News

Why the AMERICAN troops wearing the American flag

A long way from the beach or a 4th of July barbecue a U. S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with a U.S. Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook helicopter during a training session at a secret location in the mountains of Afghanistan, 14 March, 2018.

(U. S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

It is something that may have escaped your attention, but it is certainly not yet done for the American troops fighting on the front line.

Maybe you’ve seen it in photos. The Stars and Stripes neatly rolled up and fastened to the gear of deployed soldiers. The red, white and blue are in contrast with the muted colors of the uniforms designed to hide.

Why do they wear the flag? Or it is used to identify themselves to coalition jets, mark territory claimed on the battlefield, or serve as a lively and much loved memento, the American flag serves a lot of purpose among our forces down range.

U. S. Air Force pararescuemen assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, prepare to board a U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter during a training mission in Afghanistan, March 15, 2018.

(U. S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout)

“We have always carried a flag at the first operation in a new environment,” retired Lt.-Col. James Reese said.

It certainly adds context to those famous words written by Francis Scott Key: “say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light.”

Currently, there are more than 1.3 million active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Marine, air force and coast guard, according to the Ministry of Defence. The military men and women are divided about at least a dozen countries, including the United States itself.

“We have always carried a flag at the first operation in a new environment.”

– Lieutenant-Colonel James Reese, US Army (RET)

Special Operations Forces (SOF), the elite units are often seen with the flag, are not so numerous. According to the U.S. Special Operations Command, there are just over 57,000 active-duty SOF warriors.

Of that number, only about 8,300 are deployed in 90 countries. In 2017, the Ministry of Defence, more than 15 percent of the deployed SOF warriors to help African armies, as opposed to only 1 percent the year prior. There are about 1,200 SOF soldiers deployed to over a dozen African countries.

A U. S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, stands for take off in a U. S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules before a training jump Mar 4, 2018.

(U. S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathaniel Stout)

In 2007, after 25 years of service, Reese retired as a commander in the elite army unit known as Delta Force. He told Fox News that the soldiers often carry flags in the case the communication to break down and they need to identify themselves to friendly forces.

This is especially important if special operations units to fight with a coalition of several nations’ fighter jets offer of support. He called the flag a last-ditch “far recognition signal” on the battlefield.

In particular, it is important for the soldiers in countries like Syria, where numerous nations offer of support from the air, but only a select few, including the American fighters, are on the ground.

“Flags are executed so that they can be prepared when we take a new connection or fire base,” said another active-duty Army sergeant, who for anonymity because of his ongoing continuous service.

Reese said soldiers are given greater autonomy over their outfits in the last few years, as long as they comply to the standard packing lists imposed by the commanders. Usually, soldiers must carry more than 200 rounds of ammunition, medical kits, MRE rations, a weapon cleaning kit and a map, the name of a few items.

A U. S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, surveys the flightline at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on March 22, 2018.

(U. S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

When he was first in the Army Rangers in the 1980s, Reese said, all the uniforms were disciplined and standardized, a practice that looked sharp, but certainly not the most practical for every soldier.

This mentality changed after the terrorist attacks of September. 11, 2001. Now, he said, military branches in the U.S. and abroad, mimicking the way Special Operation Forces to prepare and to fight.

“What the soldiers looks like, now we saw there a year or 12, 15 years ago,” he said. “The army has already quickly caught on to the different ways we wear our armor. … [We] set up to be efficient.”

Efficiency of movement and spirit is what Reese said kept him alive during his years of service. He tried to keep himself as light as possible to navigate the battlefield as quickly as possible.

“A bullet will hit someone with a piece of gear a lot faster than someone who is light and agile,” he said. “It’s all about efficiency.”

And in the case of that flag, a touch of simplicity, also.

So it is with that indelible symbol, the giving of evidence by means of day and night that our flag and those that defend the underlying values are still there.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular