2017 was a big year for breaking news and stories, and the military was no exception to these big stories. 2017 gave the armed forces a new commander-in-chief and a litany of other stories hit front pages and Twitter. These are the biggest military stories of 2017.
Ship Collisions Take Out the Navy's Surface Fleet
Seventeen sailors were killed in the summer of 2017 when on separate occasions, two United States Navy destroyers collided with commercial vessels in the Pacific Ocean. The first crash occurred on June 17, when the USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged tanker ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan. This incident killed seven sailors. Another ten sailors were killed on August 21, when the USS John S. McCain hit the Liberian-flagged container ship Alnic MC near the Straits of Malacca. These two incidents led to the firing of multiple officials in the 7th fleet, including commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin. Considering the number of casualties and then the removal of serval officers this was definitely one of the biggest military stories of 2017.
U.S. and North Korea Tensions Rise as Nuclear Tests Elevate
North Korea consistently scared the international community this year with a series of ballistic and nuclear tests. They tested so many nukes President Donald Trump referred to the North Korean dictator as rocket-man. North Korea had their most successful tests ever and the yield of their most recent test would have "many times" the destructive power of the nuclear bombs the United States dropped in World War II. The United States responded to these tests with a show of strength of their own with allies in the region including South Korea and Japan. North Korea dominated all news sources, making it one of the biggest military stories of 2017.
United States Delivers Blows in the Middle East
The United States military, with partner forces in Iraq and Syria, helped to dismantle the Islamic State's last strongholds in Iraq and Syria. With American troops on the ground, they were able to push ISIS out of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. The Defense Manpower Data Center recently listed 8,992 American service members in Iraq, 1,720 in Syria, and 15,298 in Afghanistan.
The United States also continued dropping airstrikes on Afghanistan. One of these airstrikes included dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in the military's arsenal on the ISIS Khorasan branch. America also launched the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to destroy Taliban drug labs. United States troops have been in the Middle East since 2001, so any stories marking progress towards the end goal becomes one of the biggest military stories of 2017.
Bowe Bergdahl Pleads Guilty to Desertion but Avoids Jail Time
The story of Bowe Bergdahl was told in season two of the hit podcast Serial. While the podcast tells the story of Bergdahl's desertion, in October of this year, Bergdahl pled guilty to his desertion. Bergdahl was sentenced to receive a dishonorable discharge and a reduction in rank to private. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in 2009 and spent five years in captivity until he was released as part of a prisoner exchange involving five Taliban members. The trial included testimony from service members injured in the effort to find Bergdahl.
Church Shooting Reveals Failure to Report Criminal Records
On November 6, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a Texas church, killing 26 people. Kelley had previously served in the Air Force but received a bad-conduct discharge after assaulting his wife and child. The Air Force never forwarded this information on Kelley to the FBI, which is required by law, and he was able to buy an assault rifle-style weapon. If Kelley's discharge was reported he would not have been permitted to buy an assault weapon. As the fight on gun control raged on throughout the country, this example became one of the biggest military stories in 2017.
Trump Bans Transgender Soldiers
On the morning of July 26, President Trump tweeted that he was banning openly transgender individuals from serving in the military. "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, " the tweets read. These tweets immediately became one of the biggest military stories of 2017. This measure was immediately challenged in the courts and so far the courts have rejected the military ban. A study by Rand Corp. estimates there are currently approximately 15,000 transgender troops in the ranks. The Defense Department has announced that the enlistment of transgender recruits will begin at the turn of the new year.
Congress Criminalizes Military Revenge Porn
After the events of the Marines United scandal, Congress quickly acted to criminalize this revenge porn in the military. The new policy, the National Defense Authorization Act, calls for court-martial punishment for troops who are involved in revenge porn. At least five marines were punished after the scandal featuring the distribution of a hard drive filed with compromising photos of female service members.
Marines Crack Down on Hazing
On March 18, 2016, 20-year-old Raheem Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American Muslim Marine Corp. recruit reportedly jumped from the third floor of a squad bay 11 days after arriving at boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. Siddiqui's family is suing the government for $100 million for his death, claiming "negligence on multiple levels of command." After Siddiqui's death, 15 drill instructors and five senior leaders at the boot camp were removed from their posts. Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix is accused of slapping Siddiqui and making him do physical "incentive training" as punishment minutes before his suicide. Felix was found guilty by a military jury in November of putting another Muslim recruit in an industrial dryer.
Women Join the Marine Infantry
It started with the new infantry enlistments at the beginning of 2017. Then, three female infantrymen were integrated into the Fleet Marine Force and in September, the Marine Corp. first infantry officer was minted. 2017 was a very big year for women in all branches of the military but joining the ranks of the oh so manly marines may be the biggest military story of 2017.
A New Commander-in-Chief
The election of President Trump is certainly one of the biggest military stories of 2017. The President of the United States serves as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the services are at the president's beck-and-call. President Trump clearly loves the military, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense spending plan, he employed a former four-star chief of staff, a former four-star defense secretary, and his former national security advisor was a three-star officer, making the new president the biggest military story of 2017.