Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Threats Don't Take A Holiday: Many U.S. Troops Serving Overseas During The Holidays

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2017 — It’s the holidays, and millions of Americans are making their way to visit family and friends.

And many of those travelers are military personnel returning home from their duty stations.

But hundreds of thousands of military personnel will not be traveling. They will be continuing to protect the United States. And they are based around the globe.

Threats Don’t Take a Holiday

Many American service members must stay at their jobs because threats don’t take a holiday.

According to the most recent statistics available at the Defense Manpower Data Center, there about 1.3 million personnel on active duty, with about 476,000 in the Army; 323,000 Navy; 184,000 Marine Corps; 321,600 Air Force and 41,500 in the Coast Guard. There are 810,800 in the selected reserves.

Service members serve on all seven continents -- there is one service member in Antarctica -- and on all the seas. Military personnel in more than 170 countries.

There are about 13,000 troops from all service branches in Afghanistan. They are working to train and advise Afghan forces and supply the fires needed to help defeat the Taliban and terror groups.

There are 5,200 service members in Iraq and another 2,000 in Syria. They are working with Iraqi forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces to rid the region of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

There are roughly 28,000 service members in South Korea, deterring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Overall, there are more than 60,000 U.S. service members in the U.S. Central Command area of operations and aboard ships.

There are 710 U.S. troops in Kosovo.

Djibouti -- on the Horn of Africa -- hosts 3,100 American service members, and there are 505 service members in Niger.

There are 34,300 service members in Germany, 8,300 in the United Kingdom and 44,500 in Japan. Those troops’ presence reassures allies and deters competitors.

These are just some of where active duty personnel deployed this holiday season. They are joined by National Guard and Reserve personnel.

There are almost 20,000 National Guardsmen serving alongside their active duty brothers and sisters. They are operating far from their homes in some of the most dangerous areas on Earth.

Guardsmen are also helping their fellow citizens more directly with almost 5,000 battling wildfires in California or delivering supplies in Puerto Rico. And if the call comes on Christmas morning to help their fellow citizens, they will put down the coffee and put on the uniform.

From its the Navy has been an expeditionary force. Sailors will man their ships from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. Navy officials maintain that roughly a third of the Navy is deployed at any one time. By that measurement, it means more than 100,000 sailors and Marines are afloat on Christmas.

Sailors are performing missions that cannot stop for the holidays. Christmas is just another day for sailors manning their posts aboard submarines with nuclear weapons. Sailors launching aircraft from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf may have time for Christmas services.

The same holds true for Air Force missileers and airmen who will be in the silos, by the planes and in the command centers ensuring the nuclear system is ready if needed.

Monitoring Cyber, Space

U.S. Cyber Command personnel will monitor the cyber world for threats, and service members will scan space to ensure those assets are not threatened.

Even all these far-flung areas, service members will take time to remember the holidays. Dining facilities do their best to ensure every service member has a great holiday meal. Centers work overtime to help service members contact loved ones back home. At some places, there will be sporting matches and perhaps the troops may get a bit more rack time.

But this is the way it has always been. The military is always on duty and has been from Valley Forge in 1778 to Fredericksburg in 1862, from Bastogne in 1944 to Chosin in 1950, and from Linebacker 2 in 1972 to today.

The bottom line is the U.S. military stands guard so the world can know -- or hope for -- peace.

Note: In the above Air Force photo taken by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa, members of the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron participate in a white elephant gift exchange on Dec. 25, 2016 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. 


  1. We've both been there and done that. Holidays away are tough. I wish more Americans understood the large and small sacrifices. Sometimes I think compulsory service for every young adult would be a good idea. I could list hundreds of reasons. One small reason is this: more people would understand the sacrifices.

  2. RT,

    I agree that more Americans should understand the sacrifices of service people, but I don't agree with compulsory service. Our volunteer service is doing well, they just need more congressional funding and a bit more money for the troops.

    And yeah, I spent one Christmas on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Vietnam. (The ship prepared a great Christmas dinner for all).

    I spent another Christmas serving on a Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland, but I had the day off and had dinner with a friend and shipmate (boatmate?) and his wife and other friends. I left Scotland for home a few days later.

    Thankfully, I was single both times, so the separation was not as bad as it is for those who had and have wives and children at home.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, ole shipmate.