Check your benefits - that’s an order! - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

There are plenty of lofty quarantine goals going on right now. We stand firm that using this time to start marathon training, grab a new certification or simply up your nap game are all worthy endeavors. However, there is one thing which all service members should be checking in on right now: their benefits.

Beyond the paycheck, there’s plenty of benefits offered to military personnel that way too often go unutilized. The second we can all get back to “normal” life again is the second things like “use or lose days” and tuition assistance packets should be tossed into play. We’ve conveniently outlined everything you should square away while we all know you have the time.

Use or lose days 

Americans have a weird unspoken tradition of taking pride in hoarding (and never using) vacation days. “Use or lose” refers to the unused vacation days service members accrue that are carried over into the next fiscal year. Anything above 60 days of leave “in the bank” will be slapped with an expiration date, which is when you either use them by a certain date or lose them. At 2.5 days per month earned, things can add up at high tempo locations.

We’re fiercely advocating to end that weirdness right now and mandating that you book a trip to go on before the end of the year once all the travel bans are lifted, get out, and enjoy the freedom you protect. A long weekend getaway, a surf trip, or a drive down the 101 highway are all exactly what you need to recharge and show back up to work even better than before.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Tuition assistance

Tuition assistance is one of the best benefits available to service members across multiple branches. It’s not the GI Bill and it’s not a loan. Plainly put, tuition assistance is a certain dollar amount you are eligible for per semester to use toward earning college credit.

Participating universities often offer flexible online courses that can accommodate for field training, deployments and occasionally give credit for military training courses you have already completed depending on your degree.

If you’re sitting on your couch, three years into active duty and haven’t used a penny, we suggest starting. Earning a degree slowly while on active duty, all without touching your GI Bill benefits is smart.

Pay changes after a PCS 

Ok so this isn’t a benefit per se, but it’s a big mistake we see made way too often that can send your finances into a death spiral that is hard to recover from. Special pay options like hazard, jump, flight or any other hardship or incentive pay you’re receiving thanks to specific circumstances don’t always transfer with you from one PCS to another.

Knowing exactly what special pay benefits will or will not transfer with you in addition to the incoming new BAH and BAS rate you fall under is essential. Why? Because nothing is worse than earning an extra few hundred dollars each month, having the military find the mistake (they will) and then having it all taken from your next paycheck leaving you with next to nothing to cover your bills.

There is no such thing as tricking the military in terms of pay. Making a mistake with your pay will never be a “my bad” situation that you benefit from. Always know exactly what you should be paid, put in the correct paperwork to stop special pay, and meticulously check your LES statements to ensure the figures are correct.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

Special programs for dependents

There’s enough out there in terms of programs, scholarships, grants, loans and more that it would take an entire other article (or three) to outline, so we’ll keep it brief. Just like service members, military dependents should investigate opportunities first before tackling any educational costs out of pocket.

The Army Emergency Relief rolled out an exciting new program offering up to ,500 that spouses can apply for toward professional relicensing expenses when they PCS. Also new from AER is a Child Care Assistance Program created to help offset areas with high living expenses at up to 0 per month per family in the few months after a PCS.

Military spouses are offered preference when applying for certain DoD and other governmental jobs, including working for USDA, US Fish and Wildlife jobs and more.

The bottom line here is that when the quarantine is over, we should all emerge smarter, stronger and ready to take charge of our lives. So check your benefits and make sure you’re getting all you can out of your paychecks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the federal tax changes for military troops and spouses

Most service members and their families will see a reduction in their tax bills in 2019, but there are a number of changes in U.S. federal tax laws that they need to be aware of, said Army Lt. Col. Dave Dulaney, the executive director of the Pentagon’s Armed Forces Tax Council.

“The last tax year has been quite exciting with all the changes that were made,” Dulaney said. He noted that the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting tax returns Jan. 28, 2019, for tax year 2018.


A number of pieces of legislation affect military taxpayers, he said: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act are just a few.

Tax cuts for troops

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will mean that most service members will see a reduction in federal taxes for 2018, he said. There is an overall reduction of 3 percent for most military families under this act, Dulaney said, in addition, the standard deduction doubled, as did the Child Tax Credit. “Because of these three things, most of our military families are going to see a substantial reduction in overall tax liability,” he said.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

There are also some special provisions that apply to military personnel. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula since June 9, 2015, are now eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion, the colonel said.

“This was retroactively applied and what that means is that since taxpayers have up to three years to file an amended tax return to make a claim for refund, those service members who served in the Sinai back in 2015 would be eligible to file an amended tax return, and they need to do it quickly,” he said.

Service members with questions should go to their local tax assistance centers, Dulaney said, noting that this change should affect about 2,000 service members.

Members of the armed forces are still able to deduct their unreimbursed moving expenses incurred during permanent change of station moves, he said.

There are changes to deductions for travel to drill for reservists. “Reservists cannot take deductions for drill duty expenses that are under 100 miles,” he said. Those driving more than 100 miles can still take deductions.

Military spouses

For military spouses there is a significant change as part of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018. “This allows military spouses to elect to use their service member’s state of legal residence for state and local taxes,” he said. “

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

In the past a spouse may have had to file a different state tax return because they had split legal residences. For example, if a service member with a legal residence of New York moved to Virginia and married a person with a legal residence from that state.

“Now, our military spouses can now elect to use the legal residence of the military member for purposes of filing their state and local taxes,” Dulaney said. “Now military couples will no longer have to file different state tax returns … additionally it will reduce the overall tax burden for military families.”

Injured troops

Finally, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act has been implemented for veterans who received disability severance pay and had tax withholding applied to the pay. “Now under the tax code, disability severance pay is not taxable under certain situations,” he said. More than 133,000 veterans who have received this pay are eligible for relief under the act.

The vets have until July 2019 to file for a refund.

There are a number of aids for military personnel and their families as they prepare their taxes. Each base has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program office that will help. To find your local office, visit Military OneSource.

The IRS offers information about free tax preparation.

Military OneSource also has information about military tax services in its tax resource center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran opens annual military exercise with attack on mock U.S. aircraft carrier

On July 28, 2020, the Iranian military conducted a kinetic offensive drill against a mock-up dummy of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz. The live-fire attack against the replica ship marked the beginning of Iran’s Payambar-e A’zam 14, or Great Prophet 14, annual military exercise. Broadcast on state TV, the exercise is held by the Revolutionary Guard Corps and showcases Iranian air and naval power.


The targeted mock U.S. carrier is a scale replica of the USS Nimitz built on a barge. The ship even features fake aircraft. Five years ago, it was used during Great Prophet 9 and sustained enough damage during the attack to take it out of action. It was repaired recently to partake in Great Prophet 14.

Unable to match western superpowers like the United States in a conventional fight, Iran focuses more on asymmetrical warfare. Great Prophet 14 demonstrated these military capabilities. Combat divers placed and detonated a contact mine on the hull, fast boats circled the ship and troops fast-roped from a helicopter onto the ship’s deck.

Iranian forces also launched a number of missiles from the land, air and sea during the exercise. A helicopter-launched Chinese C-701 anti-ship missile targeted the mock carrier and struck its hull. The missile fire put US troops at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE and Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar on alert.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group Five (US Navy)

The exercise received criticism from the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation; whereas, Iran conducts offensive exercises, attempting to intimidate and coerce,” said Fifth Fleet Spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich.

While the exercise showcased a number of Iranian military assets attacking the mock carrier, it is highly unlikely that these tactics would be effective against the real deal. Between airborne early warning aircraft, combat air patrols, destroyer escort screens and its own defense systems like the Phalanx CIWS, an American aircraft carrier is one of safest places to be during an Iranian attack. To paraphrase the late, great Bruce Lee, mock carriers don’t fight back.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 26th

I’m calling it now. This weekend will be one of the quietest weekends in recent history. Why? It has nothing to do with 2nd MARDIV’s insane level of micromanaging and everything to do with how lower enlisted troops think.

For starters, it’s a non-pay day weekend for the second time in a row. Less shenanigans when everyone is broke as Hell. Secondly, NCOs will know exactly where everyone is located at any given moment. Friday night? They’re all out seeing Avengers Endgame. Saturday afternoon? In the barracks playing the new Mortal Kombat game. Saturday night? Probably seeing Avengers again. Sunday? Too hungover (I said quiet, not uneventful) and Sunday night will be Game of Thrones.

If you’re an NCO trying to find a good reason to cheer up your sergeant major, pointing out the lack of blotter reports on their desk will surely help.


Here’s to a quiet, entertainment filled weekend. Enjoy some memes.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Not CID)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Lock Load)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme by Devil Dog Actual)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Private News Network)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme by Ranger Up)

 My ass is firmly in the “why leave a perfectly good aircraft” category. 

Call me a leg, but at least we use Air Assault these days.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

(Meme by WATM)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy EOD’s 2030 vision is more byte than bang

On October 19, the Navy EOD released its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, its blueprints for the next 10 years. Its leadership is looking to mold the military’s maritime EOD force into one that best supports the U.S., its allies, and partner nations to compete and win in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).

The Navy EOD’s mission statement is to “eliminate explosive threats so the Fleet and Nation can fight and win — whenever, wherever, and however it chooses.”


This mission statement is to be achieved through:

• Developing the force to win against near-peer competitors and empowered non-state actors.
• Expanding our advantage against competitors’ undersea threats.
• Capitalizing on our unique ability to counter weapons of mass destruction.
• Growing expertise in the exploitation of next-generation weapons systems.
• Emboldening allies and partner nation’s capabilities.

In the Strategic Plan, the community of operators internalized 80 years of knowledge and sacrifice to honor the legacy of those who have come before and develop and prepare future generations of the Navy EOD community. With Navy EOD being in its ninth decade of service, it is looking beyond the horizon to chart its future course. Its aim is to remain the world’s premier combat force for eliminating explosive threats.

This is the force’s first major mission update since 1997. The plan was developed to meet the challenges of a changing national security environment and position Navy EOD to best serve its role within the NECF said Rear Adm. Joseph DiGuardo, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

“The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF) clears the explosive, security, and physical hazards emplaced by our adversaries; secures battlespace for the naval force; builds the critical infrastructure, domain awareness, and logistic capacity to rearm, resupply, and refuel the fleet; protects the critical assets the Navy and the nation need to achieve victory and reinforce blue-water lethality,” DiGuardo said.

NECF is comprised of Navy EOD, the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, the Naval Construction Force, and diving and salvage units.

“As part of the NECF, our EOD forces play a pivotal role in clearing the explosive hazards in any environment to protect the fleet and Joint Force — from the simplest impediment to the most complex weapon of mass destruction—and build an understanding of our adversary capabilities by exploiting those hazards. Navy EOD is the key to our nation being undeterred by explosive threats,” DiGuardo added.

“The strategic plan ensures Navy EOD supports the NECF by eliminating explosive threats so the fleet, Navy, and nation can fight and win whenever, wherever and however it chooses,” Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the Coronado-based EOD Group (EODGRU) said.

According to the plan, the force’s 1,800 members can also expect an increased emphasis on building their knowledge and capabilities in areas critical to success in a GPC environment. This will include Navy EOD enhancing its expeditionary undersea capabilities by tapping into the cyberspace. The force will pursue unmanned systems (UMS) to access adversary communication networks in order to disrupt, delay, or destroy weapons systems.

Moreover, the plan calls for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) companies to test these new systems and software. “The operators using emerging UMS technology are the closest to the challenges. Our strategic plan will empower them to provide us feedback from the tactical level during the capability development process to help accelerate solutions to the ever-evolving threats,” said Rojas.

The Navy EOD community has evolved through the years to face new and troubling threats as they have emerged: Magnetic influence mines in World War II serving as coastal defenses or strategic deterrents. Sea mines blocking the Wonsan Harbor from an amphibious landing during the Korean War. Land and sea mines dotting Vietnam, preventing full maneuverability of American forces. Iranian-emplaced limpet and sea mines targeting both naval and commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf. WMDs during the Cold War and into today.

And nowadays, with non-state actors like violent extremist organizations or lone wolves having easier access to information on how to create and employ improvised explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons Navy EOD’s job has only gotten harder.

“Our strategic plan was designed to guide us in creating a force that can deter adversaries and win in a complex security environment,” said Capt. Rick Hayes, commodore of EODGRU-2. “That is why we dedicated an objective to specifically focus on developing and caring for our Sailors. Our people are our most important asset — they are our weapons system.”

As Hayes said, all the objectives put forward in the 2030 plan are essential to delivering a lethal, resilient, and sustainable Navy EOD force that can be called upon during contingency and crisis operations.

“Realizing this vision will be impossible without the support of everyone in the Navy EOD community. By leveraging their creativity, discipline, and leadership, we will develop a force for 2030 that continues to protect the security and future of the American people,” Hayes added.

Sailors training for the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal rating must complete the basic EOD diver course at Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The Navy EOD training pipeline can take nearly a year to complete and is unique among all other branches for teaching dive capabilities. Navy EOD technicians regularly integrate with special operations forces by regularly working alongside Navy SEALs or Army Special Forces soldiers.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany had laughably bad stealth aircraft in World War I

During World War I, Germany set out to make the first stealth aircraft and successfully did so, creating multiple invisible planes in 1912 that later saw combat deployment in World War I.

Unfortunately for the pilots, though the planes were invisible from the ground, they were often the single-most visible objects in the sky — particularly so when engulfed in flames.


Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A German plane with see through wings and fuselage. These were found to be nearly invisible from the ground, but easy to spot when sun glanced off the reflective surfaces.

The problem is easy to understand. German engineers wanted the ultimate camouflage, and they went searching for a see-through material that could withstand the rigors of flight. They settled on a translucent cellon acetate, a cellulose product with qualities similar to movie film.

The canvas on early planes was swapped out with this clear material. The engine, pilot, and frame were all still visible, but the target was nearly invisible when viewed from the ground given that the planes were flying at 900 feet or higher. Even at lower altitudes, they were difficult to see and target.

From the sky, however, pilots ran into a very real problem.

The material was highly reflective of direct sunlight. So, when an enemy was approaching from a variety of angles, the sunlight would reflect off the wings and light up the plane like a beacon for anyone paying even minor attention to their surroundings.

Without radar, planes were already essentially invisible at night. So, stealth was supposed to revolutionize the daytime environment — see the issue here? The stealth technology was all but useless if the sun caused it to backfire completely.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A Fokker 2 plane equipped with invisible skin.

For their part, the Germans knew that they had a problematic technology on their hands, and they largely shelved the invention, returning to a canvas body for most of their planes.

Still, the cellon planes were deployed during World War I and their combat record was even worse than you might expect. That’s largely because it was applied to possibly the worst candidate for cellon imaginable: a massive bomber of the Riesenflugzeug family.

A bomber would likely be the most valuable plane to turn invisible, but cellon shrinks and expands based on humidity and temperature, things that often vary in flight. Because the bomber was massive, that shrinking and expanding greatly affected the way the bomber flew.

The problem was that the plane already ran hot; four large engines mounted on the fuselage filled it with heat. Add to this an intense amount of sunlight passing through the clear fuselage and the result was a plane that was nearly unpilotable.

Something worth mentioning, though it didn’t end up affecting the bomber, is that cellon is highly flammable. So, if anything had gone wrong, it would’ve been a Hindenburg-style conflagration.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A German Riesenflugzeug bomber with transparent panels. Pilots flew from the third deck at the front and had to deal with the horrendous heat and the shifting control surfaces.

The plane took two flights during the war. During the first, the shifting cellon made the plane controls impossible to work. The pilot tried to land the plane but couldn’t tell just how far the plane extended beneath him. He crashed and the plane was badly damaged.

The second flight went much worse — the plane’s wings just fell off. One crew member was killed.

Cellon stealth was not the wave of the future they wanted it to be — not that it would’ve helped Germany much. By World War II, radar was the new rage, and cellon wouldn’t have helped much, even given perfect conditions.

But that would’ve been great. Convincing the Nazis to fly planes made of highly flammable materials that changed size and shape during flight and sometimes just lost their wings would’ve been the a joy for the Allies.

“Hey, Luftwaffe, congrats on the invisible planes. Please, send as many pilots in as many planes as you can.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is conquering adversity and extreme sports

In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.

As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.

On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.


Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.

Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.

In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.

When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”

In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.

Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN

www.youtube.com

As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.

From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Why certain workouts can stop you from losing weight

When service members hit the gym, they burn calories, build muscle, and slim down. Pair that exercise with a healthy diet and we quickly shed unwanted pounds.

After a while, our bodies begin to adapt to these workouts and, suddenly, those pounds of fat aren’t disappearing as quickly as they once were — but why?

The answer is pretty interesting. Our bodies are well-engineered pieces of equipment, designed to protect us — even from ourselves. Service members are known for running mile after mile in a tight formation a few times per week. Running is a great, high-impact exercise that burns a sh*t-ton of calories, but, after a while, our bodies adjust.

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We reach what many call a “physical plateau.” Those incredible results you saw in the first few months of working out slowly start to taper off. This is because your metabolism automatically adjusts itself to protect the body from losing mass.

It’s a fantastic defense mechanism, but it’s also a pain in the ass.

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When it comes to dropping weight, many runners out there are making yet another mistake: failing to intake enough calories. When your body is running low on energy, its defenses will kick in yet again, slowing metabolism to maintain weight.

So, in short, to stop your metabolism from lowering, it’s important to listen to your body and eat enough. It may sound strange, but you need to take in calories to burn them. If you’re into intermittent fasting, make sure to take in all the necessary calories within the structured six-to-eight hour eating window.

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If you’re doing mostly cardio to lose weight, it’s also highly recommended that you introduce a bit of weight training. Maintain a dynamic exercise routine and keep your body guessing — you’ll plateau much less often and see results more constantly.

Like they say, “lift heavy and lift often.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon sets aside a 6th military base for quarantining people fleeing the coronavirus outbreak in China

The Pentagon has approved the use of six military installations, the most recent being a National Guard base in Nebraska, for the quarantine of evacuees returning to the US from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of a novel coronavirus outbreak.


The Department of Defense approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services to quarantine up to 75 people for a period of 14 days upon their return from overseas at Camp Ashland, a Pentagon spokesman said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that it would allow up to 1,000 people to be quarantined at Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in California, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and the 168th Regiment Regional Training Institute in Colorado.

Prior to that announcement, the Department of Defense approved the use of March Air Reserve Base in California for the quarantine of 195 passengers who arrived back in the US last week.

“This week,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday, “several planes carrying passengers from Wuhan China will arrive in three states. These locations are Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, NE.”

Two aircraft arrived at Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar carrying 350 passengers Wednesday morning, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The CDC said that the planes will be met by CDC teams upon their arrival. While the health statuses of the passengers were assessed before takeoff and during the flight, each passenger will undergo additional screening once they arrive in the US.

The passengers will then be quarantined for 14 days. The CDC explained that this is “intended to protect the travelers, their families, and the community.”

As of Wednesday, the novel coronavirus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, had infected more than 24,000 people and killed nearly 500. While the outbreak is most severe in China, the virus has spread to more than two dozen countries.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The low-tech, fun way the Air Force is improving cyber defenses

As the cyber realm evolves, effects from cyberattacks are moving from the digital world to the physical one.

Just three years ago, nearly 225,000 energy customers in Ukraine woke to a powerless city after regional electrical companies were hacked and shut down by malicious Russian cyber actors. In 2018, the city of Atlanta had to suspend many of its services while ransomware ran rampant through government computers.

To ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams, which defend priority Department of Defense networks and systems against such malicious cyber-physical acts, the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron has developed an innovative new training tool.


“‘Bricks in the Loop’ helps cyber airmen conceptualize and understand the relationship between the network and physical domains in operational technology infrastructures,” said Christopher De La Rosa, 90th COS cyber modeling and simulation environments lead. “Significant differences exist between information technology and OT networks, necessitating different approaches to training our airmen in IT and OT cyber defense.”

In other words, BIL links cyber (IT) and physical (OT) resources to afford airmen the opportunity to see how a cyber action can effect a physical asset. Unfortunately, any cyber-physical training option using life-size training assets would be too costly to create, so current options are predominantly virtual-based, according to De La Rosa.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

To remedy this, his team created a scaled, physical training environment made of toy, plastic bricks purchased off-the-shelf. They combined this with an IT network built from open source or low-cost, and easy-to-use software options. The build cost less than ,000 and took only four months.

The “loop” serves as a simulated Air Force installation with assets such as a fire station, police station, airport, airport passenger terminal, jets, tanker trucks, and other vehicles. Many of these elements can purposefully be hacked and made to light up, move forward or backward, spin, alarm or stop working all together, all to alert the trainee a cyber action has taken place. The toy bricks are built on 15×15 inch tiles so they can be easily transported and re-built to support on-demand training or to model service-level exercises.

“The look and functionality of the environment allows the trainee to easily translate the model to critical missions on most bases, and the potential damage that could occur from a malicious cyber-physical attack on those missions,” De La Rosa said. “There are many more scenarios relevant to Air Force bases that, if disrupted, may have a critical impact on assigned missions.”

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The “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical training platform at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, helps 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron members ready the Air Force’s Cyber Protection Teams.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

In the future, the team hopes to include additional assets that will lend to more training scenarios, including fuel operations, security, water filtration, and fire alarm and suppression systems. The team is also seeking to incorporate a remote access and control feature providing trainees the opportunity to connect from anywhere.

Training cyber airmen isn’t new to the 90th COS. In the last two years alone, the squadron has developed 110 cyber capabilities comprising real-time operations and innovation efforts, CMF support efforts, and additional supporting capabilities and enabling efforts, including BIL.

As AFCYBER airmen continue to deliver full-spectrum global cyberspace capabilities and outcomes to the Air Force, joint force and nation, so will the 90th COS in its endeavor to keep them proficiently trained and ready.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hasn’t shown its laser weapon fire a single time

As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.


Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.

(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)

That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).

The laser in question, if you haven’t seen it, is the Peresvet Combat Laser System. It was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a March annual address to the Russia’s Federal Assembly where he also discussed new nuclear missiles, including a nuclear-powered missile that he claimed was ready put in the field. It later came out that the missile has never had a successful test and crashed at sea, forcing Russia to try and find it.

Russia actually also claimed another laser weapon at the same time, a plane-mounted, anti-satellite laser. The Peresvet is, almost certainly, not the same weapon. This thing would not fit on a high-flying fighter jet.

The Peresvet Combat Laser System Is Now In Service

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Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”

Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.

Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.

Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.

(U.S. Air Force)

They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.

With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.

(U.S. Navy video screenshot)

They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.

So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.

Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.

Humor

8 reasons Marines hate on the Army

The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 1775, and on Nov. 11, the rivalry between Army soldiers and Marines began. Over the next couple of centuries, the inter-branch, verbal slap-boxing evolved into the passionate, “all in good fun” fight we know today.


The munitions for these verbal attacks are often exaggerated, sometimes malicious, but always spawn from some truth. Whether it’s your living standards or your vernacular, one thing is for certain, Marines will let you know what they think of you — and in the case of the U.S. Army, we will be heard.

8. Soldiers insist on saying we are the same.

Every Marine has the experience of going home on leave and finding themselves in a bar (probably with some friends from high school) when suddenly, it happens: The sound of a young soldier detailing the trials and tribulations of his day-to-day in the Army, culminating in the statement, “Army, Marines; it’s all the same shit.”

The violation of 242 years of exponentially growing ego and pride saturates his thoughts like the cranberry juice in that soldier’s vodka. The same? We may seem similar (and we are), but we are not the same. The Army is the same as Marines in the way dogs are the same as wolves. The way turkeys are the same as Eagles. The way dolphins are the same as killer whales.

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Yup! Huge difference.

7. Only a small portion of the Army is combat-oriented.

Ever heard of a Marine veterinarian? No? Would you like to know why? Because that isn’t a thing — but it is in the Army. The Army has such a huge budget that they have room for completely non-combat and support specialties that seem to have no place in the military.

Every Marine Corps MOS is either infantry or in direct support of infantry. Shout-out to the cooks, supply, administration, and all those responsible for the bullets, beans, and Band-Aids needed to win America’s wars! The Marines don’t even have medical or religious personnel; they borrow from the Navy. Meanwhile, the Army is busy training entomologists, dietitians, and shower/laundry and clothing repair specialists.

6. The Army gets high-speed, low-drag gear while Marines are rocking hand-me-downs from Desert Storm.

I started my career with an M16 A2, carried an M16 A4 for many years, and I remember the pride I experienced the day I was finally issued an M4. I was a sergeant with five years logged. It was so light and compact, I felt like a kid on Christmas. Meanwhile, big Army is issuing one of those elite Veterinary Specialist Privates an M4 on day one.

My NVGs were either non-existent on night patrols or so old that all I could see was green.  The Army is rolling deep with brand-new, up-armored vehicles, each outfitted with a handy-dandy Blue Force Tracker. Meanwhile, Marines are riding dirty in a soft-top, high-back HMMWV that’s been spray-painted green.

Site: The hater’s guide to the US Army

5. They say ‘Sarge!’

The rank is ‘sergeant.’ It has never been, nor will it ever be, ‘sarge.’ Also, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, 1st sergeant, and sergeant major are all different ranks from sergeant. When you call everyone sergeant, nothing makes sense.

Also, why in the yut do you call a 1st Sergeant ‘Top?’ There are over ten ranks that outrank him. It’s not even the top enlisted rank. Why are you doing this?

4. Lower standards.

This one isn’t even up for debate. Fact: Male Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFT) require a 2-mile run at a 6:30 pace, 82 sit-ups, and 50 push-ups. This is the most demanding standard the Army has and they reserve it for the 27 to 31-year-old men (since I guess those are the only four years you are expected to be this fit).

In the Corps, Marines are expected to run 3 miles in 18 minutes (6-minute pace), do 100 sit-ups in two minutes, and 20 dead-hang pull-ups for a maximum score of 300, regardless of age.

Doesn’t sound the same does it?

How about marksmanship? In official Army qualification courses, one must shoot targets (single and pop-up) from three firing positions: supported prone, unsupported prone, and foxhole (replaced the kneeling position). In order to qualify, one must hit at least 23 out of 40 pop-up targets at ranges varying from 50 meters to 300 meters (approximately 80 to 327 yards).

In order to qualify as an “Expert” shooter on the rifle range for the Marine Corps, you must score a combined score of 305 or greater. “Marksmen” is the lowest score obtained, a scoring range of 250-279, with “Sharpshooter” placing second, a combined score falling between 280-304. The target distances are 200, 300, and 500 meters and the targets are engaged in a variety of firing positions, from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. None of which are supported by anything other than the Marine’s strength and skill – and that’s not an opinion, it’s science.

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Shots fired.

3. Marines are a little jealous of very particular things.

Not knowing what it is to field day and not having to have a fresh haircut every seven days must be nice, but no one in the Marine Corps will know because these are just parts of life in the Corps.

2. They can wear their utility uniform anywhere.

This one most likely belongs with the jealousy paragraph, but with a slight difference: Marines don’t want to wear the dirt suit anywhere outside of base anyway.

Seeing a bunch of soldiers getting bumped up to first class because they are peddling their uniform to the public can be a little irksome. It’s not that the Marines are any less noticeable — the farmer’s tan and ridiculous haircuts help them stand out just fine. Jarheads just don’t get the upgrades and comps that a uniformed soldier does and, in turn, there is a deep rage that grows with every priority-boarded soldier that saunters by a devil dog.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!
These soldiers get celeb treatment at their local Twin Peaks restaurant. (Source: Twin Peaks)

1. The Army has literally tried to eliminate the USMC on several occasions.

Following almost every American war, there was a proposal to either disband or absorb the Marine Corps into the other services. Then-Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the strongest attempt after WWII to President Truman.

In the end, the rivalry between the Army and Marines akin to a sibling rivalry and any outside threat that decides to take their chances with any branch will find out real quick how strong the bond between branches really is.

popular

4 medical remedies you should know how to make in the field

Every day, troops of all ages head off into the field and sustain all types of injuries, from simple bruises and scratches to fractures and open abrasions. You can train to fight the enemy, but the terrain will always change, bringing unique advantages and challenges with it.

That said, some of the most common types of injuries we sustain can be temporarily fixed using a little ingenuity and knowledge of your surroundings. The solution to your painful aliment could be right under your feet.


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Splinting a bone fracture

Troops fall over and take hits while they’re out in the field. In some cases, bones get bruised or even fractured. Once this happens, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly as surgery may be needed. But, first things first, you’re going to have to splint the injured limb.

Creating a rudimentary splint in the field requires finding some sturdy pieces of wood (or any hard, flat object), placing them alongside the fractured extremity, and tying it down to prevent bends and movement — both above and below the joint. It doesn’t have to be red-carpet quality; we just want to prevent further injury.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

It’s also great on lattes.

Nature’s tastiest medicine

Since cinnamon is a common, delicious condiment here in the States that tastes terrific on a roll with a sugary glaze, we don’t realize the many health benefits it provides.

Cinnamon bark comes from a tree called the Cinnamomum verum. The spice is known to alleviate an upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas from eating too many MREs. It’s also been used to treat infections caused by various bacteria, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and even stimulate your appetite.

Check your benefits – that’s an order!

A sting reliever

When you’re in the field, there are plenty of wasps, bees, and scorpions hiding about who would love to sting the sh*t out of you if provoked. Although it sucks to get stung, there’s a plant that can quickly soothe the pain — the plantain.

This small plant can be identified by its rubbery texture and the parallel veins that run along the leaves. In order to use the plant as a venom neutralizer, crush the leaves into a paste and apply it to the affected area for quick relief.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2-Mp6MfgPo

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Hemorrhage control

This tip can be applied to bleeds, from the most minor cuts to the freakin’ major gashes. Having an open-skin abrasion isn’t the best thing while you’re out in the field. Mother Nature is filled with nasty, infectious bacteria and animals that can sniff out blood in the air.

In the event that you cut yourself open, apply pressure to the wound. Then, instead of worrying about getting stitches, consider applying a layer of super glue to close the wound.

It works pretty freakin’ well in a pinch.

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