5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station - We Are The Mighty
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5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

With every move comes a host of decisions — schools, recreation, safety, length of commute — but among the most important ones is whether to buy or rent your home at your new duty station. Here are 5 things to consider when making that call:


1. Can you finance the home using your VA home loan benefit?

There are a bunch of advantages to using a VA loan. VA home loans require zero money down, and because they’re underwritten by the U.S. government, sellers are usually comfortable with accepting offers from buyers using them. Also, VA home loans can be assumed by qualified buyers, which is a great option when considering the volatility of the military lifestyle. For more information check out the VA’s site here.

2. Can you build equity during the time you’re in that area?

Nobody buys a home to lose money in the process. Before you buy, consider the real estate market trends. Are home pricing rising or falling . . . and how quickly? Making money on a home after owning it a short time is ambitious, but not impossible in the right market.

3. Can you sell your home quickly when you get orders away from the area?

Just like in the previous bullet, market conditions are important when considering how quickly you could sell your home when the time comes. The easy way to assess this is to consider how many “for sale” signs there are on the street around your desired home. If there are a lot of them you might want to think twice about buying, especially if you’re only planning on being in the area for a couple of years or less.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

4. Could you turn your home into a rental property if you got orders away from the area?

If the rental market is active in your area you might consider turning your home into a rental property. In some areas, the amount an owner can charge for monthly rent exceeds the owner’s mortgage payment, which allows the owner the retain all the associated tax benefits while continuing to build equity. But owners should also consider the responsibilities of being a landlord, not the least of which is keeping track of how the tenant is treating the property.

5. Is the duty station where your home is one to which you’re likely to return?

Will your career path bring you back to the area? Would you consider staying there once your time on active duty is over? And would you be willing to rent the home (see the previous bullet) in the meantime? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then the equity timeline can be stretched out and the risk of buying is reduced.

To start the process, check out Zillow.com’s cool buy/rent calculator here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA celebrates nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.

“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”


At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.

This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.

‘No better feeling’

“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”

At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.

VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.

“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.

Grow, lead and innovate

Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.

“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.

We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:

  • The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
  • Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
  • Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.

A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.

VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.

Work at VA today 

During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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11 legends of the US Marine Corps

Thousands of heroes have emerged since the U.S. Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Here are 11 among them who became Leatherneck legends:


1. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps

Lewis “Chesty” Puller joined the Marines during World War I, but that war ended before he was deployed. He saw combat in Haiti and Nicaragua before the outbreak of World War II.

In the Pacific theater of World War II, Puller led an American advance that succeeded against a huge Japanese force at Guadalcanal. During the Korean War Puller and his Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir that crippled seven Chinese divisions in the process. He remains one of America’s most decorated warriors with 5 Navy Crosses and numerous other high-level awards.

2. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called “the fightinest Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. He is possibly most famous for leading outnumbered and outgunned Marines in a counterattack at the Battle of Belleau Wood with the rallying cry, “Come on, you sons of b-tches, do you want to live forever?”

He also received two Medals of Honor. The first was for single-handedly holding a wall in China as Chinese snipers and other soldiers tried to pick him off. The second was awarded for his role in resisting an ambush by Caco rebels in Haiti and then leading a dawn counterattack against them.

3. Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps

Like Daly, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler is one of the few people who have received two Medals of Honor. His first was for leading during the assault and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914. Eighteen months later he led a group of Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in an old French fort. For his bravery during the hand-to-hand combat that followed, he was awarded his second Medal of Honor.

Butler also led troops in combat during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, Nicaragua, and World War I France.

4. Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

John Basilone first served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines but switched to the Marine Corps in time for World War II. He served with distinction in the Pacific Theater and received a Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal and a posthumous Navy Cross for actions at Iwo Jima.

At Guadalcanal he emplaced two machine gun teams under fire and then manned a third gun himself, killing 38 enemy soldiers before charging through enemy lines to resupply trapped Marines. He later destroyed a Japanese blockhouse on his own and then guided a tank through a minefield and artillery and mortar barrages at Iwo Jima. While escorting the tank, he was struck by shrapnel and killed.

5. Col. John Glenn

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Col. John Glenn is probably more famous for being the first American to orbit the earth than he is for his Marine Corps career. But he is a decorated Devil Dog with six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

He flew 122 combat missions in World War II and Korea and had three air-to-air kills to his credit. During a particularly harrowing mission in Korea, Glenn’s wingman experienced engine trouble immediately before 6 enemy MiGs attacked him. Then-Maj. Glenn turned into the enemy jets and drove them off, killing at least one while giving his partner time to return to base.

6. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of America’s greatest snipers. He joined the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1959. He distinguished himself as a marksman in basic training, set a record that was never beaten at the “A” course at USMC Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and defeated 3,000 other shooters to win the coveted Wimbledon Cup for snipers.

He was originally deployed to Vietnam as a military police officer in 1966 but was soon sent on reconnaissance patrols and then employed as a sniper.

In Vietnam he was credited with 93 confirmed kills including that of an NVA general deep in enemy territory, a female interrogator known for brutal torture, and the record-breaking 2,500-yard kill of a guerrilla with an M2 .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode.

7. Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond was possibly the world’s saltiest and most gung-ho Marine recruit when he joined at the age of 27 in 1917. He quickly became known for being loud, not caring about rank or uniform regulations, and always being ready to fight.

He was well-known for his skill with mortars and made a name for himself in World War I at battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He fought twice in the Sino-Japanese War and again in World War II. At Guadalcanal, the then 52-year-old mortarman drove off a Japanese cruiser before he was forced to evacuate due to “physical disabilities.”

8. Brig. Gen. Joe Foss

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps

Joe Foss joined the Marine Corps before America joined World War II and earned his aviator wings in March of 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater and spent three months defending American-occupied Guadalcanal. Foss was shot down while strafing Japanese ships in 1942. He later tied Air Force Legend Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 aerial kills.

Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his World War II exploits. After that war, he helped organize the American Football League and the South Dakota Air National Guard. He deployed to Korea with the Air National Guard and rose to the rank of brigadier general before retiring.  He died in 2003.

9. Cpl. Joseph Vittori

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Cpl. Joseph Vittori made his mark on Hill 749 in Korea on Sep. 16, 1951. Vittori and his fellow Marines were securing a hill they had just taken from Chinese forces when a counterattack forced a 100-yard gap that could’ve doomed the U.S. forces. Vittori and others rushed into the opening with automatic rifles and machine guns.

After hours of stubborn resistance, Vittori was shot through the chest but continued fighting. The Marines suffered more casualties and when Vittori was shot for a second time, he told his friend to run back to the ridge behind them. Vittori and his friend stopped one more wave before a shot to the face finally killed the young corporal. Vittori posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

10. Sgt. Charles Mawhinney

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps Pfc. Garrett White

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney may not have the name recognition of Carlos Hathcock, but he has 10 more confirmed kills with 103. Mawhinney’s work in the Vietnam War was almost forgotten until a book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” revealed that he had the most confirmed kills in Marine Corps history.

One of the scout sniper’s greatest engagements came when an enemy platoon was attempting to cross a river at night on Valentine’s Day to attack an American base. Mawhinney was on his own with an M-14 and a starlight scope. He waited until the platoon was in the middle of crossing the river, then dropped 16 NVA soldiers with 16 head shots.

11. Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Marine Corps

Gilbert Johnson served in both the Army and Navy for a total of 15 years before joining the Corps. When he began Marine Corps basic training, he was nicknamed “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than many of his instructors.

He was one of the first African-Americans to join the Corps, to serve as a drill instructor, and to be promoted to sergeant major. During World War II he requested permission to conduct combat patrols and later led 25 of them in Guam.

(h/t to the U.S. Marine Corps for their 2013 “Ultimate Marine’s Marine” competition. Their bracket fueled the rankings for this article, and the cover image of this post is from their blog.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Last Full Measure’ is the must-see film that honors one of America’s finest

On April 11th, 1966, three companies of the 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Mud Soldiers,” were pinned down by Viet Cong forces outside of Cam My, Vietnam. Pararescuemen of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were dispatched to evacuate the wounded. The battle raged and the soldiers were taking a heavy beating.

As if an angel were descending from the heavens, Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, lowered onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded. When given the opportunity to fly back to base, he elected to stay and care for the men he didn’t even know that remained in harm’s way.

He did all he could to save his fellow troops before paying the ultimate price. Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice ensured at least nine men made it home. It took him 34 years to be recognized fully for his incredible actions.

The Last Full Measure faithfully and honestly retells this story — and it’s something that our military community must see and support.


In the aftermath of the battle, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. However, his fellow PJs and the Mud Soldiers he fought with continued to advocate for the award to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that he was finally bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving, what President Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, his last full measure of devotion.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

Keep an eye out for Jeremy Irvine. His portrayal of William Pitsenbarger will catapult him far in Hollywood.

(Roadside Attractions)

Written and directed by Todd Robinson, The Last Full Measure follows Scott Huffman, a jaded Pentagon lawyer (played by Sebastian Stan) as he is tasked with upgrading Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor at the behest of Pitsenbarger’s fellow pararescueman veteran (played by William Hunt) and father (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).

The story unfolds as Huffman pieces together the gallantry of Pitsenbarger by interviewing the soldiers who had been saved back in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson, the late Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and John Savage each portray the Mud Soldiers and give fantastic performances as they crawl through painful memories. The audience watches the fateful day in Vietnam through flashbacks as the veterans recall being saved by Pitsenbarger (portrayed by Jeremy Irvine).

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

Pictured left to right: Kimberly Breyer, producer of Last Full Measure, Sidney Sherman, and Kimberly’s husband Sean Breyer

(Photo by Eric Milzarski)

Kimberly Breyer, the niece of William Pitsenbarger, was in attendance of the world premiere of The Last Full Measure. She told We Are The Mighty,

“This film means people get to hear the very important true stories of my uncle Billy Pitsenbarger, Frank, Alice, and all the people who fought with him. We want as many people who possibly can so these stories keep being told and retold.”

She also noted how true-to-life Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of her grandfather, Frank Pitsenbarger, felt. “When we saw it, especially my grandma Alice, the hair went up on the back of her neck and she started to cry. He makes me miss Frank so much. We’re very grateful to him for how beautifully he portrayed our grandfather on screen and how hard everyone worked for so many years to get this project to come together because it’s so unique in so many ways.”

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(Photo by Eric Milzarski)

The production covers two key time periods, from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Pentagon. The star-studded cast filmed in the United States and Thailand to portray the retelling of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice. The film stays away from typical action movie tropes and instead dives deep into the psyche of the troops who returned home. It gives an accurate depiction of what goes on behind-the-scenes when a Medal of Honor is to be awarded. The film helps us understand the excruciating lengths (and sheer volume of bureaucratic red tape) that stands between valor and recognition — and leaves you wondering how many heroes haven’t been given the credit they deserve.

Dale Dye, USMC veteran who served in the Vietnam War and military advisor for many of the greatest war films, played a large role in ensuring the film was as accurate as possible. It’s all the perfectly-captured, little moments that help set the stage.

Dye tells We Are The Mighty,This is a film that goes directly to my heart and soul. And the reason is because it talks about the selfless nature of veterans and the dedication we have towards each other. This is a story of veterans who go to extraordinary lengths to get recognition for one of their own. And that’s the nature of every combat veteran.”

The writer and director of the film, Todd Robinson, tells We Are The Mighty, The military was very bullish about this film. It promotes a career field called pararescue, which promotes saving lives. So it wasn’t hard for them to get behind this film.

The Last Full Measure is a beautiful film that is rare in Hollywood. It’s not an action-packed film made with set pieces for the trailers. It’s not an overly played-out drama that uses war as backdrop. It’s the real-life story of a man who gave his all for his fellow troops and those men fighting tooth-and-nail to get him the honor he deserved.

I can’t recommend this film enough for every veteran, active duty troop, their family, and anyone who’s life has been touched by the actions of these brave men and women.

See it in theaters now.

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Combat Marine and double amputee just became a Long Island cop

Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.


You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.

According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Ferreira recovering after losing both his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan (Screenshot from PIX11.com video).

Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.

Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.

According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.

“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.

Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.

Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US, Indonesian Marines live and train together

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are conducting a month-long military exchange program with Marines from the Indonesian Korps Marinir in Eastern Java, Indonesia, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 6-29, 2019.

The exchange program, designed to strengthen the partnership between the two militaries, involves each country sending a platoon of Marines to live and train together at the others’ military bases. Working closely though a rigorous training schedule focused around individual, team and squad level tactics, Marines from both nations are able to learn from each other and continue to improve their ability to work together.


“For basic tactics, we do the same thing for shooting and maneuver, but we have a different terrain and environment,” said 2nd Lt. Gilang Kanandha, a platoon commander with the KORMAR. “We can make our Marine Corps better by learning new things and [the U.S.] Marines can learn something new too.”

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines patrol through the woods during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)

Not only do the Marines share tactics with each other, they also develop new leadership styles and establish relationships with their partner nation counterparts.

“We are able to train together and be aggressive when it’s time to do that,” said 1st. Lt Joseph Artis, a platoon commander with Co. A., 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment. “But during our down time, we have the ability to just be Marines together.”

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines eat together during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)

“Our relationship with our Indonesian counterparts is very strong,” said Staff Sgt. Nathanial Skousen, the company gunnery sergeant for Co. A., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He noted how naturally the Marines from both nations interacted with each other, “It’s as if the same type of people are drawn to serve their nation’s military,” said Skousen.

The KORMAR exchange enhances the capability of both services and displays their continued commitment to share information and increase the ability to respond to crises together across the Pacific.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and an Indonesian Marine pose for a photo following training during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)

“It causes us to open our eyes a little bit when we experience things with Marines from overseas,’ said Artis. “The fact that this is happening in different parts of the world, it gives us perspective that there is a global mission we are trying to achieve. It’s not just us in Hawaii trying to do this.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.


It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.

 

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.

1. It was an easy target.

Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
IEDs collected by Coalition forces in Baghdad. (DoD photo)

Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”

2. The road was a bumpy ride.

All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station

Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.

3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.

“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
A Rhino after an ambush along Route Irish (Labock Technologies)

In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.

4. The road required constant patrols.

Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
While on patrol Soldiers of the 1st Patrol Team, Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division help push a stalled car off Route Irish. (Photo by Sgt. Dan Purcell)

At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.

5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.

Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
A Humvee in Sadiyah. The other side of the wall is Route Irish. (Photo by Matthew Vea)

Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.

Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.

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One Sentence Highlights The Pre-9/11 Wall Between The Intelligence Agencies

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The New York Times posted a fascinating story Thursday about the mysterious sculpture called “Kryptos” in the courtyard at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and one short sentence really highlights barriers that existed between the intelligence agencies prior to Sep. 11, 2001.

Created by sculptor James Sanborn, Kryptos features four encoded messages that have baffled many for years. As a dedicated fan base has grown around the sculpture in trying to figure out the hidden message, three of the four had been decoded by 1999.

But in an interesting aside, journalist John Scwartz notes: “In fact, cryptographers at the National Security Agency cracked those messages in 1993, but kept the triumph to themselves.”

As a piece of artwork, the sculpture’s messages have nothing top secret within. Decoding it is really just a fun exercise for enthusiasts, but the fact NSA wouldn’t even tell their intelligence colleagues at CIA they had the answer for six years is rather telling.

In the sad postscript to the 9/11 attacks, it was found that a wall existed between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and there was even separation between the different spy agencies themselves. As we now know, this compartmentalization of information was one of the major reasons Al Qaeda terrorists were successful in their attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“We no longer operate largely on the principle of compartmentalization, that is, sharing information based on ‘need to know.’ We now start from the imperative of ‘responsibility to share,’ in order to collaborate with and better support our intelligence consumers—from the White House to the foxhole,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Now check out the full article at the Times

OR WATCH: 3 Veterans discuss “Are We Safer Now Than Before 9/11?”  

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The new Titanfall trailer delivers a human look at robot combat

The video game “Titanfall” had a simple appeal. It was frontline combat in the future where humans, robots, and giant “titans” battled in a two-sided war.


Sure, there was a cool storyline and some bells and whistles, but the appeal was fighting battles in three-story metal juggernauts armed with rockets and cannons.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
(GIF: YouTube/Titanfall Official)

Now, a “Titanfall 2” trailer is drawing players to the sequel with a more human appeal. A rifleman in the game, J. Cooper, describes what it’s like to fight side-by-side with the player-controlled pilots.

The story highlights some of the game’s new gadgets for pilots, including grappling hooks and the ability to create holograms.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
(GIF: YouTube/Titanfall Official)

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This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

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Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

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Do you know what it takes to be in the Marine Corps Band?

The Marine Corps is one of the most prestigious branches of the U.S. military. They have earned honors and recognition through many important and dangerous missions. Yet, one would not readily associate a career as a professional musician and the Marine uniform. One would be wrong.

The Marine Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. They have played at every single United States presidential inauguration since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson personally asked them to perform at his. They have also performed at many official ceremonies and events at the White House throughout the years. Due to their special connection with the POTUS, the Marine Band is known as the “President’s Own.”

However, that connection comes with an obligation for exacting musical standards. The Marine Band plays hundreds of occasions, all around the world. Every single one of these performances must be flawless, to meet the standard of excellence expected from the entirety of the Marine Corps.

Auditions

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by GySgt. Bryan A. Peterson)

The search for perfection starts at auditions. Candidates are not required to have any specific level of education. However, a lot of them have at least a college degree. Due to the number and variety of performances given by the Marine Band, candidates must be very versatile to be able to play in a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final. These auditions are blind, to avoid any bias.

In addition to musical skills, candidates are also expected to meet high mental, moral and fitness standards, as is expected of any Marine. Finally, they must pass an extensive background check. Their proximity to the White House requires them to obtain a Secret security clearance. The Marine Band is a very exclusive club as, out of approximately 180,000 Marines, only 600 of them are musicians.

Training and education

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.

It might be surprising for musicians to be also asked to go through boot camp. However, it allows for reinforcement of the concepts of discipline, synchronicity and leadership. It teaches them to have pride in their uniform and the Corps. Marines are warriors first and foremost and musicians are basically trained Marines.

Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. Like all programs in the Marine Corps, the Marine Band only selects the very best to wear their uniform and perform their duties.

Life in the band

However, the musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, to travel the world, to play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds, and to serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment. There are very few musicians who can boast such opportunities and experiences.

With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 of those at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.

Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Luna/Released

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Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.


And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.

And that has some analysts worried.

Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”

What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
The T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicle. This baseline version has a 30mm cannon and four AT-14 missiles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.

When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”

“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”

5 things to consider when deciding whether to buy or rent at your next duty station
A captured S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun in an Israeli museum. This gun is the centerpiece of a new turret for the T-15, the AU-220M. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.

“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”

But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.

“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”

Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.

“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.

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These 4 books show the inner workings of Delta Force

As the wars have raged on, America’s interest in Tier One special operators like Delta Force and SEAL Team Six has increased. Delta Force has managed to stay largely in the shadows in spite of this, keeping their missions and accomplishments relatively secret. They hunted Osama bin Laden, were part of the capture of Saddam Hussein, and have operated in dozens of countries around the world, but little is known about the outfit.


But there is a body of work out there about Delta Force. Here are four books by former operatives that give a glimpse behind the curtain:

1. “Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special Operations Unit”

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Col. Charlie A. Beckwith was the creator of Delta Force. He fought from 1962 to 1977 to get the unit after serving as an exchange officer with the British SAS. He was finally given permission to found the unit and describes the process in “Delta Force.” He also goes into detail of the rigorous training and selection process that continues today. Beckwith led the unit through the failed Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

2. “Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit”

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Written by a founding member of Delta Force,  “Inside Delta Force” takes a reader through the training and earliest missions of the elite unit. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Eric L. Haney describes his personal experiences in Beirut, the Sudan, and Honduras.

3. “Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man”

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Kill Bin Laden” looks at the earliest attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden immediately after the September 11 attacks. The book shows the inner workings of Delta Force on the ground conducting operations. The operators work with local forces to hunt through the Tora Bora mountains and are able to listen in on bin Laden’s communications before ultimately losing him.

The author uses the pseudonym Dalton Fury and has also written a series of novels about Delta Force.

4. “The Mission, the Men, and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander”

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Pete Blaber, a former Delta Force commander, takes readers through his own physical and mental training as he joined Delta Force before discussing his missions in Columbia, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The Mission, the Men, and Me” has a few distinguishing characteristics. First, this book discusses more operations in the Post-9/11 world than any other on this list. Also, Blaber distills the lessons he learned in Delta Force and helps readers apply them to their lives in modern America.

NOW: There have been nearly as many Navy SEAL books written as all other special ops combined

OR: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

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