Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.
But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.
Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.
“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.
Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.
But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.
These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.
“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.
However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.
“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook
“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.
But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.
“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”
The M107 self-propelled howitzer hasn’t gotten much attention. The M109 series of 155mm howitzers, on the other hand, is reaching its 55th year in operational service with the United States Army. Meanwhile, the M107 is fading into obscurity. Despite its (lack of) reputation, this howitzer was crucial for both the United States and Israel, among other nations.
The M107 and M110 shared the same chassis, but both were equipped with different guns — the M107 packed a 175mm gun and the M110 used an eight-inch cannon. Sharing a chassis was a boon in terms of both maintenance and logistics, since it meant the supply clerks had fewer categories of parts to handle.
A M107 self-propelled gun reaches out to touch the enemy during a fire mission in South Vietnam.
That also meant the guns were swappable — a M107 could become a M110 and vice versa depending on the mission. Want to deliver a particularly big punch? The M110 was your choice. Need to reach out and touch someone up to 25 miles away? The M107 is your choice for that.
The M107 entered operational service with the United States Army in 1962. By 1979, it had been retired, but it served for a while in a number of other militaries. Its most notable service was with Israel, which pushed its maximum range to 30 miles thanks to the efforts of Dr. Gerald Bull. M107s shelled Damascus during the Yom Kippur War, destroyed at least 15 surface-to-air missile sites, and are still held in reserve by the Israeli military.
The Israelis were able to use M107 to hit targets up to 30 miles away.
The M107 also saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, where it was used by Iranian forces. The M107 was first replaced by the M110A2, a longer-range eight-inch gun, and, ultimately, by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
You can see how the Army introduced this long-range gun to America in the video below!
In a clear message to Russian forces, three US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew an extended sortie over the Arctic Circle for the first time on Sept. 5, 2019, the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing confirmed to Insider.
Details about the sortie over the Norwegian Sea are scarce, but the aircraft involved completed a night refueling over the Arctic Circle as part of Bomber Task Force Europe. In March, Norway accused Russia of jamming its GPS systems and interfering in encrypted communications systems.
“Training outside the U.S. enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace, and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” US Air Force spokesman Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder told Insider.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
The B-2s are part of the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are deployed to Royal Air Force Base Fairford near Gloucestershire, England where last month they flew with non-US F-35s for the first time. RAF Fairford is the forward operating location for US Air Force in Europe’s bombers.
Four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing stationed at RAF Mildenhall joined the B-2s on the mission over the Norwegian Sea.
A spokesperson from the 509th Bomb Wing told Insider that no other NATO aircraft were involved in the mission, and the bombers did not have any ammunition on board.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Last month, the B-2 also made its very first visit to Iceland, establishing the Air Force’s presence in a region Russia considers its dominion. Iceland’s Keflavik Air Base was established during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet Union, and the B-2s’ brief stopoff there demonstrated its ability to operate in cold-weather conditions.
An assistant patrol leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, applies camouflage paint to his face.
Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.
But for veterans, it’s different.
I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.
Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.
The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.
Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”
People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.
I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.
It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.
Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.
For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.
Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.
There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.
Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe withnooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.
The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.
The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.
We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.
The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States had near-perfect intelligence photos of the entire Soviet Union. In the days before satellite imagery, the Air Force had to go out and get this kind of intel the old-fashioned way, using a camera and flying over the target. This was inherently dangerous, especially over a place like the Soviet Union. The only defense aerial reconnaissance pilots had in these early days was the U-2 spy plane, an aircraft that flew so high it was out of range of most surface-to-air missiles.
American U-2 Pilot Francis Gary Powers in front of one of the infamous spy planes.
The CIA tasked pilot Francis Gary Powers for its 24th and most ambitious spy plane flyover yet. Rather than enter and exit through the same flight path, Powers would fly from high above Peshawar, Pakistan and on to Norway on a flight plan that would take him over possible nuclear missile and submarine sites in Tyuratam, Sverdlovsk, Kirov, Kotlas, Severodvinsk, and Murmansk.
Along the way, Powers faced intercept attempts from MiG-19 and Su-9 fighters, but of course, the U-2 was flying much too high for just any fighter to intercept. The fighters were even ordered to ram Powers if necessary. After flying over the Chelyabinsk-65 plutonium production facility, Powers’ U-2 came under heavy fire from S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile batteries near Kosulino in the Ural Mountains. This is where the U-2 was brought down. Historical reports agree a missile from the S-75 exploded behind Powers’ plane and took it down. But one Russian pilot disagrees.
He was there, too, he says.
Soviet Su-9 Fishpot fighters.
Soviet Air Force Captain Igor Mentyukov was flying an intercepting Su-9 “Fishpot” fighter in the skies over the Urals that day. Mentyukov says one Su-9 attempted to ram the U-2 but missed due to the differences in speed between the two aircraft. He also says the explosions from the S-75 missile battery would have completely annihilated Powers’ aircraft and that it couldn’t possibly have taken a hit at 70,000 feet and still been recreated on the ground. No, Mentyukov says it was the slipstream from his Su-9 that brought Powers down, causing the U-2 to break apart.
Powers was able to eject and, surviving the 70,000-foot fall, opted not to use the poison the CIA gave him to use in case of capture. Eventually, the U.S. was forced to acknowledge Powers and his mission. After spending nearly two years in a Soviet prison, he was traded for Soviet spy KGB Colonel William Fisher, who went by the alias Rudolf Abel.
For many Americans, military service was their pathway to citizenship. For their service during the Revolutionary War, three foreign generals have been declared honorary citizens of the United States. Citizenship can only be granted by an act of Congress or by a proclamation issued by the President. Although purely ceremonial, the awarding of citizenship highlights the enormous contribution that these men made to the United States of America in its struggle for independence.
1. Marquis de Lafayette
Arguably the most important foreign national in American history, Lafayette was born into one of the oldest and most distinguished French families. Following family tradition, he commissioned as an officer in the Musketeers. In 1776, the 19-year-old Lafayette was put in contact with American agents by King Louis XVI. The French hoped to regain influence in North America and exact revenge against the British for the Seven Years’ War by covertly supporting America in its revolution. However, Britain learned of these backroom dealings and threatened France with war if support was provided to the colonies. Against the orders of his commanding officer (and father-in-law) and a decree by the king, Lafayette was determined to join America’s fight and bought a ship with his own money for the trip across the Atlantic. Agreeing to serve without pay, he was commissioned by Congress as a major general on July 31, 1777. During the revolution, Lafayette was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine and endured the harsh winter at Valley Forge. His commands at the Battles of Rhode Island and Yorktown were instrumental in America’s victory and independence. Lafayette was awarded honorary citizenship in 2002.
2. Casimir Pulaski
Another foreign military officer who served in the Continental Army, Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman and skilled cavalryman. He was involved in the revolution within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for which he was exiled. Upon Benjamin Franklin’s recommendation, Pulaski traveled to America to help in its own revolution. After arriving in America, he wrote, “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.” Like Lafayette, Pulaski served alongside General Washington at the Battle of Brandywine. When the Continental Army was forced into a retreat, Pulaski led a charge that prevented a British encirclement and saved Washington’s life. For this action, Congress commissioned him as a brigadier general in the Continental Army cavalry. Pulaski was a strong believer in the superiority of cavalry over infantry. He organized the Continental Army’s cavalry units and wrote the first doctrine on its formations. For this, he is known as the father of the American cavalry. Pulaski was killed leading a charge at the Battle of Savannah on October 11, 1779. For his service to the nation, Pulaski was made an honorary citizen in 2009.
3. Bernardo de Gálvez
Like France, Spain had strategic interest in helping America achieve its independence from Britain. On January 1, 1777, General Gálvez was appointed governor of Luisiana (the colony’s name under Spanish rule). Under his command, the Spanish practiced an anti-British policy by inhibiting British smuggling in the region and promoting trade with France. Moreover, Gálvez sold desperately needed supplies like gunpowder, muskets, uniforms, and medicine to Americans. Although the British blockaded the colonial ports, Gálvez allowed the patriots use of the Mississippi River via New Orleans. The city also served as a safe haven for American raiding parties after attacking British ships. Following Spain’s declaration of war on Britain in 1779, Gálvez carried out an impressive military campaign against the British. He scored major victories at Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, and Natchez that year. This campaign eliminated the British presence in the lower Mississippi Valley. At the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780, he recaptured Mobile from British control. His most important victory was the land and sea campaign that captured Pensacola. This left the British with no military bases on the Gulf Coast. Although his contributions are not commonly taught in American history, his campaigns against the British and support for the patriots on the Southern Front were vital in America’s victory over Britain. Gálvez was awarded honorary citizenship in 2014.
Feature image: Charles Henry Jeans/ Wikimedia Commons
That’s the possibility some are preparing for, at least.
In 2008, Larry Hall purchased a retired missile silo — an underground structure made for the storage and launch of nuclear weapon-carrying missiles — for $300,000 and converted it into apartments for people who worry about Armageddon and have cash to burn.
Hall’s Survival Condo Project, in Kansas, cost about million to build and accommodates roughly a dozen families. Complete with food stores, fisheries, gardens, and a pool, the development could pass as a setting in the game “Fallout Shelter,” wherein players oversee a group of post-apocalyptic residents in an underground vault.
Take a look inside one of the world’s most extravagant doomsday shelters.
The Survival Condo Project is no ordinary condo development.
It sits inside a missile silo built during the height of the Cold War. The structure housed a nuclear warhead from 1961 to 1965 and was built to withstand a direct nuclear blast.
Larry Hall, who previously developed networks and data centers for government contractors, got the idea to convert the base after the attacks on September 11, 2001, when the federal government began reinvesting more heavily in catastrophe planning.
“I was aware of the availability [of the site] from working on government contracts,” Hall told Business Insider in 2017. He purchased the silo for $300,000 in 2008.
Though the exact location is top-secret, Hall said it’s situated north of Wichita, Kansas, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland.
The quarters are comparable in size to smaller city dwellings. A full-floor unit covers about 1,820 square feet, which is little more than a third of a basketball court. It fits six to 10 people.
The construction costs were nearly $20 million. The once vacant chamber now has 15 floors divided into 12 single-family homes as well as common areas and space for operations.
The typical full-floor apartment includes three bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, a dining room, and a great room. Bunk beds are a necessity for fitting in the whole family.
Tenants will hardly be roughing it. The homes each have a dishwasher, washer and dryer, and windows fitted with LED screens that show a live video of the prairie outside.
A full-floor unit is advertised for .4 million, and a half-floor unit goes for half the price. Several units are currently available for sale. All are furnished.
Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?
Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.
Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.
Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.
The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:
— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.
— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.
— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.
— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.
“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.
“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”
Creating high performers
Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.
The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.
“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.
Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.
The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.
The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.
About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.
The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.
The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.
Special ops interest
The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.
Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.
In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.
Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.
Rear Adm. Victorino G. Mercado, hands his wife, Suzane, the national ensign he received during his retirement ceremony in front of USS Halsey (DDG 97).
This is the advice I wish I had been privy to. The dynamics of marriage don’t suddenly change the day of retirement, rather, there is a period of anticipation that leads up to the finality of the transition. In much the same way that we address the stresses of pre-deployment, we should be discussing the stress that comes during pre-retirement.
It’s so complicated
Perhaps I should phrase this as what I didn’t know about the medical retirement process, because that is the one we endured. It is humiliating. Soldiers who have been told their entire career to push through the pain are suddenly being treated with suspicion as if they are trying to milk the government for every penny they can when really, all they want, or mine wanted, was to stay in and serve.
I went to every appointment I was able to attend. This isn’t realistic for all spouses, but in my unique line of work I was able to work my schedule around his. If you are able to, I highly recommend it. Things happen in those appointments where your soldier needs an advocate and a voice of encouragement that the temporary suck is worth the process.
The medical documents were an outright mess. According to the file, my husband had an abnormal pap-smear a few years back. Yes, a pap-smear. A mess!
They required hours of pouring over to make sure that they were correct and then hours more of appealing diagnoses that weren’t correct. This is when you, the spouse, begin to discover your new role of caregiver. It’s not an easy one and as a nurse recently told me it’s important to remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself and stick with it.
Your soldier needs to know you’re in this, too, and that you’ll be standing at the other side, just like he/she needed to know when they stepped on the plane to deploy.
The information they give you at the transition readiness seminar isn’t always up to date
Take notes and do the research. Double check everything you are told. Document and start a file folder. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same advice we are given as we begin the pre-deployment process.
I went to the transition readiness seminar with my spouse to take notes. Part of the reason he was medically retired was due to memory loss related to a TBI. One of my new roles was to take notes and help him remember what was discussed.
Spouses are encouraged to attend these meetings, but as the only spouse in attendance I discovered some of the advice that given out was to our disadvantage. I listened as soldiers were told how to navigate around their benefits in order to payout the minimum amount to spouses if the marriage didn’t work out.
What I wish we had been told was not how to screw our spouses, but rather how to love and support one another through one of the more difficult transitions of our lives.
It may not be the best time to buy a house
A lot of couples start dreaming about their retirement home. For some of them, like us, it’s their first home purchase. Look, retirement is a big stressor all on its own. Buying a home might be a stressor you can put off but if not, here are a few tips from Forbes on how to buy a house while also avoiding a break up.
As a newly retired military family, if you are buying a house locate realtors and mortgage companies who have walked through the process with previous veterans from service to retirement. It’s a complicated system finding financing while in transition, one that requires a few experts in your corner. Some friends have had success moving the family months prior to the actual retirement while others have had to live with family until all the needed paperwork to move forward is available.
For us, one word off on the VA paperwork nearly made us homeless. After driving for four days, we were two hours away before we got the call that we had a place to move into. If you are considering buying a house while transitioning out of the military read this first: 5 Home Purchase Considerations For Your Military Consideration.
Experience prepping for deployments can help you in prepping for retirement
We all go into our first deployment with an idea of what it will look like; retirement is similar. I pictured lunch dates, Pinterest DIY projects, and shared household responsibilities. Our careers were about to take off, my husband with his dream of culinary school and mine as a full-time writer. Reality has a way of knocking you down a few notches.
I want you to dream. You need to dream. A year and a half out we seem to finally be getting the hang of communicating how we each need help and tackling the household responsibilities in a way that works. But none of it looks quite like we pictured. As we adjust to the reality of our new normal, we are learning to communicate more openly, to listen more fully and to forgive the missteps along the way.
There are a lot of emotions that go into prepping for deployments and there are a lot of emotions that come with the transition from military to civilian life. Be ready to be honest with one another along the way. Hold each other up because the period of your life doesn’t have to break you, it can be the moment that solidifies you as a couple.
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.
A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.
Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.
The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.
Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.
The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.
No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)
Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.
Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he expects to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York amid concerns expressed by Washington over Moscow’s plans to supply Syria with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system.
Pompeo made the remarks on Sept. 24, 2018, just hours after Russia announced that it was supplying the S-300 missile system to improve Syria’s defenses and help prevent a repeat of the downing of a Russian warplane by Syrian forces in September 2018.
Anticipating a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which opens on Sept. 25, 2018, Pompeo said “I’m sure Sergei and I will have our time together.”
“We are trying to find every place we can where there is common ground, where we can work with the Russians,” Pompeo said, adding that Washington will hold Moscow “accountable” for many areas where Russia is working against the United States.
U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said on Sept. 24, 2018, that Russia’s decision to deploy the advanced antiaircraft missiles to Syria was a “major mistake” and a “significant escalation” in Syria’s seven-year war.
Bolton also said U.S. troops will not leave Syria until Iranian forces leave.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Sept. 24, 2018, that Moscow will deliver the S-300 within two weeks and will provide Syrian government forces with updated automated systems for its air-defense network.
SA-12 high altitude surface-to-air missile systems
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
This will improve Syrian air-defense operations and “most important, the identification of all Russian aircraft by Syrian air-defense systems will be guaranteed,” Shoigu said.
Syrian government forces shot a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane down off the northwestern province of Latakia on Sept. 17, 2018, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.
Shoigu’s ministry angrily blamed Israel, accusing the country’s military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian air-defense systems.
President Vladimir Putin took a softer approach, saying that the shoot-down appeared to be the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
But Putin announced that Russia would take visible measures to protect Russian military personnel in Syria.
In a statement on Sept. 24, 2018, the Kremlin said that Putin told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of the decision during a telephone conversation initiated by Assad.
Putin “informed [Assad] about the decision to take a number of additional measures with the aim of providing for the security of Russian forces in Syria and strengthening the country’s air defense, including the delivery of a modern S-300 air-defense missile complex to Syria,” the statement said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia has given Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
Moscow helped protect Assad from possible defeat and turn the tide of the war in his favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.
Much of Syria’s air-defense network has been provided by Russia but consists of weapons that are older and less effective than the S-300.
Russia suspended the supply of an S-300 system at an earlier stage in the war, amid Israeli concerns that it could be used against it.
Shoigu said that “the situation has changed, and it’s not our fault,” adding that the supply of an S-300 would “calm down some hotheads” whose actions “pose a threat to our troops.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia’s decision to deliver an S-300 was not targeted against anyone and was aimed solely to protect Russian troops in Syria.
The reconnaissance plane’s downing “was indeed preceded by a chain of tragic accidents,” Peskov said, but this chain was set in motion “largely by the deliberate actions of Israeli pilots.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that supplying S-300s to Syria is Russia’s “right” and voiced confidence that this would not hurt Russian ties with Israel.
As part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual exercise between the Philippines and the U.S., the Marines took their HIMARS to that country and fired practice rockets. Watch the video and see how they quickly got the artillery systems to the country and into the fight:
Oscar-nominated Sam Elliott will narrate the four-part docuseries Honor Guard, which follows U.S. Army soldiers throughout the grueling training required to serve at the 3rd Infantry Regiment. Also known as The Old Guard, the 3rd Infantry Regiment is perhaps best known for hosting the Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Honor Guard is the follow-up to Time to Kill Productions’ award-winning 2016 feature documentary The Unknowns, which follows the training of the Sentinels. Creators Neal Schrodetzki and Ethan Morse, who served together as guards at the Tomb, will now follow the intense training cycles that prepare soldiers for The Regiment, the Honor Guard Caisson Platoon, the U.S. Army Drill Team, or a Full-Honors funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Morse and Schrodetzki have exclusive access provided by the United States Army to capture these never-before documented training cycles. Their mission is the same as Sam Elliott’s, and the reason he agreed to join the project: to honor the fallen.
Elliott’s contributions to military story-telling helped inspired Morse to serve in the first place. “I first became interested in the military after seeing Sam Elliott as the Union Cavalry General John Buford in Gettysburg. Fast forward a few years and I’m serving in the California Army National Guard, just like Mr. Elliott did.”
Elliott has a distinguished and longstanding reputation with the military community, due in part to the iconic roles he has played in films like We Were Soldiers and Once an Eagle.
Plus, his voice is smooth as molasses. You just know it is.