There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.
Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.
The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.
This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.
The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.
During the invasion of Iwo Jima and the assault on Mount Suribachi, a Marine Corps Reserve infantryman and paratrooper carried his weapon — an ANM2 aircraft machine gun capable of firing 1200-1500 rounds per minute — onto the beaches and used it to devastate Japanese pillboxes even though it was shot from his hands…twice.
Marine Cpl. Tony Stein’s family later received the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island.
After the short-lived Marine Parachute Regiment was disbanded, Stein was assigned to the 5th Marine Division and sent to Iwo Jima. Marines in his unit came across a crashed SBD Dauntless dive bomber, a plane known for its slow speed but deadly armament. It’s pilots racked up an impressive 3.2-1 air-to-air kill ratio in the bomber.
The Dauntless’s lethal bite came from its ANM2 aircraft machine guns, .30-caliber weapons based on the M1919 light machine gun. The aircraft version was lighter and fired approximately three times as fast as the standard M1919. A unit armorer enlisted Stein’s help in adding buttstocks, bipods, and sights to the weapon.
The weapons were fitted with 100-round ammo belts carried in aluminum boxes, meaning the weapon could unleash hell for about five seconds at a time.
When the Marines landed at Iwo Jima, Stein pressed forward to where the fighting was hottest and placed carefully aimed bursts into Japanese pillboxes, usually by charging them alone and firing at close ranges against the crews inside.
Of course, with only five seconds or less of fire per ammo belt, he quickly ran dry. He threw off his shoes and helmet for speed and made running trips back and forth to the beach carrying wounded Marines down to aid and bringing ammo belts back. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he made at least eight trips that day.
During the fighting, the Stinger was shot from Stein’s hands twice. But he simply picked the weapon back up each time and kept fighting.
The Marines pushed farther forward than they could hold. When the unit was ordered to withdraw, Stein covered the movement with the Stinger.
As the invasion continued, Stein was wounded on the famous Mount Suribachi and evacuated to a hospital ship. When the regiment took additional casualties, Stein slipped off of the hospital ship and joined his unit once again.
He was with his company when it was pinned down by a Japanese machine gunner on March 1. Stein led the movement to find and destroy it but was shot by a sniper in the attempt. A Medal of Honor for Stein’s actions on the beach of Iwo Jima was presented to his widow in 1946.
UrselD: How did the Stan Lee cameo in the Marvel movies thing start?
Born Stanley Martin Lieber almost a century ago in 1922, the man who would become far better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, was born into a family of very modest means with Stan, his brother, and Romanian immigrant parents sharing a single room apartment in New York during the 1930s.
As Lee would recall, “I grew up in New York City during the Depression. My earliest recollections were of my parents, Jack and Celia Lieber, talking about what they would do if they didn’t have the rent money. Luckily, we were never evicted. But my father was unemployed most of the time. He had been a dress cutter, and during the Depression, there wasn’t much need for dress cutters. So I started working when I was still in high school. I was an office boy, I was an usher, I wrote obituaries for celebrities while they were still alive. Lots of jobs.”
Showing an interest in writing from his teens, Lee’s mother was his #1 fan at that time, “She thought I was the greatest thing on two feet. I’d come home with a little composition I had written at school and she’d look at it and say, “It’s wonderful! You’re another Shakespeare!” I always assumed I could do anything. It really is amazing how much that has to do with your attitude.”
Stan Lee in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
In 1939 at the age of 17, Lee landed a job with a company owned by his cousin, Jean Goodman’s, husband, Martin Goodman. The company was called Timely Publications. While the pay wasn’t much, a mere per week (about 7 today), it was potentially a path to a professional writing gig, though not quite the one he originally envisioned for himself.
When I got there, I found out that the opening was in the comic book department. Apparently, I was the only guy who had applied for the job. I figured it might be fun. So I became a gofer — there were only two guys, Joe Simon, the editor, and Jack Kirby, the artist. They were the creators of Captain America, and that’s what they were working on at the time. I would fill the inkwells, go down and buy lunch, and erase pages and proofread.
Two years into the job, he was finally granted a chance to write filler text in the 1941 Captain America #3 comic. Called, Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge, the story, along with being warmly received by fans, introduced the idea of Captain America being able to throw and ricochet his trademark shield, now a defining aspect of the character. It was also the first comic in which Lieber, as he was then known, wrote under the pseudonym Stan Lee. According to Lee, he chose not to write under his then real name since he still hoped to one day write “proper literature” and had dreams of writing the “great American novel”. Thus, he didn’t want his name to be sullied by his work in comics.
Plans changed, however, when he randomly got a promotion to head editor of the comic department at just 19 years old.
[Simon and Kirby] were fired for some reason. Martin had no one to run the department. He said to me, “Can you do it?” I was . When you’re , what do you know? I said, “Sure, I can do it.” Martin must have forgotten about me, because he just left me there. I loved it. I was so young, it was sometimes embarrassing. Someone would come into the office and see me there and say, “Hey, kid, can I see the editor?”
At this point, in order to give the illusion of a large staff, Lee took to using a variety of other pseudonyms as well.
In 1942, a temporary editor was hired while Lee served in the US Army with the Signal Corps. He never saw combat, instead working at repairing communications equipment and later writing field manuals and military slogans as a part of the Training Film Division. Also in that division were the likes of Frank Capra, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and the creator of The Addam’s Family, Charles Addams.
Despite being in the army, Lee still kept up with his work at Timely as best he could from afar, with weekly letters mailed to him explaining exactly what he needed to produce content for that week. Once he was done, he’d mail it back.
Lee’s service ended in 1945 and he went back to Timely full time.
It was two years later that Lee, with an awkwardness befitting a man who would come to create the characters nerds the world over would grow to love, Lee met and wooed his future wife.
There are conflicting accounts on whether one of Lee’s friends dared him to ask out some red headed model or his cousin set him up on a blind date with said model. Either way, Lee went to her office to see about that date. However, when he arrived and knocked at the door of the modeling agency, the woman who answered was someone completely different — a hat model from England by the name of Joan Boocock. Joan had come to America after marrying one Sanford Dorf, who had been serving in the UK during the war.
Stan Lee in “Doctor Strange.”
Stunned when he saw her, rather than play it cool, instead Lee apparently almost immediately professed his undying love for her, and then followed this awkward exchange up by telling her he’d had her face in his mind and been drawing it since he was a kid… (According to Lee, this wasn’t any sort of cheesy line, but the absolute truth.)
Rather than finding any of this weird or creepy, despite being married at the time, Joan agreed to go out on a date with Lee. As to why, despite by her own admission being in a happy marriage, she found it completely boring. (I guess as you’d expect from marrying someone named Sanford Dorf.)
But Stan Lee, she states, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam [an 11th/12th century Persian poet] when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.”
As for Lee, he said he knew right on his first date he wanted to marry Joan. Two weeks later, not caring in the slightest that she was already married, he proposed and she said yes.
The problem was that she now needed a divorce, which was prohibitively difficult in New York at the time. Where there is a will, there’s a way, however, and she simply moved to Reno temporarily. You see, in Reno, you only needed to live there six weeks before you could file for divorce in the area, and the judges there were much more accepting of such.
However, during her time in Reno, being a beautiful young model and all, suitors flocked to her like the salmon of Capistrano. With Lee back in New York and their relationship not exactly built on a firm foundation, Lee said at one point he got a letter from Joan with the implication being she was thinking of breaking off their whirlwind courtship.
Not going to give her up without a fight, Lee took a trip to Reno and convinced her he was the love of her life and she his. The two then got married in Reno on the same day she got a divorce, and by the same judge who granted it, mere minutes after the divorce papers were signed.
While you might think such a relationship was doomed to end in failure. In fact, the couple spent the next 69 years together, before Joan’s death in 2017 at the age of 95.
Stan Lee in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Said Lee of Joan in their twilight years together, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”
Going back to Stan Lee’s career, as for Timely’s strategy in those days, it was essentially just copy whatever the competition was doing.
Martin was one of the great imitators of all time. If he found that a company had Western magazines that were selling, he would say, “Stan, come up with some Westerns.” Horror stories, war stories, crime stories, whatever. Whatever other people were selling, we would do the same thing. I would have liked to come up with my own stuff, but I was getting paid.
This all changed, ironically, from copying someone again–
Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called Justice League of America and it was composed of a team of superheroes… “If the Justice League is selling, he spoke, “Why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superhereos?”
At this point in his career, Lee had grown weary of writing comics, seeing the medium as stagnant and devoid of interesting characters. He was, in fact, planning on quitting.
That’s when Joan told him he should take the opportunity in trying to copy the Justice League concept to create the character’s he’d find interesting. Lee says she stated, “Why not write one book the way you’d like to, instead of the way Martin wants you to? Get it out of your system. The worst thing that will happen is he’ll fire you — but you want to quit anyway.”
Simultaneously, Lee states, “[My wife] Joan was commenting about the fact that after 20 years of producing comics I was still writing television material, advertising copy, and newspaper features in my spare time. She wondered why I didn’t put as much effort and creativity into the comics as I seemed to be putting into my other freelance endeavors… [Her] little dissertation made me suddenly realize that it was time to start concentrating on what I was doing — to carve a real career for myself in the nowhere world of comic books.”
Lee then decided,
For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.
While this might all seem pretty normal today, at the time in the superhero genre it was groundbreaking. Said Lee, “That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have until that point. They were all cardboard figures….”
The product of this was The Fantastic Four. The results surpassed his wildest expectations.
We had never gotten fan mail up until that point… Sometimes we might get a letter from a reader that would say, “I bought one of your books and there’s a staple missing. I want my dime back.” And that was it. We’d put that up on the bulletin board and say, “Look! A fan letter!” Suddenly, with Fantastic Four, we really started getting mail…”We like this… We don’t like that… We want to see more of this.” That was exciting! So I didn’t quit… After that, Martin asked me to come up with some other superheroes… And we stopped being a company that imitated.
With business booming, Lee states, “[We] realized we were onto something. I figured we needed a new name, because we were not the same company we had been. I remembered the first book Martin published when I started there was called Marvel Comics. It had the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and it was very successful. Why don’t we call the company Marvel? There are so many ways you can use that word in advertising. I came up with catch phrases like ‘Make mine Marvel’ and ‘Marvel marches on!'”
At this point while Martin was open to giving Lee fairly free rein, he still had his limits, which was a problem for Spider-Man, who Lee dreamed up as follows:
The most important thing in those days was the cover. All these books were on the newsstand, and you had to hope your cover would compel somebody to buy the book. And everything depended on the name. A character like Hurricane was a guy who ran very fast. Later on, when I was looking for new superheroes, it occurred to me that somebody crawling on walls would be interesting. I thought, Mosquito Man? It didn’t sound very glamorous. Fly Man? I went down the list and came to Spider-Man. That was it.
The concept of Spider-Man, however, was a little too far out.
Stan Lee in “Spider-Man.”
[Martin] didn’t want me to do it. He said I was way off base. He said, “First of all, you can’t call a hero Spider-Man, because people hate spiders.’ I had also told him I wanted the hero, Peter Parker, to be a teenager, and he said, “A teenager can’t be the hero… teenagers can just be sidekicks” Then when I said I wanted Spider-Man to have a lot of financial problems and family worries and all kinds of hang-ups, he said, “Stan, don’t you know what a hero is? That’s no way to do a heroic book!” So he wouldn’t let me publish it.Later, we had a book that we were going to cancel. We were going to do the last issue and then drop it. When you’re doing the last issue of a book, nobody cares what you put into it, so — just to get it off my chest- I threw Spider-Man into the book and I featured him on the cover. A couple of months later when we got our sales figures, that had been the best-selling book we’d had in months. So Martin came in to me and said, ‘Do you remember that Spider-Man character of yours that we both liked? Why don’t you do a series with him” After that, it was much easier… Whatever I came up with, he okayed. After that, came The X-Men and Daredevil and Thor and Dr. Strange… and the rest. The books did so well that I just gave up all thoughts of quitting.
With business booming, Martin decided to sell the company, with Perfect Film and Chemical aquiring Marvel in the late 1960s. Not long after that, Lee got a promotion,
[They] made me the president and even chairman. But I was never a businessman. I remember when the board asked me to come up with a three-year plan for the company. I said, “Guys, I don’t know how to predict where we’ll be in three years. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow.” I resigned as president after about a year. I mean, I can add and subtract, but I hate to read sheets of numbers. I like to write stories.
This brings us finally to the cameos and how that whole thing got started.
His first cameo of sorts was text only, occurring in an All-Winners comic in 1941 where various characters petition Lee to add more characters. Next up, Wayne Boring and Hank Chapman decided to put their boss in the 1951 Astonishing #4.
Where the cameos really became a thing though started in 1963, when Lee and his long-time collaborator, Jack Kirby, appeared in The Fantastic Four #10 in which the pair are featured on the cover, as well as inside. On the cover, it shows the duo with Lee saying, “How’s this for a twist Jack? We’ve got Doctor Doom as one of the Fantastic Four!!” With Kirby adding, “And Mister Fantastic himself as the villain!! Our fans oughtta flip over this yarn!!”
Stan Lee in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Beside them, it also states, “In this epic issue surprise follows surprise as you actually meet Lee and Kirby in the story!! Plus a gorgeous pin-up of the invisible girl!”
As for inside the issue, it has Doctor Doom demanding that Lee and Kirby get the Fantastic Four to walk into a trap, which they then do.
Said Lee of this sort of thing, “The artists back then would draw me in as a joke or just to have fun. And I would put some dialogue balloons there and it looked as if I intended it. I didn’t try to do cameos in those days.”
But fans loved it, as well as the chance to get to know the people behind the comics, which were featured in a section of their own as well. The point of all of this, along with the little quips and notes in various areas was, according to Lee, “[For] the reader to feel we were all friends, that we were sharing some private fun that the outside world wasn’t aware of.”
From here the occasional cameo caught on, with Lee stating, “Anything that seemed fun and anything that the readers seemed to enjoy we kept doing and those things brought in a lot of fan mail. And we weren’t doing movies or television, our whole existence depended on comic books, so if you see that something is interesting to the fans you stay with it.”
Since then Lee, and to a lesser extent Kirby (who was notably more camera shy), appeared numerous times across many forms of media. These cameos range from simple background characters in comics bearing Lee’s likeness to full on self-referential roles in Marvel’s numerous works. The most egregious example of the latter is arguably the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon in which Spider-Man is transported to the “real” world via magical comic shenanigans and meets Stan Lee, who reveals that he created Spider-Man and spends some time conversing with his creation before being left stranded on a roof.
Moving on to Lee’s first cameo in video form, this appeared in the 1989 The Trial of the Incredible Hulk where Lee appears in the jury at the trial.
Arguably Lee’s most unusual cameo is one in a property owned by Marvel’s single biggest rival, DC — Superman: The Animated Series. In the episode, Apokolips… Now! Part 2, Lee, along with characters who bear a striking resemblance to members of the Fantastic Four, appear in a brief crowd shot of the funeral of the character, Dan Turpin. Said character’s appearance was largely based on the aforementioned Jack Kirby, who’d sadly died the year earlier. Out of respect for his memory and his contribution to the world of comics, the animators for the episode snuck in a character who looked like Lee along with several other Marvel characters Kirby had helped create. The commitment to accuracy was such that the graveyard shown in the episode was modeled on the one Kirby is buried in, in real life and the crew hired an actual rabbi to read a kaddish that was included in the episode’s audio. Lee’s cameo was removed in the subsequent DVD release of the episode, but he can still be seen in the episode’s storyboards.
Speaking of cameos, a slightly lesser known fact is that Lee’s beloved wife, Joan, who was the inspiration for a few female characters in the Marvel universe, also did voice work for the 1990s Fantastic Four and Spider-Man animated series, as well as a cameo of her own in X-Men: Apocalypse where she appears alongside Stan Lee.
This all brings us to Stan Lee’s final cameo, where he appears as a de-aged hippie alongside a woman who is meant to be a de-aged Joan Lee — very fittingly for them both, this final cameo appeared in Marvel’s Endgame.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.
After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.
His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.
Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.
After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.
The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.
52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.
The Navy has said it has top-secret information about unidentified flying objects that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.
A Navy representative responded to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by a researcher named Christian Lambright by saying the Navy had “discovered certain briefing slides that are classified TOP SECRET,” Vice reported last week.
But the representative from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence said “the Original Classification Authority has determined that the release of these materials would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”
The person also said the Navy had at least one related video classified as “SECRET.”
Vice said it independently verified the response to Lambright’s request with the Navy.
Lambright’s request for information was related to a series of videos showing Navy pilots baffled by mysterious, fast objects in the sky.
The Navy previously confirmed it was treating these objects as UFOs.
An image from a 2004 video filmed near San Diego showing a UFO.
(CNN/Department of Defense)
The term UFO, along with others like “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “unidentified flying object,” does not necessarily mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial. Many such sightings ultimately end up having logical and earthly explanations — often involving military technology.
A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had also previously told The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents, that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”
The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”
The Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said this week that an investigation into “sightings is ongoing.”
Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Black Vault last year: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”
Another pilot told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”
Pilots told The Times that the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology. Many of the pilots who spoke with The Times were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” and they reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress.
“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.
Scientists also told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.
Gough, the Pentagon spokeswoman, would not comment to Vice on whether the 2004 source video that the Navy possessed had any more information than the one that has been circulating online, but she said that it was the same length and that the Pentagon did not plan on releasing it.
An image from the 2015 video.
John Greenewald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice in September that he was surprised the Navy had classified the objects as unidentified.
“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” he said.
“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”
US President Donald Trump said in June that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “a war criminal” and that the United States would not accept that he could again run for election again in the war-torn country.
Haley on April 3 told a news conference that Assad has been “a hindrance to peace for a long time” and that his treatment of Syrians was “disgusting.”
“We don’t think that the people want Assad anymore,” she said. “We don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have.”
Assad’s future has been the key barrier in negotiations aimed at ending the six-year civil war in Syria.
In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad must leave power. In 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad must go, but that the timing of his departure could be a subject of negotiation.
Haley on March 31 said the Trump administration was not pursuing a strategy to push Assad out of power, echoing comments made by other U.S. officials who said the focus for now is ending Syria’s six-year civil war and defeating Islamic State (IS) militants.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 30 said that Assad’s future was up to the Syrian people.
Reporters asked Haley at the April 3 news briefing if that meant Washington would accept that Assad could again run for the presidency in elections.
“No, it doesn’t mean that the U.S. will accept it,” she said.
UN-brokered talks in Geneva have failed to make progress toward ending Syria’s civil war, which began in March 2011 when protests broke out against Assad’s government.
Since then, at least 300,000 people have been killed and millions of others have been displaced.
The United States and Turkey support various groups fighting the government, while Russia and Turkey back Assad.
Islamic State fighters have also entered the conflict and are opposed by both sides.
When you first enlist and are given loads of new gear, it’s a pretty great feeling — until you realize that you’ll have to return most of it eventually. Not all of it, but most. Obviously, you keep your well-worn and dirty uniforms and plenty of small, inconsequential things, like IR beacons.
Although each Central Issuing Facility of each branch at each duty station as their own standard operating procedures, in general, they all follow a guideline of “if it’s touched a troop’s skin or it’s basically worthless, then the troop keeps it.” But if you stop and think about it, what doesn’t get dirty and worn just from regular use?
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of things that would be better off left in a troop’s hands as they head into the civilian world — or to their next duty station.
I mean, you guys really want it THAT bad…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
Sleeping bag sets
Here’s a fact: The only way to get comfortable in one of these sleeping systems is to strip butt-naked so your body heat is evenly distributed. Still want it back?
These things get nasty after they’ve soaked in so much body odor and sweat that it’s like CIF asking for your field socks back.
No one wants to put their mouth on the Camelback that some nervous private was chewing on…
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
Camelback, canteens, and water systems
As you can imagine, these directly touch your mouth. If you’re required to return it, that means others returned it before you. Now, we’re sure it’s been cleaned time and time again, but we still can’t help but wonder about what kind of nasty germs have lived on it.
“Those would look so great as civilian attire!” said no veteran ever.
(Photo by Rob Schuette)
It seems like every branch swaps out their service uniform faster than you can blink. Generally speaking, the military wants their old uniforms back before you can get a new set.
Just to toss salt on the already pointless wound, they’ll raise hell if the old uniform you’re turning in isn’t perfectly clean.. you know, for the next troop who definitely won’t be wearing it.
Even if you don’t spray paint it, it’ll still get worn the hell out.
(Photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)
Duffel bags with your name stenciled on
Duffel bags are cheap. They’re just a bit of canvas made into a bag. Everyone in the military has the exact same O.D. green bag, so units ask troops to spray paint their name, last 4, and unit onto the bottom.
Here’s the problem: that paint isn’t coming off any time soon. Good luck trying to find another “Milzarski” in that that exact same unit after I leave.
What’s worse is when the CIF clerk gets hostile with you and questions you why parts are missing. Because, you know, we needed to save a life?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs)
Instead of asking troops to turn in a partly-used first-aid kit, why not let them keep it and stash it in their vehicle in case of emergencies? Sure, it puts the military out a whole (according to Amazon), but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bunch of medical supplies out there in the hands of people trained to use them?
It’s really not uncommon for troops to just buy a cheapo woobie off-post at some surplus store…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
The poncho liner
There’s one item that every troop holds dear above the rest — their poncho liner, affectionately called a “woobie.”
Troops sleep with it, it’s fairly cheap, the camo pattern is quickly outdated, and they’re perfect for emergency situations. Long after troops get out, if they managed to sneak one past supply, they’ll cuddle up with it on the couch and fondly recall their service.
While cyber-attacks do not kill humans outright in the way the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did, they degrade the faith of Americans in their political systems and infrastructure in a way that could devastate the country and that furthers the foreign-policy goals of the US’s adversaries.
“When Americans have lost trust in their electoral system, or their financial system, or the security of their grid, then we’re gonna be in big trouble,” Eric Rosenbach, a former US Army intelligence officer who served as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s chief of staff, said July 13 at the Defense One Tech Summit.
‘A failure of deterrence’
The US has long relied on the concept of deterrence, or discouraging nation-states from taking action against the US because of the perceived consequences, for protection.
“Deterrence is based on perception,” Rosenbach said. “When people think they can do something to you and get away with it, they’re much more likely to do it.”
While the US conducts cyber-operations, especially offensives, as secretly as possible, mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against hacks by adversarial countries as strongly as possible.
After receiving intelligence reports that Russia had been trying to hack into US election systems to benefit Donald Trump, President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop and brought up the possibility of US retaliation.
A former senior Obama administration official told The Washington Post earlier this year that the US’s muted response to the 2016 hacking was “the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend.”
“I feel like we sort of choked,” the official said.
The Post also found that Obama administration’s belief that Hillary Clinton would win the election prompted it to respond less forcefully than it might have.
While the attacks on vital US voting systems and nuclear power plants highlight recent failures of deterrence, Russia has been sponsoring cyber-crimes against the US for years.
“The Russians, and a lot of other bad guys, think that they can get away with putting malware in our grid, manipulating our elections, and doing a lot of other bad things and get away with it,” Rosenbach said. “Because they have.”
In physical war, the US deters adversaries like Russia with nuclear arms. In cyberspace, no equivalent measure exists. With the complicated nature of attributing cyber-crimes to their culprits, experts disagree on how to best deter Russia, but Rosenbach stressed that the US needed to take “bold” action.
While Rosenbach doesn’t find it likely that Russia would seek to take down the US’s grid in isolation, he pointed out that the nuclear-plant intrusions gave Russia incredible leverage over the US in a way that could flip the deterrence equation, with the US possibly fearing that its actions might anger Russia.
Russia’s malware attacks have been so successful, Rosenbach says, that the next time the US moves against Russia’s interests, fear of future attacks could “cause the US to change course.” The US losing its ability to conduct an independent foreign policy would be a grave defeat for the world’s foremost superpower.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.
The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.
Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.
Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.
When Erich “Bubi” Hartmann died in 1993, he was still the most successful fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare. With an astonishing 352 kills, his record is all but assured until World War III comes around. He’s not the only former Nazi Luftwaffe pilot whose name is at the top of the list. In fact, the top ten pilots on that list all have German names, including Gerhard Barkhorn (301 kills), Günther Rall (275), and Otto Kittel (267).
How did one of the most notably absent air forces in history rack up such impressive kill counts?
Hint: They had to be good because their bosses were so bad at their jobs.
The reason German pilots scored so high is a combination of skill and time in the air. There’s probably also a dash of luck in there, if they managed to survive the war. Since the Luftwaffe saw its best successes at the beginning of the war, taking on obsolete and unprepared air forces in enemy countries, Nazi pilots were fighting for years before American pilots. When the war came home, the number of German pilots dwindled, and enemy targets over Germany rose.
A skilled pilot could rack up quite a kill count in that time, especially if they had to fight until the whole war was over, or they were killed or captured.
And they did.
In contrast, American pilots would be sent home, or rotated out after a certain amount of time spent in the air. At the height of World War II, allied fighter pilots were required to spend at least 200 hours behind the stick of a fighter aircraft before being eligible to be rotated home. American pilots dutifully fought the required amount of time and went home for some RR.
Even Richard Bong, the Army Air Forces’ highest-scoring ace – the “Ace of Aces” – scored 40 kills in the Pacific Theater from September 1942 until December 1944. His stay was extended because he was also training pilots in the Philippines. He ended up spending much longer in the area, leading missions and training pilots. Even though he wasn’t allowed to seek combat opportunities, Bong still racked up an astonishing 40 kills against the Japanese.
It seems being one the top aces of any war is just a matter of time… and not getting shot down.
Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.
The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.
The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.
The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.
“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.
“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”
His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.
He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.
Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”
Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.
Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.
That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.
A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.
Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.
Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.
The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.
“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.
On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”
“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.
“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”
USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”
Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.
“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”
According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.
“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.
As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.
The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.
Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.
Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.
Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.
“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).