Mix one U.S. Marine with alcohol and throw in the possibility of a huge foam party and you get an alcohol-related incident on Kadena Air Base.
That’s according to Navy Times, which reported on Tuesday that Air Force officials were investigating how a drunk Marine entered an aircraft hangar on Kadena on May 23 and turned on the fire suppression system at around 1:45 a.m., releasing flame retardant foam close to at least one aircraft.
“The details of the incident are currently under investigation,” 2nd Lt. Erik Anthony told Stars and Stripes in an email. “Kadena’s capabilities and readiness have not suffered.”
The unnamed Marine was arrested shortly after the incident, but details on the Marine’s level of intoxication, his or her unit, or who made the arrest, were not released.
Following the Spanish-American War, the Philippines ceased to be a Spanish colony. Instead, the islands became the largest colonial commonwealth of the United States. Alongside American units from the states, Filipino soldiers formed native units trained and equipped to defend the islands from foreign invasion…mostly.
Despite the economic and strategic importance of the Philippines, military preparedness stagnated following WWI. In fact, despite the widespread use of steel helmets during WWI, the Philippine Constabulary and Commonwealth Army were not issued such protective gear. Rather, their helmets were made of the pressed fibers of coconut husks.
Called the guinit, or Filipino Sun Helmet, the headgear resembled a European pith helmet. The guinit featured a domed center and a broad rim that went all the way around. Its rim narrowed at the sides and extended over the front and back. Although the coconut husk construction offered little to no protection from bullets and shrapnel, the guinit helmet shielded its wearer well from the scorching Filipino sun.
Though historians have not pinpointed the exact origin of the guinit helmet, it was likely developed parallel with the first Philippine Commonwealth Army uniforms in 1935. By the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941, it was standard issue in most Philippine Army units, including the fledgling Army Air Corps and Navy torpedo unit. One exception were the Philippine Scouts. Under the command of U.S. Army officers, the Philippine Scouts were issued more modern gear like steel helmets and even the M1 Garand.
Notably the guinit helmets were part of Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon’s efforts to boost the Filipino economy and make the Army self-reliant with locally produced gear. “That’s why the garrison belts used for training were made of abaca, the blankets came from Ilocos, the guinit hat from Quezon,” said Resty Aguilar, Executive Director of the National Historical Commission. Like British pith helmets, the officer version of the guinit helmet sported a colored puggree. The cloth band denoted the branch of service: blue for Army and red for Constabulary.
Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.
“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.
The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.
DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.
What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.
DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.
The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”
The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”
The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.
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The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantrymen pride themselves on being some of the biggest badasses on every block they roll into. They have more similarities than differences, but they’re unique forces. Here are 5 ways you can tell Marine and Army infantry apart:
Army and Marine Corps rifle platoons share many elements. They are both organized into larger companies, both contain subordinate squads organized into fire teams, and both employ the rifleman as their primary asset. The Army platoon has a radiotelephone operator and a medic. The Marine platoon has a radio transmitter operator and a corpsman who fulfill the same functions.
The Marine Corps rifle platoon contains three rifle squads. Each squad is led by a sergeant who has three fire teams working for him, each led by a corporal. The fire team leader typically carries the M203 grenade launcher slung under his M16. Operating under him are the automatic rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman, and rifleman.
The Army platoons contain smaller squads. An Army rifle squad leader is typically a sergeant or staff sergeant who leads two four-man fire teams. Each Army fire team consists of a team leader, an automatic rifleman, a grenadier, and a rifleman. Note that the Army squad is using a dedicated grenadier in place of an assistant automatic rifleman. Typically, one rifleman in each squad will be a squad designated marksman, a specially trained shooter who engages targets at long range. Also, the Army has an additional squad in each platoon, the infantry weapons squad. This squad has teams dedicated to the M240B machine gun and the Javelin missile system.
Both Marine Corps and Army infantry platoons operate under company and battalion commanders who may add capabilities such as rockets or mortars when needed.
The Army typically gets new weapons before the Marine Corps. It moved to the M4 before the Marine Corps did, and soldiers are more likely than Marines to have the newest weapons add-ons like optical sights, lasers, and hand grips. Marines will get all the fancy add-ons. They just typically get them a few years later.
When the Army needs a rocket or missile launched, they can use SMAWs, AT-4s, or Javelins. For the Marine Corps, SMAW is the more common weapons system (they can call heavier weapons like the Javelin and TOW from the Weapons Company in the battalion).
The Army is quickly adopting the M320 as its primary grenade launcher while the Marine Corps is using the M203. The M320 can be fired as a stand-alone weapon. Either the M320 or M203 can be mounted under an M16 or M4.
3. Fires support
Obviously, infantry units aren’t on their own on the battlefield. Marine and Army rifle units call for assistance from other assets when they get bogged down in a fight. Both the Marine Corps and the Army companies can get mortar, heavy machine gun, and missile/rocket support from their battalion when it isn’t available in the company. For stronger assets such as artillery and close air support, the services differ.
Marines in an Marine Expeditionary Unit, an air-ground task force of about 2,200 Marines, will typically have artillery, air, and naval assets within the MEU. Soldiers in a brigade combat team would typically have artillery support ready to go but would need to call outside the BCT for air or naval support. Air support would come from an Army combat aviation brigade or the Navy or Air Force. Receiving naval fire support is rare for the Army.
4. Different specialties
While all Marines train for amphibious warfare, few soldiers do. Instead, most soldiers pick or are assigned a terrain or warfare specialty such as airborne, Ranger, mountain, or mechanized infantry. Ranger is by far the hardest of these specialties to earn, and many rangers will go on to serve in Ranger Regiment.
The Marine Corps categorizes its infantry by weapons systems and tactics rather than the specialties above. Marine infantry can enter the service as a rifleman (0311), machine gunner (0331), mortarman (0341), assaultman (0351), or antitank missileman (0352). Soldiers can only enter the Army as a standard infantryman (11-B) or an indirect fire infantryman (mortarman, 11-C).
Marines who want to push themselves beyond the standard infantry units can compete to become scout snipers, reconnaissance, or Force Recon Marines. Scout snipers provide accurate long-range fire to back up other infantrymen on the ground. Reconnaissance Marines and Force Recon Marines seek out enemy forces and report their locations, numbers, and activities to commanders. Force Recon operates deeper in enemy territory than standard reconnaissance and also specializes in certain direct combat missions like seizing oil platforms or anti-piracy.
Soldiers who want to go on to a harder challenge have their own options. The easiest of the elite ranks to join is the airborne which requires you to complete a three-week course in parachuting. Much harder is Ranger regiment which requires its members either graduate Ranger School or get selected from Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. Finally, infantry soldiers can compete for Special Forces selection. If selected, they will leave infantry behind and choose a special forces job such as weapons sergeant or medical sergeant. Infantrymen can also become a sniper by being selected for and graduating sniper school.
WATM CEO and Air Force veteran Mark Harper moderated an informative town hall specifically geared toward veterans on the COVID-19 vaccine. Speakers included leaders and medical personnel from prominent veteran organizations who aim to educate hesitant veterans while demystifying the vaccine itself.
Harper was open about his experiences during the pandemic. “I had a lot of friends and coworkers get COVID and some of them were very sick,” he explained. “I looked at wearing a mask as something I should do to protect other people; I think of the vaccine the same way. Getting vaccinated was an extension of my service,” Harper, an Air Force veteran shared.
One of the first speakers at the event was Dr. David Callaway, Team Rubicon’s Chief Medical Officer. Callaway is also a Navy veteran with vast experience in the medical space. He was direct in explaining the importance of vaccination and the vital role veterans can play in the process. Callaway shared a story about his nephew contracting COVID. “He called me and said, ‘I’ve got COVID, but it’s no big deal and I’m going to live my life.'” Unfortunately, his nephew got his father sick, who ended up in the ICU (who has since made a full recovery). Callaway was also direct in addressing the common thought of many veterans that because they are young, healthy and haven’t contracted the virus — they don’t need the vaccination. “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives. The greatest science in world will not protect us unless we get vaccines into arms. Our country is calling on our veterans to lead the charge. This is part of our continued commitment to serving our country: Taking definitive action in times of uncertainty so that we can save the lives of our fellow Americans. You have a choice – to lead, to serve your community, to get vaccinated and to help your community emerge from this damn pandemic.”
Dr. Jane Kim is the Chief Consultant for Preventative Medicine for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She discussed the VA’s role in vaccination efforts and the current statistics on vaccinated veterans to date. Kim also provided important information on each of the vaccines available to American veterans today. Dr. Kim answered a question about how health care workers are feeling right now. “We’re totally exhausted. The health care world has been over-extended throughout the pandemic, but we are so eager to answer any questions about why and how you can get vaccinated.”
Josh Jabin, The Travis Manion Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer and Marine Corps veteran, was also on the panel. “Right now my 9 year old has COVID,” Jabin shared. My 6 year old is quarantining next door. I’m vaccinated so I’m taking care of her, but right now we don’t know if our 6 month old is going to get it. Think of my kids when you’re refusing the needle. Do it for my kids.” He went into depth in explaining the foundation’s reasoning for getting involved in vaccination efforts. Jablin also offered tangible and effective ways to communicate with friends or family hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “Do it for those who are unable to get the vaccine – who don’t have a choice.”
President Barack Obama commuted the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence on Tuesday, with only three days left in office.
Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.
She received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there’s a “pretty stark difference” between Manning’s case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Snowden declared his support for Manning on Twitter.
“In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!” Snowden tweeted.
The president has not granted clemency to Snowden.
Obama pardoned 64 other people on Tuesday and shortened the sentences of 209 prisoners. Over his two terms, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people and granted 212 pardons.
Hundreds of chief petty officers, senior chiefs, and master chiefs are getting orders to deploy with the fleet in what the Fleet Master Chief for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education calls “more directive steps to improve fleet manning and warfighting readiness.”
The announcement comes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has pushed for increasing military readiness, to the point of delaying ship and aircraft procurement in order to reverse shortfalls in training and maintenance budgets.
“We operate in a dynamic environment and Sailors are our key advantage,” the NAVADMIN signed by Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke says. “Assigning Chiefs to our ships, submarines, squadrons, and other key operational and Fleet production units is vital to maintaining that advantage.”
“Assignments for all enlisted supervisors, including those selected for advancement to Chief, will be reviewed and managed to maximize Fleet manning readiness. When detailing Chiefs, sea shore flow and sea shore rotation concerns will continue to be considered, but will be secondary to Fleet manning requirements,” the release went on to say.
However, this is not to say that the Navy is going to be pushing its chiefs out to sea all the time in response to the shortage.
“Engaged leadership will consider human factors, the needs of the community and the needs of losing and gaining commands — all weighed against each other — to ensure we make smart decisions that don’t break our people or our readiness,” Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith wrote in a Navy Times op-ed that explained why the Navy was shifting to a policy that had previously been limited to the submarine force.
Smith said there’s a shortage of enlisted leadership deployed aboard ships that have the experience, problem-solving abilities, technical expertise and ability to make things happen that chief petty officers bring to the Navy.
The Navy is trying to encourage chiefs and junior sailors to voluntarily extend sea duty. For chiefs, the NAVADMIN noted that they would have better chances at obtaining “geographic stability, the opportunity to negotiate for choice orders, and Sea Duty Incentive Pay” through what it called “proactive action to manage career progression.”
The Navy Times reported that junior sailors who volunteered for extra sea duty for one or two more years could receive exemptions from up-or-out limits, that generally apply to sailors.
Russia’s proposed new military transport will be a behemoth of an aircraft — assuming such a plane can even fly and Russia is even vaguely serious about actually building it.
According to the Kremlin propaganda outfit RT, citing design specifications from Russia’s Military-Industrial Commission, the new PAK TA transport will have the improbable ability to achieve supersonic flight while carrying massive payloads. The Kremlin plans to acquire 80 PAK TAs by 2024.
The introduction of the PAK TA is in keeping with Moscow’s stated goals of modernizing its air fleet within the next decade. Russia has dedicated $130 billion through 2020 for the modernization of its aging air force, which is largely made up of Soviet-era aircraft.
But until prototypes of the plane are built and begin flying, there is no telling how well the plane will actually perform or if it is even practical. Russia’s fifth-generation fighter, the T-50, has run into design problems. According to the Indian Air Force, the joint Indian-Russian variant of the T-50 still has numerous stealth and engine problems even at a late stage in its development.
And the PAK TA presents an even greater challenge. A supersonic plane of its size and cargo capacity — an anticipated 200 tons — could land only on a very long, reinforced runway that may need to be designed specifically for the plane. It would necessitate an astonishingly large fuel load, which would further limit the number of airports from which the aircraft could take off and land. It would also have an enormous wingspan that would make the plane an easy target for enemy forces.
On a more basic level, who would entrust 200 tons of cargo aboard such an outlandish, experimental aircraft?
It would be an astonishing accomplishment if a prototype ever takes the skies — never mind 80 finished planes.
For now, the aircraft is at most an aspiration for Russia. It may also just be a propaganda ploy meant to highlight the Kremlin’s modernization drive and create the impression that Russia’s military-industrial complex possesses technological capabilities beyond its actual capacity.
Even if the PAK TA may be crude Kremlin psy-ops, the concept art for the new aircraft is still pretty spectacular. Here’s what Moscow is claiming about its fanciful superplane of the distant and probably nonexistent future.
The PAK TA is being developed by the Russian aviation company Ilyushin.
The next-generation carrier is touted as being able to travel at supersonic speeds, carry up to 200 tons of cargo, and have a range of 4,350 miles.
The PAK TA’s payload capacity is envisioned as being 80 tons more than that of the US’ largest cargo plane, the C-5 Galaxy.
RT estimates that a fleet of PAK TA’s could carry 400 T-14 Armata heavy tanks. Left unaddressed is why anyone would risk loading 400 tanks into a fleet this ridiculous.
The plane is thought to feature an upper gas turbine as well as twin electrically powered fans. The back of the plane’s wings will generate vectored thrust — assuming a single one is ever built.
After serving in the Armed Forces, beginning a rewarding career is one of the most important steps a veteran can take. Sadly, the expense of attending college or enrolling in a vocational training program can be a major obstacle. A fully-online technology program called V School hopes to change that. Partnering with We Are The Mighty, the online school is offering a full-ride scholarshipto help a deserving veteran, active or reserve military member, or one of their dependents on their path to success.
V School has been helping veterans break into tech since 2013.
V School describes itself as a “veteran-backed tech education,” and for good reason. One-third of their staff members are veterans, and the school is approved to accept the G.I. Bill. More importantly, the program is highly-rated and seeks to help students to succeed in more ways than one. Here’s what every student can expect from the V School experience:
A flexible schedule based on content-mastery, not rigid deadlines
Outcome-based training focused on preparing students for future employment.
A student-staff ratio of 1:8
Access to a lifetime of career support from industry insiders
Assistance building a strong portfolio to help land your first job in tech
Mentorship from alumni and fellow vets
After completing the program, graduates are prepared to hit the job market hard.
On Course Report, 55 students have reviewed the school, with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.
Verified reviewer Ryan Pettingill shared one of many rave reviews, stating, “The product this company brings to Utah is absolutely top notch. The mindful teachers and other cooperative faculty work hard every day to provide an excellent learning experience. The skills I have learned here about Website Development surpass anything I could have learned at a traditional 4-year University. Choosing this school may have been the best decision I have ever made to seriously change my career path.”
Who the V School Scholarship is for
If you’re an outstanding member of the military community who’s passionate about coding and ready to step into a new career, we’re talkin’ to you. Military spouses and family are welcome, too!
How to Apply
Prior coding experience isn’t required, but every applicant will need to take an aptitude test to see whether you’d make a good fit for the job. You’ll also have to fill out an application and answer a few essay questions. Easy! If you’re interested in being the recipient of the Full-Ride Military + Veteran Scholarship, apply online right here. V School can’t wait to meet you!
SWAN and other groups have long lobbied for a change in the policy excluding women from certain direct combat roles, such as infantry and artillery. They won that fight in 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all military services to lift the ban on women in combat roles, giving them until January 2016 to fully integrate or ask for special exemptions.
Only the Corps asked for that exemption, which was overruled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
However, since Congress never passed a law on the issue, a Trump White House could just reverse the decision made by the Obama administration, or order exceptions to be made for certain services, such as the Marine Corps.
“It’s our earnest hope” the next administration will look at quality of service members rather than gender, said Germano, though some things Trump has said on the campaign trail cast doubt on whether that will be the case.
When asked in October by a former Army colonel what he would do about the “social engineering and political correctness” that had been imposed on the military, Trump seemed to agree that the military’s acceptance of transgendered troops and women in combat roles was wrongheaded.
“You’re right. We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day,” Trump said. “And a lot of the great people in this room don’t even understand how it’s possible to do that. And that’s through intelligence, not through ignorance — believe me — because some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”
Though he added: “I would say I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned to the generals, the admirals, the people on top.”
As it stands right now, there’s at least one person in top leadership who seems to disagree with the policy change — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford— who would be one of Trump’s closest military advisors, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Others in the Republican Party seem to be weighing in ahead of Trump’s transition as well. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer who has been floated as a potential pick for Defense Secretary, on Sunday called for a “counterrevolution” in the military.
“It doesn’t do anything to further our capacity as war fighters,” Hunter told The Washington Times of women being placed in infantry roles. “It doesn’t do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It’s just a distraction. It’s not like there are thousands of women getting into the infantry now. It will never be that way.”
Like Hunter and others, critics of the policy change have referred to it as “social engineering” within the military ranks. But Germano disagrees with that assessment, telling Business Insider it’s not social engineering but instead, expanding the pool of qualified applicants who can do jobs within the military.
“We believe that women who are highly-qualified for the position and can do the job should have the opportunity to do the job,” Germano said.
A reversal in policy wouldn’t just affect women who had planned to go into combat roles in the future. Since the military has been slowly integrating them into the force, some women would have to be taken out of the roles they had trained for alongside men and put back into non-combat jobs.
In October, the Army graduated 10 new female infantry officers, many of whom are now going through follow-on training before they will be assigned to infantry units. Another woman, Capt. Kristen Griest, transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.
If President-elect Trump decides to change the policy back, he would deal with pushback from the courts. A 2012 lawsuit filed by four female service members who claimed that being excluded from some roles was a violation of their constitutional rights is still ongoing.
The DoD tried to have the suit dismissed after the ban was lifted, but it still remains in litigation — in part because the next president could single-handedly deny those women those rights in the future.
“If we have a Republican president, we may well be in the same position we were when we filed this complaint, a categorical exclusion of all women from combat units,” Steven Perry, an attorney for the four women, told a judge in federal court, according to the Military Times.
The Judge agreed with that assessment and set the next court date for January 12 — eight days before Trump is inaugurated as president.
Regardless of the final status of women in combat roles, it’s clear that women have been involved in combat through the Global War on Terror. Two of the plaintiffs in the 2012 suit were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart medal, and many other women have served alongside male infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan on “female engagement teams.”
If your spouse has the flu, you make soup. If your friend breaks an arm, you offer to help with their chores or errands. When a loved one needs surgery, friends and family send Get Well cards and flowers. The same cannot always be said when someone is in emotional pain and takes the important step forward to improve their mental health.
Unfortunately, many people in this country don’t recognize the signs and symptoms or realize that effective mental health treatments are available. One of the challenges driving these false perceptions is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Additionally, fear of how they may be perceived by their loved ones, friends, or colleagues can keep someone from seeking effective treatment.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it provides us with an important opportunity to continue the national dialogue about mental health and wellness and reduce the negative perceptions associated with seeking treatment.
We Are The Mighty wants to help you play a vital role in connecting the veterans you serve with resources for leading a healthier life. Visit MakeTheConnection.net/Step4ward to discover simple ways to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and show your support for veterans by sharing the Step Forward materials.
MakeTheConnection.net is a free, confidential resource where veterans, their family members, and friends, can privately explore such topics as health, wellness, and everyday life events and experiences.
The success of our efforts during Mental Health Awareness Month depends on your support. Visit the Mental Health Awareness Month hub on the site to watch personal stories of veterans, find resources, share social media content or find other actions that will help raise awareness and broaden this important conversation.
Make the Connection encourages veterans to seek support and mental health services when needed. If you or a veteran you are working with are in immediate crisis or having thoughts of suicide, trained responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with confidential support and guidance. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255.
Now watch this really powerful short Public Service Announcement from the Veterans Crisis Line, titled “I’m Good”:
In addition to myriad other “brown water” missions the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for all icebreaking operations done by the U.S. government. Coast Guard assets include two arctic icebreakers, a Great Lakes-based icebreaker, and a fleet of smaller cutters to clear bays, rivers, and other waterways.
The first icebreaker in the Coast Guard was not a true icebreaker, but the Revenue Cutter Bear, which featured a reinforced hull and spent its career with the Coast Guard’s predecessor, the Revenue Cutter Service, serving from Seattle to present day Dutch Harbor.
The Great Lakes and areas like the Hudson Bay are also serviced by 140-foot icebreaking tugs, such as the Biscayne Bay and Sturgeon Bay. In addition to icebreaking, these cutters also conduct search and rescue, law enforcement, and aids-to-navigation.
Today, ocean-going icebreakers serve several purposes. In addition to opening up shipping channels, they conduct scientific experiments, escort ships, conduct law enforcement and search and rescue, as well as enforce treaties and environmental protections. The Healy also boasts more than 4,000 square feet of laboratory space for civilian, military, and NOAA scientists to collect data and conduct experiments while the cutter is underway. The crews help facilitate environmental protections, such as cleaning up oil spills or other issues, as well as rescue operations and law enforcement as needed.
Life on an icebreaker is hardly easy. The crew may be out of home port for more than eight months a year. Every person aboard must be accounted for twice a day. The job is hazardous, with deaths of crew members being documented due to accidents on both ocean-going icebreakers. Temperatures in the Arctic Circle can get lower than 35 to 50 degrees below zero.
A variety of cutters were used for icebreaking in the north Pacific, but the first true icebreaker was built for the Coast Guard in 1942. The Staten Island was the first of seven Wind-Class cutters built for the Coast Guard. At 269 feet in length, the cutters had the ability to list, or tilt, side to side to break free from ice.
The two iterations of the Mackinaw were both created to serve upon the five great lakes. The main reason for the icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes is to keep commercial vessels moving throughout the winter. The first cutter was built in 1944 and served for 62 years before being decommissioned and turned into a floating museum.
Today, the Polar Star and the Healy make icebreaking voyages. The Healy and Polar Star have participated in voyages to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to help resupply the missions there. In 2015, the Healy became the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied. While the Healy has made voyages south, she generally is the Arctic icebreaker due to her lighter weight. The heavier Polar Star is an Antarctic icebreaker.
While it may seem that two icebreakers is enough for America’s needs, it hardly compares to other Arctic nations. Russia boasts twenty-seven nuclear powered icebreakers, and even Sweden has a fleet of five. There is little room for failure in missions to the Arctic and Antarctic, as there is only one cutter to service each area and there are no other backups. The Coast Guard has requested new icebreakers from Congress, but they have not been authorized due to the $1 billion price tag that comes with each new icebreaker.
The icebreaker USCGC Glacier is shown approaching McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A cargo vessel is seen in the left foreground docked at a floating ice pier. The U.S. Navy commissioned the Glacier in August 1955, after which she participated in the first Operation Deep Freeze, which included the construction of McMurdo. The Navy transferred the Glacier to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1966.
A lack of funding for the Coast Guard has long been one of the service’s biggest issues, and with an aging fleet of cutters and aircraft, the small allowance the USCG gets yearly to replace assets is spent elsewhere first. As the ice melts in the Arctic, traffic and commerce will continue to increase, and other Arctic nations are beginning to create a larger foothold in the area. Both Russia and Finland have contracts for even more icebreakers, leaving the U.S. stranded in the ice if the government cannot compete.
Editor’s note: A special thanks to Ensign Sam Krakower, USCG for his expertise in Coast Guard Arctic Policy.
The end of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move does not always mean that you’re having your household goods delivered immediately. Thankfully, the military offers some free storage with each move. But what happens when your free government storage ends?
Last summer, my family PCS’d from Europe to the US. We decided to renovate our house before moving in, and so we moved in with my mother “temporarily.” In August.
Our household goods arrived in September, and so our 90 days of temporary storage began. When the 90 days was up, my husband requested, and was granted, an extension for another 90 days. Which ended a bit ago. And we’re still at my mother’s house.
After evaluating all the options, my husband decided that our best choice was to keep our household goods in their current storage location, but start paying for the storage ourselves. In this type of situation, the military still retains responsibility for the final delivery fees, which makes this option attractive.
After approximately 4,276 emails back and forth between the company who has our storage shipment, the personal property people, the transportation management people, and the legal services office, we were told that in order to “move” (not move) our items from government storage to personal storage, we would have to have the shipment inspected. The price for the inspection is based upon weight; ours is somewhere in the $900 range.
We asked a lot of questions about who is responsible for the items at which point in the process, and got a lot of conflicting answers and a lot of “well, the rules keep changing” type of answers.
Then, we had to decide what type of insurance we wanted on the items in storage: the free basic coverage or additional coverage for an additional cost. There was a lot of back and forth about whether which insurance choice required inspection, but it seemed we were paying for an inspection anyway, so I never did get all the details about that issue.
Which brings us to today, when many questions were answered and even more questions were developed.
We were told to show up at the warehouse at 9 am to inspect our shipment. When we arrived, we were taken to a corner of the warehouse with 11 of our 15 crates staged. We repeatedly asked “how does this liability thing work?” and “At what point the process do we file a claim for damages that occurred prior to today?” but didn’t get a lot of answers. We also didn’t get any instructions.
Our very nice crew started uncrating our items. Anything that was in a box or a wrapped tub, we noted any damages to the carton, and all furniture was unwrapped and inspected. The moving company rep was making notes and we were making notes and discussing which damage was new and how much was old moving damage or just normal wear and tear of life. I took some pictures of damage that was notable, and I thought things were going pretty well. Items were being re-crated as we went, and the process was smooth and organized.
After lunch, someone in the company decided that the process wasn’t moving fast enough, so they simultaneously added an extra crew member and instructed them to “just get everything unpacked.” I should have put my foot down right then, but I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the chaos that ensued. Instead of taking things out, inspecting what needed to be inspected, and then putting things back, it became a mad rush to empty the remaining 8 crates onto the warehouse floor. I did occasionally ask, “Um, how is this going to work?” and was repeatedly reassured that they had a plan.
Once every crate was unpacked, the team decided to do a thorough search through the approximately 250 items, looking for 5 missing items. This is when I realized that my discomfort was not irrational – this was madness! The day was ending, we had 8 crates of stuff scattered across about 1000 square feet, with random things stacked this way and that, and about 10 items of furniture unwrapped but not yet inspected and additional items still wrapped. I’m not sure if it was the tone or the actual words, but the crew finally got the message that we were not happy. They pulled in additional crew members and everyone started frantically organizing and inspecting and (still!) looking for the missing items.
During this frenzy, it somehow became clear what was happening with regard to the inventorying. The crew wasn’t helping us inspect for damage to make a claim; they were inventorying the condition of items to cover their own liability. Any information being used for our claim needed to be coming from our notes. This makes perfect sense, in retrospect, but it would have been significantly more helpful to have known that BEFORE we started, not 7 1/2 hours into unpacking and repacking.
At 5 p.m., some guy who we’d not yet seen (despite having talked to at least 10 people) showed up and announced that the warehouse was closing for the evening and we’d have to come back tomorrow. Whoa, Nellie! Number one, we’re not available tomorrow. Number two, this is the sort of information that should have been shared at any point prior to now. Number three, the reason we’re in this situation is because someone in your company decided that the previous system wasn’t working and messed with it. I’m pretty irritated that has somehow become my problem.
After a few heated words, it became clear that we really didn’t have any choice but to return. Neither my husband or I can cancel our activities for tomorrow, so it was decided that the company would do their inspection, repack as much as possible, and leave out the items that we needed to inspect when I return on Friday.
On the way out, we checked with our office contact and asked a few more questions. It was at this point in time that we were told that we should have been making all those damage notes on the claim form. I asked where we got those and was informed that we should have been given them at the beginning of the day. She tracked down our forms and handed them over for us to transcribe all our notes before returning on Friday. It seems that our 70 days to claim damage starts with today’s inspection. Nice to know.
It feels like there is a lot more to say about this “process,” and I suspect I’ll be updating this as things evolve, but I want to get it all out to you while it is fresh in my head.
If you find yourself in a situation where your government storage ends before your storage needs end, be sure to explore all the other options. Hopefully, this will provide some insight into the option of keeping your items with the same company that is already storing them. It is by no means a complete or definitive guide, but our experiences that may help you do it better than we are.