shakes her head at Jed
<Jason> And it's very cold inside.
<Jason> Because it's totally chiseled out of the rock.
<Jed> oh come on Kelly, I had to ask :D
<TauCeti> yes, but now that you know, we'll have to kill you.
<Jason> And it's really high tech.
<ChaosTitan> This is why no one takes Stargate fans seriously. ;)
<Jason> And i wrote a story about it. If you ask, I'll send the link. Gotta run.
<ChaosTitan> And why Firefly fans will rule the world!
<Jason> Thanks folks!
<ChaosTitan> Night!
<TauCeti> <==big SG fan
<ChaosTitan> Thank you!
<Jed> lol
<Don> night
<Pamster> Night Jason!