Every July 4th, we celebrate our independence by displaying our patriotic spirit and pride in all things American. Here are some ideas to help you celebrate America and all its glory the right way!
1. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance
Find an American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (And listen to the words as you say them.)
2. Attend a Naturalization ceremony
One of the most patriotic things you can do is support our nation’s newest citizens by attending a naturalization ceremony. Each year, cities and some overseas military installations host these ceremonies on the 4th of July. Many of these individuals have been waiting years to become citizens and some have even served in the military. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 7,000 new citizens will be welcomed this year. To see if there is a ceremony in your town, please check out this link: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/celebrating-independence-day-naturalization-ceremonies-0
3. Head to the ballpark
They don’t call it America’s pastime for nothing. Baseball was born right here in the good ole USA. Have some peanuts and cracker jacks and enjoy the ball game. And don’t forget to stick around for the seventh inning stretch.
4. Watch Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog eating contest
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest is an American staple held each year on America’s birthday. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Nathan’s Famous. There is something very American about watching men and women chow down processed meat to earn the title of hot dog eating champion and a shiny championship belt.
5. Grill out and have a cold one
Watching grown men and women scarf down as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes can make you hungry. So do what Americans do best and fire up the grill. Cook yourself a massive steak, have a mountain of potato salad, and enjoy a nice cold beverage in the company of friends and family.
6. Eat a slice of Apple pie
After stuffing your face with BBQ food, grab yourself a slice of apple pie. Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream will only make it taste better.
7. Watch the Fireworks
Fireworks have been a part of Fourth of July festivities since the first anniversary of the nation’s independence. Thousands of public firework displays will be held from coast-to-coast for the public to check out. If you chose to do your own fireworks, please be careful. Safety first!
8. Thank a veteran or current service member
This one is pretty easy and will make our forefathers proud!
Happy 4th of July everyone!
Let us know what other great American things to do on the 4th of July in the comments.
In late summer 2017, two unarmed Russian military planes flew over critical American defense areas, completely unescorted, unintercepted, and completely unabated in any way. In Washington, a plane flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and even the White House – areas off limits to most other pilots, from the U.S. or elsewhere.
But Russia can fly over them whenever it wants.
Putin will find a way to troll the US with this power.
The Tupolev Tu-154M also flew over the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and even the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Another Russian Tupolev Tu-154M military plane flew over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump was taking a break from the White House.
They both left from Dayton, Ohio.
Leaving: One of the best things to do in Dayton.
It may sound fishy, but there’s a good reason for the unrestricted flyovers. The United States and Russia are both party to the Open Skies Treaty, along with 32 other member states. It dictates that area controlled by a member state is open to observation by any other signatory. Any unarmed plane can fly over even the most sensitive areas of another country who signed on to the treaty. This is how the United States was able to prove military activity in Eastern Ukraine was a Russian build up over Moscow’s vehement denials.
So Russia can fly right over the White House on July 4th.
Usually they just buzz American ships at sea.
The treaty was talked about as early as 1955, but the Soviet Union (rightly) believed it would compromise their national security. It was formally re-introduced after the fall of Communism in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. All aircraft and its sensor equipment will carry home country observers and submit to an inspection to ensure its sensors are in line with treaty stipulations.
Only once was an Open Skies Treaty request ever turned down. In February 2016, Turkey denied Russia an Open Skies flight over NATO airbases in the country as well as areas near the Syrian border. In September 2018, the United States almost denied another Russian flyover by refusing to certify Russia’s latest Open Skies plane. Though the U.S. eventually relented, it said it was a response to Russia’s refusal to allow American flights over Kaliningrad, near the Poland-Lithuania border.
For some people, Enterprise is the ship that comes to mind when they think about the U.S. Navy.
However, for fans of the TV show Star Trek – Trekkies, Enterprise is synonymous with the fictional starship by the same name and “its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
On this day, 50 years after the show’s premiere, we’re looking back at our Enterprise by the numbers.
The name Enterprise is as old as the U.S. Navy. The first Enterprise ship was captured from the British by Benedict Arnold in May 1775. CVN-65 was the eighth ship with the name Enterprise in the history of the U.S. Navy.
The length of the Enterprise in feet, making it the longest ship in history. Over 800 companies provided building supplies, which included 60,923 tons of steel, 1507 tons of aluminum, 230 miles of pipe and tubing and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods.
The number of nuclear reactors aboard Enterprise, which was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The reactors generated more than 200,000 horsepower.
At sea aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Nov. 5, 2001– Sailors aboard USS Enterprise spell out “E = MC2x40” on the carrier’s flight deck to mark forty years of U.S. Naval nuclear power as ship and crew return home from a Mediterranean Sea Arand abian Gulf deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Enterprise currently in dry dock at the Naval Shipyards in Norfolk, Va. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Douglass M. Pearlman. (RELEASED)
The number of Sailors and Marines who served aboard Enterprise, which had 23 different commanding officers.
Within one year of its commissioning, President John Kennedy dispatched Enterprise to blockade Cuba and prevent the Soviet delivery of missiles to the island.
Enterprise was returning from a long deployment when terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11. Without waiting for orders, Enterprise returned to the Arabian Gulf and later launched one of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The ship expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during Operation Enduring Freedom.
At sea aboard USS Enterprise (Oct. 18, 2001) — U.S. Navy sailors inspect AGM-65 “Maverick” air-to-surface tactical missiles on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Lance H. Mayhew Jr. (RELEASED)
The number of deployments made by Enterprise, which traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean and the Middle East, and served in nearly every major conflict that occurred during her history.
The number of arrested landings recorded aboard Enterprise as of May 2011, the fourth aircraft carrier to perform such a feat.
Enterprise’s years of active service, which ended December 1, 2012. Enterprise was one of the longest active-duty ships in the history of the Navy.
During CVN-65’s inactivation ceremony on Dec. 1, 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in a video message that the name Enterprise will live on as the officially passed the name to CVN-80, the third Ford class carrier and the ninth ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name.
Each time Jacque Elama hands out a package of food, he connects with another family in need.
The interactions touch Elama, a specialist in the Ohio National Guard, on a personal level. He spent most of the first 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in his native Democrat Republic of the Congo before his family came to America. He is now 25 years old and part of a National Guard mission helping out at a food bank in Toledo.
“It was a hard endeavor to overcome,” Elama said of his childhood. “Basically, my parents tried to shape me into a person who can be encouraging to others, because they themselves didn’t have what I have right now, the technology, the cars.”
Those things are not what prompted Core and Antoinette Elama, their five children (Jacque is the oldest) and one of Jacque’s uncles to relocate to Newport News, Virginia. Jacque said they arrived in 2004; Core recalled it was in 2005. Regardless of the timeline, one fact remained clear.
The Elamas were escaping their war-torn homeland in search of a better life, searching for a home in a country in which they were stepping foot for the first time.
“Once you come, you just come,” Core Elama said. “You need the help to get yourself set and [adjusted] to the new situation. You really need help in any way, so you set yourself in the community.”
The Elamas’ move from Congo, a country of nearly 90 million people in central Africa, was fraught with challenges, not the least of which was learning a different language. Jacque Elama’s parents needed jobs; they found work in factories. They did not know how to drive and never had experienced the mundane tasks that Americans take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, paying bills and scheduling medical appointments.
The family had never owned a television — or operated an oven, for that matter. So much was new, but they were ever so grateful.
Their circumstances were much improved from the world they left behind.
“The struggles were absolutely difficult, compared to how I’m living here in the U.S.,” Jacque Elama said. “The basic necessities were hard to come by [in Congo], so we had to struggle to get food and water for the family. Mostly as a child, I personally did not experience any personal hardship, because what you’re doing is just playing around, having as much fun as you can without worrying about the outside world.
“I was pretty much enjoying my life as much as I possibly could.”
A Catholic charity organization helped the Elamas relocate to America.
Jacque Elama credited one couple in that group in particular, Keith and Jill Boadway, with being especially helpful in easing the family’s transition.
“They came to our house for Thanksgiving,” Jill Boadway said. “Jacque used to come to our house during the summer and spend a week at our home. We have a son who’s about the same age. It was a real blessing.”
Spc. Jacque Elama. Courtesy photo.
The Elamas became U.S. citizens in 2010 and moved to Ohio when Jacque was in high school. He joined the Ohio National Guard in 2017 and embraced the opportunity to participate in his unit’s mission as a volunteer at a food bank.
Elama packs boxes for emergency relief, veterans and senior citizens and distributes them to those same groups, said Lt. Michael Porter, the task-force leader.
For 40 hours a week, Elama sees it as a way to give back. Each box reminds him of his parents’ sacrifice.
“I think about it every day,” said Elama, a senior at Bowling Green studying international relations. “It’s a blessing and an honor to be out there and help people, because that’s what I want to do in the future. I want to continue to help others.”
For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.
As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”
And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.
“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”
As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.
Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.
Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.
A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”
“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”
On June 6, 2021, the world recognized the 77th anniversary of D-Day, arguably the largest seaborne invasion in history. Though it led to the eventual freeing of Europe from Nazi-controlled Germany, the cost was high and heavy. Historians estimate that as many as 10,000 allied troops lost their lives on the Normandy beaches that day. FOX’s Sunday Night in America hosted by Trey Gowdy memorialized those heroes. But Gowdy took it even further by talking directly to viewers and asking them if they were living their lives to be worth the willing sacrifices made by our fallen.
The host ended his show on Sunday by reflecting on D-Day, noting that although it feels like so long ago it was within his own parent’s lifetime. Gowdy also addressed the recent Memorial Day and how it is often perceived or recognized by the country. “Memorial Day is associated in some of our minds with fireworks, backyard cookouts and swimming pools. All of that’s good. It’s been a long, hard year for our country and taking a day to simply enjoy life and the company of those we care about is a good thing,” he said in his address. It was his next words that revealed his direct and vital point. “I think there is a seminal question to be asked on Memorial Day and on this D-Day Anniversary. It’s a question really only for those who can no longer answer. The question is simply this: ‘Was it worth it?’.”
In the month before D-Day, 1.5 million American troops were deployed to Great Britain. History has long proven the remarkable evidence of unwavering courage the men on those beaches maintained as they waited for the invasion to begin. You see, they knew the chances of dying were high. Then General Dwight Eisenhower was told at one point casualties alone could be as high as 75 percent. They did it anyway. By August of 1944, over 20,000 Americans would lay down their lives in the battle to free the world from the Nazis.
As the country reflected on the somber anniversary, Gowdy asked a poignant question of the viewers watching: “I don’t think it’s too much to ask for us to simply reflect on whether we have become as a people, as a nation, as a country, something worth losing your life over. I do wonder sometimes what those women and men who died on behalf of this country would say,” he said. Later, he took it even further. “Have we become the country you imagined we could be when you fought and fell? Is this the America you dreamed of when you were taking your last breath far removed from your family?”
The picture painted with his words are undeniably uncomfortable for many to think of, but no less true. The Normandy invasion of D-Day changed the course of the war and quickly ended Nazi Germany’s reign. Those who served during that time period became commonly referred to as the “greatest generation” with over 12 million Americans raising their right hands. The patriotism so loudly heard and visibly seen during that period faded as America entered into new wars years later. Since then, there have been moments we’ve witnessed with horror as well as those to be celebrated, as we grew and advanced as a country. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 it felt as though we were more connected than ever, not unlike that D-Day feeling Americans may have been experiencing. But it would be fleeting. Though none of us would ever wish another attack, many openly long for the America of the days after 9/11. We cheered and honored our men and women in uniform, united in the commitment to eliminate evil and defend our country. 20 years into the war, we’ve lost that.
“It is much easier to think about the beginning of summer and the pool and the longer days with the sun setting later into the evening. But for those for whom the sun has already set, never to rise again, what would they tell you – if only they could,” Gowdy implored. “I think the best way to honor the men and women who died to found, preserve, perfect, defend and improve this country, is to make sure their sacrifice has a meaning, a purpose, an everlasting purpose. That is the greatest gift we can give back to those who gave their greatest gift to us. ‘Was it worth it?’ That’s the question for us to reflect on. And the answer is really up to us.”
According to Nielsen Media Research, almost 1.3 million people watched Gowdy utter those words. It was a powerful message of reflection citizens of this country would benefit from spending time sitting with not just on Memorial Day or D-Day remembrance, but every day. As we look at where we’ve come from and where we are going as modern Americans, are we worth it? The important take away from Gowdy’s message seems to be that we should always strive to be. The weight of those lives lost in the name of our freedom and opportunity as Americans deserves nothing less.
There are things that can annoy you during your time in uniform, like PowerPoint presentations, waiting to be released for the weekend, and that private who clearly needed a waiver to get in. Wait, that’s not a private, that’s a lieutenant!
And then there are things that can kill you.
The US military has been at war for nearly 20 years, and anyone who has wanted to test their mettle in combat has had the chance. Thanks to modern battlefield medicine and overwhelming fire superiority in most situations, American service members are coming home alive at rates that have never before been seen in the history of warfare.
US Army soldiers fire 81mm mortars during a fire mission in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 6, 2019. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne.
Unfortunately, it’s not just bullets and IEDs that can — and do — kill our men and women in uniform. In fact, 74% of all US military deaths since 2006 have had nothing to do with combat.
1. Training. Train like you fight, fight like you train. It’s a good ethos to have in the business of war, but unfortunately, realistic training can have unintended consequences. Most recently, eight Marines and one US Navy sailor were killed when their Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) sunk during training off San Clemente Island. This isn’t a common occurrence, but in 2017, 14 Marines and one sailor were hospitalized after their AAV hit a natural gas line. The last death occurred in 2011 after a Marine died while trapped in a sunken AAV in Oceanside Harbor.
Training accidents happen on land and in the air, too.
Special Forces Soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June 10, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt, courtesy of DVIDS.
Between 2015 and 2018, the US Army suffered 14 fatalities from vehicle rollovers. That number spiked in 2019, with eight soldiers killed in rollover accidents. According to a US Army safety brief video, vehicle training accidents kill more on-duty soldiers than any other single reason, with inadequate unit driver training programs contributing to 68% of these mishaps.
Airborne operations are inherently risky and are considered the most dangerous training the military conducts on a regular basis despite rigorous risk mitigation procedures. So far in 2020, there have been at least two deaths, preceded by four in 2019. The fatalities affect conventional and special operations troops alike while conducting both static line and military free fall training across the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Air Force.
Training accidents are readily apparent in how they impact the force, while other issues are not so obvious — or forgivable.
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. US Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Julianne Showalter.
2. Toxic exposure. Although burn pits have been reduced to an oft-joked about condition of wartime service, their impacts on service members who served overseas are real. Toxic exposure from burn pits is difficult to track, but one organization says they have recorded at least 130 deaths from the more than 250 burn pits that were used across Iraq and Afghanistan. Many compare the issue to how Agent Orange afflicted veterans of the Vietnam War. Like Agent Orange, the full effects of burn pits will likely take decades of research before it’s impact on veterans is fully understood.
If you’ve deployed to Afghanistan, you’ve probably heard about “Mefloquine Monday” and the nightmares it causes. Due to the areas of the world the US military regularly deploys to, a variety of malaria medications have been used for decades, with some having detrimental effects on service members. Mefloquine, in particular, was considered so dangerous that the FDA put a “black box” warning — its most strict measure — on the drug in 2013. It’s difficult to attribute how many deaths are a result of the drug, but the drug’s effects on the brain may be contributing to suicide rates.
Military housing has come under fire in recent years for failing to address issues ranging from black mold to lead poisoning and even asbestos poisoning. The problem affects everyone in the military umbrella, from junior enlisted soldiers in barracks to families living in on-base housing. Despite multiple lawsuits, the US military still grapples with some leaders not taking the issue seriously — even though it’s now affecting service members’ children.
Members of the Uzbekistan National Guard show a US special operator de-mining techniques during exercise Invincible Sentry in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, Feb. 22, 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin, courtesy of DVIDS.
Depleted uranium has also affected multiple generations of US military personnel, with many suffering through cancer and other afflictions after being exposed.
Most recently, government documents revealed that the military knew Uzbekistan’s K2 airbase was poisoning service members stationed there.
“Ground contamination at Karshi-Khanabad Airfield poses health risks to U.S. forces deployed there,” said the classified report obtained by McClatchy dated Nov. 6, 2001. According to a 2015 Army investigation, at least 61 service members have been diagnosed with cancer or died after serving there, but that number does not include special operations troops at the secretive base.
There are many organizations available to help service members who have been impacted by toxic exposures. Veterans who are experiencing unexplained health issues are encouraged to reach out for help.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, and US Senator John Cornyn take questions from reporters during a press conference outside the main gate at Fort Hood, Texas, April 3, 2014. US Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
3. Fort Hood. K2 isn’t the only base responsible for death in the military. Fort Hood is quickly becoming known as one of the most dangerous places to be stationed in the US Army after a rash of murders and busted prostitution rings have been exposed. Twenty-three soldiers assigned to the Texas base have died this year alone; only one of those deaths happened in combat. The murder and dismemberment of Spc. Vanessa Guillen thrust Fort Hood’s issues into the national spotlight this year, and now multiple investigations have been initiated to find answers about why the base has devolved.
4. Suicide. Suicide afflicts both active duty troops and veterans alike. Between 2006 and 2020, 4,231 active service members died of self-inflicted wounds. In 2017, 6,139 veterans committed suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The reasons for taking one’s life vary, but over-prescription of opioids, toxic leadership, marital problems, and financial problems are all common reasons cited. Fortunately, the military has started to take the mental health crisis more seriously in recent years, with many senior leaders stepping forward to talk about their own struggles and encouraging troops to reach out for help if they need it.
Many of these issues can only be mitigated by calling out problems when they happen and being proactive about avoiding safety shortfalls. If you see something, say something. These problems won’t go away on their own.
Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.
“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray
Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?
Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.
Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?
Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?
One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.
A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?
Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.
Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.
Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?
Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.
Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?
Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.
So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.
We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?
Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.
I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.
Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?
Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.
Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.
Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?
Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.
Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?
Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority
You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.
For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?
Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.
Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?
Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.
Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.
However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.
But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.
It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.
Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.
“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.
Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)
The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.
Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.
Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.
Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.
Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.
According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.
That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.
McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.
That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.
The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.
McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”
“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria.
Aircrew with the 20th Special Operations Squadron and combat controllers with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron execute an aerial and ground demonstration for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets Nov. 10, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The flyover and demonstration celebrated Veterans Day with future leaders of the Air Force.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. Six F-15Es are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant missions in Iraq and Syria. As an air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter aircraft, the F-15E specializes in gaining and maintaining air superiority.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct operations during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 12, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse, fires an M240B machine gun while acting as an opposing force during Decisive Action Rotation 16-02 at the
National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 14, 2015.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 10, 2015) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) fires an SM-2 missile during a live-fire exercise. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) sits anchored off the southern coast of California.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 16, 2015) Guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) transits the Atlantic Ocean. Gonzalez is deployed with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 16, 2015.
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit jump off the side of the USS Essex during a swim call. The Marines and sailors of the 15th MEU and Essex Amphibious Ready Group jumped 30-feet into the water and swam to their respective checkpoint.
Since 1998 U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City has stood the watch!
In 1984, HH-65A Dolphin helicopters were accepted into service. Today we use MH-65D Dolphin helicopters.
A U.S. Army sergeant is being kicked out of the service over a 2011 incident in which he and his captain confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.
As part of a Special Forces team operating in Kunduz Province in 2011, Capt. Dan Quinn and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland were working side-by-side with local Afghan police forces. That September, an interpreter claimed the police commander, Abdul Rahman, had tied a 12-year-old boy to a post in his house and raped him repeatedly for 10 days, according to Fox News. And when the boy’s mother tried to save him, she was beaten.
The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi” — which literally translates to “boy play” — a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, often being dressed up as women and made to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but it flourished after the 2001 invasion as U.S. forces were told by their commanders not to intervene.
Via Fox News:
Martland said he and Quinn then confronted the commander after Quinn confirmed the allegations with village elders and others. He said Quinn got a “first-hand confession” but “the child rapist laughed it off and referenced that it was only a boy.”
Martland and Quinn — true to the Special Forces motto to “liberate the oppressed” — freed the boy from sexual slavery by beating the crap out of the commander and kicking him off their camp. “Captain Quinn picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”
Instead of accolades, the soldiers got punished for their actions in handling the child rapist. Quinn lost his command and was pulled out of Afghanistan, and later left the Army. Martland received a reprimand from a one-star general for his “flagrant departure from the integrity, professionalism, and even-tempered leadership” expected of a Green Beret, The News Tribune reported.
Army Col. Steven Johnson told The Daily Beast they “put their team’s life at risk” with local leaders by engaging in “vigilante” justice, and suggested the pair should have instead reported it to Afghan civilian justice authorities.
“To say that you’ve got to be nice to the child rapist because otherwise the other child rapists might not like you is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) told The Daily Beast.
Reporting the heinous practice to authorities would be nice if the justice system wasn’t so broken. According to The Diplomat, “bacha bazi” remains outlawed under the new government, but there is little enforcement, and evidence suggests the practice is on the rise.
Martland is due to be involuntarily discharged no later than Nov. 1, according to The Army Times. Meanwhile, Rep. Hunter is pressing Defense Secretary Ash Carter to intervene and allow him to stay in the Army.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.