4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season - We Are The Mighty
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4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season


Can you believe it is that time of year again? Tax season is here and it is usually the last thing you want to deal with, especially if your spouse is deployed. Deployment comes with stressors of its own; don’t let your taxes be one of them. As military families, we know that we often face special circumstances with our taxes. If you don’t know where to start, and are in need of some guidance, here are 4 things you should consider before filing your taxes.

1. Work with Your Legal Office

Did you forget to get a special power of attorney in order to file your taxes? Don’t worry! Your base legal office can help. They provide not only services to prepare a special power of attorney, but many other tax services as well. First thing you will need to do is find your legal office on a nearby military installation. Using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website, enter your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel, you will find the locations of the nearest legal offices near you.

You will want to call ahead to ensure, however most of these services are available at legal assistance offices:

Wills, testamentary trusts, and estate planning

Domestic relations, including divorce, legal separation, annulment, custody, and paternity

Adoption and name changes

Taxes, including basic advice and assistance on Federal, State, and local taxes — see below for more details on this!

Landlord-tenant relations, including review of personal leases and communication and correspondence

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act advice and assistance

So once you find your office, give them a call and schedule an appointment. Also, don’t forget to ask them what documents to bring with you; you wouldn’t want to make a wasted trip!

2. If You Need Help Filing Your Taxes Get It

If you need help getting your taxes filed, your legal office has a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) that can help. Make sure to call and check with your legal center to see if this service is available at your installation. The VITA will help you file your taxes free of charge, but you will want to make sure to go as early in the day as possible in order to avoid long lines. If you have decided to go to a private tax preparer, make sure they are familiar filing returns for service members and their dependents. Or you can always file your taxes yourself for free using the Military One Source website. I personally have been using this service for years and it works great for me and my family’s needs.

3. Get The Other Things You Need

Whether you have decided to file with a professional, or do them yourself at home, there are still quite a few things you will need to ensure you have before you get started. A tax professional will let you know what to bring, but be sure to keep the following at hand and ready when filing:

• Military ID

• All W-2 and 1099 forms

• Social Security cards for all family members

• Deductions and credit information

• Bank account and routing numbers

• Receipts for child care expenses

• Last year’s tax return

• Special power of attorney authorizing you to do business on behalf of the deployed service member. If you don’t have this, call that legal office!

4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Lastly, but perhaps the most important thing to remember, ensure you give yourself enough time. Federal income taxes need to be filed no later than April 15, 2016, unless you qualify for an extension such as the Combat zone and hazardous duty extensions. If you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone or are receiving hostile fire or imminent danger pay, the deadline for filing income taxes is 180 days after your last day in the combat zone or hazardous duty area. The IRS has a list available of the combat zones. So make sure you have everything you need and make those appointments in time.

Content provided courtesy of USAA.

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This is the first time American troops led the march in Paris on Bastille Day

PARIS, France – The U.S. led the way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées for the Military Parade on Bastille Day as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I (WWI) here July 14, 2017.


This marked the first time ever the U.S. was selected as the country of honor – a tradition that highlights a symbolic gesture of friendship from the French government.

“It’s about the partnership – a strong partnership that was forged in war many years ago and endures today,” said Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “France is one of our oldest and closest allies, and so the significance of being the county of honor in their parade today underscores the strength of that partnership – and that we must work to continue to strengthen that partnership.”

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, stand in ranks during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)

Altogether, almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in support of the military parade that serves as a tribute to the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.

“I’m honored and privileged to be here commemorating such a historic event and celebrating the alliance between France and the United States,” said Air Force Senior Airman Jorge Diehl, assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I think it shows a great deal of appreciation and trust for them to allow us to lead the parade. It’s taken a long time to build that trust.”

French President Emmanuel Macron officiated the parade attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and numerous French and U.S. senior military and civilian leaders – including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

In all, this year’s parade included more than 3,700 participants and flyovers by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; two F-22 Raptors; nine French Alpha Jets streaming blue, white and red contrails; and two French C-135s.

For the commander of U.S. troops, Army Maj. Jared Nichols, assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the honor of participating was made even more special by the fact his great-grandfather served on the Western Front in France during WWI.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
U.S. Soldiers from1st Infantry Division meet a French service member during a break in rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)

“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a private first class in the American expeditionary force; his name was Rupert Foust,” said Nichols. “He served as a medic in the 8th evacuation hospital, primarily dealing with clearing casualties off the battlefield and providing first aid. To be here to commemorate our entrance in a war to support [France] and the rest of the Allies and then also celebrate the French nation and their independence as well, is a great experience.”

It was an experience that wasn’t lost on Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class John Holley, assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 37, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. He believes the friendships forged here will be life-long.

“We’ve built a lot of camaraderie so far,” said Holley. “We’ve done a lot of exchanging of patches and telling of stories. We were able to learn why we were here, the history and the importance of it.”

Historically, the 1st Infantry Division was the U.S. Army’s first division – and was formed in June 1917 to serve in WWI. In 2017, as in 1917, the U.S. stands ready with its European Allies and partners to face emerging threats and an increasingly dynamic regional security environment.

“During the centennial of U.S. entry into WWI, we commemorate America’s sons and daughters who defended peace – many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life,” said Scaparrotti. “I just want to salute the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard that keep Europe whole, free and at peace.”

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5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

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‘You’re Really Pretty For Being In The Army’

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season


“This is great – you can help counteract the stereotype that only big bull dykes join the Army just by being there,” the recruiter said (yes, really).

That was one of my first introductions to how much my appearance would constantly be noticed – and openly discussed by others – as a female soldier. I had signed up to do Hometown Recruiting (between initial entry training and going to your first permanent duty station, you can spend a week helping local recruiters out for a few hours every day without getting charged leave, while still having your evenings free). Instead of going back to my hometown, I’d decided to visit a friend in New York City, and the station I was assigned to apparently thought my key asset was not looking the way they apparently assumed lesbians look.

Later in my military career, people regularly told me, “You’re really pretty for being in the Army.” This baffling pseudo-compliment made me uncomfortable, and I developed a joking stock response: “What, all the pretty girls join the Air Force?” … while at the same time wondering if what they meant was that as civilians go, I’m ugly. It was further confirmation that at least initially, my appearance was a key part of how people would form opinions of me as a soldier.

Recently, an internal email from the female officer heading an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed ground combat jobs and units to the public affairs office was leaked and much of it published by Politico. In it, she urged that public affairs personnel choose photos of “average looking women” to illustrate generic stories. I’m not thrilled with all her word choices, but I’m worried that her core message has been obscured by quibbles over terminology and the relish media outlets and pundits take in trying to turn everything into a major story. If she had wrapped her message in more obfuscating language – perhaps saying women who do not seem to be trying to conform to modern beauty norms by use of appearance-enhancing efforts instead of the shorthand pretty, maybe it wouldn’t have led to the same degree of public outcry. (I also empathize with her on a personal level: I’m not careful in how I phrase messages that are not meant to be public and certainly wouldn’t want some of them leaked!)

The heart of her argument fell much farther down in the story: compared to photos where women troops are obviously wearing makeup, photos of female soldiers with mud on their faces “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”

This immediately resonated with me based on my own experiences. While I was deployed to Iraq, I got a few days of RR in Qatar. While there, I went shopping, bought makeup, got a massage, and drank a few (carefully rationed!) beers. Upon my return to Mosul, Bruce Willis and his band (who knew?) came to our FOB on a USO tour. On a whim, I wore the mascara from my RR – it had been nice to feel feminine for a few days.

Guys asked me about it for weeks. All the male soldiers in my unit noticed I’d worn makeup. They commented on it. It changed how they looked at me and thought about me. And they all knew me, had known me for months or years already.

So when it comes to Infantrymen who haven’t served with women before, do I think that this picture might make them think differently about women joining the combat arms than these? Yes. Yes I do.

OK, I purposefully chose extreme examples. It’s not always that cut-and-dry. When my friends and I were discussing this story on social media, we argued about whether or not women in various photos were wearing makeup (yes, really). It isn’t always easy to tell, and for many women, makeup is a fraught issue. I know women who will never be seen without makeup. While I was in Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force, one of my suitemates got up an hour before we had to do physical fitness training to put on full makeup. Full makeup – to go run for miles – in the heat of a Texas summer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (Recently reading this piece on indirect aggression among young women made me think hard about my negative reaction and wonder if I’d react the same way now that I’m a decade older…)

Part of the kerfuffle about this, to me, comes down to the problems of real versus ideal.

In my ideal world, the way I look is meaningless, whether I wear makeup doesn’t matter – I’ll be judged on how competent I am. But in the real world, I have to be aware of the fact that (in normal settings) wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” So I’ve worn makeup to every job interview I’ve ever gone on. Once I’ve gotten the jobs, there have days I skipped wearing makeup to the office – I can work toward making my ideal world a reality by demonstrating to my colleagues that my appearance and competence aren’t connected. But the important days, when I wanted to make a good first impression? I lived in the real world.

In my ideal world, the way people dress is unimportant. But in the real world, I wore a suit on my last job interview, too – and so did my husband, because this isn’t just about gender. (Although apparently if either of us had applied to work in the tech world, it may have benefitted us NOT to wear suits.) You meet the social norms of the world you want to inhabit, and then you can work to change it from the inside. But if you thumb your nose too heavily at the mores of the organization you want to join, you risk not getting that opportunity.

Almost all of my women veteran friends who posted about this story on social media seemed (to me) angry that the ideal world hasn’t yet materialized, pissed off that people think about women’s appearances at all, irritated that men in the military might let something as trivial as eyeliner distract from the far more important question of whether or not a woman soldier can accomplish the mission effectively. I get that.

But several of the male troops and vets that I know said they got COL Arnhart’s point and agreed with the core message on at least some level (while agreeing the wording was suboptimal). I imagine part of this is that they aren’t triggered in the same way by words like “pretty” and “ugly,” which can be tremendously emotionally charged for women – and that may give them the space to more clearly acknowledge the real world we still inhabit. (Although one of them less charitably posited, “When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature.”)

All signs currently indicate that the Army will be opening ground combat arms jobs to women (I’m not as sure about the Marines). This is a tremendous step forward for both women and the Army. COL Arnhart, who has since stepped down, was – in my take of the situation – urging a couple of colleagues to be mindful of the real world we still inhabit while setting the stage for those women, in order to slightly diminish the obstacles that will be awaiting them. Those women, by demonstrating their competence, strength, and abilities, will help accomplish the mission, regardless of how they look – and that will help drag the ideal world once step closer to reality.

Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army.” This article originally appeared on her website.

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Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Mrs. Hyun Crites, wife of Chief Master Sgt. James Crites, 9th Operations Group superintendent (right), is presented the Military Spouse Medal during her husband’s retirement ceremony. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings


Military retirement often marks the end of a long road.

As a military spouse, you’ve put in months of waiting on your service member to come home from long trainings or deployment, all while holding down your home and taking care of your family. You’ve battled career challenges for yourself, planning disasters, cross-country moves and everything Murphy’s Law could throw at you.

But other than the long-sought break from the challenges of military life, what’s in military retirement for you? Although your service member is who put on the uniform every day, military retirement isn’t without perks for military spouses or ways that you can still benefit from the community.

And while all of the benefits available to you are by virtue of your spouse’s service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of them.

Military spouse retirement benefits

Health and dental care. After military retirement, you are eligible to continue using Tricare, the military’s health care system. If you are near a base, you may even still be able to be seen in the military treatment facility or hospital if that is your wish. You can also sign-up for a dental plan for military retirees.

Commissary and shopping privileges. Now that you’re not a part of the active-duty military anymore, you might find that your living expenses go up. But as the spouse of a military retiree, you still have access to the military commissary and exchange systems. Although just how much you save at those stores over civilian markets is an often-debated topic, everyone agrees there is some benefit to shopping at them.

Military lodging and recreation. As a military retiree, you still have access to the military lodging and recreation systems. Although there are some rules restricting who can stay in military lodges overseas, most allow military retirees. Maybe now is the time to take that girls’ or guys’ vacation you’ve been dreaming about for the last 10 years.

GI Bill and education benefits. If your service member transferred the Post-9/11 GI Bill to you while he or she was still on active duty, you can use it to go back to school. Through it, you will receive a monthly housing allowance, an annual books stipend and, depending on where you are going to school, all of your tuition costs and fees covered. The GI Bill must be transferred while the service member is on active duty for this to be available.

If you don’t have the GI Bill and your service member has died, you might be eligible for Survivor and Dependents Educational Assistance.

Survivor Benefit Plan. If your service member chooses to set up the Survivor Benefit Plan, an insurance policy, at the time of his retirement, you will have access to that money after he or she dies. That plan can be complicated and confusing, so go here for the full explanation.

VA benefits after your service member’s death. Although a service member’s pension checks end with his or her death, you may have access to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and the Veteran’s Death Pension.

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WWII vet founded this university to help fellow vets take advantage of GI Bill

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season


This article is presented in partnership with Grantham University.

In the wake of WWII, the Greatest Generation returned to American soil eager to build families, careers, and businesses worthy of the values they so valiantly defended. To aid their efforts, President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act in 1944 — commonly known as the GI bill — to give newly transitioned vets the educational standing they needed to productively contribute to society. And the program worked in a big way. Vets who paid for college using the GI Bill went on to high-impact and rewarding careers as politicians, business leaders, actors, writers, and sports stars.

Among the newly minted heroes returning from the war was Donald Grantham, an engineer and radio operator who sought to help his fellow servicemen transition to rewarding civilian careers. He began offering Federal Communications Commission (FCC) License certification courses to other World War II veterans, helping them secure employment in the emergent film, television, and radio industries. He eventually founded the Grantham Radio License School in Los Angeles, California and opened additional campuses in Seattle, Washington; Washington D.C.; and Kansas City, Missouri through the 1950’s and 60’s. Grantham School of Electronics — as it came to be called — was officially accredited by the U.S. Department of Education in 1961, and has continued to grow ever since. Helping veterans take full advantage of education benefits remained a central focus through Grantham’s evolution.

Today, the GI Bill is stronger than it’s ever been. The post-9/11 GI Bill was introduced to great fanfare in 2009, providing the most comprehensive military benefit since the original GI Bill. Similar to its predecessor, Americans of the Next Greatest Generation are reaping the benefits of advanced education as they transition from active duty to civilian life. Meanwhile, other programs like tuition assistance (more commonly called “TA” in military circles) make pursuing the next level of education while on active duty a great idea.

As the GI Bill evolved, so did the schools serving the military. Brick-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.

In the years since its founding, Grantham University has adapted to the changing needs of the military, and has become one of the strongest online colleges for military service members. That spirit of adaptability, combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible.

Grantham walks the walk for military students in a number of ways:  The university offers reduced tuition for the military.  A convenient weekly enrollment cycle ensures students don’t get stuck with undoable semester start dates and schedules. Plus, terms last only eight weeks (56 days) each. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. And Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience

They’ve even designed course-loads with deployment in mind. Their 100 percent online courses are flexible enough to work around deployment schedules, or students may take advantage of the University’s Military Deployment Policy and put programs on hold until they return.

“If I can finish my degree with a hectic travel schedule, family responsibilities, hurricane seasons, and while preparing for retirement, anyone can do it,” says John M. Harris, who retired as a chief master sergeant after serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard for 26 years. “When I tell airmen and soldiers to take full advantage of their educational benefits, now I can lead by example and show them that it can be done.” Chief Harris completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Grantham and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration in Project Management.

During his 19 years of performing his duties as a submariner, Lieutenant (junior grade) Christopher A. Martin has managed to earn four degrees from Grantham: an Associate degree in Electronic Engineering Technology, an Associate Degree in Business Administration, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and most recently, his Master of Science degree in Information Management – Project Management.

“I enrolled at Grantham University with career advancement in mind,” Martin says. “During my walk with Grantham, I’ve advanced six pay grades, four of which have occurred in the last five years. But, career advancement is not all that I’ve gained from Grantham. I found myself applying the fundamentals learned in my courses to my everyday work environment. This is solely because the courses at Grantham are challenging and relevant.”

Grantham University has been recognized as a “Top Military-Friendly University” for the past six years (Military Advanced Education, 2008-2013; GI Jobs, 2010-2013); and a “Top University for Veterans” (Military Times EDGE, 2011-2013). Grantham is also a member of the National Association of Institutes for Military Education Services (NAIMES) and affiliated with the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).

Learn more today about why Grantham University is the university of choice for military members across the globe. Contact an admissions representative today at 1-888-Y-GRANTHAM or by email at admissions@grantham.edu to explore how Grantham can help make education more affordable for you.

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‘Hunter Troop’ is Norway’s all-female special operations unit

Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.


“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Graduates of the course are expected to conduct special reconnaissance missions and are trained on parachute operations, weapons, survival, and patrol skills, according to the Norwegian military’s recruitment page for the unit.

Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season
Photo: Norwegian Armed Forces

Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.

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This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season


Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).

In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.

There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G.  He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.

The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again.  Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.

4 things to know when your milspouse is deployed during tax season

My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.

I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me.  In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.

“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said.  “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”

The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted.  The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.

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And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment.  According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.

The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.

I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.

My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.

Now: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

And: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

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This is what some of your fave sci-fi fighters would look like assigned to the US military

Think of the most famous starfighters of film and TV. You know them — The X-wing, the Y-wing, the VF-1 Valkyrie, the Colonial Viper, the F-302 — pop culture has gifted us with many famous planes we fly in our dreams… or on our personal computers and game consoles.


But if they existed for real, which squadrons would they be assigned to?

Here’s what We Are The Mighty is thinking:

Valkyrie from Robotech

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Suggested Markings: VF-84 “Jolly Rogers”

The cartoon Robotech gave us this variable-configuration multi-role aerospace fighter in its first season, which was based on the Japanese anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross. With the jet mode looking like an F-14 and the famous “Skull One,” the markings from VF-84, the “Jolly Rogers,” are really the only call you can make.

Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica (Either Series)

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Suggested Markings: VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers”

The Colonial Viper was an icon of whichever iteration of Battlestar Galactica you watched, whether it’s the classic one with Lorne Greene as Commander Adama and Dirk Benedict as the Starbuck, or whether it’s the new version with Edward James Olmos as Adama and Katie Sackoff as Starbuck. A number of squadrons have adopted nicknames based on snakes, but Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-323’s “Death Rattlers” seem particularly appropriate. The Vipers dominated their opponents when not caught by surprise or disabled by a cyber-attack – dealing death out far more than they received it.

Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica (Either Series)

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Suggested Markings: VFA-127 “Cylons”

Yes, this is an adversary unit. But there is no other squadron arsenal appropriate for the front-line fighter used by the villains of either version Battlestar Galactica.

Incom X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars

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Suggested Markings: VF-194 “Red Lightning”

“Red Five standing by.” Luke Skywalker’s call in the first Star Wars movie makes this designation a good one. Coincidentally, one of the planes flown by Navy Fighter Squadron-194, the F-8 Crusader, featured four 20mm cannon – while the X-wing has four lasers that proved to be capable of destroying TIE fighters easily.

Koensayr BTL Y-wing from Star Wars

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Suggested Markings: VA-128 “Golden Intruders”

Best known as the fighters flown by the ill-fated Gold Squadron in the first Star Wars movie, the Y-wing was intended as an attack plane – and in the first movie, the Y-wings were torn to bits by Darth Vader’s TIE fighters (with only one surviving the Battle of Yavin). So, Attack Squadron-128, which flew the A-6 Intruder, seems to be appropriate markings for this space fighter.

Gou’ald Death Glider from Stargate SG-1

sci-fi-fighters-gouald-death-glider-from-stargate-sg-1

Suggested Markings: 160th Fighter Squadron “Snakes”

This is another case where an easy call comes in. Gou’ald were called “snakes” by the heroes of Stargate SG-1. So, the 160th Fighter Squadron, Alabama Air National Guard — also called the “Snakes” — is really the only fitting mockup for this fighter.

Starfury from Babylon 5

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Suggested Markings: 1st Fighter Squadron “Fighting Furies”

This was a space-superiority fighter designed to take on other fighters. The 1st Fighter Squadron flew the F-15C Eagle, the definitive “not a pound air-to-ground” fighter in Air Force service. Appropriately, the 1st Fighter Squadron was called the “Fighting Furies.”

Thunderfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

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Suggested Markings: 336th Fighter Squadron “Rocketeers”

At the start of the 1980s series Buck Rogers, the title character went into space on a rocket before things went south and he had 500 years in a deep freeze. Using the livery of the 336th Fighter Squadron makes a lot of sense, particularly since the F-15E is also a multi-role fighter that can be a capable dogfighter.

PWF-12 Peregrine Fighter from Deep Space Nine

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Suggested Markings: VF-96 “Fighting Falcons”

This fighter is another multi-role vessel, which could handle opposing fighters like the Romulan Scorpion or take on capital ships with proton torpedoes. With a decent war load, and a two-man crew, it seems reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom. Fighter Squadron-96 saw several tours during Vietnam, and was notable for producing the only Navy ace of that conflict. Their nickname also fits with this Starfleet fighter.

Sienar Fleet Systems TIE Advanced x1 from Star Wars

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Suggested Markings: VMF(AW)-114 “Death Dealers”

Darth Vader dealt death in this fighter in the first Star Wars movie, scoring six kills and becoming an ace in a day for the bad guys. This fighter was arguably able to take on the snub fighters of the Rebel Alliance in a one-on-one fight. This would make it a “Death Dealer” to any overconfident Rebel pilot.

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Brimstone could bring a big bang for the United States

The AGM-114 Hellfire has gotten lots of press. Deservedly so, given how it has made a number of prominent terrorists good terrorists. Here’s the Hellfire’s tale of the tape: it weighs 110 pounds, has a 20-pound warhead, and a range of 4.85 nautical miles.


But as good as the Hellfire is, there may be a better missile — and the Brits have it. The missile is called Brimstone, and at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, MBDA was displaying mock-ups on its triple mounts.

The baseline Brimstone has over 100 percent more range (over ten nautical miles, according to the RAF’s web page) than the Hellfire. The longer range is a huge benefit for the aircraft on close-air support missions, outranging many man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even some modern short-range systems like the SA-15.

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Three missiles, three small boats — this is a mock-up of a typical triple-mount of the Brimstone missile on display at SeaAirSpace 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The Royal Air Force currently uses the Brimstone on the Tornado GR.4 aircraft and also used it on the Harrier GR.9 prior to the jump jet’s retirement. The RAF will introduce it on the Typhoon multi-role fighters and the Reaper drone currently in the inventory. According to a MDBA handout available at SeaAirSpace 2017, Brimstone made its bones over Afghanistan and Libya.

But at SeaAirSpace 2017, MDBA was showing signs of wanting to put the Brimstone on more aircraft. At their booth was a model of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with four three-round mounts for the Brimstone. Such a pairing could be very devastating to Iranian small boat swarms that have been known to harass United States Navy vessels on multiple occasions or hordes of Russian tanks that could threaten the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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A Tornado GR4 training for deployment to Afghanistan. Among its weapons load is a Brimstone missile on the lower left portion of the fuselage. (British Ministry of Defense photo)

British weapons have been imported by the United States military — with the Harrier being the most notable, as well as some of the classic British planes of World War II. The Brimstone missile could very well become the next big import, with a Brimstone delivering what a 2013 FlightGlobal.com report described as at least triple the range reaching an initial operating capability in 2016, according to Janes.com.

In other words, Brimstone could very well come to a Super Hornet — or Falcon, Reaper, or Strike Eagle soon!

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Russian fighter in ‘near miss’ with US aircraft over Syria

On the first day of the Mosul offensive in Iraq, a Russian fighter came close to colliding with a U.S. warplane in a “near miss” over northeastern Syria, U.S. military officials said Friday.


Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, told NBC News that the nighttime incident Oct. 17 was a “near miss” but said he tended to believe the Russians’ explanation that their pilot simply did not see the U.S. aircraft in the dark.

Also read: NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

However, Harrigian said similar close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria have increased in the past six weeks amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria’s civil war and now occur about every 10 days.

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Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft flying over USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea on April 12, 2016. | U.S. Navy photo

In a later statement on the incident, Air Force Central Command said that the Russian fighter was escorting a Russian surveillance aircraft and inadvertently flew across the nose of the U.S. aircraft.

The close call was the result of a “mistake” by the Russians and the U.S. believed that it was “fully unintentional,” the statement said.

“The Russians cooperated by looking into the incident, calling back, and explaining themselves and their pilots actions as an error,” it said.

In a separate briefing to the Pentagon, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Russian fighter came within a half-mile of the U.S. aircraft, but “we don’t believe there was any nefarious intent” on the part of the Russians.

Dorrian did not name the types of aircraft involved, saying only that the Russian aircraft was a fighter and the U.S. plane was a “larger aircraft.” He said the Russian fighter “passed close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” but “no one declared an in-flight emergency or anything of that nature.”

Immediately after the incident, the Russians were contacted over the “deconfliction” hotline set up by the Russian and U.S. militaries to avoid close calls by aircraft on missions in the region.

Harrigian, speaking from a U.S. base in the Mideast, said that, in some cases, U.S. and Russian aircraft flying in close proximity are “not a big deal,” but added, “I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention.”

“We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned,” Harrigian said. “They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”

When asked why the Oct. 17 incident wasn’t disclosed until Oct. 28, Dorrian said, “There wasn’t anybody playing ‘I’ve got a secret.’ ”

He said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the task force commander, was immediately informed of the close call but did not feel that it merited being disclosed as a “breaking news event.”

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Navy veteran finds new purpose in an unlikely venture: Socks

Retired Navy Lt. Commander Anthony Cosby knows all about chasing purpose. He just never expected to find it in socks. 

Growing up in rural Alabama, Cosby’s first job was working the cotton fields for a family that was enslaved just a few generations before he was born. He did it every summer for five years before enlisting.

“I always say that the hardest day in the Navy was never as hard as one day working in those fields,” he said with a laugh. “I started as a Seaman Enlisted Recruit back in 1990. But I had an urge to do more even coming in at 17 years old.”

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For Cosby, joining the Navy was a way to see the world. “It took me to Charleston and eventually to an opportunity to earn my officer’s commission,” he said. 

After leaving the Naval Academy, Cosby was stationed in Texas as a recruiter. It was a unique challenge for the self-described introvert.

“I needed to do something to put me out there and force me to take down any walls I had,” Cosby explained. “Recruiting was an opportunity where I thought I could help change lives because I knew what the Navy had done for that 17-year-old kid from Alabama.”

He became one of the top Navy recruiters in the nation. 

It wasn’t all good for Cosby, though. A swimming accident caused him to break his neck in eight places. Miraculously, he wasn’t paralyzed and survived. “I was laid up in bed for five months to heal up. It was a big time of reflection for me. It was when I knew there was a bigger picture and bigger calling than what I was doing outside of the Navy,” he said.  

Cosby retired from the Navy after 21 years of service in 2012, not long after getting married and having a little girl.

“For us it was like life starting all over again in our 40s. It was really cool,” he said. 

But with the good came some surprising challenges. Cosby said his transition was much harder than he had anticipated or was prepared for. Eventually, he was led into roles mentoring student veterans which he enjoyed, and thrived.

After attending his first VET Edge event and spending five minutes with Matthew Griffin, who founded Combat Flip Flops while deployed to Afghanistan, Cosby was motivated to make a change and do something new. “Entrepreneurship is so rewarding and just really fills your heart. I think that’s why I fell in love with it. It has so much that can be offered,” he shared. 

While maintaining his role at Syracuse University within the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Cosby eventually co-founded STZY. “It doesn’t stand for anything but really means you have elegance with your style and with your fitness,” he said with a smile. The company was focused on one product: socks. 

The reasoning, Cosby said, was to simplify things and go all in on one thing he believed in. With a passion for fitness, socks made sense. The goal was to create a high quality product geared toward athletes. “We came up with STZY and it took about eight months to get it ready to go to market and we launched on March 21, 2021,” he said. 

STZY sold out of the product within months of launching.

The company is now a certified pending B Corporation and remains committed to giving back. Each month the team chooses a new school or student athlete to sponsor. 

When he looks back on his early years and Navy service it’s now hard to fathom how far he’s come. “The family that I worked with in Alabama was a Black family and have owned those cotton fields since 1856,” Cosby explained. 

The original owner had purchased it all from his former slave owner and father. Now five generations strong, it’s his hope to bring everything full circle and use cotton from those Alabama fields for STZY socks. 

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Anthony Cosby and Kyle Bridgeforth (Partner at Bridgeforth and Sons)

His advice for the veteran or military spouse thinking about starting a business is simple: do it with passion and then pay it forward, too. 

“Don’t be afraid to go chase something that’s five years away but the work you are putting in now is going to help you obtain that dream or goal. It’s okay. You can’t make Admiral overnight but as an entrepreneur you can become a CEO overnight,” Cosby said. “Always go back and help someone else — that’s how we are going to build thriving entrepreneurship opportunities as veterans and military family members.”

To learn more about STZY, click here.

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These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

Arlington National Cemetery averages upwards of 30 funerals per day.

Present at every one of those is a woman escorted by a member of the service honor guard who bows to the grieving, hands them two notes, and is escorted away.

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The notes include an official one from the service Chief of Staff and his wife – and a handwritten note from the woman herself.

She is what’s known as an “Arlington Lady,” officially representing the Chief of Staff and dedicated to the families of those who served. She’s not there to grieve, but to honor the fallen.

Since 1948, these ladies have attended every military funeral at Arlington to ensure that “no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman is buried alone.”


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Army Arlington Lady Anne Lennox and her Old Guard escort salute as Taps is played and Brig. Gen. Henry G. Watson, the “father of the Fife and Drum Corps,” is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, May 14, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)

After World War II, Air Force Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg would attend Arlington funeral services with his wife. The general noticed that many of the funerals were attended only by a chaplain. According to Arlington’s website, the Vandenbergs formed a group to ensure a member of the Air Force was present at every airman’s funeral.

Slowly, the other branches caught on, creating their own groups. Army Gen. Creighton Adams’ wife Julia started the Army’s in 1973. The Navy started in 1985 and the Coast Guard in 2006.

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The Marines have always sent an official representative of the Marine Commandant to every funeral of a Marine or retired Marine.

“It doesn’t matter whether we are burying a four-star general or a private,” Margaret Mensch, head of the Army ladies, told NBC News. “They all deserve to have someone say thank you at their grave.”

 

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Mensch is married to a retired Army colonel. Many of the Arlington Ladies she organizes are also the spouses of veterans and soldiers.

Some of her ladies joined the Arlington Ladies after being visited by one, because they know first hand the crucial the role these women played when their own husbands died.

Joyce Johnson joined the Army Arlington Ladies in 2004. She lost her husband, Lt. Col. Dennis Johnson in the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

“It was a way I felt I could honor my husband,” she told Soldiers Magazine. “I just wanted to help make someone else’s life better so I asked to join the Arlington Ladies. … It’s really an honor to be able to do this.”

Originally published June 4, 2020.

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