5 things I wish I knew before deployment - We Are The Mighty
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5 things I wish I knew before deployment

My wife and I were watching TV and I received a phone call saying I will be going on a deployment, details will be given at a later date. Instantly, I thought, “finally, it’s here! Now it’s my turn!” What I didn’t think about was all the preparation to leave. I, like other many young soldiers, was in a naïve mindset where I believed the Army would handle everything down to the last piece of paper I have to touch.


I was very wrong. I had so many questions rise, and that went unanswered, that at times I felt more worried about the couple months before deploying than I did about the deployment itself.

I Googled long and hard to find some information that would help me out. To my surprise there wasn’t a lot online that was helping. Most of the time when I searched “pre-deployment help” I got information for spouses of a soldier who was deploying. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it didn’t help me any.

Also read: 6 military-life problems that don’t go away when you get out

I eventually got my answers whether through calling around to friends, from my leadership, or figuring it out on the fly. So, now I would like to put this information out, in a very simple format, to where any other young soldier who is in the same boat I was, can get his/her mindset and ready for their mission.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis

1. Gear/Pack

Obviously, a huge focus point will be your gear. Are you getting new issued gear? Using what you have? What exactly do you need? Luckily this should get answered by your leadership, if not, just think about things you use now and what you need. Most of your training taking place in X-Y-Z? You should probably bring that then. Never used the blow up sleeping mat (yeah me neither)? You can probably do without that then.

The big idea I want to hit on for gear those is to pack early and not around your loved ones. It will make it harder for you as you’re packing for your big trip and see your wife/husband/kids watching you with a sad look on their face. Plus, if they are out of your way it’ll make it easier to spread your inventory out and visually see what you have and don’t have.

Packing early will make you feel at ease as you’re spending time with family and friends. You don’t want to be at dinner with your wife and the only thought in your head is about packing. It also gives you time to think about what you packed and double check it. If you have that, “I think I forgot something” feeling in your stomach, then you probably did. If you get that feeling early enough, you’ll remember what you forgot early enough too.

Pack early, and save yourself the headache.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

2. Get your finances/documents together

Again, your leadership will most likely help with this, especially the paperwork side, but there’s a few things I didn’t hear about or fully get to finishing before I left that I wish I had.

First, look into all your payments. Most companies will lower, or I’ve even heard completely get rid of, interest fees for a deployed servicemember. This I didn’t hear about until I had already got to where I was going, so there wasn’t much I could do from there. Ask around and do some research see if you can save some extra money while you’re raking in the deployment money.

Next, set up automatic payments, too. I set that up last minute which wasn’t a smart idea because I didn’t have any test run months. My first month of being gone from home I realized I hadn’t set up one payment, and another I didn’t finish successfully but never read the notice telling me that. I ended up scrambling to get onto a crappy wifi connection and fixing it, but if it wasn’t for the wifi I would’ve had some extra headaches that weren’t needed.

3. Get your quality time in

This was preached to me a lot, and luckily, I listened. I’m listing this not because I didn’t know, but because it was definitely helpful and I’m glad I listened. Even if it’s just a friend or a few friends, take some time to sit down and relax with them. You will thank yourself for it.

If you’re active duty, take whatever extra leave you can. Get home see you family, friends, and simply catch up. If you’re reserve, make your last day at your civilian work a couple weeks before you head out. If you have kids, take a night or two where you can sit down on a nice date and be romantic.

Related: How to stay connected with your kids, from deployments to business trips

Also, take some time to yourself. Be alone with your thoughts for a bit, think them out. Personally, I got so caught up in my training, visiting friends/family, and other pre-deployment activities I never actually thought fully through how I felt. It didn’t hit me until I was on the plane what was going on, and that wasn’t a good time for that to sink in. This leads me to my next point…

4. Accept what is coming

This is a really deep one that takes some reflection and personal time to sort out in your head. Realize you’re about to be gone from home for a while, and things are going to be different while you’re at your designation and when you get home. You won’t be in the loop and in all the inside jokes, and you for sure will be missing out on something. From a birthday for a child or something as simple as your friends going out and having great nights. Just do your best to stay in touch and up-to-date so you don’t feel as out of touch.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

The big one: you might make the ultimate sacrifice. Yeah, dying. For some, they don’t even worry about it, others it keeps them up at night. You don’t know what could happen, and you sure as hell have read/seen all the horror stories from those before you. The way I thought through it to help ease my mind was very strange, but very helpful, and I thank a good friend for this thought process.

“If, and IF, you die. You won’t even know it. Yeah it sucks, but you won’t feel it, you won’t be sad or mad, you’ll just be gone. As shitty as that is to think about, it’s the truth. And at least you died fighting and serving.”

So, if you worry all day about dying, and at the end of deployment you come home fine, then you wasted all that time and energy worrying about something that didn’t even happen, and if you do die, you won’t even know! I know, this sounds very straight to the point and too simple, but really this helps people out.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
DoD photo

5. Missing home

 This I came to learn from my time on deployment. At first the thought of being away from my wife, and home, would really hit me hard. Someone I spent every day with is now suddenly gone from me for over nine months. How do I do this? Then, I came across a weird realization.The time zone switch, and me being busy, was enough that it was too hard to talk that I ended up not talking a lot, and it felt better that way. Some troops can pull off calling home multiple times a day, and I don’t know how they do that. Besides scheduling it and finding the time, the more you call back home the more you’ll be reminded of what you’re missing.

Some soldiers that have deployed before will specifically tell you not to call every day to help your emotions and thoughts. Just remember to let your significant other, or whoever, know that you might not talk every day, and if you miss a day to not start worrying immediately. There’s so many variable that go into when you can get in contact don’t even fully plan on conversations happening.

Also, end your conversations on the most positive note you can. If you argued any, resolve it before you hang up, don’t let that simmer. This will just eat at your emotions, and you’re already all the way in another country, you don’t need the extra emotions.

That’s all I have for now. I hope this reaches someone who was in the same spot I was, and I really hope it helps answer some questions, and set some minds at ease.

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17 brilliant insights from legendary Marine general James Mattis

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a legend in the military. Revered by Marines and non-Marines alike, Mattis has taken on the persona of a modern-day Patton — having the knowledge and insight to lead his Marines through combat, while standing behind them and taking the heat if things go bad. In short, Mattis is a hell of a leader.


In 2013 while serving as commander of Central Command in Tampa, Fla., Mattis retired after four decades of service. Since then, he’s been teaching at Stanford and Dartmouth, as well as speaking across the country on leadership. He’s also working on a book with author Bing West.

We looked back at some of the best insights he offered, through a great collection of quotes. Most apply strictly to military service, but some can be just as useful in the corporate boardroom.

“You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

The “dream world” Mattis is talking about is one of denial and complacency — a mood in combat that can get you killed. And in corporate America, it can get you wiped out by the competition.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.”

Mattis, who co-wrote the manual for Counterinsurgency with Gen. David Petraeus, knows well that troops cannot win over the population to their side if they are killing the wrong people. His advice here to soldiers and Marines is spot on.

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

Of course he can spell it but that’s not the point. Mattis wants to impress upon his troops that failure should not be an option.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Before his Marines deployed to Iraq in 2003, he told them this (along with many other great pieces of advice in a now-famous letter). His point here is to be a professional warfighter who can be polite with civilians, but always remember that if things go south, the dirty work needs to get done.

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some sh–heads in the world that just need to be shot. There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.”

Recalling the mentality of the wolf, the sheep, and the sheepdog, Mattis understands that there is evil in the world. It’s important for his men to be prepared for whether they will be the hunter or the victim if they ever face it.

“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business.”

One of his more controversial quotes, to be sure. But in Mattis’ view, to be a professional, you need to have a professional mindset. It’s not really necessary to get emotional about what you have to do. It just needs to get done.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“You can overcome wrong technology. Your people have the initiative, they see the problem, no big deal … you can’t overcome bad culture. You’ve gotta change whoever is in charge.”

In a talk at Stanford, Mattis was relating how toxic culture can bring down an organization that has everything else right. The culture of an organization comes from the top, and if that part is screwed up, there are going to be problems.

“The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Mattis doesn’t want robots just mindlessly following his orders. As a leader, he gives broad guidance and lets his men use their own brains to decide how it gets accomplished.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

Amen.

“In this age, I don’t care how tactically or operationally brilliant you are, if you cannot create harmony — even vicious harmony — on the battlefield based on trust across service lines, across coalition and national lines, and across civilian/military lines, you need to go home, because your leadership is obsolete. We have got to have officers who can create harmony across all those lines.”

Mattis implores his officers to not get stuck in their own little boxes. Learning how to be brilliant on the battlefield is important, but it’s more important to be able to work with others to get the job done.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”

Military officers endure (and have to create) tons of PowerPoint briefings to inform their chain of command what’s going on. Mattis however, is not one of those officers. He actually banned PowerPoint since he saw it as a waste of time.

“You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

Mattis wants his Marines to always be thinking before they take the shot. It’s advice that has no doubt saved lives.

“An untrained or uneducated Marine … deployed to the combat zone is a bigger threat to mission accomplishment … than the enemy.”

The biggest detriment to mission accomplishment is not from the competition, but from within. Having the right mindset and skills is what results in getting results.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

Combat doesn’t happen in a vacuum. All the planning, meetings, and briefings on what potentially can happen in a given situation are good, but the bad guys will always react in uncertain ways. The key is to be prepared for anything.

“Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.”

Just because you are at the top of your game doesn’t mean someone won’t come along to knock you down. Units (and individuals) need to be vigilant and make sure that doesn’t happen.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

“Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.”

Mattis is an avid reader. On all his deployments, the general brought along a ton of books that he thought may help him along the way. In an email that went viral (via Business Insider) on the importance of reading, Mattis wrote that it “doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

“You’ve been told that you’re broken. That you’re damaged goods … there is also Post-Traumatic Growth. You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are.”

While giving a speech to veterans in San Francisco, Mattis tried to dispel the mindset that those leaving the service should be pitied. Instead, he told them, use your experiences as a positive that teaches you to be a better person.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

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Break out the rulers because the Marine Corps’ new tattoo policy is here

After some consultation between senior leaders and their ink’d subordinates, the Marine Corps has just hit the company street and deckplates with a new tattoo policy.


“The Commandant and I have been talking with Marines throughout the Corps during our visits and we’ve taken their questions and comments to heart because it continues to be important to Marines,” said Sgt. Major Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  “The Commandant said it best in the Marine Corps Bulletin in that we’ve attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession.  I think we have accomplished just that with MCBUL 1020.  We took the time we felt this policy deserved, we wanted to make sure we got it right.”

Here’s a graphic that highlights the details of the new reg:

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
(Graphic: USMC)

Note that officers are limited to no more than four tats visible in the PT uniform. (And just when Justin Bieber was thinking of heading to OCS.) Also, the width of a single tattoo standard is defined by the width of an individual’s hand, which — according to campaign rhetoric — means that if Donald Trump was a Marine he’d have relatively small tattoos.

The regulation reinforces the overall intent that “any tattoo, regardless of where it is cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive and is of nature to bring discredit to the Marine Corps or damage the nation’s expectations of them.” No ruling on where “Nickleback” logos fit within those guidelines.

“There is a reason why Marine Corps Recruiting has remained so successful throughout the years, when you ask Marines why they chose the Corps, most will tell you because they wanted to be different,” Green said. (Really . . .)

And nothing says “different” these days than some killer ink. Tribal armband, anyone? Just keep it under three inches wide, Devil Dog.

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Enlisted pilots will fly for the first time since World War II

5 things I wish I knew before deployment


Enlisted pilots have not been in the Air Force since its inception in 1947. They were not paid well,  they did not have many opportunities for promotion, and were treated “harshly” in training. Even the title of the book about enlisted pilot heritage is called They Also Flew. 

The lack of commissioned officers to handle global aircraft transport and other monotonous work led to three generations of enlisted pilots. Non-commissioned officers were usually certified to fly in the civilian world, but not qualified to be commanders.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Are you the valet? Don’t scratch my plane, Sergeant. (Air Force Museum photo)

In the grand military tradition of throwing enlisted bodies at work no officer wants to do, the Air Force will bring back the tradition of the enlisted pilot to help augment their drone pilot numbers.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
And ask any Security Forces troop how well augmentees work out. (U.S. Air Force photo)

After “months of study,” the Air Force is working to fix the issues of its drone operations programs. Drones have become the signature tool in the Global War on Terror in recent years, operating in intelligence, counter-terrorism, and surveillance roles. Drone pilots complain they are overworked and stressed out while Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says Air Force commanders demand more and more drone operations.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
The  RQ-4 Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)

Now enlisted personnel will be allowed to pilot the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone and may eventually be permitted to operate the missile-firing MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. The Air Force says the initial step of opening the Global Hawk is because it is easier to operate.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
See the Air Force enlisted corps as Deborah Lee James must see them.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh ordered Air Combat Command to initiate a six-month implementation plan for the new pilots.

In days gone by, enlisted pilots usually were assigned to fly light reconnaissance and artillery-spotter aircraft, cargo aircraft, and medium- and heavy-weight bombers. In 1942, Congress passed the Flight Officer Act, which replaced flying sergeants with Warrant Officers, which were also discarded by the Air Force. In 1943, all enlisted flyers were promoted to the new “Flight Officer” rank. The enlisted legacy is a long and storied one. Enlisted pilots taught Charles Lindbergh to fly. One of the last members of the enlisted pilot training program was Gen. Chuck Yeager, who would become famous for breaking the sound barrier later in his career.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Did you hear that, Secretary James? No? Maybe it’s because I got here faster than sound. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drone pilots already complain that they are held in lower regard than traditional fighter pilots and that allowing enlisted airmen in will only increase the stigma.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Yeah, because who wants to be lumped in with Enlisted Airmen? (pictured: Air Force Cross recipient Zachary Rhyner- U.S. Air Force photo)

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‘Intense’ US bombing in Mosul meant strike every 8 minutes

During the opening three days of the Mosul offensive, U.S.-led airstrikes rattled the city at a rate of one bomb every eight minutes, an official said.


The sheer volume of strikes sets the operation apart from others in the ongoing campaign against militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center.

Also read: Navy Super Hornets hit targets hard as Mosul offensive heats up

“It’s a pretty intense bombing campaign if you think about each of these bombs are precision-guided weapons … so it’s a really high rate to be concentrated over one city over a prolonged period of time,” Manning told Military.com in a telephone interview Friday.

Since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Oct. 16 declaration of the beginning of the assault to recapture Mosul, whose population has dwindled to about 665,000 residents, the air coalition conducted more than 191 strikes through Nov. 1, employing over 1,352 weapons for operations, according to Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Did you bring enough for the rest of the class?

From the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, Dougherty said the coalition has struck Mosul with 1,239 targets, dropping 5,941 bombs.

“You tend to employ more weapons when the weather is better, and when you’re partner forces are on the move because when they’re on the move, they’re finding the enemy, forcing the enemy to reveal themselves, and we’re there to strike them,” Manning said.

“We can certainly employ weapons in all weather — we have sensors that can look through the weather — but [a storm] usually slows down an operation of this size,” he added.

Mosul has been a months-in-the-making operation, Manning said. And planning out the airspace for Air Force and coalition aircraft has been essential to “work the stack” of aircraft operating in a vast city but tight airspace.

Aircraft from drones to fighters to bombers “are given different altitude restrictions, from low to very high where you’re assigned a certain block of altitude at the flight of two aircraft, and you maintain that block knowing that there are aircraft below and above you,” Manning said.

The same goes laterally. If there is an artillery strike from below that has the ability to fire high enough where “it can reach aircraft, you have to stay East or West of a certain line,” he said.

A coveted aircraft during the operation has been the B-52 long-range bomber. The Stratofortresses have the ability to stay airborne for a longer duration, have capable sensors to identify targets, and carry a wide-variety of bombs “attacking everything from vehicles to large-site targets.”

“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead,” Manning said. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”

In April, several B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to join the American-led campaign in place of the B-1B Lancer. The aircraft stepped up lucrative targeting throughout May and June, more than doubling their strikes against weapons caches, then-AFCENT spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Karns told Air Force Times in June.

The tactics ISIS have been using to try and thwart the coalition in Mosul aren’t revolutionary but they’ve complicated the dynamic throughout the city, Manning said. The group has burned oil trenches to throw off intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft; set off vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices; attempted hostage takeovers; and used snipers to kill coalition forces.

That’s why ISR aircraft — most heavily used throughout the Middle East theater — are a must-have to predict ISIS’ next move while detecting the location of civilians.

In May, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, now the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, noted the use of ISR almost always translates into a more clean-cut mission.

“I would actually like to have more ISR and really be able to use it,” he said at the time, “Because what it helps me to do is develop targets [and] … strike at the same time as we develop those targets. The more ISR I have, I can minimize the risk to civilian casualties and continue the precision air campaign that we have.”

“It’s also very likely when ISR aircraft go out over Mosul, they will employ one if not all of the weapons that they have,” Manning said.

For example, MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reaper drones account for 15.6 percent of strikes in OIR, ACC spokesman Benjamin Newell told Military.com last month. They also account for 8.6 percent of all Combined Forces Air Component weapons dropped in OIR. “They are involved in nearly every operation in OIR, in one capacity or another,” Newell said.

“This is a very, very difficult way to fight,” Manning said. “And we can’t say when it’s going to be over.”

WATCH: B-52’s are gearing up to drop bombs on ISIS

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This is why Poland wants those Patriot anti-air missiles

Designed to blast aircraft, missiles and even drones out of the skies with deadly precision, the American-made MIM-104 Patriot missile system has been sought after by a number of countries over the last 30 years to defend their sovereign territories from threats in the air.


After expressing interest in the Patriot system for years, and failing to develop a suitably-priced medium/long range air defense missile of its own, Poland will finally get its hands on a group of eight Patriot batteries pending the signing of a deal worth billions of dollars with the United States.

Poland, a former satellite republic under the Soviet Union’s scope of influence, was previously armed almost entirely with Soviet-built hardware, including 1960s-era SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missiles. However, in the years since the fall of the USSR, most of what was once the best Eastern Bloc military technology on the market has become almost entirely obsolete.

With the Eastern European nation formally joining NATO in the 1990s, and with a plethora of aged and below-standard military equipment in the country’s possession, Poland has begun the process of pushing its armed forces through a gradual yet massive overhaul that will see it retain a degree of relevancy against potential aggressors, especially Russia.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
A Patriot missile test launch using the PAC-3 surface-to-air missile (Photo US Army)

At the top of the country’s wishlist is a new advanced missile defense system with the ability to deal with aerial threats in a quick and effective manner. With Russian military activity ramping up near its borders, the recent forceful annexation of the Crimea, and a general distrust for all things Russian anyways, Poland has not so subtly let the U.S. know it wants the air defense umbrella the Patriot can provide.

In 2015, Polish defense officials announced their intent to work with Raytheon, the creator and manufacturer of the Patriot, to buy eight missile batteries with a percentage of the system’s components built in Poland. But the deal, projected at $7 billion at the time, didn’t really materialize until earlier this week during a state visit by President Donald Trump.

That’s when Polish officials confirmed their country’s armed forces would begin receiving the Patriots it wanted for a little under $8 billion.

Currently, 14 countries including the United States operate the Patriot system, with a number of them having actually deployed the missile in combat situations against hostile aircraft, missiles and drones. Poland will be the 15th such country pending the signing of this multi-billion dollar deal.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Marines examine a Patriot battery aboard MCAS Futenma, Japan (Photo US Marine Corps)

The Patriot, originally designed in the early 1980s, received its combat baptism during the Persian Gulf War, engaging and destroying Iraqi Scud missiles with chemical warheads aimed at Israeli cities. In more recent history, the system has seen action in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, and in Saudi Arabia and Israel to ward off missile and drone attacks.

The Patriot achieved its first aircraft kill in 2014 in Israeli service after downing a Syrian Su-24 Fencer which penetrated protected airspace.

Among Poland’s other military modernization aims are the procurement of submarine-launched cruise missiles, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and the construction of a series of watchtowers and observation posts on its border with the Kaliningrad Oblast region to keep an eye on any nearby Russian military activity.

Additionally, the country has discussed buying more F-16 Fighting Falcons and possibly brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters for its air force.

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How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

What would happen if the U.S. found itself facing off against the rest of the world? Not just its traditional rivals, but what if it had to fight off its allies like the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea as well?


5 things I wish I knew before deployment
The British are coming! The British are coming! Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach

In short, America would stomp them. Especially if it pulled back to the continental U.S. and made its stand there.

First, the U.S. has the world’s largest Navy, by a lot. With ships displacing 3,415,893 tons, the mass of the U.S. Navy is larger than the next 8 largest navies combined. And the American ships, as a whole, are more technologically advanced than those of other countries. For instance, only America and France field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. France has just one while America has 10 with an 11th on the way.*

And that’s before the U.S. Coast Guard gets into the mix. While the Coast Guard isn’t an expeditionary force, it could use its C-130s and other sensor platforms to give the Navy more eyes across the battlespace. It’s counterterrorism operators could protect government leaders and secure American ports.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
A U.S. Navy carrier sails next to a British raft aircraft carrier. Photo: US Navy Airman Robert Baker

So attacking America across the water is a horrible idea. (Got that North Korea and China?)

Second, America’s air power is the strongest in the world. Currently, it has approximately 14,000 planes and helicopters spread across the five services. That’s more aircraft than the next 7 countries combined.

The world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter, the F-22, would conduct constant air patrols across the land borders of the U.S. to prevent any incursion by enemy bombers. The Army’s Patriot missile launchers would help stop enemy jets or missiles and Stinger/Avenger missile crews would shoot down any low-flying planes or helicopters.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich

So the rest of the world’s militaries have to fight their way across a land border with the U.S. while their air support is falling in flames around them.

Guess what happens next?

The Army and Marine Corps’ almost 9,000 tanks would team up with thousands of Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicles, Apache and Cobra helicopters, and anti-tank missile teams carrying Javelins and TOW missiles to annihilate enemy armor.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
A U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle firing a TOW missile. Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

The world’s most advanced tanks, like the Leopard or the Merkava, would be tough nuts to crack. Artillery, aircraft, and anti-tank infantry would have to work together to bring these down. But most tanks worldwide are older U.S. and Soviet tanks like the Patton or the T-72 that would fall quickly to missile teams or Abrams firing from behind cover.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
M1 Abrams can kill most things. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw

The other combat troops trying to make their way through the shattered remains of their air support and the burning hulks that were once their tanks would find themselves facing the most technologically advanced troops in the world.

American soldiers are getting weapon sights that let them pick out enemies obscured by dust and smoke. Their armor and other protective gear are top notch and getting better.

Chances are, even infantry from France, Britain, or Russia would have trouble pushing through the lines in these conditions. But even if they did, the Marines and 101st Airborne Division would be able to swoop in on helicopters and Ospreys while the 82nd Airborne Division could drop thousands of reinforcements from planes to close any openings.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment

And all of this is before America becomes desperate enough to launch any nuclear weapons. If the enemy actually did make it through, they’d face nuclear strikes every time they massed outside of a city. And their forces still trying to reach the border would be easy pickings.

Minuteman III missiles are designed to strike targets far from American shores but they could annihilate an advancing army moving from Houston to Dallas just as easily. Navy Trident missiles could be fired from submarines in the Gulf of Mexico to destroy units waiting for their turn to attack at the border. Northern Mexico and southern Canada would become irradiated zones.

So don’t worry America, you are already behind one hell of an impenetrable wall.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that only America field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, is also nuclear-powered. WATM regrets this error.
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Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

5 things I wish I knew before deployment
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

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The US Army is planning to combine 2 legendary weapons into one

The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.


The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

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Soldiers fire a .50 caliber machine gun at Camp Atterbury, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.

The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.

The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.

 

The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”

The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

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The hot barrel of an M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun. |US Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

New lightweight .50 cal

The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”

“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”

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A US Army soldier with an MK-19 grenade launcher. | Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Parsons

An intimidating combat-tested weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.

The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.

“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”

The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.

The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.

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Veterans eligible for free dental care this Saturday

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Dr. Neil Sung, right, treats local veteran Bob Freese as a Midwestern Dental student observes during the Healthy Mouth Movement free dental care for veterans event at the Aspen Dental office on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Glendale, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri/AP Images for Aspen Dental)


By Dr. Jere Gillan and Bill Rausch

While the military part of a soldier’s life may end, the drive to continue to serve does not. For many veterans, like the both of us, reintegration back into the civilian world was predicated on finding ways to continue to serve our communities through work or volunteerism, or both.

Yet, reintegration can be hard, especially when a veteran is unable to take care of their health – particularly their oral health. The appearance of one’s mouth and teeth can affect a lot of things, including their self-esteem, view on life, and ability to interview for a job. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), one in four adults with poor oral health avoid smiling and feel embarrassed, which can be exacerbated for a veteran since, at times, they feel separated from civilian society.

What’s worse: of the 21 million-plus veterans across the United States today, fewer than 10 million are enrolled in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits, and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether. The disparity is even more pronounced when it comes to dental care since veterans do not receive dental benefits through the VA unless they are classified as 100 percent disabled, have a service-connected dental condition, or have a service-oriented medical condition that is affected by their mouth.

Without these benefits, there are a lot of barriers for veterans, for instance, the cost and lack of insurance to the distance and accessibility of a dentist. The ADA found that only 37 percent of American adults actually visited the dentist within the last year, and veterans are, more often than not, part of the 63 percent who did not. Unfortunately, this lack of dental care can influence a veteran’s employment opportunities, their overall body’s health, and their confidence.

Recognizing the importance of oral health for our nation’s veterans, and to combat the barriers to care, Aspen Dental is partnering with Got Your 6, the military term for “I’ve got your back,” a highly influential campaign that empowers veterans to help strengthen communities nationwide. Together, we are continuing the third annual Healthy Mouth Movement, a community giving initiative launched by Aspen Dental Management, Inc. and the dental practices it supports to deliver free dental care and oral health education to people in need across the United States.

As part of this effort, veterans across the nation will receive free dental care at nearly 400 participating Aspen Dental practices on Saturday, June 25, as part of Aspen’s national Day of Service.  Dentists and teams will volunteer their time and talents that day with the goal of treating 6,000 veterans, focusing on treating the most urgent need of each veteran – including fillings, extractions, and basic denture repair – to help free them of dental pain.

In addition to the efforts of local volunteers on June 25, the Healthy Mouth Movement is also reaching veterans through its MouthMobile, a 42-foot mobile dentist office on wheels that drives directly into the communities where veterans need oral health care the most to provide free care. In its third year, the MouthMobile is stopping at 32 locations in 26 states from February through November.

Through the Healthy Mouth Movement, we have had the pleasure of meeting and hearing the stories from the men and women who have served our country and to get to know the issues they experience in getting health care. It has become an honor to lend a hand and help make a major difference in the lives of so many of our fellow veterans. By getting those veterans in need back on their feet, we are empowering them to pay it forward through their own service to their communities.

Let’s empower our veterans to not only get the care they need but feel like they can still make a difference on and off the battlefield by smiling a little bigger. For more about Aspen’s Day of Service or to schedule a free appointment for a veteran, visit www.healthymouthmovement.com.

Dr. Jere Gillan is an Air Force veteran and Aspen Dental practice owner in Orlando, Fla., and Bill Rausch is an Iraq War veteran and the Executive Director of Got Your 6.

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Japan bombed the US mainland during World War II hoping to start a forest fire

5 things I wish I knew before deployment


Japan conducted a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941 that ultimately brought the United States into World War II.

What most people don’t know is that Japan conducted two surprise attacks on the U.S. mainland less than a year later, with the goal of starting wildfires. Now known as the Lookout Air Raids, beginning on Sep. 9, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Oregon, assembled a seaplane, and pilot Nobuo Fujita took off toward the Oregon forests.

Here’s what happened next, according to the Los Angeles Times:

At 6:24 a.m. Mr. Howard Gardner, a forestry service observer on Mt. Emily reported seeing an unidentified seaplane come from the west, circle and return toward the sea. He described the plane as a single-motored biplane with a single float and small floats on the wing tips. The plane appeared to be small and of slow speed. It had no lights, no distinct color and no insignia was visible. It is possible that a plane of this type might have been carried on a submarine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the best time to start a fire since the area was so damp. While Fujita did successfully drop his bombs and start a small fire, it didn’t turn into the hoped-for wildfires that would take valuable resources away from the war effort.

Three weeks later, Fujita gave it another try with two more bombs, and once again, he was unsuccessful.

In his obituary in 1997, The New York Times wrote:

A quiet, humble man who in his later years was deeply ashamed of his air raids on the United States, Mr. Fujita eventually forged a remarkable bond of friendship with the people of Brookings, the small logging town whose surrounding forests he had bombed. Last week, as he lay dying, the town council of Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ”ambassador of good will” and proclaimed him an ”honorary citizen” of the town.

His mission was unsuccessful but he was hailed as a hero back in Japan. And Fujita did earn his place in history as the pilot flying the only enemy aircraft that has ever bombed the U.S. mainland.

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9 Times Countries Forgot to Un-Declare War

Throughout history, a number of conflicts, due to the quirky nature of international diplomacy, never officially ended.


Of course, these “extended wars” have never actually had any bearing on international relations.

Instead, the ongoing de facto peace overrode any technicalities on the world stage. However, the patching up of these diplomatic irregularities has been used by countries still technically at war to boost their current ties and gain media attention.

We have listed nine such examples of extended wars below.

Greece and Persia

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Greco-Persian Wars, 499 B.C.

De facto peace: 449 B.C.

De jure peace: 1902

In 499 B.C., the Persian Empire attempted to conquer the various city-states of Ancient Greece. Ultimately, the Persian efforts were unsuccessful, and the two civilizations remained at war with some intensity until the Persians called off their invasion attempts in 449 B.C.

However, despite the war having ended centuries ago, Greece and Persia never officially mended their relationship until 1902. At that point, after 2,393 years of conflict, Persia (having not yet renamed itself Iran), appointed its first Greek diplomat.

Rome and Carthage

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Punic Wars, 264 B.C.

De facto peace: 146 B.C.

De jure peace: 1985

The conflict between Rome and Carthage was one of the defining moments of the creation of the Roman Empire. Between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., the two empires fought a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars, which culminated in the Roman conquest of Carthage.

As Rome seized and destroyed Carthage, there was no need for the two countries to formally sign a peace treaty. However, that did not stop the mayors of Rome and Carthage from signing a treaty of symbolic friendship and collaboration in 1985. The sign of goodwill had been consistently floated until that point by both Tunisian and Italian governments.

Isles of Scilly and the Dutch Republic

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: First Anglo-Dutch War, 1651

De facto peace: 1654

De jure peace: 1986

In 1651, the Dutch Republic declared war on the Council of the Isles of Scilly, a small island archipelago under the British crown. The islands were harboring pirates who interfered with Dutch shipping. However, the conflict between the Isles of Scilly and the Dutch Republic quickly was subsumed into the wider First Anglo-Dutch war.

Although the Dutch and British concluded their conflict in 1654, the Council of the Isles of Scilly were technically not included in the peace process. As such, the small islands and the Dutch remained at war until a Dutch ambassador visited the islands and formally concluded a peace settlement in 1986.

Huéscar and Denmark

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Peninsular War, 1809

De facto peace: 1814

De jure peace: 1981

In 1809, as the Napoleonic Wars were raging throughout Europe, the tiny Spanish hamlet of Huéscar declared war on Denmark. Denmark at the time was a staunch ally of the French Empire, and the town was eager to wage war against Napoleon and his allies.

However, the town’s declaration of war was quickly forgotten — even by the town itself. The actual declaration was only rediscovered by chance in in 1981. Following the discovery, the Danish ambassador to Spain formally concluded peace with the town.

Lijar and France

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: 1883

De jure peace: 1983

Like Huéscar, Lijar was another Spanish village that took it upon itself to unilaterally declare war. In 1883, Lijar’s town council declared war on France following ill treatment of the Spanish King Alfonso XII by a French crowd.

Despite the declaration of war, Lijar and France never exchanged blows. And, in 1983, France sent its consul general from the Spanish city of Malaga to Lijar for a formal peace celebration between the would-be combatants.

Andorra and the German Empire

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Wikipedia

Declaration of war: World War I, 1914

De facto peace: 1918

De jure peace: 1958

Following the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the tiny European nation of Andorra was one of the first states to declare war on the German Empire in 1914. This was despite the fact that the nation had no standing army, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Amazingly, despite Andorra’s early declaration of war, it was one of the last states to declare peace. Sidelined at the Treaty of Versailles, which formally concluded World War I, the country did not sign a peace agreement with Germany until 1939, right before the outbreak of World War II.

Costa Rica and the German Empire

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Google

Declaration of war: World War I, 1918

De facto peace: 1918

De jure peace: 1945

Much like Andorra, Costa Rica was also not included in the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

As such, the small nation remained technically at war with Germany throughout both World Wars, with peace only being achieved after Costa Rica was included on the Potsdam Agreement that ended World War II.

Allies of World War II and Germany

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National Archives

Declaration of war: World War II1939

De facto peace: 1945

De jure peace: 1991

In an ultimate display of the difficulties of ending a war, a final peace agreement between Germany and the Allied Powers was not reached until nearly 50 years after the war ended. Following the Nazi surrender and the end of the war in Europe, a formal peace treaty between Germany and the Allies was stalled by the Soviets.

As such, the US passed a resolution in 1951 that acted as a substitute for a peace treaty. This action was emulated by other Allied powers. It was not until German reunification was completed with the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, put into effect on March 15, 1991, that Germany was ultimately able to gain full sovereignty, make alliances without foreign influence, and World War II ended with a formal peace treaty.

Principality of Montenegro and the Empire of Japan

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Google

Declaration of war: Russo-Japanese War, 1904

De facto peace: 1905

De jure peace: 2006

In 1904, the Principality of Montenegro declared war against Japan in support of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War. Due to the extreme distances separating the two countries, neither country saw combat with the other.

As such, when Russia and Japan signed a peace treaty, the Principality of Montenegro was not included. However, following Montenegro’s secession from Serbia in 2006, Japanese officials visited the Balkan country to both recognize the country’s independence and to deliver a letter declaring the official end of the war between the states.

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That time Civil War soldiers stopped fighting and played music for one another

A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.


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A Union band in the Civil War poses for a photo. (Photo: CC BY-SA Jcusano)

According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”

The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.

The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.

The entire event was captured in a poem “Music in Camp” by John Reuben Thomas.

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Thure de Thulstrup’s Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett’s Charge. (Scan: Library of Congress)

Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.

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