Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them - We Are The Mighty
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Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

This past May marked six years since I left the Marine Corps for a civilian career. After nearly 30 years in the military, I was unsure of what exactly to expect in a civilian job. I saw my unit as a family and had grown very comfortable with military customs and traditions. Now, I was concerned if any civilian workplace would know how to evaluate my career and experience.

More than 250,000 service members transition out of the military every year, looking for engaging, valuable work. They are highly skilled, dedicated and motivated to be productive members of a new team, facing new challenges and opportunities. I was fortunate enough to get a job with Navy Federal Credit Union, an organization whose primary customer base is members of the military and their families. Based on their understanding of a service member’s career needs and experience, my transition was relatively smooth, but that’s not always the case.

July 25th is Hire A Veteran Day, which is meant to be a call to action for employers to seriously consider veteran and transitioning candidates. With 45% of our employees directly tied to the military, Navy Federal understands what service members need when looking for a satisfying civilian career, and how to attract and retain veteran talent.

Employers and workplaces are as diverse as the women and men who serve our country, however, there are still some common characteristics that make your organization attractive workplaces for veterans: 

  • Clear Path to Advancement/Development: In the military, your path to advancing is clear – work hard, follow the rules, go above and beyond – and veterans look for the same thing in new employers. Many also look for professional development opportunities and additional training that not only helps build their skill set, but allows you as an employer to show them the value you place on them. 
  • Mission-Driven/Team-Focused: In choosing a new line of work, veterans often look for opportunities that are focused on a mission or vision, and/or positions that have a focus on team operation. Many are drawn to these types of opportunities for the same reasons they were drawn to military service: a desire to work with others in advancing a cause they believe in that is greater than themselves.
Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, Wyoming Army National Guard, prepares to assault an objective during a combat exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, June 12, 2021. The 1-297th is supporting the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s, Mississippi Army National Guard, training rotation at NTC. (Mississippi National Guard photo by Sgt. Taylor Cleveland)
  • Match With Their Skills: The military provides service members with years of training in their occupational specialties, and veterans joining a new organization bring that real world experience to the new job. Our research from Best Careers After Service, in tandem with Hire Heroes USA, surveyed military veterans in the workplace and found that many veterans join industries knowing that their skill sets match and they would be an asset on day one. If you want to attract and retain veterans, make sure your job postings and recruiters clearly communicate how their skills would be valuable. The top industries, based on our research, include health care, government and/or public administration, defense contracting, and information technology.
Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command in cyber operations room at Lasswell Hall aboard Fort Meade, Maryland. MARFORCYBER Marines conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations in support of United States Cyber Command and operate, secure and defend the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. USMC Photo.
  • Competitive Salaries and Benefits: This one should go without saying; everyone looks for a competitive salary and benefits. But more than most candidates, veterans bring the technical skills, leadership/team experience, and discipline to deliver results, which is why they should be highly sought after and recruited in the hiring process. Your salary ranges and compensation packages should reflect that worth. 

As service members transition to a civilian career, many of us simply want the opportunity to advance our skills and education, to provide for our families, and to start a rewarding career. Employers who can offer that opportunity to veterans absolutely should. In my experience, you certainly won’t regret it. 

By Clay Stackhouse, US Marine Corps (Ret.) and Regional Outreach Manager at Navy Federal Credit Union 

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This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

Last year Wing Nut Wick published a compilation of the best Naval aviation footage captured from the cockpits of Navy jets called Hornet Ball 2014. This year a similar video compilation surfaced from Navy West Coast squadrons published by Joe Stephens.


Related:  The best Navy jet footage from 2013

In similar fashion, some of the most incredible Hornet footage was captured in HD and paired with some of the sickest EDM beats (Electronic Dance Music). The latest version features precision video editing and could stand on its own as a music video. Too bad MTV no longer plays that sort of stuff; it would surely give any artist in the top 20 list a run for their money.

It opens with a breathtaking flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) that perfectly displays the might of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. There’s nothing like a floating fortress of freedom that projects power over any horizon.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Joe Stephens/YouTube

It follows the Aviation Ordnancemen (AOs) — the sailors in red jerseys — loading the Hornets with bombs.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Aviation Ordnancemen take bombs to the F/A-18 Hornets. Joe Stephens/YouTube

The plane captain — sailors in brown jerseys — gives the pilot a greeting salute before the officer proceeds to his final plane check before climbing into the cockpit. It is the plane captain’s responsibility to have the jet ready to fly. These men and women are usually some of the youngest in a squadron.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
A plane captain gives a greeting salute to the pilot. Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube screengrab

After all of the preflight inspections, the Hornet is handed off to the ship’s aircraft handlers in yellow jerseys for launch positioning.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
F/A-18 Hornet getting into launch position. Joe Stephens/YouTube

Final flight systems check.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Joe Stephens/YouTube

Full afterburners and FIRE!

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
F/A-18 Hornet launch. Joe Stephens/YouTube

The footage is awesome! Here’s a screen grab from the cockpit.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube screengrab

Refueling in mid air.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Refueling up close.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Rocket launch.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Super slo-mo firing.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

You’ll never see a sunset quite like this.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

Tailhook down.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Approaching the flight deck.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

A breakaway into the sunset.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

A missile launch from a destroyer.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Hornet swarm.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

Flight formation.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

A daring landing in thick fog.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

An incredible flyby viewed from the air.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

A view of Mount Fuji.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

From the flight deck to the insane aerial acrobatics from our finest men and women, this video truly captures the Navy fighter experience. The video is 13 minutes long but it’s worth watching.

Watch:

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This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

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Why this Navy officer is threatening a lawsuit over playing taps

Lawyers for a naval officer who broadcasts taps nightly from speakers outside his home in tribute to the military told a Pennsylvania borough council president to expect legal action if officials don’t stop trying to restrict the practice.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said in a letter on July 5 that a cease-and-desist order against Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corney is unconstitutional.

Corney is complying with a demand from the borough last month that he play taps on Sundays and certain holidays only, but he wants that rule overturned.

“When the borough singles out Lt. Cmdr. Corney’s ‘Taps’ performances on private property for censorship as a ‘nuisance,’ while allowing other similarly loud or louder, longer-lasting religious or commercial musical performances on private property to continue, it is engaging in content-based discrimination,” his lawyers wrote.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The lawyers said they will seek a federal injunction if the borough doesn’t reverse itself by July 7. Messages seeking comment weren’t returned by the council president, Doug Young, or by the borough’s solicitor.

Corney, 38, on active duty and stationed in Maryland, has been deployed overseas eight times, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was seeing Americans killed while serving their country that inspired his musical gesture.

“I thought to myself and prayed to God that if he brought me home, I would do something to remember the sacrifices that our men and women made for myself, my family, and my country,” he said.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
DoD Photo by US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

After moving into a home on 5 acres in Glen Rock, a town of about 2,000 residents where he lived as a boy, he made the taps broadcast his first priority in April 2015, setting up three amplified speakers in the front of the house. He picked a slower, hymn-like 57-second version of the tune, which is traditionally played at the end of the day.

At first, he had to put on a CD every night, but eventually established a fully automated system that was timed for 7:57 p.m., coinciding with bedtime for his six young children and ending just before a nearby church’s bells chimed.

He says it’s sometimes possible to hear the recording in the middle of town, about a quarter-mile away, but not always.

“A nearby church is permitted to play amplified recordings of hymns twice a day, church bells are allowed to peal at regular intervals, and a local restaurant has been granted permission to amplify its live outdoor musical performances,” Corney’s lawyers wrote to Young.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corney. Photo via NewsEdge.

They said other common noises louder than Corney’s taps include lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and “the exuberant cries of children playing a raucous game.”

Early in 2016, Corney was told the borough had received a complaint, which he tried to work out with the neighbor who had lodged it.

Others rallied behind Corney’s efforts after a second complaint was made in November.

He said he made more adjustments by lowering the volume and redirecting the speakers, but that didn’t satisfy a neighboring family’s complaints.

Then, on June 23, the borough wrote him to say his broadcast of taps violated its nuisance ordinance, and told him to limit it to Sundays and a limited number of “flag” holidays.

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The Coast Guard’s “Homing Pigeon” saved 126 lives on D-Day

The coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet” was comprised of 60 wooden, 83-foot cutters that performed dangerous lifesaving missions under fire at Normandy, pulling more than 400 men from the water.


One of these vessels was known as the “Homing Pigeon” and successfully saved 126 survivors, the most of any single ship.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

The Homing Pigeon, officially named Coast Guard Cutter 16, had been serving stateside on anti-submarine patrols like the rest of the Matchbox Fleet before recieving orders to a new, secret mission. Navy Adm. Ernest King was going to use 60 of the Coast Guard ships to form Rescue Fotilla One, a D-Day lifeguard force.

The ships were repainted, renumbered, modified, and carried to England on frieghters. They practiced the landings on English beaches with the rest of the invasion force and, on Jun. 6, 1944, the rescue ships went in right behind the first wave of landing craft.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Photo: US Coast Guard

The plan had originally called for the Matchbox Fleet to stay away from the shores and some ships did stay two miles out. But many crews realized that they had to get closer to reach the men in danger and the Homing Pigeon was one of the cutters that moved forward.

It began its mission at 5:30 a.m., sailing back and forth near the coast and grabbing men out of the water. In the first four hours CGC-16 rescued 90 sailors and soldiers. That’s a save every three minutes.

The crew took the personnel they fished out of the water to the Navy’s USS Dickman where the wounded were treated. Over the course of the day, the Homing Pigeon would come to the aid of another 36 men, bringing the crew’s D-Day total to 126, all tallied on a board on the vessel.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Photo: US Coast Guard photo courtesy of Terry Hannigan

Other crews distinguished themselves at Normandy as well. CGC-1 rescued 43 and spent much of the day within 2,000 feet of the beaches. CGC-34 pulled 32 British troops and sailors from the English Channel. CGC-53 rescued five men while under fire from a German shore battery. The HMS Rodney came to the cutter’s rescue and destroyed the shore battery with its naval guns.

After D-Day, the Matchstick Fleet continued their duties until Dec. 1944 when they were disbanded. In the seven months of operation, the 60 ships saved 1,438 people. Many of the ships were then transferred to allied navies where they served for the duration of the war.

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‘Avengers – Age Of Ultron’ lays claim to ‘greatest ensemble in the history of cinema’

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
(Photo: Marvel Studios)


How does director Joss Whedon follow the success of the first Avengers movie, that $220 million budget ensemble cast epic that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide?

“With the smallest thing I can think of,” Whedon said at a recent gathering of the cast at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California. “What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? It’s never the big picture stuff – although that’s cool too – it’s how can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? I write reams and reams of paper just thinking about the tiniest part.”

But “tiny” is not the first word one might use to describe the sequel, “Avengers – Age of Ultron.” It is a big movie in most ways that picks up where “Avengers” left off, taking the interpersonal and witty aspects of the team to the next level while hurtling full tilt across the screen for the duration.

“I read the script, and I said, ‘This is great; let’s go shoot it,'” said Robert Downey, Jr., who returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man. “It’s a Swiss watch to begin with, and Josh really created some great new situations for Tony to be in.”

James Spader plays Ultron – the evil robot who’s trying to use artificial intelligence to destroy the world – and the actor found the Whedon’s production process a challenge to keep up with.

“I really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very quickly,” Spader said. “I arrived in London and within the first half hour they put on a suit and all this gear and I went through a range of motion and within 15 minutes I was watching me on a monitor move around this big room as Ultron. That pace was what it was throughout the entire project.”

Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, a character who many fans felt got short shrift in terms of screen time in the first movie. But that’s not the case in “Age of Ultron.”

“I speak in this movie, which is awesome,” joked Renner. “And I become part of the team, which is awesome, and dive into some killer aspects of the character.”

As Renner’s Hawkeye role grew so too did that of Black Widow, played once again by Scarlett Johansson.

“There some sense of normal in a way at the beginning of Avengers 2,” Johansson said. “But at the end she let her guard down. . . She had this moment of false hope. She put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay off, but she realizes her calling is a greater one. That’s not something she’s necessarily thrilled about, but that’s what’s most heroic about her.”

Johansson (who was pregnant during the shooting of the film) also allowed that her action sequences were the result of a multi-person effort. “There’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and badass motorcycle riding happen. All that work being seamless takes a lot of choreography and team spirit.”

Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Banner who turns into The Hulk when provoked, and when asked what methods he draws on acting-wise to differentiate between the two forms, he joked, “I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that except for the accent I was using, maybe.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige summed up the state of the Avengers brand by reflecting on how far it’s come in the last ten years or so: “It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios, and then it continued with Robert in ‘Iron Man 1’ and having Samuel L. Jackson come in in the end and say, ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,’ thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant . . . but the world got it much more quickly than I anticipated.”

Feige pointed down the table at the cast and said, “It’s the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

Now: Revolutionary War history gets complicated in Season Two of ‘Turn’

OR: Watch ‘Captain America’ in under 3 minutes:

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This fundraiser for the widow of a soldier who died in a suicide bombing attack is going viral

When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.


The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Specialist Chris Harris and his wife Britt in happier times. (GoFundMe.com)

An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.

The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.

Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them
Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

The pentagon also offers a death gratuity benefit of $100,000. Military.com notes that numerous other benefits are available for the surviving family members of a serviceman (or woman) killed in action, including continued eligibility for Tricare, Basic Housing Allowance, and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”

 

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This is how the Army plans to keep soldiers more comfortable during jungle ops

In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.


The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.

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The Army Jungle Combat Boot. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.

Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.

“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.

“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”

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Daniel Ferenczy wearing the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. Photo from Military.com.

The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.

There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.

“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.

The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.

The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.

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Army Spc. Jake Burley assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st, Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division maneuvers through a river during United Accord 2017 at the Jungle Warfare School on Achiase military base, Akim Oda, Ghana, May 26, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney)

“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”

The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.

“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”

After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.

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The IHWCU promises to dry faster; useful in environments common in the Pacific Theater. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson.

“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.

Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.

“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.

“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”

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US Special Operations troops are bringing the fight to ISIS in Libya

For the first time, U.S. and Libyan officials have confirmed that U.S. Special Operations were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.


Due to the fact that the mission was not yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.

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A US Special Forces sniper training at Twentynine Palms, CA. | United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.

This decision from the Pentagon comes on the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Post reports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.

In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the U.S.’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.

“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.

Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.

Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.

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US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

The Trump administration announced May 9 it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.


The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

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ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Also read: Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

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The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.

The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.

Related: Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

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5 ways ‘San Andreas’ highlights the best of military families

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Photo: Warner Bros.


“San Andreas” is a disaster movie that is true to what you think it should be based on the trailer. There are some great effects, a lot of danger, and some thrills.

Ray, a helicopter pilot played by Dwayne Johnson, moves around southern California on different vehicles and on foot, trying to save his wife and daughter.

But “San Andreas” rises above its genre in a surprising way: Ray isn’t the only action hero in the movie. His wife and daughter, instead of being damsels in distress, save the day a few times themselves.

Since Ray is a combat veteran, his family was a military family that endured multiple deployments and prepared to face emergencies on their own. While trying to avoid spoilers, here are some great military family traits the film highlights:

1. Calm leadership

Emma, the wife of Ray played by Carla Gugino, is near the top of a tower when the first main quake hits California. Ray is nearby and tells her she can get him. Emma immediately begins trying to move other survivors with her to the roof. Emma has to fight through the crumbling building to reach her rendezvous. Due to the destruction, Ray’s original plan clearly won’t work, and it’s Emma who directs Ray on where to go to complete the pickup.

The daughter, named Blake (played by Alexandra Daddario), faces her own challenges when the quake strikes. Though she at first must be saved by a boy and his little brother, she quickly takes over leading the male pair. She directs them on the safest places to go as they face crisis after crisis and she figures out Plan B when the main plan becomes impossible.

2. Resourcefulness

Emma displays resourcefulness a few times, but this category mainly belongs to Blake. She breaks into an electronics store to establish communications with her father. She finds a way to listen in on the emergency channels to stay in touch with what’s happening in the city. After another survivor is injured, she even improvises bandages and renders aid.

These are skills that the military demands of its members, and many members pass them on to their families.

3. Bravery

This is a category we don’t want to talk about in too much detail because it will spoil the movie. But, both Emma and Blake fight through terrifying moments and tackle their fears. Between the two of them, they muster their courage to keep fighting while falling through buildings, being trapped, crashing, and facing other dangers.

4. Selflessness

Again, this is a category that, if we gave you all the details, it would ruin key parts of the movie. But, Emma puts herself in danger a few times to save Blake. And Blake really shines as she sends away rescuers multiple times when she thinks it’s too risky for them to save her. Emma, Blake, and Ray make many sacrifices for each other after everything goes to hell. Surprisingly, the film also shows the family making healthy sacrifices for each other before the quakes, balancing their own needs against each others. This even includes Ray and Emma, who are going through a divorce.

5. Training

Of course, some of the things Blake and Emma are doing require knowledge and physical strength, which implies they prepared to be on their own during an emergency. Preparing for natural disasters is something all families should do, but few actually accomplish. Blake and Emma, like many military families, knew they would face crises on their own and clearly prepared well.

To see what Ray, Emma, and Blake overcome in the movie and who makes it out alive, check out “San Andreas” in theaters May 29.

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Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

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