3 myths about the new military retirement system - We Are The Mighty
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3 myths about the new military retirement system

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Veronica Ballek, wife of Col. Michael Ballek, pins a retirement pin on her husband during his retirement ceremony at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, June 2, 2015. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse


You’ve probably heard that currently serving military members and their families soon will have to choose whether to switch to the new military retirement system or stick with the old one.

But retirement options and savings choices can be confusing. How can troops know which to pick?

Also read: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.

He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.

Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.

That’s false, Hanson said.

Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.

“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘

The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.

But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.

That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.

Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.

And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.

Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.

False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.

“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”

Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.

Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.

“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”

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Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.


During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.

During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”

“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.

Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.

“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”

“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.

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4 reasons why Maverick would be a sh*tty Top Gun instructor

It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.


“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the US Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.

While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.

From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.

Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:

1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Mav barely even showed up at his graduation from Top Gun, so how on God’s Green Earth could he one day become an instructor? (Photo from Top Gun YouTube screengrab)

Far from it.

In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.

In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.

Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?

2. He’s definitely not a team player

3 myths about the new military retirement system
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Photo Top Gun Youtube screengrab)

This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.

Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.

Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.

3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic

3 myths about the new military retirement system

Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.

It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.

At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.

Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.

4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways

3 myths about the new military retirement system
The Navy retired the F-14 Tomcat, made famous by Top Gun, 11 years ago (Photo Top Gun)

Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.

The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.

With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.

OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.

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This Special Forces legend was saved by his beard

3 myths about the new military retirement system


Col. James “Nick” Rowe played a large role in designing the modern training programs for Special Forces soldiers, especially the school that prepares troops to survive being taken captive.

Rowe graduated West Point in 1960 and was eventually sent to South Vietnam as a military advisor. In 1963, then-1st Lt. Rowe was captured in a Viet Cong ambush and taken to a prison camp.Rowe’s intimate knowledge of how to survive captivity came from the more than five years he spent as a captive of the Viet Cong before successfully escaping, something he likely wouldn’t have accomplished without his beard.

For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.

In order to convince his guards that he wasn’t a threat, Rowe told them that he was an engineer drafted into the Army. They still tortured him, but he stuck to his story until anti-war activists in America released his bio and the North Vietnamese government learned he was Special Forces.

Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.

As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class James K. F. Dung

They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.

Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.

Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.

On Apr. 21, 1989, he was on his way to the advisory group headquarters when his vehicle came under fire and he was killed.

Rowe wrote a book about his time in the prison camp, “Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW.”

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6 times you played dumb while serving in the military

For the most part, we’ve all pretended to play dumb to have a positive impact on our workday or to get out of something we didn’t want to do.


For sure, we didn’t do it to screw anybody else over. But there are just a few moments in all the years we served that we managed to pull off a small scheme to get out of a sticky situation.

Related: 5 things you should know before diving into a ‘contract marriage’

So check out a few ways veterans have played dumb to get themselves out of a negative situation.

1. That time you pretended to be incompetent because don’t want to get assigned extra duty on the weekend.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
But everyone knows you know how to stand Quarter Deck watch.

2. That time you pretended to get “lost” on a stateside company movement because you were in no hurry to get there.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Regrouping is an excellent strategy.

3. When you were a boot, and you fumbled with operating a piece of equipment because you don’t want to use or carry the damn thing.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
What do all these number and letters represent?

4. That time you told the roving duty you didn’t see sh*t to cover up for one of your brothers or sisters.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
In this case, I think we should believe him.

5. That time you got busted for having something in your barracks room, and you claimed to have never seen it before.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
I’ve never seen that delicious looking vodka before in my life. True story. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Also Read: Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

6. After you arrived late to formation, but you blamed your tardiness on your alarm clock. “I swear I set it, gunny.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Number one excuse for anyone running late.

How did you play dumb during your service? Comment below.

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This siege is one of Julius Caesar’s most spectacular victories

3 myths about the new military retirement system


The Siege of Alesia is among the most celebrated battles of Roman times and stands as one of Gaius Julius Caesar’s finest victories. The battle was the last major engagement between the Gaul’s and Rome, precipitating the end of the Gallic Wars and ending Celtic dominance of Western Europe.

Caesar and his legions had been engaging in a war of conquest in Gaul since 58 BC. The campaign had been an extraordinarily bloody one, and despite defeating many of the major tribes and gaining a shaky control over the region, a revolt ending up destroying a quarter of Caesar’s troops. Despite being mercilessly crushed, the revolt convinced many Gauls that throwing off the Roman yoke might be possible.

This led to the rise of Vercingetorix of the Averni tribe, who was crowned king of all the Gauls in 52 BC. A general revolt broke, and many Roman officials, soldiers, and merchants were killed across the country. Caesar was in winter quarters in Cisalpine Gaul north of Italy and did not learn of the chaos immediately.

When word reached him, Caesar sent legions to the north to put down other tribes, and marched with the rest and his auxiliary cavalry in pursuit of Vercingetorix. After delivering several setbacks to Caesar, Vercingetorix thought a general battle would be too risky, and withdrew to the vast hill fortress town of Alesia.

Where Alesia was located is still a matter of dispute, but the conventional wisdom places it in Monta-Arieux in the French region of Burgundy. Alesia featured formidable walls, and was located on a plateau ideal for defense. Between Vercingetorix’s army and the town’s citizens, it held around 80,000 Gauls.

Caesar arrived at Alesia with an army of possibly 60,000 men. He quickly saw that a frontal assault was out of the question, and he began a vast series of siegeworks, seldom equalled in antiquity, to enclose the town and starve it out. Caesar ordered an 18 kilometer wall called a circumvallation built to completely surround the town, and it was completed in roughly 3 weeks.

The Gauls launched a series of raids in order to prevent the completion of wall, but all attempts were beaten back. A small force Gallic cavalry force managed to break through and escape, and Caesar knew it was only a matter of time until enemy reinforcements arrived.

He ordered the construction of second 21km wall called a contravallation that was built to protect from the outside against the inevitable Gallic relief force. It too was strongly reinforced with towers, pit traps, and ditches. Sections of moat were even made by diverting water from the local rivers.

The cruel realities of siege and starvation began to take their toll on Vercingetorix’s Gallic defenders, and to stretch provisions they decided to expel their women, children, and invalids from the fortress with a plea that Caesar let them through the lines. Caesar ruthlessly refused, and the Gallic civilians were left to miserably starve in the no-man’s land between the fortress and the Roman works.

A large Gallic relief force eventually arrived in September, and on the 30th an assault was launched against the Roman outer wall while Vercingetorix sallied out of the fortress and attacked the inner. After several days of mostly failed attacks, on the third day the Gauls breached the outer wall and the Romans defending it were on the verge of being overrun. Caesar personally led a large force out of the Roman lines and hit the outer Gallic force from the rear. Caught between two Roman forces, the Gauls broke and were routed with great slaughter.

Vercingetorix, knowing no more help was coming, surrendered the next day. The surviving defenders of Alesia were then sold into slavery and the fortress town was completely obliterated by the Romans as a warning. This marked the end of any organized resistance in Gaul, and it was to become a key Roman province.

The Siege of Alesia was a masterpiece of military engineering, and the monumental efforts of his men combined with Caesar’s tactical brilliance allowed the Romans to defeat a much larger enemy army. It led to 500 years of Roman dominance in Gaul, and the great fame it gave Caesar helped further set the stage for the coming Roman civil war and Caesar’s ascension to dictator and the end of the Roman Republic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alesia#/media/File:AlesiaFortifications.JPG

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alesia#/media/File:SiegeAlesia.png

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How to sham out of work and get promoted while doing it

So, you’re a high-speed, low-drag new trooper who wants to have a successful and rewarding military career. The only problem is that you’re lazy.


Not “I can’t get out of bed without a personal pep talk from Richard Simmons” lazy, but more, “I’m not going to make my bed because I’m just going to ruin it tonight” lazy.

In the civilian world, that’s fine. But in the military, you can actually get demoted for not making your bed. So how do you get ahead in Uncle Sam’s Rifle Club with minimum effort? Easy. You learn to sham (or if you joined the sea services, “skate”).

3 myths about the new military retirement system
It’s a lot like this, but with less work. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Vallee)

Shamming and skating are the fine arts of doing little to no work while avoiding friction and punishments from command.

The trick is to pace yourself throughout the day, doing work only when necessary but also giving the perception of constant activity.

A top-shelf sham day starts with not doing physical training. The most obvious way to get out of this is a pass from the medics. WATM does not encourage this…but here’s our guide. If you can get a full-day pass to stay in the barracks, your shamming is now in easy mode.

But sick call slips and chits are rationed, and remaining on quarters for too long can get you kicked out for “malingering.” If you want to get promoted, you’ll have to get more creative.

First, always know who is instructing PT in the morning and what the planned activity is. If Spc. McMuffin is leading the platoon on a slow jog down the main strip, just bite the bullet and do PT. But if Sgt. Creatine is leading a ruck-run and circuit-training Crossfit extravaganza, then you need to volunteer for a work detail.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
These aren’t exactly fun. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

But wait, wait, wait! I thought you said I wasn’t going to have to actually work?

Sure, volunteering for work may seem counterproductive. But pulling a 12-hour guard shift on some ammo in a field while you’re playing the newest Candy Crush level and taking turns napping with the other guard is way better than playing log throw with Capt. America and then spending all day at a desk.

Speaking of desk work, there are ways to sham through that if you get stuck in it. If you permanently work in an office, the best thing you can do is create the impression that you’re always working way too hard to be interrupted.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Getting someone to take photos of you from interesting angles can only help your cause. (Photo: U.S Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor)

This can be achieved with multiple little green notebooks, legal pads, and an endless number of browser windows. Spread the legal pads and notebooks around the desk and fill the open pages with illegible writing. Draw lots of arrows between areas of text.

If anyone asks what you’re doing, start talking a lot about guidance from headquarters and how it affects 3rd quarter mandatory training. There’s not an NCO in the world that will stick around.

When you’re only working the office for the day, the best thing you can do is offer to shred things and take the trash out. No one is timing these tasks, so there’s plenty of time to joke around with buddies or check your phone. You should take the trash out at least three or four times in a regular duty day.

And, once you volunteer to take the trash out enough times or to run other errands, people will start thinking that you must be doing said errands when they can’t see you.

Now you’re in business. Once they stop checking up on you, start adding a 20-minute nap to each errand and trash run that you do.

Another place you can work constant naps into the day is the motor pool. Avoid emptying and reloading connexes by volunteering to PMCI vehicles. At each vehicle, open the front doors and raise the hood, then rack out in the back seat for a few minutes. Finally, declare the vehicle ready to go, close everything up, and move on to the next one.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
This guy is inspecting the inside of the gas tank. Instead, look inside the gas tank when you refill it and use the time you save during inspection to nap. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

At the end of the day, there’s always the risk that a pleased platoon or first sergeant will want to inspect the room of such a squared-away individual.

Fear not — passing room inspections is easy. The trick is to get the barracks super clean one time. We’re talking perfection here. No dust anywhere, scrub the backs of the appliances, secure the bedspread with bungee cords and glue the hospital corners into place. Tie up your roommate and hide him in the woodline.

Place neatly organized study cards next to your computer, which should have exactly one browser window open to whatever your branch’s promotions and accessions guidance is.

The platoon and first sergeant will not believe their eyes. They’ll praise you in front of the formation and talk amongst themselves for days about how polished you are.

Then they’ll become complacent and they won’t inspect you anymore. They might come by for payday inspections and the company change of command, but that’s about it.

The rest of the year you can walk around in your room dripping marinara sauce onto the floor, and no one will know or care.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: Terminal Lance/Facebook

That barracks will become your palace of filth, and no one will be the wiser. In fact, they’ll be so impressed by that one inspection and all those guard details you volunteered for that they’ll promote you ahead of your peers until you get paid to move out of the barracks — you won’t even have to get a contract marriage to the first person you meet off-base.

Congrats, shammer. You have arrived.

 

(Also, maybe retrieve your roommate from the woodline at some point. He could legitimately die).

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Abrams tanks to be updated with robotic attack drones

3 myths about the new military retirement system
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted a joint air mobility exercise with Airmen from the 21st Airlift Squadron, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Cali. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Grady Jones, 3rd AMCT Public Affairs, 4th Inf. Div.)


Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

Related: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, participated in the annual Summer Heat training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., June 26 to July 2. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jeremy Fasci)

Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.

“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.

Related: This Russian war widow bought a tank to fight in World War II

This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.

Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
US Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.

Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.

“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.

Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.

Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.

“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.

Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.

For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.

Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.

Air Force Navy Robotics

The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.

In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Image: Lockheed Martin

These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.

The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.

Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.

At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.

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The top 5 stories around the military right now (August 11 edition)

Good morning.  Here’s the news:


Now: This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever 

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6 weapons that allow the US to strike anywhere in the world

When America decides to strike back at a threat, it has a lot of response options. Here are 6 of the weapons that allow the U.S. to hit an enemy from across the planet:


1. Nuclear submarines

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Navy

The Navy uses three kinds of stealthy nuclear submarines to carry out missions around the world. Attack submarines hunt enemy vessels but can also launch cruise missiles at land targets, guided missile subs carry up to 154 cruise missiles to strike land targets, and fleet ballistic missile submarines carry nuclear missiles that can wipe out entire cities.

2. B-2

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The B-2 stealth bomber is capable of piercing enemy air defense networks because of its stealthy design. Even if enemies do spot it, missiles have trouble engaging the aircraft due to its reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures.

3. Aircraft carriers

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

Always a favorite, aircraft carriers are floating bases that launch strike aircraft and provide a command center for naval forces. As the Navy likes to brag, they are “So big they carry their own zip code.” The Navy currently has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in active service and is bringing the first of the larger, more capable Ford-class carriers online this year.

4. Minuteman III missiles

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The Air Force’s Minuteman III missiles are focused on one mission: nuclear strikes. They have a range of 6,000 miles and each can carry up to three 335-kiloton warheads. Under the START II treaty, the 400 active missiles are currently equipped with one warhead each. There are another 50 unarmed missiles held in reserve.

5. Special operators

3 myths about the new military retirement system
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

While special operators aren’t a weapon per se, their skills give America a useful option when it comes to striking enemy targets. Operators are capable of swimming, jumping, or rucking to target areas and conducting high stakes missions on short notice. Green berets rode horses into Afghanistan when the U.S. began the war there and SEALs flew into Pakistan in helicopters to get Osama Bin Laden.

6. B-1 “BONE” Lancer

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Air Force Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

The B-1 Lancer began its career as a nuclear bomber but switched to a conventional role during the 1990s. Ground troops know it as the “BONE” and love it for its huge bomb bays, long loiter times, and ability to quickly drop bombs on target when requested.

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This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

After serving in Iraq, Army veteran Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.


Tylek said he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst because of his military experience.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

“At the beginning of every semester it was always the same thing,” Tylek told We Are The Mighty. “Kids would ask if I was in ROTC or was a veteran, and [about] what I did and where I was. Without fail, a student who [had] just met me would ask with wide eyes and a big smile if I killed anyone. I didn’t know how to respond.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

In his view, most students — having seen popular movies and video games like “Black Hawk Down” and “Call of Duty” — expected to hear a yes from Tylek, who served in Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division in 2009.

“They view our soldiers [as] robotic killing machines who are untouchable in combat,” Tylek said. “And they want that to be you so they can ask all the gory details and raise you to hero status in their minds.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlayed text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls. After his own experience in combat, Tylek realized how unrealistic civilian views of warfare can be, and he decided his blog could provide a wake-up call.

“I hope people see what war really is — a massive waste of life and resources — a messy, scary, horrific thing,” Tylek said. “And yet, I hope they see a little about why we do it, the bond that we have with our fellow soldiers is a lot of times closer than the bond that we have with our own families.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

Tylek also told WATM that he created the blog in memory of his best friend, Spc. Joe Kenny, who died while serving in Mosul.

Check out more of the powerful collection of images from justWarthings:

 

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: justWarthings

For more of Tylek’s work, check out justWarthings

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The critics are lining up against the VA’s PTSD pot study

Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.


“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Logo courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project.

VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.

Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.

He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.

“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”

Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.

“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.

The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.

Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.

“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo from public domain.

Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.

“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”

About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.

Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.

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Marines killed in Chattanooga terror attack awarded Navy and Marine Corps Medal

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat award, at Ross’s Landing Riverside Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 7, 2017.


Sullivan and Wyatt were awarded the medal for their actions during the July 16, 2015 shooting that occurred at the Naval Reserve Center Chattanooga and also killed Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.

“We talk about these men so that we do not forget their sacrifice,” said Maj. Chris Cotton, former Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, the unit that Sullivan and Wyatt were assigned to.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., and his wife Ellyn Dunford pay their respects during a memorial service at Chattanooga, Tenn., Aug. 15, 2015. The memorial was to honor U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire K.P. Wells, and Navy Logistics 2nd Class Randall S. Smith, who lost their lives in the Chattanooga shooting. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia/Released)

According to eye witness statements and 911 transcripts during the event, Sullivan and Wyatt took charge in the evacuation of unit personnel and contacting authorities. They also returned to the scene of the incident when personnel were unaccounted for, risking their lives in the process.

“This is a day to celebrate the heroic, exemplary, and selfless service of two great Marines, who were by all counts great human beings, devoted Marines, and wanting nothing more than to take care of their Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, commanding general of 4th MARDIV, who attended the ceremony along with Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Miller, sergeant major of 4th MARDIV.

During the ceremony, Cotton presented the medal to Jerry and Betty Sullivan, parents of GySgt Sullivan; and to Lorri Wyatt, wife of SSgt Wyatt.

“It’s a great honor and we’re humbled by it, it’s something you don’t want to receive but it’s good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day,” said Jerry Sullivan.

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who perform an act of heroism at great personal and life-threatening risk to the awardee.

The Reserve Center, the Chattanooga community, and across the nation people have all been sending their support and condolences, said Jerry Sullivan.

“We take care of our Marines and families,” said Cotton, “No man gets left behind.”

The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Government, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Tennessee’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.

“This is truly a touching moment,” said Fleischmann. “As a member of congress, it makes me remember the men and women who serve us in the United States Marines and all our branches, are truly our very best and willing to put on the uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These fallen Marines did that and they are being justly honored today.”

Fleischmann also took part in ensuring all the service members who died in the 2015 shooting received Purple Hearts and a permanent memorial at Ross’s Landing Park.

“I hope this does bring a little closure to the families,” said Fleischmann. “But I also hope it forever honors and serves and memories of these fallen heroes, and they are heroes to America.”

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