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.
Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.
As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”
NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.
Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018
(US Marine Corps photo)
“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”
But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.
Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”
Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.
US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.
In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.
Russian officials have also warned both of them.
Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”
Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.
“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.
US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”
But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.
Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”
Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.
Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)
Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.
Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.
They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.
“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.
“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:
1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar
One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.
2. Mustard Gas
Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)
3. V-1 Buzz Bomb
The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.
What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.
Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.
6. Atomic Bomb
Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.
7. Anti-personnel Mines
These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.
8. Punji Sticks
An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.
A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.
President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”
Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.
“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.
The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them
US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.
“This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ships from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and other cruiser-destroyer units based at Naval Station Norfolk sailed into the Atlantic in November 2018 for the East Coast’s first Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, or SWATT, exercise with a carrier group.
SWATT is a relatively new addition to the Navy’s training repertoire, and it comes a years-long period in which the force was focused on anti-piracy and other high-sea policing operations rather than on a high-end fight against a sophisticated adversary.
SWATT exercises are led by warfare-tactics instructors from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, or SMWDC, which was set up in 2015 to help the Navy develop experts in surface warfare operations.
The exercises are meant to take place in between ship exercises where a crew trains and qualifies for its missions and advanced exercises where an entire amphibious ready group or carrier strike group gathers to train.
Culinary Specialist First Class Marcus Madison stands watch on the bridge of the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze, Nov. 3, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Nikki Custer)
The idea is deploy instructors, both senior and junior surface warfare officers with specific training, to train with other sailors in the group, imparting advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics — similar to the Navy’s “Top Gun” training for aviators.
“Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI’s) improve ships’ proficiency in carrying out missions in the surface, anti-submarine, integrated air and missile defense, and information-warfare domains,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nick Van Wagoner, a WTI and lead planner for the exercise.
SWATT exercises also provide training for amphibious warfare and mine warfare.
Instructors aim to inculcate a process of planning, briefing, executing, and debriefing among a ship’s crew. “This model utilizes a crawl-walk-run approach,” Van Wagoner said, “allowing teams to build and develop skills as they move from basic to more advanced events.”
Crew teams receive “over-the-shoulder mentoring” through SWATT drills, the Navy said.
Setting up SMWDC three years ago was “the beginning of an important cultural shift in the surface fleet to rapidly increase surface force tactical proficiency, readiness, and combat capability,” Rear Adm. Dave Welch, the SMWDC commander, said in a Navy release.
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise, June 24, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)
Carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups based on the West Coast have already gone through SWATT exercises. In 2018, the amphibious ready group based around the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge carried out the first SWATT exercise for an ARG based on the East Coast.
The Lincoln carrier strike group’s SWATT exercise helps fulfill the Navy’s training vision, Welch said.
“This first East Coast CSG SWATT represents our commitment to the entirety of the surface force,” he said in the release. “SWATT provides a critical path for warfare and strike group commanders to develop the combat capability needed by our numbered fleet commanders to compete effectively in an era of great-power competition.”
Those numbered fleets include established commands like 7th Fleet, which oversees the Pacific, and 6th Fleet, which oversees Europe and the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean. A recent addition is 2nd Fleet, which was reactivated in May, 2018 to oversee the East Coast and the northern and western Atlantic Ocean.
As with SWATT, the reactivation of 2nd Fleet was part of preparations to fight an opponent who can fight back.
An E-2D Hawkeye prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the North Sea, Sept. 30, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US naval operations, said at the reactivation ceremony.
The Navy has made a number of changes in response to that competition, including shuffling carrier deployments to inject some unpredictability into their operations — part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
In July 2018, the USS Harry S. Truman and its strike group returned to Norfolk after just three months at sea rather than the typical six-month deployment.
In October 2018, the Truman sailed north of the Arctic Circle, the first carrier to do so since the early 1990s, where it joined forces from every other NATO member for exercise Trident Juncture, which NATO officials have said is alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military service members are all familiar with chaplains, the qualified religious leaders who serve troops and their families, but they are somehow still shrouded in mystery.
If you ever get the chance to talk to one, especially someone with a few deployments under their belt, you’ll start to get an appreciation for what they offer to troops (also, the more I talk to chaplains, the more combat ghost stories I hear…but I’ll just sort through that on my own time…).
Here are seven fascinating facts about chaplains:
U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Thomas Watson, left, and Spc. Timothy Gilbert arrive at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Ga., Jan. 17, 2010 after returning from a nearly year-long deployment in Iraq.
(DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen, U.S. Air Force/Released)
1. Chaplains don’t fight in combat
Chaplains are in the military — but they do not fight in combat. Chaplains are non-combatants as defined by the Geneva Convention. Chaplains may not be deliberately or indiscriminately attacked and, unless their retention by the enemy is required to provide for the religious needs of prisoners of war, chaplains must not become POWs. And if they are captured, they must be repatriated at the earliest opportunity.
But that doesn’t mean chaplains have never seen combat…which leads us to…
U.S. Air Force Capt. Norman Jones, a chaplain with the 20th Fighter Wing, prays over a draped casket during a simulated ramp ceremony as part of Patriot Warrior 2014 at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 10, 2014.
(DoD photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen, U.S. Air Force/Released)
2. Despite non-combatant status, many have been killed
419 American chaplains have died in the line of duty, including Confederate chaplains during the Civil War.
Father Emmeran Bliemel, a Catholic priest serving in the Confederate Army, became the first American chaplain to die on the field of battle. He was administering last rites to soldiers during the Battle of Jonesborough during the Civil War when he was killed in action by cannon fire.
In 2010, Army Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed in Afghanistan, becoming the first chaplain to die in combat since the Vietnam War.
3. Nine chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor
Nine chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Four served during the Civil War, one served during World War II, one served during the Korean War, and three served during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Army Chaplain Maj. Carl Phillips, assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, leads worship with a hymn during the garrison’s Easter sunrise service, April 1, 2018, in Wiesbaden, Germany.
(U.S. Army photo by William B. King)
4. They represent 200+ denominations
Chaplains in the military represent more than 200 different denominations.
Denominations recognized by the Pentagon include many variations of the major religions of the world — including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — but Chaplains provide care for people of all faiths.
U.S. Army Capt. Demetrius Walton, a chaplain with the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, navigates a confidence course at Fort Dix, N.J., March 26, 2012.
(DoD photo by Sgt. Peter Berardi, U.S. Army/Released)
5. They hold rank, but not command
In the United States, service members have a constitutional right under the first amendment to engage in religious worship. While chaplains are commissioned officers and can obtain the rank of major general or rear admiral, they will never hold command.
Within the Nuremberg jail, Chaplains Henry Gerecke and Sixtus O’Connor created a 169-square-foot chapel and honored their duty to offer the nazis a chance to return from the darkness and into the light.
Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun moved from foxhole to foxhole under direct fire to provide aide and reassurance to soldiers fighting in the Battle of Unsan. He recovered wounded men and dragged them to safety or he dug trenches to shield them from enemy fire. He was captured and tortured by the Chinese, but even then he continued to resist and provide comfort to his fellow prisoners. He died in captivity on May 23, 1951.
There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.
A German Army Soldier directs military vehicles onto land during one of the largest combined exercises in Lithuania, the Suwalki Gap River Crossing, as media observe the event, June 20, 2017.
These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.
But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.
Battle Group Poland U.S. Soldiers locate their sector of fire for their weapons as part of the Bull Run training exercise near Suwalki, Poland, July 16, 2017.
(U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Wang)
On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.
But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.
Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.
The Iskander-M is likely a violation of the INF Treaty, and it gives Russia the ability to cover the entire Suwalki Gap and most of Eastern Europe with a few missile launchers
(Boevaya mashina, CC BY-SA4.0)
Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.
An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.
The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.
Battle Group Poland tested its readiness and interoperability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence during Bull Run, a simulated training exercise, July 16, 2017, near Suwalki, Poland.
For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.
Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.
While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.
Germany only produced one kind of tank in World War I, and only one example of it still survives. Recently, Australian historians worked with Queensland Police and Ballistic Bomb Unit and the Defense Science & Technology Group to analyze what, exactly, soldiers of the British Empire did to the tank to halt its advance and bring it down.
A German A7V tank replica in a German museum.
(Huhu, public domain)
“Mephisto,” as the tank is known, is an A7V, Germany’s first tank design to make it into production. The vehicle had armor thick enough to make it nearly bulletproof, not a trait common among first-generation tanks. And it was well-armed, boasting six machine guns and one cannon each on the front and back.
This made the tank nearly invulnerable in combat, but also gave the A7V some very serious drawbacks. First of all, it was extremely expensive and resource-heavy to produce. The designer showed his first prototype to Germany’s high officers and they agreed to buy two hundred, of which only 20 would be finished and sent to the front in time. Why so few? They didn’t have enough steel.
And the ones Germany did produce were great on level ground or on terrain that was bumpy front-to-back, but they were horrible when the terrain was rocky side-to-side. That’s because it had a lot of weight, a high center of balance, and thin tracks. If one side hit a big enough bump, the whole thing tipped over.
And the Allies did find a fairly suitable anti-tank weapon to bring against Mephisto, a 37mm French gun, about the same as a 1.5-caliber round. That wasn’t enough, though, as rounds ricocheted right off.
A German tank, not the Mephisto, left turned over at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. The tank was lost to history, but the similarly fated Mephisto would be sent to Australia as a war trophy.
(French postcard, public domain)
So, no tanks got the Mephisto, and 1.5-inch rounds were bouncing off, so what ended the Mephisto’s rampage? That tendency to flop over. It hit a bump, rolled on its side, and the crew was forced to explode a charge and escape. That charge blew through the roof and also set off internal munitions, sending one through the floor of the tank and against the ground where it went off.
That, in turn, sent more shrapnel against the underside and through the crew compartment. The Mephisto was dead, and it would be captured by British troops soon.
It was taken back to Australia and placed in war museums. But the Germans had learned their lessons.
When they prepared for World War II, they put tanks in the field that were light and mobile enough to make it through the Ardennes Forest. They sent mass numbers of tanks and other equipment that overwhelmed Allied defenses, nearly all of them agile enough to make it across No Man’s Land without tripping on their own shoelaces like Mephisto and the A7Vs were prone to do.
Five of the top national security think tanks exchanged widely varying proposals on the force structure and funding the U.S. armed services would need to confront the global security environment 10 years from now.
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert “Champ” Guyette II, a test pilot from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship, joined the fleet Oct. 15. The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)
The proposals ranged from the minimalist, mind-your-own-business plan from the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, which would cut defense funding $1.1 trillion below the Obama administration’s long-term budget projects over 10 years, to the aggressive, act-like-a-global-power concept from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which would add $1.3 trillion — with any force reductions or increases tracking to the funding levels.
The other think tanks — the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies — fell in between those two extremes on both funding and force levels.
In the conference held in the Newseum’s Knight Studio Oct. 18, AEI’s Tom Donnelly said “we bought almost everything” the president has asked for, but still don’t have the military America needs.
“That tells you how much cutting has been done over the last generation,” he said.
Donnelly based his big increases in spending and force structure on a view that “the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” that from a global view of security “the trend lines are all negative,” and “the old post-Cold War world doesn’t exist any more. We need to build something new.”
Cato’s Benjamin Friedman, however, said his budget and force structure plans were based on “a strategy of restraint,” which “differs from the current prevailing view in Washington.”
“Given our geography, wealth and strategic prowess, we would be secure in the US regardless of how much we buy. This is about how much insurance we need,” Friedman said.
The three others, Paul Scharre of CNAS, Mark Gunzinger of CSBA, and Todd Harrison of CSIS, all agreed that the growing threats required additional spending, but generally favored selective modernization rather than the major force structure growth that Donnelly proposed.
The Navy would fare reasonably well in nearly all the projections, even getting smaller reductions within Cato’s heavy cuts. The submarine force was generally favored by all, with two proposing a new class of guided missile subs to replace the four converted ballistic missile SSGN boats. Cato and CSIS would cut four of the 11 aircraft carriers but CSBA and CNAS called for more carriers.
The Navy would get the biggest boost from CNAS, which called for an increase from the current battle force fleet of 272 to 345. The Navy’s goal is to reach 308 ships by 2020.
CSBA noted that the carriers’ ability to project power is threatened by the proliferation of long-range precision defense weapons and suggested off-setting that by fielding an unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft. The Navy currently plans to follow up its experimental X-47B carrier-capable UAV with the pilotless MQ-25, primarily used as an air refueling aircraft with some ISR capabilities.
The Marine Corps got widely varying support from the five organizations, with Cato proposing to cut it by one-third, CNAS eliminating four infantry battalions and CSIS cutting 6,000 Marines and one air group. Analysts at CSBA proposed an increase to 187,000 Marines from the current plan for 182,000. The Corps probably would gain under AEI’s funding boost.
The Army generally would be increased in size or strengthened by all of the think tanks, except of course Cato, with Donnelly advocating a major boost in armored brigades, which would be used to bolster NATO against Russia.
The Air Force also generally would be strengthened although not substantially increased by the other think tanks, while Cato called for cutting it by one-third. CSIS, CSBA and CNAS all proposed giving the Air Force a low-cost, light-attack aircraft in addition to the F-35A.
Other than Cato, which wants to cancel the entire program, the F-35 was favored along with other stealthy aircraft, including the Air Force’s existing F-22 Raptors and its still-on-paper B-21 long-range strategic strike bomber, now under development. Donnelly urged the Navy to buy the F-35B jump jet version the Marines are getting so it could put them on its aircraft carriers but off-load them in the forward theater to bolster ground forces.
While Cato would chop the nuclear deterrent triad to just the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, the others all appeared to favor current plans to modernize the Air Force’s nuclear capable bombers and Minuteman III missiles, as well as buying the replacement subs for the Ohio-class SSBNs.
This is an emotional realization for the whole family. Having grandma or grandpa move in isn’t a simple transition for all parties. It involves issues of space, money, privacy, freedom, and ego. There’s resentment with, “I didn’t ask for this,” and all opinions would be living under the same roof. And parents who want to start the discussion are in the middle, their folks on one side; their spouses on the other.
“It’s a tricky position, especially if there’s tension and conflict,” says Megan Dolbin-MacNab, associate professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech University.
It certainly is. Before you start feeling disloyal to anyone, remember that this isn’t an inevitable event. It’s just a possibility, one that requires assessing and playing the scenarios. Before you start reconfiguring the house, it starts with a conversation about having your parents move in. Well, two actually.
Talking to Your Spouse About Having Aging Parents Move In
When deciding whether or not grandparents should move into your home, the first conversation should be at home, with your partner. This needs mutual buy-in, regardless of how dire the situation might seem.
When you start exploring the alternatives, you’ll see where moving in ranks and that can help make a decision. As you proceed, the main thing is to ask your spouse questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers, keeping in mind the essential fact that you’re making a big request, Satow says. Ask two fundamental questions. “How do you think this would work?” and “What would we expect from them?” This will get you thinking about everything from space allocations to sharing of bills to things you didn’t even consider.
You can’t nail down every detail, but you’ll get an outline and more comfort with the idea. You also want to ask your spouse, “What are your concerns?” Listen again without quickly reacting. You want your partner to be able to express reservations, even anger, and do so early in the process, because things won’t magically work out without intention.
“If you don’t talk about stuff, it festers and then it explodes,” Dolbin-MacNab says.
It’s important to also ask: “What can we do for us if this happens?” Kids already changed your relationship. Grandparents moving in will do it again, Satow says. You might not have any couple time now, but giving the two of you focus amid this discussion will again help with the consideration.
But don’t focus solely on concerns, by also examining, “What’s the upside?” There’s the potential for help with chores and childcare, maybe you two get a night out regularly, and there’s the chance for your folks and kids to deepen their relationship. Considering the positives gives a fuller picture.
Talking to Aging Parents About Moving Into Your Home
This issue may have never been broached before with your parents. If so, it’s not an easy topic to raise. If there’s the slightest opening, some show of worry, use it to start a conversation when you’re not all rushed and the kids are engaged with something else. Acknowledge the awkwardness, Dolbin-MacNab says, and approach it, like with your spouse, as not a done deal. This is not the time for foot-stamping declarations of “You’re moving in.”
Ask your parents, “What are you feeling and what do you want?” It’s their decision as well. As the conversation moves forward, you want to be clear with concerns and expectations, and that honesty might be a new dynamic for all of you, and just setting that standard might be the biggest component, Dolbin-MacNab says.
Ask them, “What do you expect?” as it relates to childcare, bills, household chores and time together. Let them give a sense of how it would look, then give them the picture of your day and your approach to parenting – awake by 6 a.m., no snacks after 5 p.m., we try not to compare the kids to others – and ask, “Do you think you could fit into that?”
Remember: If you’re asking them for something, you need to offer them room to make it their own, and that requires prioritizing what really matters and not caring so much about the rest, Dolbin-MacNab says.
But there’s no need to address every potential conflict. They’ll happen and are best handled in the moment. You’ve set the overall framework and the precedent of talking. Let them know that will continue where everyone can share how it’s working and what needs addressing, Dolbin-MacNab says.
And ask them, “What do you see as the benefits?” It’s a hard time for them. This may be a loss of everything from social networks to furniture and they may feel embarrassed, but getting them to consider the upsides might reduce the sadness and bring in the idea that something different is also something new.
Even when it’s just a potential, it’s easy for you and your spouse to see it as a burden and undue stress. But it’s not what anyone drew up. As much as it’s possible, try to approach it like a team by finding consensus, looking for solutions, and where.
As Dolbin-MacNab says, “We’re all working toward the same goal and we could make our lives easier.”
Major James Capers (centered). Featured photo courtesy of The Veterans Project.
Major James Capers Jr. is a living legend.
If you do not know who “The Major” is, it is highly recommended that you read here to learn more about this great American and highly decorated war hero. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina in the Jim Crow south. During the Vietnam War, just three generations removed from slavery, he became the first African American to receive a battlefield commission as part of Marine Force Recon. Capers’s team, which called themselves “Team Broadminded” conducted more than 50 classified missions in 1966 alone.
During his 22-years of service, Major Capers has been awarded the Silver Star; two Bronze Stars; and Combat V; four Purple Hearts; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; three Good Conduct Ribbons; Battle Stars; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; CG Certificate of Merit; and multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation. There is a new push for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime; he turned 83 years old on August 25.
On Friday, August 28, Capers’s hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina held a ceremony in honor of his service and dedication to this great country.
After several high profile guests bestowed deserved recognition and honors upon Capers, he began his speech with a tribute to his dear wife, Dottie Capers, and son, Gary Capers. They have sadly both passed away, several years ago, but clearly still have a special place in his heart and mind. Capers began his speech by saying: “I’m a little bit overwhelmed because my precious Dottie is not here, and my wonderful baby [Gary] is not here. They are in heaven and God has promised me that I will see them again.”
The event included a parade through Bishopville accompanied by USMC veteran Danny Garcia from Honor Walk 2020 and a color guard comprised of Marine Raiders.
The Mayor of Bishopville presented “Capers Boulevard and intersection,” a bronze wall sculpture with his likeness. Additionally, Major Capers was recognized by Congressman Ralph Norman and other elected officials. He was also given South Carolina’s “Order of the Palmetto.” This is the state’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The award was presented by Senator Gerald Malloy.
In addition to a large crowd of civilians, Marines from several generations were also present to honor Major Capers and witness the public outpouring of gratitude and respect for his service.
Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Capers has continued to mentor countless young Marines who look to him for natural and spiritual guidance as they navigate life. Major Capers’s legacy is not only long-lasting because he was a warrior and leader, but also because he was a devoted husband to his late-wife Dottie and a loving father to his late-son Gary. As he neared the conclusion of his speech, Major Capers stated, “All of these accolades today mean a lot to me, and it means a lot to Dottie because she’s up there watching.”
A humble and soft-spoken man, Capers said, “I don’t deserve all of this.” To which the captivated crowd strongly disagreed. The reality is that no one deserves this honor and respect more than he does. He is a true patriot, great American, and hero to the highest degree.
A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.
James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.
See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.
Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.
The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.
The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.
Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.
Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.
“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “
Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.
If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.
Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.
The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.
A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.
For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.
To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.
For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.
The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.
As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.
Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.
Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.
After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.
The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.
About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.
PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.
At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”
If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.