Military News

Friday, June 10, 2011

Traditional Wisconsin Guardsman first to fill assigned drill sergeant role

By Staff Sgt. Andy Poquette
Wisconsin Army National Guard

The "Smokey the Bear" brown campaign hat. The cold stare that freezes blood in the veins. The loud, piercing voice barking commands. Anyone who has spent any time in an Army boot camp can recognize these trademark signs of a drill sergeant - the tough-as-nails noncommissioned officer charged with turning civilians into Soldiers in roughly two months.

Until recently, drill sergeants primarily resided in the active Army and in Army Reserve training regiments. Now, however, drill sergeants are showing up in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, preparing young recruits for basic training. The newest drill sergeant - a member of Detachment 1, Company B who graduated drill sergeant school June 2 - is the first traditional Wisconsin Army National Guard member to fill that role.

"It's a very challenging program, but also very rewarding," said Sgt. Leslie "LJ" Maple of Mosinee, who drills on a monthly basis just like his recruits. "I'm able to give our new recruits the tools they will need to succeed and become honor graduates at the schools they attend."

Maple - whose wife, Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Maple was recently selected as the national level Airman of the Year - joins Staff Sgt. William Shafer, who works full-time with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, as one of the few National Guard Soldiers to graduate from the course.

"I've always wanted to do this and help new Soldiers, and this program was a great way to bring back the latest and greatest teachings to our Soldiers here," Maple said. "The Wisconsin National Guard having a drill sergeant means we can bring back the best techniques for training our Soldiers and set them up for success."

The benefit of having drill sergeants training National Guard recruits include similarity of instruction from the recruit sustainment companies to basic training, and less culture shock from one training environment to the next.

The Recruiting and Retention Battalion has 12 drill sergeant positions for six companies. 1st Sgt. Joshua Reed, a recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer in charge stationed in Green Bay, said that some Army Reserve drill sergeants have transferred into the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruit sustainment companies, and that two other part-time National Guard Soldiers attended drill sergeant school but did not transfer to the battalion.

"Maple is our first home-grown drill sergeant on the traditional side of the house," he said.

The U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School, established in 1967, is now the Army's only drill sergeant school after the schools at Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., closed in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Annual 'Mega Rust' Conference Seeks Tools, Processes to Curb Corrosion

From Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Military, government and industry experts convened for the seventh consecutive year to discuss the latest technologies and preventative methods to combat damaging rust at the annual Mega Rust Corrosion Conference in Norfolk, Va., June 6-9.

The conference focuses on corrosion planning in acquisition as well as the reduction of total ownership costs through preventative measures.

Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) commander and keynote speaker, led the group in technical discussions.

"With 73 percent of our Navy's 313-ship Navy already in today's fleet, it is critical that our ships maintain full operational readiness to meet our projected missions," said McCoy. "By harnessing new preservation technologies as well as refining our acquisition, engineering and design practices, we can mitigate corrosion costs and maximize the material readiness of the fleet."

Leaders and technical warrant holders from across the NAVSEA's enterprise, such as the Engineering Directorate; Submarine Maintenance Engineering Planning and Procurement Activity; Naval Surface Warfare Center; and Regional Maintenance Center, led a number of presentations, technical sessions and discussions.

Rear Adm. James McManamon, NAVSEA Surface Warfare deputy commander, discussed some of the recent initiatives the command has implemented to reduce corrosion as well as the need for an integrated corrosion control approach across commands and programs to attain expected service life.

"Corrosion control must become a way of life and must be viewed, resourced, and managed as a critical mission across the surface fleet," said McManamon. "Right now we are focusing efforts on developing and executing a standardized preservation plan to maintain and sustain the highest level of surface force preservation across asset life cycles. We need a common approach to combat corrosion and to best utilize the Navy's scarce maintenance dollars."

Other corrosion-control initiatives discussed by McManamon were implementation of watertight door coatings; single-coat, edge-retentive high-solid epoxy coating paint system; installation of electronic corrosion-control tank monitoring systems; installation of additional internal and external deck drains for deck preservation; and the establishment of corrosion control assist teams to follow up on survey reports, provide crews training, tools, equipment and technical support to accomplish perseveration requirements.

These efforts will be further leveraged by the Corrosion Control Knowledge Sharing Network, a multi-agency working group to coordinate, manage and focus corrosion mitigation efforts on the areas that are most advantageous across the surface fleet.

In addition to NAVSEA participation, Mega Rust 2011 included representatives from all of the Navy's system commands, U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

The four-day event also featured vendor exhibits, corrosion workforce certification courses, and working group taskings.

The Mega Rust conference was established in 2005 by consolidating four major corrosion control conferences into one event to create a more comprehensive forum on corrosion. Working groups established at the conference provide a coordinated and practical accounting for what's happening across the Navy, and the data accumulated by these groups provides planning and budgeting metrics.

Navy Ships Arrive in Portland for 104th Annual Rose Festival

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Nathan Lockwood, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates USS Ingraham (FFG 61) and USS McClusky (FFG 41) arrived in Portland, Ore. to celebrate the 104th annual Rose Festival, June 9.

Throughout the week, Sailors will have an opportunity to enjoy premier events of the festival including the Rose Festival Golf Tournament and Rose Parade, live music, food, entertainment and various sports competitions among ships.

"I'm excited to be here 'cause the people here are nice and really like the military," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Steven Santillanes, stationed aboard USS Lake Champlain. "It's a positive event because people get to experience the Navy up close and personal."

The Portland visit offers the public an opportunity to tour the ships and meet Sailors as they showcase their ship's capabilities.

"It is very different to see something that you don't see a lot of from where I'm from," said Mark Gilchrist, of Longview, Wash. who embarked aboard Lake Champlain on the ship's transit into Portland. "I think it puts a real personal touch on the Navy. I got to talk to the crew members, and I brought some young ones that had a chance to see what it was like and if the Navy was something they would be interested in."

In addition to the three U.S. Navy ships, ships from U.S. Coast Guard, the Canadian Maritime Forces and the Army Corps of Engineers are also participating in Fleet Week.

Navy warships have been coming to the City of Roses since USS Charleston's visit in 1907 and are considered a highlight of the festival.

Family Matters Blog: Your Voice Matters

By Robert L. Gordon III
Military Community and Family Policy

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2011 – Robert L. Gordon III is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

Military spouses, you talked. We listened.

We asked you to share your challenges with trying to maintain or even launch a career in fields requiring licenses or certifications. We brought your powerful words to state lawmakers which prompted them to take action. So far this year, they have proposed 15 state bills to improve the portability of military spouse careers!

Here are just a few excerpts from the more than 190 responses we received from military spouses:

"I gave up education as a profession because of all that was involved in obtaining licensure with each move. It was a difficult decision."

"I must complete a 3,000 hour internship within a 3-year period before I can qualify to take the (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) exam. The soonest I could sit for the exam is after 2 years of starting the internship. My husband's job requires him to move about every 2-3 years."

"Then there is the hassle of having to keep up with all of the different state licenses … do I renew or let it lapse, what if we move back there. It's just one more thing to have to juggle."

As you can see, your important words are critical to helping us understand the issues and challenges you’re facing. We are about to start another round of engagement with the states on the issue of military spouse employment, so once again, I need your valuable input.

Have you shared your experiences yet? Are we accurately addressing your employment and licensure concerns? What else do we need to know? Tell us what needs to change. Please join the conversation and be heard.

You are part of an adaptable, resilient, educated and dedicated work force, but barriers to transferring licenses from state to state are extremely challenging for frequently moving spouses. This process is time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive because the process varies from state to state. You deserve every opportunity to choose and pursue a career that is personally and professionally rewarding. Thank you, and let’s keep moving forward together to change the system!

Reminder!
Last week, I told you about a “Hiring Our Heroes” hiring fair happening July 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. This fair is designed exclusively to connect both veterans and military spouses to job opportunities with nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies. Already, 100 spouses and 500 veterans have signed up, and slots are going fast -- only 500 spouses and 1000 veterans will be permitted to attend.

Registration is first-come, first served, so don’t miss your chance! Register here. Select “Military Spouse Registration” in the drop-down menu. It is highly recommended that those interested in attending register by June 13.

Military spouses from the active, National Guard, and Reserve ranks from all services, including the Coast Guard, are eligible to attend this event. Admission is free.

Participants should bring at least 30 copies of their resumes. If you do not have a resume, visit your local installation family center or call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 and ask to speak to a spouse career consultant who can assist you with writing yours.

The U.S. and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, in cooperation with the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor, are co-hosting this event.

I’ll be at the fair and will look forward to meeting you there. As always, thank you for all you do to keep our military families strong. Until next time, take care.

Republic of Korea Recovers, Returns U.S. Mine Hunting Equipment

From Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet Public Affairs

KOREA STRAIT (NNS) -- A Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) effort led to the recovery U.S. Navy mine hunting equipment June 9, in waters south of Chinhae, Republic of Korea.

The mine hunting equipment was jettisoned from an MH-53E helicopter assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron (HM) 14, following a system malfunction during a mine-hunting exercise May 24.

ROKN coastal mine hunting ship, ROKS Gang Gyeong, was directed by Commander of Republic of Korea Fleet, Vice Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, to locate the detached equipment in response to a request for assistance from Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones.

"Having the Republic of Korea Navy conduct the recovery of this asset is a testament to the close relationship between our navies and our mutual support as we continue to flex our interoperability and outstanding partnership," said Jones.

U.S. Navy liaison officers from HM 14 embarked ROKS Cheong Hae Jin, the ship responsible for the recovery, along with officers from ROK Component Flotilla 5. Also aiding in the recovery of the lost device was ROKS Ong Jin, which provided precise locations to aid the dive team.

The recovered equipment was returned to HM 14, forward deployed to Pohang, Republic of Korea from Norfolk, Va.

Volcanic eruption ends, Wisconsin Air Guard training begins

By Senior Airman Ryan Roth
115th Fighter Wing

KEFLAVIK, Iceland – Approximately 100 Airmen from the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, are among 450 NATO military members to take part in Operation Northern Viking 11 through Friday, (June 10), focusing mainly on air-space protection and interoperability between forces.

The biennial exercise is being held at the former Keflavik Naval Air Station, near the coast of southwest Iceland, miles from the snow-covered volcanoes that have erupted into world-wide news the past two years. The volcanic eruption at Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland was officially declared over May 28 according to a situation report from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland's Department of Earth Sciences.

Northern Viking — an annual United States-led NATO and partner nation interoperability exercise based on a 1951 bilateral treaty between the government of Iceland and the U.S. — validates participant readiness and their ability to respond quickly to conflict or emergency situations.

“This exercise allows a venue for NATO forces to come together, train as we would fight, operate within the European theater and this kind of training provides that continuity from year-to-year to sustain our combat capability,” said Lt. Col. Brian Vaughn, Northern Viking exercise director.

Military members from Denmark, Italy and Norway are training with the United States. The Icelandic Coast Guard is aiding in the exercise as well. Of the nearly 450 participants, roughly 150 are from the U.S. — including active duty Airmen from the European command and the Air Force Reserve. Iceland is the only member of NATO without an active military.

Participants from the U.S. military include the 115th Fighter Wing; the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Air Base Andrews, Md.; the 100th Air Refueling Wing, Royal Air Force, Mildenhall, England; the 1st Combat Communications Squadron and the 603rd Air Operations Center, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“This is a great opportunity for Euro Fighters to fly together with F-16s and learn from each other,” said Maj. Eros Zaniboni, a pilot with the 36th Fighter Wing, Gioia Del Colle, Italy.

NV11 is the first time Euro Fighters from Gioia Del Colle have trained with U.S. and Norwegian F-16s. Likewise, 115th FW pilots have never flown against the Italian Euro Fighter 2000 Typhoon aircraft.

Two Norwegian DA-20 electronic warfare aircraft are performing electronic warfare operations with fighter jets, implementing communication and radar jamming during the training exercise. A KC-135 Stratotanker from the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Air Base Andrews, Md., is also gaining joint-force training, having already refueled numerous U.S. and Norwegian F-16s.

“In a real world scenario, it is always going to be a coalition of partners,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Rismo, detachment commander for the Norwegian forces. “The fact that we are able to operate with [our partners] and different fighters will allow us to be interoperable with these other units at any given time.”

The pilots are not the only ones training together in Iceland.

“The controllers that talk to these pilots are shared between the Norwegians, the U.S. and Italy,” Rismo said. “We are very happy to see this exercise come through and it is very interoperable in the way we are doing it.”

The importance of this type of training is still evident today, 60 years after the treaty.

“All the big conflicts we have seen have always consisted in an alliance, whether in NATO or in a coalition,” Rismo said.

To maintain and improve interoperability, NATO members take advantage of the opportunity to train at one location together.

"Being together where we can all talk together in the same room and get a common picture of how we need to operate is paramount," Rismo said.

The 1st Combat Communications Squadron and 603rd Air Operations Center, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from United States Air Force Europe also contributed to NV11.

Col. Erik Peterson, 115th FW operations group commander and fighter pilot, believes the training received through NV11 can be invaluable toward ensuring NATO partners adapt and plan accordingly to ensure mission success in real world engagements.

“The exercise is a prime example of how partner countries can act collectively to address common, natural challenges,” Peterson said.

Balloon Reconnaissance Marks 150th Anniversary

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2011 – The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support critical to operations in Afghanistan got its start 150 years ago this month, when a balloonist showed then-President Abraham Lincoln how a gas-filled balloon could help the Union Army prevail in the Civil War.

Thaddeus Lowe met with Lincoln June 11, 1861, to pitch the concept of balloon reconnaissance.

The idea wasn’t totally new, explained Tom Crouch, curator for lighter-than-air aircraft at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum here. The French first used balloons in 1794 to observe Dutch and French movements during the Battle of Fleurus.

Lowe got his chance to show Lincoln the balloon’s ISR capabilities as reported his sightings from a tethered balloon as it floated 500 feet over Washington. Lowe took a telegrapher and a lightweight telegraph set with him in the balloon’s basket, and he delivered reports to the White House via the War Department, Crouch said.

“He could see 25 miles in every direction, and was able to report on what he was seeing in the military camps below,” Crouch said. “He demonstrated the fact that if you could get above the battlefield, you could see a lot of useful things: where the enemy was and what the enemy was doing. Obviously, that was incredibly useful information.”

Convinced that balloons could provide a critical advantage on the battlefield, Lincoln gave the War Department the go-ahead to establish the Union Balloon Corps. It stood up four months later, providing the United States’ first “air force” and delivering the nation’s first aerial reconnaissance capability, Crouch said.

“Some of the most important generals of the war loved the balloons and appreciated their value in what they could deliver,” he said. “They found it genuinely useful in supporting what they were doing.”

But the Balloon Corps operated for just two years before it was disbanded in 1863, the victim of bureaucracy as well as logistics. It was run by a civilian organization that wasn’t able to work smoothly with the Army. Further complicating things was the fact that the balloons required extensive logistical support to move and inflate, and an entire company of soldiers to operate.

Another challenge -- one military members continue to struggle to overcome today -- was to get the intelligence collected from the balloons to the ground troops who needed it as quickly as possible.

After the demise of the Balloon Corps, balloon reconnaissance began to flourish in Europe, Crouch said. And 150 years later, in an age of supersonic aircraft and satellites, Crouch said balloons continue to provide critical intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance in ongoing military operations. Now unmanned, they’re equipped with cameras, electronic sensors and communication equipment to gather intelligence and provide communications links.

Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, has worked tirelessly to provide more of this “eyes in the sky” capability to ground forces in Afghanistan. This spring, he announced plans to increase the number of aerostats to support counterinsurgency operations and provide increased force protection.

“We are going to be, this summer, increasing many-fold the number of aerostat-borne cameras,” he said. “They’re terrific.”

“Balloons are still with us, still providing reconnaissance for warfighters,” Crouch said. “One hundred and fifty years later, balloons are still performing the function they did in 1861.”

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will mark the 150th anniversary of Lowe’s demonstration and the birth of the Union Balloon Corps tomorrow on the National Mall. Re-enactors will portray Lowe, Lincoln and Union soldiers as they demonstrate a 19,000-cubic-foot netted gas balloon, built in 1941 to closely replicate Lowe’s, officials said. The Air and Space Museum also will present presentations about ballooning and espionage during the Civil War and give visitors hands-on educational activities inside the museum.

Fleet Feedback Prompts ERB Changes

From Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Responding to requests made to the chief of naval personnel (CNP) during his visit to the operating forces in Fifth Fleet, the Navy announced changes and clarification to the Enlisted Retention Board (ERB), June 9.

NAVADMIN 180/11 extends the deadline for Sailors to request a rating conversion and updates how these requests will be considered. Additionally, the new message provides eligibility clarification for Sailors not scheduled for Perform-to-Serve (PTS) adjudication in fiscal year 2012, and creates an additional exemption for Sailors enrolled in or selected for commissioning programs.

As CNP Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson explained, "Based on feedback from our deployed forces, we have revised the conversion application timeline and process to retain the best Sailors in their rating, and have given our Sailors more time to complete their conversion packages."

One of the most visible changes in the updated guidance surrounds how conversion applications will be handled. Specifically, these requests will not be reviewed until after the ERB has selected Sailors for retention, and only those Sailors who were not selected for retention within their rate will be considered for conversion. In doing so, ratings will be able to keep their most qualified candidates, while still providing Sailors an additional opportunity for continued service in another rate.

Also, based on the difficulties described by deployed Sailors in meeting previously announced conversion application deadlines, CNP has directed the ERB to accept all submissions received prior to the board's convening date of August 15, 2011. This will allow Sailors to obtain the results of certain tests, such as the ASVAB, to be included in their applications for conversion.

Initial ERB eligibility guidance excluded Sailors who were subject to PTS adjudication in FY12. This created some uncertainty in the Fleet regarding Sailors who are not subject to PTS, but who are in an ERB-eligible paygrade and rating. NAVADMIN 180/11 clarifies ERB eligibility to include E-4 to E-8 Sailors who are not subject to PTS adjudication, regardless of their End of Active Obligated Service as extended ("soft" EAOS, or SEAOS) date.

Finally, an additional exemption has been authorized for those Sailors currently enrolled in or selected for an enlisted commissioning program.

The ERB will enable the Navy to shape our future manpower requirements in a fair and transparent manner. Board members will include a diverse group of professionals representing different ratings, geographic locations and warfare perspectives who will rely on their best judgment and fleet perspective throughout the process.

Blue Angels Continue Air Show Season

From United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron The Blue Angels Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels,
will resume all previously scheduled performances for the 2011 season beginning with the Quad City Air Show in Davenport, Iowa, June 18-19.

During the past two weeks, the Blue Angels completed rigorous training and air show demonstration practice to integrate Capt. Greg McWherter, the new commanding officer and flight leader, back into the flight demonstration team. Capt. McWherter last served with the Blue Angels as their commanding officer during the 2010 season.

The Blue Angels look forward to continuing to represent the Navy and Marine Corps service members around the world.

For more information, call: Lt. Katie Kelly, Public Affairs Officer for the Blue Angels, at: (850) 452-3955.

Half of Wisconsin National Guard helicopter battalion back in U.S.

By Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

After approximately 10 months, roughly half of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas Tuesday night (June 7).

Battalion senior leadership, including battalion commander Lt. Col. Marty Pond and Command Sgt. Maj. David Christianson, will return with the rest of the 147th, who are expected to arrive on Friday (June 10). The battalion will take part in demobilization processing at Fort Bliss prior to returning to Wisconsin later this month.

Nearly 400 Soldiers — including about 100 Michigan Army National Guard Soldiers who are also part of the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment — mobilized in June of 2010 and deployed in September in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were among the 50,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after Operation New Dawn began, and were responsible for all aviation operations — including troop and cargo movements, medevac and attack missions — in United States Division-South, which covers nine provinces of Iraq, including the area south of Baghdad.

While deployed, the 147th received the 2010 Army Aviation Association of America's John J. Stanko award as the best aviation unit in all the Army National Guard.

Today in the Department of Defense, Friday, June 10, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead delivers a commencement address at 9 a.m. EDT at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I. Media interested in attending should contact Cmdr. Charlie Brown at 703-692-5307.

This Day in Naval History - June 09

From the Navy News Service

1882 - Establishment of Office of Naval Records of the War of the Rebellion (became part of Naval Historical Center).
1942 - First Navy photographic interpretation unit set up in the Atlantic.
1959 - Launching of USS George Washington (SSBN 598), first nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarine, at Groton, Conn.

Airlines Revise Policies for Troops’ Checked Baggage

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 – Military members traveling on orders on several major U.S. air carriers can check four, and in some cases five, bags without charge based on new policies the airlines instituted in recent days.

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced the new policies after Army reservists returning from Afghanistan had to pay more than $2,800 to cover the costs of their fourth checked bags on a Delta flight. Two members of the unit en route to Fort Polk, La., complained of their plight on a YouTube video that went viral.

Delta apologized for the situation and is working with the soldiers individually “to make this situation right for each of them,” a Delta spokeswoman said. “We regret that this experience caused these soldiers to feel anything but welcome on their return home,” she said. “We honor their service and are grateful for the sacrifices of our military service members and their families.”

Delta’s new policy allows U.S. servicemembers traveling on orders to check up to four bags in economy class and five bags in first and business class at no charge, she said. Each bag can weigh up to 70 pounds and measure up to 80 linear inches.

Due to weight and space constraints, travelers on Delta Connection carriers, regardless of their seating class, can check up to four bags without charge.

“We hope these changes to our policies reflect the true respect we hold for our servicemen and women and again demonstrate our appreciation as both a company and as individuals who benefit from the freedom our troops defend,” the spokeswoman said.

Other airlines are following Delta’s lead.

American Airlines is in the process of increasing its baggage policy for military members to check five bags without cost, spokesman Tim Smith reported. “Full implementation of that policy, and further details, should be completed in the next few days,” he said.

One of the checked bags can weigh up to 100 pounds and measure up to 26 linear inches, but others are subject to the regular 50-pound, 62-linear-inch restrictions.

The previous American policy allowed servicemembers to check three bags without cost. “But given the potential confusion, with different military units carrying different amounts of bags depending on their mission, we have elected to proceed with our five-free-bag limit,” Smith said. “We think it just makes good sense and eliminates possible confusion.”

The new policy will apply whether the military members are traveling on official orders or on personal travel, Smith said.

United Airlines and Continental Airlines, which merged last fall, also announced that they will now waive the fee for military personnel traveling on orders to check a fourth bag.

The decision was made, according to spokeswoman Christen David, “in recognition of their sacrifice and service to our country.”

Southwest Airlines has no limit on the number of checked bags it will accept at no cost for military members on permanent-change-of-station orders, spokesman Chris Mainz reported. The only condition is that none of the bags exceeds 100 pounds or 80 inches.

However, beyond its two-free-bag policy for all Southwest Airlines passengers, Southwest has no specific policies for other servicemembers traveling on official orders, including for deployments, he said.  

Servicemembers traveling for official business, including deployments, are entitled to receive full reimbursement for reasonable, authorized excess baggage fees, defense officials said.