Here's the Air Force's official guidance for transgender airmen - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

On October 6th, the Secretary of the Air Force and Air Force Chief of Staff released policy guidelines for how transgender airmen can transition – while staying in the Air Force.


This new policy comes less than three months after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender troops will be able to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
A rainbow flag is placed in the ground for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month during the Picnic in the Park at Nussbaumer Park, June 27, 2015, in Fairbanks, Alaska. More than 200 flags were handed out to members of the 354th Fighter Wing and members of the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor)

The DoD-level policy includes providing transition services through the Military Health System, the ability to change gender in personnel management systems, and total force training.

Military medical providers must first diagnose airmen, proving transition surgery is a medical necessity, just like any other treatment. In the Air Force, the airman’s closest unit commander holds all keys to transitioning while in the USAF, including requests for surgery, uniform and PT exemptions, and deployment needs.

The gender used in the airman’s personnel record will determine which gender regulations and facilities to use, meaning until the transition is complete, transgender airmen will continue to use their gender from birth.

They are still deployable as long as they are medically qualified.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Laura Perry’s former self, Leonard, during a deployment in the Air Force before she completed her gender reassignment surgery in 2014. Perry, who is now a civilian, currently works as a social worker at the mental health clinic on Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and also volunteers for a transgender advocacy group. (Courtesy photo)

After receiving a diagnosis of medical need, the airman will inform their unit commander.The commander has 90 days to respond to the request. The commanding officer, airman, and medical staff will set out a timeline for a transition plan that takes operational needs, morale, and readiness into account.

The transition is complete (in the eyes of the Air Force) when the medical staff informs the airman’s unit commander and the airman provides legal documentation (such an updated birth certificate and passport) reflecting the change.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Transgender airman Logan Ireland, left, and former Navy reservist Brynn Tannehill at a White House LGBT pride reception in Washington, June 24, 2015.

Uniform dress and appearance requirements will adhere to the gender reflected in their personnel record. Any exceptions to policy requests regarding uniform wear during the transition should be in writing to their immediate commander.

Transgender applicants who want to join the military will still have to meet all the physical conditioning standards for their branch, gender, age, and MOS. They will use the facilities for the gender marker in their personnel record. They may be exempt from fitness assessments during the transition plan period but are still expected to participate in unit PT.

A history of gender dysphoria, transition surgery, or hormone therapy is still a disqualifying factor for joining the military unless the recruit has been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months. A doctor must confirm the recruit’s gender stability.

Military policy protects transgender airmen from discrimination through their base equal opportunity office – a protection not afforded to transgender Americans in most states.

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Sparta’s ‘special operators’ had ruthless training tactics

Every elite special operations group has its own storied rite of passage. Navy SEALs undergo a simulated drowning. Green Berets drink snake blood. North Korean special operators do whatever the hell this is.


Also read: 5 military training drills that’ll blow your mind

Such rituals have been an important component in warrior cultures for centuries, and the famed citizen-soldiers of ancient Sparta are no exception. The Spartan are often viewed as among history’s most elite warriors, with a culture built to breed and groom the perfect fighting force. Rank-and-file Spartans were trained since birth to be strong, loyal, and ruthless fighters. But a select few were singled out to join the Krypteia — the closest thing the Spartans had to ‘special operators.’

Scholars believe that the Krypteia served as the Spartans’ reconnaissance soldiers, shock troops, and even military police. As such, their loyalty and commitment to the state was just as important as their skill at arms. And just like today’s special operators, the Krypteia had their own initiation ritual. It’s believed that in order to complete their training, candidates had to ambush and murder a Helot — a member of the Spartan servant class. Only then, could they prove their willingness to kill in the name of the state.

This video from the American Heroes Channel explains the ritual.

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This Marine made history’s 5th longest sniper kill with a machine gun

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock III is a legend in both the sniper and Marine Corps communities for a number of reasons.


One of them was a shot he took in 1967. In the book, “Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam,” Army Col. Michael Lee Lanning described it:

Firing from a hillside position using an Unertl 8X scope on a .50-caliber machine gun stabilized by a sandbag-supported M3 tripod, Hathcock engaged a Vietcong pushing a weapon-laden bicycle at 2,500 yards. Hathcock’s first round disabled the bicycle, the second struck the enemy soldier in the chest.

View post on imgur.com

At the time this was the longest sniper kill in history, and it was made with a machine gun in single shot mode. The record stood until March 2002 when Canadian sniper Master Cpl. Arron Perry beat it. Since then, at least three other snipers have beaten Hathcock’s distance.

View post on imgur.com

Hathcock wasn’t the only sniper to use the M2 instead of a traditional sniper rifle. The weapons had been used as sniper weapons in Korea and Vietnam before, but no one else made a shot at nearly the distance of Hathcock’s.

In fact, Hathcock’s shot beat a record that had stood for nearly 100 years. On June 27, 1874, Buffalo Hunter Billy Dixon killed a Comanche leader during the Second Battle of Adobe Walls from 1,538 yards. But while Dixon was firing at a group of warriors silhouetted against the sky, Hathcock fired against a single target.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the Vietnam War adventures of Carlos Hathcock.

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The military record of every US President, in 140 characters or less

It’s election season in America, and while a few of the potential 2016 nominees have military experience on their resume, we looked back on the many ex-presidents who did as well.


Then we summed it up, Twitter style, in 140 characters or less. If Twitter existed in George Washington or Thomas Jefferson’s day, their military careers would probably be portrayed something like this.

Gen. George Washington — Dude beat the French, the Indians, and the Brits with a ragtag bunch of colonists. #NBD

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — Missed WWI, then planned executed the largest amphib. assault ever beat the Nazis in WWII #Winning. Couldn’t beat mil-industrial complex

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant — Great at two things: Winning battles and heavy drinking. Often at at the same time.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson — Beat the Brits at New Orleans and later defeated a bunch of Indians. Then he invaded Florida so “Old Hickory” could be Retired Hickory.

Maj. Gen. William H. Harrison — Whooped the British during the War of 1812.

Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor — Had a long career in the Army, but best known for beating the crap out of Mexico in the 1840s.

Brevet Maj. Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes — Volunteered for the Union during the Civil War, became a war hero. Wounded five times. #HolyCrap #KeepYourHeadDown

Maj. Gen. James A. Garfield — Had no military training but joined the Army in the Civil War. One-upped another general at the Battle of Chickamauga and saved the day.

Brig. Gen. Franklin Pierce — Commanded the 9th Infantry Regiment against Mexico, but ended up fighting a knee injury and diarrhea more than the enemy.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

Brig. Gen. Andrew Johnson — Annoyed Confederate rebels as the Union military governor of Tennessee.

Quartermaster Gen. Chester A. Arthur — Was a really awesome supply guy.

Brevet Brig. Gen. Benjamin Harrison — Took command of a bunch of Indiana volunteers that did recon and guarded railroads.

Col. Thomas Jefferson — Commanded a militia. Started the military academy at West Point. #GoArmyBeatNavy

Col. James Madison — Had a militia that never did anything.

Col. James Monroe — Crossed the Delaware River with George Washington #overshadowed

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

Col. James K. Polk — Was in a state militia, then later oversaw the opening of the Naval Academy #BeatArmy

Col. Theodore Roosevelt — Charged up San Juan Hill and received the Medal of Honor. Tried to serve in World War I but President Woodrow Wilson said no frigging way.

Col. Harry S. Truman — Started as an artilleryman in the Missouri National Guard. Dropped steel rain on the Germans in World War I.

Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson — Commissioned in the Naval Reserve where he got the Silver Star for heroically… sitting in an airplane that probably was never shot at.

Cmdr. Richard Nixon — Made sure everyone got to the war in the Pacific ok.

Brevet Maj. William McKinley — Served in the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Had good seats at Gen. Lee’s surrender to Grant.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford — Participated in numerous naval actions during World War II but almost got killed by a typhoon in 1944.

Maj. Millard Fillmore — Served in the New York Militia. That’s about it.

Capt. John Tyler — Raised a company of militiamen to defend Richmond but no one ever attacked.

Capt. Abraham Lincoln — Served in the Illinois Militia for three months. Started as a Captain, finished as a Private. #CareerProgression

Capt. Ronald Reagan — Made movies during World War II.

Lt. John F. Kennedy — Became a war hero after his patrol boat got run over by a Japanese destroyer.

Lt. Jimmy Carter — Was at the Naval Academy during World War II and missed it. Was in the Navy during Korea and missed that one too.

Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush — Received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bombing the crap out Japanese targets in the Pacific. Almost got captured but escaped.

1st Lt. George W. Bush — Pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam but never served in combat. No confirmed kills except for Dan Rather’s career.

Pvt. James Buchanan — The only president with military service who wasn’t an officer.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

NOW: Explore the records of 8 presidents who saw combat in a big way

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This is when the Pope’s Swiss Guard was deadlier than 300 Spartans

Military history is full of famous last stands – the Greeks at Thermopylae, Custer at Little Big Horn, the French Foreign Legion at Camarón — just to name a few. The last unit people might think of making a famous last stand are the Pope’s personal bodyguards: the Swiss Guard.


Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen

But even though the men who would respond to an incident involving the Pope have traded poofy pants for tactical gear, and bladed weapons for Sig SG 550 rifles, those razor-sharp halberds weren’t always just ceremonial. There was a time when the halberds, pikes, and swords carried by the ceremonial guards were the latest in military technology. The Swiss Guard are, after all, the oldest, continuous standing army in the world.

In 1527, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had just beat down the French in Italy. the only problem was, he couldn’t afford to pay the massive army he used to do it. Understandably pissed, the 34,000-strong army began to march on Rome, believing the Papal States would be an easy target to sack and pillage. They were right… for the most part.

On May 6, 1527, that army broke through Rome’s defenders and looted and pillaged the city for 12 days.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Paintings always make sacking, burning, and pillaging seem so tame.

But the city didn’t just roll over for the renegade army.

Defending Rome was a militia made up of 5,000 and 189 of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. Of those, around 40 or so escorted Pope Clement VII to safety – and they were the only survivors of the assault. The rest were slaughtered, choosing to hold their ground in the Vatican.

While that number seems like a horrifying loss for the Swiss Guards, consider that the elite unit reduced the fighting force of the Imperial Army by three-quarters. Of the 20,000 troops that moved to storm the city of Rome, 15,000 were killed or injured by the city’s defenders.

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The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron fires flares as it performs anti-aircraft fire tests during exercise Carpathian on May 9, 2016, in Romania. The 37th AS, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, began participating in off-station training deployments with Romania as early as 1996, allowing the U.S. Air Force to work with NATO allies to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer

Phase technicians from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on an F-16C Fighting Falcon during routine phase maintenance at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 18, 2016. Phase inspections are performed on aircraft every 300 flight hours and involve procedural maintenance actions that require robust attention to detail.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman

ARMY:

A 2d Squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment infantryman suppresses opposing forces with a M240B machine gun during Exercise Spring Storm in Voru, Estonia, May 14, 2016. Approximately 6,000 military personnel from the U.S., Finland, German Bundeswehr, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’sHM Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Forces participated in the annual Estonian Army Land Defense Forces training exercise.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin

Soldiers assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, move to their battle position in a M1 Abrams during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) at 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 11, 2016.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Javon Spence

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 17, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Michael Allen, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), directs an AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 on the ship’s flight deck. America is an aviation centric amphibious assault ship that supports small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war. The ship is currently conducting maritime training operations off the coast of California.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan A. Colon/Released

GUAM (May 17, 2016) U. S. Navy Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 land and retrieve their parachutes in Guam after a high altitude-low opening parachute jump. EODMU5 conducted counter improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards and disarms underwater explosives.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Doug Harvey

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine attending the Military Police Basic Course, runs to cover during a field training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., May 11, 2016. The purpose of the course is to provide entry level pipeline and lateral move Marines the knowledge and skills to become disciplined, motivated and capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of military occupational specialty 5811, Military Police.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) provide security while other Marines conduct fast-rope inserts from a UH-1Y Huey with HMLA-267, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 9. 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (1st Anglico), I MEF, facilitated a helicopter rope and suspension technique training package for U.S. Marines and Royal British Commandos.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan Boynes

COAST GUARD:

My name is 1/c Kevin Alvarez and I will be taking you through the events that occur during commencement week leading up to graduation for the class of 2016! Pictured above is the sunset regimental review that took place last night in honor of Rear Admiral Rendon, Superintendent, United States Coast Guard Academy.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Coast Guard Photo by PA2 Mendenhall

Step 1 of 3: 186 First Class Cadets line up and make their way to Cadet Memorial Field where they will soon be handed their diplomas and be commissioned as officers.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
U.S. Coast Guard Photo

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Navy officer Edward King just took 10th place in Rio Olympic rowing finals

Navy officer Edward King and the rest of America’s Lightweight Men’s Four Rowing Team came in 10th in the Rio Olympics on Aug. 11.


King is a native of South Africa and a 2011 graduate of the Naval Academy. The school introduced him to rowing during his freshman year.

He had previously competed in cross country, tennis, basketball, and track. After academy graduation, he attended and graduated the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course. He attended a few months of advanced training but was reassigned to the Navy’s information dominance community.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Navy officer Edward King, right, speaks to reporters with his pairs partner on the U.S. Rowing Team, Robin Prendes. Prendes also competed on the Lightweight Men’s Four Team for Team USA. (Image: YouTube/US Rowing)

King was granted an extended leave of absence to concentrate on rowing and prepare for the Olympics in 2015.

The rowing team came in 10th in the world with a final time of 6:36.93, approximately 16 seconds behind the gold medal winners from Switzerland.

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
A U.S. Naval Academy rowing team stays ahead of Harvard and Penn State during a 2014 competition. Olympian Edward King competed on the team until his 2011 graduation from the academy. (Image: YouTube/CommunityOrganizer1)

The Lightweight Men’s Four was King’s only Olympic event, but Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, and Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Sanderson will compete in shooting events Aug. 12, while Naval Academy Cadet Regine Tugade will race in the 100-meter dash.

On Aug. 13, Air Force 1st Lt. Cale Simmons and Army 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks will compete in the pole vault. Army specialists Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir will compete against one another in the 10,000-meter race.

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This is Hollywood’s favorite machine gun for killing zombies and bad guys

Here’s the Air Force’s official guidance for transgender airmen
Charlton Heston offs undead nightstalkers in the ’70s cult film “The Omega Man.” (Warner Bros. screen capture)


In real life, the Smith Wesson M76 submachine gun was a weapon for men who fought in the shadows.

Created as a replacement for an embargoed firearm popular with American clandestine operators and special forces during the 1950s and 1960s, it combined a rapid rate of fire with the ability to attach a suppressor.

But the M76 is also a movie gun that Hollywood has generously splashed all over the silver screen.

Some film historians say it earned the honor of being the first “zombie apocalypse gun.”  Charlton Heston packs one in the ’70s cult classic The Omega Man, where his character Col. Robert Neville sprays deranged nightwalkers with automatic fire after bio-warfare wipes out most of the world’s population.

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Then there is Heath Ledger’s Joker, who wields one against Batman in the 2008 epic The Dark Knight. As the Joker stumbles out of a wrecked van, he fires an M76 and shrieks, “Come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!”

The development of the M76 is a story that is part American ingenuity, part Swedish politics, and all about ensuring special operators could continue to use a choice weapon.

The M76 replaced the Carl Gustav M/45 Kulsprutepistol, a 9 x 19 mm submachine gun with a 36-round magazine manufactured in Sweden that was a favorite of covert forces.  The M/45 actually was the main submachine gun of the Swedish Army from 1945 until it phased out in the 1990s, but reserve units carried it until 2007.

The Americans who used the weapon began to call it “the Swedish K.”

Journalist Michael Herr in his memoir Dispatches describes “Ivy League spooks,” CIA agents who carried the Swedish K as their preferred weapon as they drove near the Cambodian border.

Soon, SEALs and Green Berets used the Swedish K because much of their fighting was in the narrow confines of a jungle environment where firepower and maneuverability were more important than range and accuracy.

SEAL team members also liked the fact the Swedish K is an open-bolt weapon, which allowed it to be fired almost immediately after a frogman crossed the beach.

“You could see why it would be preferable to the US Thompson or M-3 Submachine gun,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History and a retired Army officer. “A friend of mine who served with Special Forces in Vietnam relatively early on told me that by using foreign weapons like the Swedish K it also helped to conceal the US presence a bit. I also think that Special Ops men tend to like unusual weapons rather than using standard US issue weapons.”

Light, rugged, capable of firing 550 rounds a minute and unfailingly reliable, Swedish Ks soon became a weapon in the arsenals of covert forces, particularly those operating in Southeast Asia as the United States became more and more involved in what became the Vietnam War.

“I know my friend was proud of using a Swedish K in Vietnam,” Archambault said. “It was one more way the Special Forces were set apart from the typical ‘line doggies.’ It goes along with the Green Beret and other elite designations.”

However, in 1966 the Swedish government adopted the position of officially opposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Pacifist Sweden placed an embargo on military supplies exported to the United States, including the Swedish K.

The decision particularly troubled the U.S. Navy SEALs, who decided to turn to a domestic supplier for a copy of the Swedish K.  The Navy approached Smith Wesson and by 1967 the company produced a clone, the M76.

It had all of the good qualities of the Swedish K as well as few refinements including a higher rate of fire (720 rounds per minute). It also could be fitted with the SG9 suppressor.

In addition, Smith Wesson experimented with a version of the M76 that electronically fired caseless ammunition. The gun actually worked well, but the caseless ammo was easily damaged by rough handling so the project was scrapped.

M76s found their way into the hands of SEAL team members and some Green Berets, where they are were used successfully during many covert operations. But as the Vietnam War began to wind down demand for the weapon decreased; more powerful weapons soon replaced it.

By 1974, Smith Wesson ceased production of the M76.  However, the weapon remained in use in the Navy, where it was still used in some instances by SEAL teams or it was issued to helicopter pilots for self-defense in case of a crash landing.

Law enforcement agencies also purchased the weapon. In fact, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center destroyed a cache of M76s where New York state law enforcement agencies maintained an arsenal.

There was even an attempt to revive the weapon during the 1980s. In 1983, Mike Ruplinger and Kenneth Dominick started a company called MK Arms after acquiring the rights to the M76 from Smith Wesson. The company manufactured both new weapons and replacement parts for existing M76s that were still in military and law enforcement inventories.

However, the M76 gained new life as a movie weapon where it was featured prominently not only in the films already mentioned but also Magnum Force, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Dog Day Afternoon and Black Sunday.

But perhaps it is in The Omega Man where the M76 gets the most screen time.

Not only does a leisured-suited, eight-track-tape-playing Charlton Heston have one in hand during almost every scene, the weapon used in the film introduces an innovation: the tactical light. In several scenes, the movie’s armorer used C-clamps to attach a flashlight to the gun’s barrel so Heston could hunt the film’s nightwalkers more efficiently.

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This former Green Beret wants to fix the NFL

Green Beret Lt. Col. Brian Decker led a unit in Iraq. Then he was assigned to run the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program in North Carolina. He decided to improve the Army’s selection process and reduce the washout rate for men who made it through the initial screening.


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Decker wanted to develop tools that would allow the Army to identify soldiers who could make good decisions in chaotic situations and have the necessary devotion to teamwork. He overhauled a process that had been static since its launch in 1988 and introduced new standards that collected over 1,200 data points on each candidate, including physical and mental processes. After three years, Decker’s program had reduced the washout rate by 30%.

He met former Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski when the coach came to a Special Forces camp looking for training tips. That turned into an reciprocal invite to Browns camp. Team president Joe Banner was fascinated by Decker’s philosophy and convinced him to retire from the Army and join the team as a special advisor, in hopes that Decker’s analysis could help correct the NFL’s notorious 50% failure rate for first round draft picks.

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Decker ran the Special Forces Assessment and Selection program in North Carolina. | Ricky Rhodes

He kept the job even after the Browns fired that management team. Their successors kept him on and he spent a couple of years advising the team on its draft. How did that turn out?

ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham tells Decker’s story in a 3600-word profile that details Decker’s career and investigates how his football project has been going. It’s definitely worth a read.   

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Here are the best military photos for the week of May 27th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants celebrate during their graduation at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017. The guest speaker during the ceremony was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath, England, flies alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall following aerial refueling over Finland, May 25, 2017. Both aircraft are participating in Arctic Challenge 2017, a multinational exercise encompassing 11 nations and more than 100 aircraft.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney

Army:

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Miller with the 101st Airborne Division holds the American flag during a graduation ceremony for Somali National Army soldiers May 24, 2017, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The logistics course focused on various aspects of moving personnel, equipment and supplies.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Byers

Members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform a three rifle volley during the graveside service for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 25, 2017. Lee was interred in Section 60 with full military honors.

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U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery

NAVY:

MANHATTAN, N.Y. (May 24, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) passing the One World Trade Center during the 29th annual Fleet Week New York’s Parade of Ships. Fleet Week New York is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s military.

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U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons

Sailors pose for a photo moments before attending “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” preshow as part of Fleet Week New York 2017, May 26, 2017. The service members are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabby Petticrew

Marine Corps:

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373 return from their guard post and prepare to conduct an area damage assessment as part of the base recovery after attack training (BRAAT) evolution during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 23. 

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel

A Marine aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) salutes the Statue of Liberty during Fleet Week New York’s parade of ships May 24, 2017. U.S. Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Gloria Lepko

Coast Guard:

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, external affairs officer, 5th Coast Guard District, speaks with a local media member about boating safety for children on Base Portsmouth, Virginia, May 26, 2017. Pecora and her 10-month-old son, Osceola James, demonstrated how to snugly fit a small child with a proper life jacket. 

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mandi Stevens and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Parmenter, aviation maintenance technicians from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, prepare a long range deployable drop kit to a disabled vessel approximately 80 miles off Tonga May 25, 2017. The kit includes food and water, a VHF radio and a transponder.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur

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This full-contact Army combat tournament ends with a cage fight

The Modern Army Combatives Program was started by the service in 1995 at Fort Benning, Georgia, with a mission to train soldiers to fight hand-to-hand and to sharpen the warrior mind.


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Rather than beat the enemy into a pulp, MACP is intended to teach a soldier to subdue the enemy enough to grab another weapon.

It’s not like the Army is training MMA fighters here.

The average infantry trooper learns the basics of combatives, such as grappling and controlling a resisting opponent’s body. Soldiers who compete in the tournaments held by the Army are those who take their Modern Army Combatives skills to the next level.

More advanced combatives skills draw from Muay Thai, Boxing, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Sambo martial arts styles, among others. It becomes more complex when training with weapons as well.

The footage compilation below comes from the 2015 Modern Army Combatives Tournament held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The first round of competition was for basic combatives, the second round through the finals featured more advanced techniques.

The finals featured a “Tactical Enclosure” – also known as a cage – with open striking.

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This video game company has pledged to help 50,000 vets find jobs

It’s a video game series beloved by troops deployed to recent battlefields and has become as common in squad bays as dip and energy drinks.


And now thanks to efforts by its designer, Activision, the non-profit that bears its name has broken its own record, placing more than 25,000 unemployed, post-9/11 vets in good jobs two years ahead of schedule.

Established in 2009 by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, the Call of Duty Endowment has pledged more than $18 million to businesses and other service groups to help them place post-9/11 veterans in high-quality careers with a solid understanding of the benefits former servicemembers bring to the table.

The Call of Duty Endowment set a goal of placing 25,000 vets in partner companies by 2018. But after reaching that bar in 2016, the non-profit announced it will double the goal by 2019.

“The Endowment’s efforts have had a direct and positive impact on the lives of so many who have given so much,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Co-Founder of the endowment. “With U.S. veteran unemployment rates still well above the national average, we are committed to continuing our efforts and have established a new, ambitious goal to secure employment for 50,000 veterans by 2019.”

According to a statement, the Call of Duty Endowment uses a “performance-driven approach” to vetting potential partners and after earning a grant, the endowment works with grantees and employers to “provide an array of advice and support aimed at maximizing their impact.”

The non-profit says the average cost to put a veteran on the payroll of its company partners is less than $600, compared to $3,000 for government-assisted employment services for vets.

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“Finding quality, meaningful employment is essential for a veteran to successfully transition back to civilian life,” said former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, Co-Chairman of the endowment. “The Call of Duty Endowment is truly making a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of military veterans and their families.”

The endowment has already donated $18 million to get vets back to work and boasts an average $50,000 starting salary with 94 percent placed in full-time jobs.

“Twenty-five thousand veterans is equivalent to every individual recruited by the U.S. Navy in 2015, and we’ve achieved this goal by applying common sense business practices to philanthropy,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the endowment. “We’re grateful for the support from Activision Blizzard, our partners and the gaming community, and are proud of what our grantees have achieved in such a short period of time.”

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