5 Army myths that just won't die - We Are The Mighty
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5 Army myths that just won’t die

The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.


1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”

5 Army myths that just won’t die

It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.

Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.

For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.

2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”

5 Army myths that just won’t die
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.

Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.

“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”

The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.

3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”

5 Army myths that just won’t die
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.

While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.

The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.

4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.

First, the law exists but it applies whenever someone fraudulently wears the uniform, even if they intentionally get details wrong. Also, there are exceptions written into the law to protect artistic performances.

Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.

5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”

5 Army myths that just won’t die
Photo: US Army Sgt. Carmen Gibson

Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.

The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.

The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.

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The odds of dying in an American war (applying the Lt. Dan scale)

The honor of making the ultimate sacrifice is timeless. But casualty counts in the United States’ current conflicts are relatively low relative to previous wars.


Of course, no competent warfighter signs on to die for his (or her) country (because as we all know by now (and as General George S. Patton famously said during World War II), the whole point of war is to make the other poor bastard die for his (or her) country).

But what if you lived in another time? Would you have survived the Civil War or World War I?

In the movie “Forrest Gump” Forrest notes that Lt. Dan “was from a long, great military tradition — somebody from his family had fought and died in every single American war.”

So what do the Lt. Dan family’s odds look like on paper? WATM has the answer:

The American Revolution

1 in 50 – 2 percent

 

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor wasn’t so lucky, but these are relatively good odds considering the conditions at the time and the nature of how the Revolutionary War was fought. Back then FOBs meant New York, Boston, and Saratoga Springs. Orders to Valley Forge? Get ready for cold and a diet of nothing but bread.

Civil War

1 in 15 – 6.7 percent

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Tough luck, Lieutenant Dan . . . and everyone else. If you add the Union and Confederate Army casualties vs. the best assumed total number of troops, the rate of killed and injured is a staggering 43 percent. As of 2013, the government was still paying veterans benefits related to the Civil War (and those people were probably waiting in line since 1962).

World War One

1 in 89 – 1.1 percent

5 Army myths that just won’t die

This is where the combat starts to look more familiar, except for the whole “running at a machine gun” thing. It’s surprising the numbers aren’t much, much higher since human wave attacks were standard operating procedure. A cool twenty bucks (which went much further in 1917) says Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor in “The Great War” was suffering from trench foot and Jerry just put him out of his misery, which is probably why his standing order in Vietnam was to change socks at every stop.

World War Two

1 in 56 – 1.8 percent

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Lieutenant Dan’s surprised look probably stems from the low number for this one too. Keep in mind, this is just the rate for the American Army. The Soviet Union lost 26 million people, significantly more than the losses suffered by the army that actually lost. (That would be the German Army for you history buffs.)

Vietnam War

1 in 185 – .5 percent

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Lieutenant Dan lives (severely wounded in his case, but alive). Of all America’s major wars, Vietnam offered best odds of survival. It also had (arguably) the highest quality of life in the field (very much dependent of where you served in-country), and the best food. (There might be a correlation between those things.)

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5 secrets of Marine Corps knife-fighting

The U.S. Marine Corps takes their close quarters fighting seriously, even to the point of practicing with real bayonets and knives.


 

As the only branch of the military that trains all of its members with knives, the Marines have some tips for cutting your enemies to shreds.

Note: Don’t practice knife-fighting without a qualified trainer and only use training knives, never real blades. Seriously. Knives kill people, especially when used as described below.

1. Keep the knife “in the box.”

 

5 Army myths that just won’t die
Photo: Youtube

 

The box is shoulder-width from neck level down to belt level on the fighter’s own body. Keeping the knife in this “box” prevents the fighter from swinging too wide and giving his opponent the chance to block the attack. The knife should be kept forward and pointed at the aggressor.

2. Target vital areas that are unprotected.

 

5 Army myths that just won’t die
Photo: Youtube.com

 

When the opponent is in body armor, exposed vital areas include the carotid arteries in the neck, the lower abdomen and the groin. When the opponent has no armor, the aorta in the chest and abdomen can also be a good target. If none of these are available, the fighter should target key places on the extremities. These include the femoral arteries in the thighs, the brachial arteries on the insides of the arms, and the radial and ulnar nerves in the arms and wrists.

3. Move to the sides

Don’t stay head on with your enemy if you don’t have to. Move at a 45-degree angle to either side of the aggressor to avoid their strike and increase the chances of your strike landing.

4. Knife placement and grip

The knife should be worn on the fighter’s hip on the weak side with the blade down and facing forward. It should be worn far enough back that an enemy could not easily grab it but not so far back the fighter cannot reach it. When pulled for a fight, the knife should be gripped naturally. If the knife is properly placed, reaching across and grabbing it with a natural grip will result in the fighter holding the weapon in their strong hand with the knife pointed forward.

5. Stance

Marines knife-fight from the Basic Warrior Stance. They hold their left hand vertically as a shield to protect their ribs, head, and neck. With their right hand, they point their weapon towards the aggressor while holding it close to the body to prevent the enemy from stealing it.

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7 quotes that perfectly capture the US Army

The U.S. Army has been defending our nation for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Here are 7 quotes that capture the soldier’s spirit:


1. “The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” – Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Photo: Public Domain)

The Army, the soldiers, and the citizens are all inextricably linked. The U.S. Army is a reflection of the best that American citizens have to offer.

2. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.” – Gen. Creighton Abrams

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Portrait: Public Domain/Herbert Abrams)

America’s enemies shouldn’t count the battle won just because they’ve gained the good ground. Gen. Creighton Abrams said this quote while surrounded by Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men didn’t die, but many of the German soldiers surrounding them did.

3. “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – Richard Grenier while discussing the works of George Orwell

This quote is often misattributed to George Orwell, but it’s actually a summary written by Richard Grenier of key points made in Orwell’s writings. It is loved by soldiers for how it describes their chosen profession.

4. “Nuts.” – Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe, said while replying to a request for his surrender

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Photo: Public Domain)

U.S. Army commanders aren’t always great orators, but they get their point across quickly.

5. “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Photo: US National Archives)

Dying for your country is noble, but America would much rather let you be noble while its soldiers concentrate on being victorious.

6. “There were only a handful of Americans there but they fought like wildmen.” Antone Fuhrmann of Mayschoss while discussing Americans in World War I

When U.S. soldiers arrive, they do so violently.

7. Front toward enemy

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Look, sometimes soldiers need a little help knowing which end of a weapon is the deadly part. Our mines carry instructions that reflect this reality.

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Travis Manion Foundation honors fallen Marine — and builds America at the same time

Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.

Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.


Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.

www.youtube.com

When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”

Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.

5 Army myths that just won’t die

A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)

Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:

  • Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
  • Be accountable
  • Purpose begins with passion
  • Out of many, one
  • We are fueled by gratitude
  • Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo

Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.

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Russia backs off Syria threats after Marine show of force

The Russians appear to have backed off their earlier threats after the US Marine Corps sent them a clear message.

The Pentagon, US Central Command, and Operation Inherent Resolve have all confirmed that Russia has stayed out of the deconfliction zone and is no longer insisting on conducting operations or launching precision strikes in the area near the At Tanf garrison, where US Marines are based.

Russia warned the US twice on Sept. 1, 2018, and again on Sept. 6, 2018, that the Russian military, together with Syrian and pro-regime forces, planned to carry out counterterrorism operations inside the 55-kilometer deconfliction zone. It accused the US and its coalition partners of harboring terrorists.


Immediately following Russia’s threats, the US Marine Corps conducted a live-fire demonstration at the At Tanf garrison to drive home the point that the US military did not need Russia’s help eliminating terrorists.

5 Army myths that just won’t die

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria, or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” the US Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown previously told Business Insider, adding: “The United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition, or partner forces as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone, and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” he added.

In the nearly two weeks since, the Russians have not contacted the US military about operations inside the deconfliction zone, an area the Syrians and the Russians want to access to build a strategic land bridge between Tehran and Damascus.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

The battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror group is a fight increasingly without front lines.


The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have breached the old city and control about a quarter of the terror group’s de facto capital, say American officials, but holding what has already been seized is proving a struggle.

Disputes between the SDF and some Free Syrian Army militias who have started to participate in the battle isn’t helping the advance, but the biggest obstacle remains the determined defense of IS fighters, who are using similar urban warfare tactics seen in the past nine months in the terror group’s fight to delay the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi security forces.

A month into the Raqqa assault, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and the use of an elaborate network of tunnels to mount ambushes — as well as exploiting civilians as human shields — are all being deployed by the militants. IS militants have also been using drones to drop explosives on SDF militiamen.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle. (Photo from Voice of America.)

A watchdog rights organization says in the assault’s first month it has documented 650 deaths — 224 of them civilians.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that relies on a network of activists for its reporting, 311 IS fighters, including a handful of commanders, and 106 fighters of the American-backed “Euphrates Wrath” forces have died so far.

“In addition, airstrikes left hundreds of civilians injured, with various degrees of severity, some of whom had their limbs amputated, some were left with permanent disabilities and some are still in a critical condition, which means that the death toll is still likely to rise,” the observatory says.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
SDF fighters among the rubble Raqqa. (Photo from Voice of America.)

Long battle ahead

Despite being only a tenth the size of Mosul, US officials say they expect the house-to-house fighting to last several weeks. Estimates on how many militants remain in the city range from between 2,000 to 3,000. Most of them are thought to be from eastern Syria or foreign fighters drawn mainly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

According to local activists, some Raqqa-born IS fighters have defected and are providing intelligence to the SDF. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, and co-author of the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” says local fighters have proven less than committed in the battle.

“The Islamic State will likely have to rely on the city’s still likely large population of foreign fighters as well as a new generation of young fighters brainwashed by the group’s ideology who typically fight viciously to the end,” Hassan argues in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the West Point military academy.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
YPJ and YPG forces work together. (Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle (CC by 2.0)

Despite the participation of experienced, battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, private security advisers say the SDF doesn’t have the same capabilities and training as the elite Iraqi units who have been confronting IS militants in Mosul since August.

“They are spread much thinner,” one European security adviser told Voice of America. “They are also not as well equipped and lack the armor the Iraqis have been able to use,” he added.

Keeping the advance going, and trying to pin the militants into smaller and smaller pockets, is proving grueling, he said.

On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to declare his security forces had wrested the wrecked city from the Islamic State, despite some continued fighting in at least one west Mosul neighborhood. Some US officials are reckoning IS fighters may be able to hold out in Raqqa for up to three months.

In a bid to disrupt the SDF momentum, IS is now more regularly using suicide bombers driving reinforced vehicles packed with explosives — although not to the same degree as seen in the battle for Mosul. Last week, one suicide bomber managed to destroy a forward HQ used by the SDF.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook.)

Civilian casualties

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, braving mines and savage IS sniper fire. Local activists estimate the number of civilians remaining in the city at about 60,000. They fault the international coalition for failing to have prepared for the handling of large numbers of displaced families.

Civilians have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food,” says the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The group has accused the attacking forces of using a scorched-earth strategy, utilizing indiscriminate aerial bombardment in order to force militants to withdraw. US officials admit there have been civilian deaths but say they are doing all they can to minimize casualties among non-combatants.

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5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was the perfect boot

As moviegoers flock to their local cinemas to watch the latest installment of Star Wars, it’s important to remember that the whole film franchise wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of a young, highly motivated individual, named Luke Skywalker, who had big dreams, but was stuck in a small town.


The original film follows his dynamic journey from living with his uncle’s family to joining the resistance and taking down a dark empire.

It takes a unique character with big aspirations to pull all that off, and it makes us wish Luke was in our squad.

He needs to work on that salute, though. (Image via GIPHY)

Related: 7 reasons why you’d want ‘Pvt. Pyle’ in your infantry squad

Check out these five reasons why Luke Skywalker makes the perfect boot:

1. He was an orphan and could deploy at any moment, without question or notice.

After learning his adopted family has just been taken out by the Empire, Luke does what any motivated teenager would do — goes to war for some payback.

That look when you witness your whole world crumble to the ground. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Luke immediately believed everything he was told about the Force

You can get a boot to believe anything if you say it the right way.

Yes, it is — and no, it’s not. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Luke claimed he’s a crack shot, and it turns out he was pretty good.

“I used to bull’s-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.” — Luke Skywalker

2. He’s a natural pilot and flew into the face of danger.

He managed to dodge all that incoming enemy fire like it was no big deal.

“It’s just like Beggar’s Canyon back home'” Luke. (Image via GIPHY)

Also Read: 9 fictional characters that would make great drinking buddies

1. Skywalker took down an entire Empire with two rounds on his first deployment.

That’s not bad for a freakin’ boot.

(Image via GIPHY)

Now we just have to hope he didn’t let all that success go to his head…

F*ck! We think it did:

It’s not the Medal of Honor, big guy. (Image via Giphy)

Can you think of any other reasons Luke would make an excellent boot? Comment below.

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7 revolutionary ideas the British Navy wants to use in its new warship

From the Ship of the Line to the Dreadnought battleship, the British have been advancing the art of naval warfare for hundreds of years. 2015 was no different.


This past summer, the Combat Systems Team at BMT Defence Systems unveiled Dreadnought 2050, a multifunctional stealth submersible design that, as the company puts it, “maximizes naval effectiveness while mitigating risks to British sailors.” Here are seven new ideas the BMT team is bringing to the high seas:

1. The “Moon Pool”

5 Army myths that just won’t die

A floodable pool area the ship can use to deploy Marines, divers, drones, or other special operations.

2. Drone Launcher

5 Army myths that just won’t die

A flight deck and hangar used to remotely launch drones, all of which could be 3D printed on board the ship.

3. Quad-Copter

5 Army myths that just won’t die

A hovering device to give the ship a 360-degree view of the battlespace around the ship, complete with electromagnetic sensors to detect enemy ships. The quad-copter itself could be armed for fights in close quarters around the ship.

4. “Smart Windows”

5 Army myths that just won’t die

An acrylic hull, coated in graphene that could turned semitransparent by applying an electric current.

5. Stealth Propulsion

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Highly efficient turbines would drive electric motors on what would be the first surface ship to have parts of its structure below the water line, making it difficult to detect.

6. Holographic Command Center

5 Army myths that just won’t die

A holographic command table will offer a 3D rendering of the battlespace in real time.

7.  Next-Level Naval Weapons

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Hypersonic missile systems, rocket-propelled torpedoes, and an electromagnetic rail gun round out a definitive “don’t mess with me” message to the enemies of Great Britain.

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Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?

Exactly. So let’s break it down.

Who’s eligible for BRS?


Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.

First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.

So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.

If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!

If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Remind me again what BRS is?

Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.

There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:

Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:

High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%

BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)

Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.

Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.

So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.

AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.

What’s next?

First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.

5 Army myths that just won’t die
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)

If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.


If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.

Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.

If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.

So, let’s recap for a hot minute.

While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.

We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Canada must prosecute returning ISIS fighters

Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.

She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:

“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”


Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.

ISIS remains a force in the Middle East

Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.

At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.

The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.

5 Army myths that just won’t die

Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.

Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.

Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.

Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.

Soft on terror or Islamophobic

The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.

The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.

But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

ISIS and other jihadi groups have engaged in systematic mass atrocities against minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Shiites. ISIS has demonstrated a particular disdain for the Yazidi minority in Iraq. The Canadian government recognized the group’s crimes against the Yazidis as genocide.

As a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada has a responsibility to uphold these international legal conventions when formulating carefully crafted policy responses that deal with returning foreign fighters.

Trials can serve as deterrents

Canada has the option to prosecute its nationals in domestic courts using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.

They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.

If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 26th

Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.

For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.

So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.


To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme by Call for Fire)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Not CID)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Good 2 Go Apparel)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via The Disgruntled Leader)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Stunning photos of Marines hitting the beach in Norway

US forces are currently participating in the largest NATO war games in decades, practicing storming the beaches in preparation for a fight against a tough adversary like Russia.

The Trident Juncture 2018 joint military exercises involve roughly 50,000 troops, as well as 250 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 vehicles. During the exercises, US Marines, supported by Navy sailors, rehearsed amphibious landings in Alvund, Norway in support of partner countries.


A landing exercise on Oct. 29, 2018, consisted of a combined surface/air assault focused on rapidly projecting power ashore. During the training, 700 Marines with the Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division took the beach with 12 amphibious assault vehicles, six light armored vehicles, and 21 high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles.

The Marines conducted another assault, which can be seen in the video below, the following day.

These photos show US Marines, with the assistance of their Navy partners, conducting amphibious assault exercises in Norway on Oct. 30, 2018.

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Lyndon Schwartz)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Lyndon Schwartz)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Menelik Collins)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Menelik Collins)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick Osino)

5 Army myths that just won’t die

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

Marines come ashore in armored assault vehicles after disembarking from the landing craft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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