At the time of this story, in 2006, about 3,000 non-citizens were fighting on behalf of the US in Iraq. Many did so in order to fast track their applications for US citizenship. This story was produced for The World, a co-production of The BBC, Public Radio International and WGBH Boston.
After years of growth in defense spending following the attacks of 9/11, and subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military’s budget is being cut back. Yet the question of whether and how to cut military spending remains hotly debated in Washington. Aging infrastructure, changing strategic needs, and rapidly rising personnel costs are all competing for the attention of budget planners at the Pentagon, in Congress, and at the White House.
In the latest installment of DC Gigs we meet Marine Corps Captain Charlene Thoreen based in Quantico, Virginia. If you live around the Washington region you’ve probably seen her before, flying overhead in the black and white helicopters used to carry the President. Marines call the helicopters “white tops.” The rest of us call them Marine One.
Thoreen says her job is never the same, and that’s part of the appeal. The HMX1 squadron is the largest in the Marine Corps, with about eighty pilots. That’s because they support the President wherever he is in the world, and as Thoreen explains, there’s more to that than you might think. For example, HMX has to disassemble the helicopters to transport them overseas, and it takes several days to get them back together again.