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Soldiers arrive home in the middle of the night to a snowstorm at Fort Drum in 2011.Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times

Outside the headquarters of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum stands a monument to the unit, the one most frequently deployed in the years since the attacks of 9/11. Two wiry soldiers, frozen in bronze, help each other ascend a crag with the help of a rope. Etched around the monument is the unit’s motto: “Climb to Glory.”

I walked around the stone and bronze, in the frigid darkness of upstate New York, for a good 20 minutes last month, as my old friend Capt. Richard Murphy stood just out of earshot and spoke on his phone about his looming deployment to Afghanistan and about suicide.…  Seguir leyendo »

Donald Trump acaba de aumentar un 9 por ciento el gasto militar de Estados Unidos; el presupuesto del Ejército estadounidense es ahora tres veces mayor que el de China y ocho veces el de Rusia. Su potencia de fuego es equivalente a la de las fuerzas de Europa, Rusia y China juntas; los soldados estadounidenses están hoy repartidos por 800 bases en todo el mundo. ¿Tendrá Estados Unidos tantos enemigos? ¿Estarán su territorio y sus medios de comunicación más amenazados que nunca? La respuesta es no. Creo más bien que la potencia militar de EE.UU. está animada por una dinámica interna que escapa al control de los dirigentes políticos y a cualquier autocrítica.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Forgotten Lessons of Black Hawk Down

Twenty-five years ago this week, a Somali warlord named Mohammed Farah Aidid offered the American military a glimpse of its future. But neither policymakers back in Washington nor commanders in the field were attuned to what he had on offer.

A mission that had begun 10 months earlier to provide relief supplies to starving Somalis had evolved into a vastly more ambitious nation-building project. On the night of Oct. 3-4, 1993, an American military operation to capture Mr. Aidid ended in catastrophic failure, including 18 Americans dead. Soon afterward the entire mission collapsed, and the United States withdrew. Yet any lessons that might have been learned from this debacle stayed in Mogadishu, alongside the smoldering wreckage of the Black Hawk helicopter that Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Then-U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kirsten Griest, center, and fellow soldiers participate in combatives training during the Ranger Course on Fort Benning, Ga., in April. (Spc. Nikayla Shodeen/U.S. Army/Reuters)

Last week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter directed that all jobs in the U.S. military be opened to women. The announcement provoked strong reactions, but all sides concurred that we cannot let our standards fall or force quotas on our combat units. As an Army officer, a combat veteran and one of the first three women to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School, I strongly agree.

The critics worry about strength and stamina, often comparing infantry units to professional sports teams. But just as a successful football team needs a smart quarterback, fast receivers, strong linemen and talented special teams, our war fighters must dominate all aspects of the battle space.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Victory for Women at War

The announcement this week by Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter that all combat roles in the United States military would officially be open to women is, without question, a victory. News of the decision was a thrill for me and thousands of other women who have served and continue to serve over the past 14 years in “support” roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom enthusiastically volunteered, as I did, for positions that put us in the middle of conflict.

In Iraq, I was attached as a turret gunner to a military police unit that specialized in convoy security, during a period of high risk for I.E.D.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Real Barrier for Women Marines

In her role as leader of the Marine Corps’ all-women boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., Lt. Col. Kate Germano was known as a demanding and at times blunt commander. She was also effective. Under her leadership, performance in physical fitness and rifle tests improved significantly, and so did retention rates for female recruits. Colonel Germano drove her recruits based on the belief that women would not be taken seriously as Marines until they could meet the same performance standards as men. That belief is widespread, and it is ingrained in Marine culture.

But on June 30, after complaints from some recruits about her aggressive leadership tactics, and conflicts with her own commanders, Colonel Germano was removed by her superior, Brig.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace unas semanas, el general Martin Dempsey, la más alta autoridad militar de las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses, declaró que su país no gozaba de la supremacía en la esfera cibernética, muy al contrario de lo que todavía ocurre en el resto de los ámbitos de operaciones. Y es que tal y como sucede en todas las Fuerzas Armada avanzadas, las estadounidenses dependen de las tecnologías de la información y las comunicaciones (TIC) para planear y conducir sus operaciones militares. De hecho, por el ciberespacio militar circulan tanto las coordenadas sobre las que situar en cualquier punto del globo sus unidades militares, la información procedente de sus medios de reconocimiento, las órdenes que deben ejecutarse, las coordenadas de los blancos a batir, los datos para dirigir sus drones y armas con precisión hacia sus objetivos o la información logística necesaria para sostener cualquier operación militar.…  Seguir leyendo »

America has always had trouble with black hair. The United States Army is only the latest in a long line of institutions, corporations and schools to restrict it. On March 31, the Army released an updated appearance and grooming policy, known as AR 670-1. It applies to all Army personnel, including students at West Point and those serving in the R.O.T.C. and the National Guard.

No distinctions are made for race or ethnicity, only gender, in that the regulations regarding hair are divided between women and men. But it’s not hard to infer that certain sections pertain specifically to black women, since they refer to hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists and dreadlocks, severely limiting or banning them outright.…  Seguir leyendo »

Acabo de visitar a los militares estadounidenses y españoles que trabajan en Camp Lemonnier, Yibuti. Los viajes de trabajo que conllevan mis obligaciones como embajador de Estados Unidos en España y Andorra no me suelen conducir a África, pero en esta ocasión quería ver con mis propios ojos qué repercusiones tiene la acción del destacamento especial de infantes de marina de EE UU, llamado Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR) [Unidad Especial de Infantes de Marina en Misiones Aire-Tierra, Grupo de Crisis], normalmente destacado en la base aérea española de Morón. Esta unidad tiene como misión responder con rapidez a situaciones críticas en el norte de África.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States drew on its big lead in wealth, resources and technology to achieve an unprecedented level of global military dominance.

That “unipolar moment” appears to have been fleeting. Today the U.S. may be on the verge of a military decline that could have major repercussions for stability and the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since 1999, America has put a high priority on being able to wage two major wars at the same time, in Asia and the Persian Gulf. In the very near future, it may no longer be able to do so.…  Seguir leyendo »

The United States is expanding its military presence in Honduras on a spectacular scale. The Associated Press reported this month in an investigative article that Washington in 2011 authorized $1.3 billion for U.S. military electronics in Honduras. This is happening while the post-coup regime of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo is more out of control than ever, especially since the Honduran Congress staged a "technical coup" in December.

But as the Obama administration deepens its partnership with Honduras, ostensibly to fight the drug war, Democrats in Congress are increasingly rebelling. Here's a message, then, for new Secretary of State John Kerry: Recast U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

At his confirmation hearing on Jan. 31, Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, stated unequivocally, “I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision I strongly support.”

The word “officially” was illuminating: a subtle acknowledgment, whether intended or not, that women have already been fighting, and dying, in combat roles.

As an Army veteran — I left in 1990, with an honorable discharge — I was struck by the close, if indirect, association between the role of women in the military and that of gays.

More than 20 years ago, when President-elect Bill Clinton first announced that he would lift the ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the armed forces, I wrote an essay for the Op-Ed page of this newspaper, urging that women be permitted to serve in ground-force combat duty in the Army and the Marines, with “tough but fair physical and mental standards” that men and women alike would have to reach.…  Seguir leyendo »

A week before I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, my wife and I volunteered for a few hours at our daughter’s elementary school. As we left, her teacher told the students that I was an officer in the Marine Corps about to leave on deployment. “A nation does not survive,” he said, “without men like that.”

It was a heartfelt statement. I thought of it often while in Afghanistan; it felt most poignant when my detachment of transport aircraft flew each one of the 119 bodies out of Helmand province between June and December 2010 to make their final trip home.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the coming years, lifting the ban on women in combat, announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, might prove particularly challenging in the most iconic of military occupations -- the infantry, among the most physically demanding and tradition-bound branches of the Marines and the Army.

Determining the best path forward to integrate women into this elite group will require hard-nosed honesty, careful management and compelling leadership.

For the 65 years that women have enjoyed a permanent place in the United States military, they have been subject to restrictions. One rationale is the notion embedded in our culture that women should be shielded from great physical risks.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the Obama administration would allow women to be placed in positions that will expose them more directly to fighting with enemy ground forces. It is said that this will allow women to fill hundreds of thousands of combat roles from which they are currently excluded. Substantively, this is a poor idea. Furthermore, the decision-making process used to bring this change about is deeply flawed.

America's ongoing war against terror-supporting states and terror networks, commenced after 9/11, has seen an increased combat role for women in the U.S. armed forces. According to recent news accounts, more than 800 have been wounded and more than 130 have died.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ten years ago, as I prepared to take part in the invasion of Iraq, I never thought women would be allowed to serve in combat jobs in the U.S. military, at least not in my lifetime. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure it was a good idea.

Some of my male comrades in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) had even clearer thoughts on the question. They told me, sometimes to my face, that I didn’t belong in the military at all, much less in a combat zone. Women serving in the infantry was simply anathema to them.

Then we crossed the berm into Iraq and drove into Baghdad.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tema: Aunque EEUU seguirá siendo la gran potencia militar de las próximas décadas, el candidato presidencial que resulte vencedor en las elecciones de noviembre tendrá que revisar la estrategia de seguridad nacional y casar fines y medios.

Resumen: Tradicionalmente, la política exterior y la defensa han servido de plataforma de lucimiento o de crítica para las presidencias de EEUU, por lo que los candidatos dedicaban mucha atención a esas cuestiones durante las campañas electorales. Esta atención ya se redujo significativamente en la campaña electoral de 2008, en la que se apartaron del debate público Iraq y Afganistán, y se ha seguido reduciendo en la campaña de 2012 debido al mayor interés electoral de las cuestiones domésticas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last fall, at an outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Danny Chen, a 19-year-old Army private, was singled out for hazing by Sgt. Adam Holcomb and five other soldiers, all of whom were senior in rank to their victim. They believed Danny was a weak soldier, someone who fell asleep on guard duty, who forgot his helmet. So for six weeks, they dispensed “corrective training” that violated Army policy. When he failed to turn off the water pump in the shower, he was dragged across a gravel yard on his back until it bled. They threw rocks at him to simulate artillery. They called him “dragon lady,” “gook” and “chink.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been a large and steady rise in the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among our troops. One recent study of 289,000 Americans who served in those countries found that the rates of the disorder jumped to 22 percent in 2008 from just 0.2 percent in 2002.

Given the duration of these wars and the length and frequency of deployments, when compared with other wars, perhaps such high rates of PTSD are not so surprising. Prolonged exposure to a perilous and uncertain combat environment might make trauma common.

But there is another factor that might be playing a role in the increasing rates of the disorder, one that has escaped attention: the military’s use of stimulant medications, like Ritalin and Adderall, in our troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’m driving.

Jack, my co-pilot, sleeps in the passenger seat. His chin rests on my upper leg. The car in front of us wears two Support Our Troops ribbons. One is yellow; the other red, white and blue. Both are made in China. On the rear bumper is a faded black MIA sticker. That driver probably means well, but by now I’ve seen too many ribbons. While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq kill and maim, I think of how they are also shaping the future of returning veterans. Many of these men and women will come home and go missing, and you won’t even know it.…  Seguir leyendo »