DoD Overstated Number Of Troops Deployed To Texas And Louisiana For Harvey Relief

Soldiers assigned to the 36th Engineer Brigade stage a convoy at an operations center in Hempstead, Texas to deliver thousands of meals, ready to-eat (MRE) to Hurricane Harvey victims in Beaumont, Texas Aug. 31, 2017.
Photo via DoD

The Department of Defense vastly overstated the number of active-duty military personnel deployed to Texas and Louisiana in response to the catastrophic rain and flooding of Hurricane Harvey, the Pentagon told CNN in a statement on Sept. 1, with just a quarter of initial estimates actually sent to the Gulf Coast as part of relief efforts.

On Aug. 31, the U.S. Northern Command stated that 6,300 active-duty service members had been dispatched to bolster Texas's 12,000-strong National Guardsmen and reserve forces from neighboring states currently assisting civilian disaster response organizations with ongoing Harvey relief, evacuation, and search and rescue efforts. But the DoD told CNN on Sept. 1 that that active-duty personnel actually numbered closer to 1,638 as that morning.

The reason? An "accounting issue" that miscounted several National Guard contingents as active-duty forces, NORTHCOM claims.

"There was an accounting error in the numbers that were provided yesterday," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told CNN in a Sept. 1 statement. "In a fast-moving response such as this, some people were inadvertently double-counted on a spreadsheet. We have corrected our process to ensure this doesn't happen again."

It's understandable, sure. Anyone who's spent hours staring at Microsoft Excel knows that spreadsheets are the twisted cousin of the much-abused great Satan that is the PowerPoint, the cause of calamities from billions in business losses to accidental wiretaps.

NORTHCOM emphasized that the error "[didn't] lessen the impact of our response," a response that included 73 helicopters, three C-130 Hercules aircraft, and eight pararescue teams. According to CNN, that active-duty personnel had rescued more than 1,200 since Aug. 30 — the same day the National Guard announced some 4,200 (and 300 pets) pulled from the flood waters.

But the error, even if accidental, comes at a weird time for the DoD's accounting of troops numbers. On Aug. 29, the Pentagon "revealed" that the number U.S. troops in Afghanistan totaled closer to 11,000 rather than the previously-touted number of 8,400, a figure designed to reflect not the number of troops committed to an enduring mission, but the Defense Manpower Data Center count of actual warm bodies. Though the new troop level doesn't indicate an actual rise in combat troops fighting in the country, the DoD' opaque explanation for the change likely planted seeds of confusion among an electorate exhausted by 16 years of seemingly endless war.

While the NORTHCOM slip-up may have been an accident, its proximity to the Afghan troop discussion may be enough to make the average citizen anxious about how the Pentagon discusses troop levels. And the fate of the War in Afghanistan — and disaster relief — shouldn't rise and fall at the whims of Microsoft Excel.


An Austrian Jagdkommando K9 unit conducts training (Austrian Armed Forces photo)

An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Read More Show Less

My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."


Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

Read More Show Less
Photo: ABC News/screenshot

Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told Thursday.

The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.

"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."

Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.

"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."

Read More Show Less