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WARRIOR CLASS: Let's do away with the "backwards" U.S. flag--NOW!

No, it's not a reversed negative print, a secret emergency or distress signal from a disgruntled soldier, or some weird photographic trick--those flags you see on the right shoulders of some of our men and women in battle dress uniforms ARE backwards. I think it's time we do away with these abominations--RIGHT NOW!

The explanation of the backwards U.S. flag--known as the "reverse-side flag"--is straightforward: if you imagine the soldier wearing the patch on his right shoulder as charging forward, so the soldier is in effect the flagstaff, the flag is "fluttering" in the proper direction. If it was aligned as normal, the flag would be fluttering the opposite way, which would imply that the soldier is moving backwards, or retreating. Therefore, since a U.S. soldier should never be seen as retreating, the flag should be backwards.

Straightforward thinking--but total HOGWASH!

I'm currently researching the history of the reverse-side U.S. flag, since I never remembered wearing such a thing on my combat uniforms. On U.S. Air Force utility uniforms, the flag is worn on the left shoulder, so the normal orientation is correct. However, on large U.S. Air Force aircraft like transports, there is a reverse-side flag on the right side of the vertical stabilizer--and it looks weird there too.

The reverse-side flag has been around for a long time in the U.S. Army, but so far I have not found if any other branches of the service use it. I am getting very good support from Ms. Clair Samuelson of the U.S. Army History Office (Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Infrastructure, and Logistics) on this question.

Ms. Samuelson says that the canton of the American flag, which is the hoist side of the flag, must face "forward." I am trying to find her authority for this statement in regards to uniform devices. On a uniform or any vertical surface, it's difficult for me to visualize a "forward" direction. To me it makes no sense to argue that the flag should not be fluttering as if the soldier is retreating.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, the normal display of the U.S. flag in a horizontal position is with the union (star field) on the observer's left, or the flag's own right; hanging against a wall in the vertical position, the union is again to the observer's left. Reversing it just because someone thinks that makes it appear as if the wearer is RETREATING makes no sense.

The Flag Code allows military members, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations to wear a flag replica patch and lapel pins on their uniforms, but it mentions nothing about the reverse-side patch. The President as commander-in-chief does have the authority to make changes to military uniforms, but I don't believe creating and using the "reverse-side" flag was a good idea.

The Department of the Army's policy is Army Regulation 670-1, revised 5 September 2003, (found on http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/FAQ: WEAR OF THE FLAG PATCH BY ARMY PERSONNEL. HQDA policy has been changed to authorize all soldiers throughout the force permanent wear of the full-color U.S. Flag cloth replica (approximately 2"x3") on utility uniforms. The patch is worn on BDUs, Desert BDUs, the Maternity BDU, the Cold Weather Coat (Field Jacket), Aircrew Battle Dress Uniform, and the Combat Vehicle Crewman Uniform and Jacket (Cold Weather). DA policy states that the patch will be sewn 1/2 inch below the right shoulder seam of the utility uniform. When the shoulder sleeve insignia-former wartime service (SSI-FWTS) is worn on the right shoulder of the utility uniform, the U.S. Flag insignia is placed 1/8 inch below the SSI-FWTS. The cloth replica is worn so that the star field faces forward or to the flag's own right. When worn on the right sleeve, it is considered proper to reverse the design so that the union is at the observer's right to suggest that the flag is flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.

I want to find out who first "considered it proper" to reverse the U.S. flag like this. What general or brainless bureaucrat thought this was a good idea? In my opinion, it's an abomination. It is a bastardization of the symbol of our nation. Either we should do away with the "backwards" flag on military uniforms, or just dictate that U.S. flags should be worn on the left sleeve, not the right.

The directive states that the "full-color" flag is to be worn on utility uniforms, but that part of the directive is obviously not being followed by most soldiers in the field because I observe a large number of subdued (green and black) colored reverse-side flags on uniforms. What's the deal with that? I think subdued patches are a good idea because full-color patches makes it easier to spot a soldier in low-light situations, but why the selective application of the regs?

The very notion that we altered our flag because someone--whether it is an officer, politician, bureaucrat, or even Congress--thought the U.S. soldier should never be seen as "retreating" is a rather frightening notion to me. It is astounding to me that someone actually had the temerity to think that he could change the symbol of our country just to soothe his own sensibilities. It's a scary notion.

What's next? Should astronaut patches be orientated so the flag is fluttering downwards to show that all astronauts should be moving upwards, or should submariners' patches be orientated upside down to show that they always move downwards? Or are they going to remove the U.S. flag patch entirely because the notion of a dead soldier lying on the battlefield with the flag soiled and bloody reflects defeat and disgrace on our country? What other scatterbrained concept will they come up with next?

I'm not one to fight for "causes," but this is one cause I'm going to pursue. I'm going to push as hard as I can for the complete elimination of the "backwards" U.S. flag. I welcome your support.

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Act Of War (June 2005)

ACT OF WAR introduces a whole new hero and a new conflict to techno-thriller fans around the world.

A series of deadly terrorist attacks in the United States and South America--including a nuclear attack near Houston, Texas--has the entire world on red alert. The attacks appear to be targeting an American energy company, but the terror group that calls itself GAMMA seems to be more than the anti-globalization, pro-environmental activists it claims to be.

Enter U.S. Army Major Jason Richter and his partner, Dr. Ariadna Vega of the Army Research Lab's Infantry Transformational BattleLab. These two young engineers have designed and built a land combat system designed to replace an entire motorized infantry squad: CID, or Cybernetic Infantry Device, a piloted robot with the speed and firepower of a weaponized Humvee, the strength of a bulldozer, and the agility of a special ops commando.

The hard-charging National Security Adviser, Robert Chamberlain, pairs Richter and Vega up with an FBI intelligence expert, Special Agent Kelsey DeLaine, and a veteran special ops expert, Command Sergeant Major Ray Jefferson, to form Task Force TALON, the first joint military-FBI unit charged with hunting down and stopping terrorists anywhere in the world. With CID's speed, power, weaponry, and amazing capabilities, combined with the talents of the U.S. Army and the investigative skills of the world's greatest detective agency, TALON is designed to put terrorists on the run around the globe.

But putting conflicting and single-minded personalities like Richter and DeLaine together is like mixing oxygen and gasoline: do it right and it produces horsepower--do it wrong, and it creates an explosion. Even the National Security Adviser can't seem to control his team. Can Task Force TALON survive long enough to hunt down GAMMA and its secret puppetmaster, the shadowy Consortium, before the next deadly attack?

"The novels of Dale Brown brim with violent action, detailed descriptions of sophisticated weaponry and political intrigue... His ability to bring technical weaponry to life is amazing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

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