New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success - We Are The Mighty
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New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

The last time Forrest Cornelius, 51, shopped in a base exchange was 1989 when he completed his six-year stint in the Marine Corps. He recalls saving 10 to 15 percent on department store goods and that shoppers paid no sales tax.


Last month, Cornelius began to enjoy those advantages again as one of 12,000 or so “beta test” participants for veterans’ online exchange shopping, which will be open for millions of honorably discharged veterans on Veterans Day Nov. 11.

All veterans are being encouraged to take the same first step that Cornelius did by confirming veteran eligibility status at: https://www.vetverify.org. It might be a multi-step process if the Defense Manpower Data Center lacks information to verify that a veteran served and received an honorable discharge.

But for Cornelius it went smoothly. He also got an email inviting him to be a test participant and begin to shop immediately through four exchange service portals: Army Air Force Exchange ServiceNavy ExchangesMarine Corps stores, and Coast Guard exchanges.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Shawn Monk

Cornelius said his email invitation was timely. He had lost his sunglasses and the replacement pair of Ray-Bans, priced at a local retail outlet near his Texas home, would cost $180. In using AAFES online to comparison shop, he found a special sale, $20 off any pair of sunglasses costing $100 or more.

“So I got that discount,” he said, “Plus it was 10 to 15 percent cheaper than retail, plus tax free, plus free shipping. I wound paying about $120 total, saving me quite a bit.”

His wife then used his benefit, shopping for undergarments that a major retailer had on sale but were out of stock in sizes and colors she wanted. AAFES had them, and she saved money too, he said. Soon they were buying sportswear for their son. Every item was shipped in a timely manner, he said, and arrived three days later.

“It was great. It was super easy. And the vetverify.org process took five minutes. I entered my full name, the last four of my Social (Security number) and it said ‘You’ve been verified.'”

By early July, 90,000 veterans had attempted to register to exchange shop online starting Nov. 11. Twelve percent of them got invitations to shop immediately. AAFES was monitoring shopping patterns to ensure its online portal and distribution system are ready for waves of new shoppers this fall, said Ana Middleton, president and chief merchandising officer for AAFES.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong

“My worst fear,” said Middleton, “is a tsunami on November 11th if everybody decides, ‘Hey, I’m going to check this out’ and they sign on that day” and also at the same moment.

AAFES is building website capacity to allow for 30,000 simultaneous shoppers at any given time. A lot of shoppers “would have to be signing on at that exact same millisecond to stress it out. So yes, I feel that we are sized appropriately.”

Of “beta” veterans shopping, surveys showed their top reason was the tax break. But a surprisingly close second reason, Middleton said, was an appreciation that exchanges support military quality-of-life and base support programs.

Exchange use profits to pay staff salaries, fund store operations, and ensure adequate website capacity, but even more profits are distributed to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreational activities, including child development centers, fitness centers, outdoor recreation, and overseas, on-base school lunches.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

“Everything is just turned back to our customers,” Middleton said, and “not paying anything to any shareholders,” as retail stores must.

Besides discounts and tax breaks, AAFES online promises a price match.

“If we are not the lowest price — say you found a vacuum cleaner below our price at Wal-Mart — you can challenge our price and we will match it,” she said.

Shoppers will find prices particularly attractive on certain items like premium running shoes and children’s clothing. Profit margins on electronics are narrow everywhere, so exchange prices “are close to comparable,” Middleton said.

Exchange services aren’t sure how many veterans ultimately will shop online. AAFES will be pleased if 1 to 2 million do so, Middleton said, though “we probably don’t need that many” to declare the effort a success.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera

In its business plan, as leading advocate for opening exchanges online to veterans, AAFES estimated that its annual sales would climb by $185 million to $525 million and earnings would increase by $18 million to $72 million, easing budget pressure on the Army and Air Force, which have had to divert more and more appropriated dollars to family support programs as on-base store sales have been hit by force drawdowns and store closures overseas.

Veterans with only Reserve or National Guard experience have asked if they too will be viewed as “veterans” for online shopping. That remains unclear. Last December, Congress did bestow honorary “veteran” status on Reserve and National Guard retirees who completed careers of drill time but had not completed an active-duty period under Title 10 to meet the legal definition of “veteran” and receive a DD-214 “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.”

Reserve retirees 60 and older do have exchange shopping privileges. But what about Reserve and Guard veterans who didn’t retire or didn’t receive a DD-214? Here’s what AAFES could tell The Lawton Constitution:

“The litmus test for access to the veterans online shopping benefit resides with each veteran’s electronic records. All honorably discharged veterans, according to official government sources such as the Defense Manpower Data Center, are considered authorized to shop military exchanges online via the veterans online shopping benefit. Veterans can confirm their eligibility by visiting VetVerify.org.”

Veterans who do shop online, Middleton said, will find products “competitively priced. Are we across the board lower than everybody? No.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Beta shoppers so far have focused, as expected, on “male-dominated” categories such as electronics, running shoes, and sports apparel. Baby care, children’s clothing, and cosmetics, however, also are selling briskly.

“The reality is (married couples) share in the purchase-making decisions,” Middleton said. “It’s like if I had a Costco card, and my husband didn’t — would he still want to make buying decisions with me if I came home and said, ‘Hey there’s a great price on a TV?’ Probably. But this benefit is afforded to the (veteran) military member … If your spouse is using your password we have no way of knowing.”

Merchandise selection is wider online than in base stores. The only goods veterans are barred from purchasing are military uniform items.

Exchanges are delighted to be offering the new benefit, Middleton said, particularly to so many veterans who didn’t get to enjoy it more while serving.

“The sad reality is so many of these kids went to basic (training) and then to war, so their recollection of who we are is a Coke and bag of chips in a war zone. Do they have an understanding of the breadth of products we sell?”

Soon, many more of them will.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WATCH: MilSpouse in quarantine performs hilarious coronavirus balcony concert

Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.

Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”


We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.

WATM: What prompted this?

Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!

I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.

Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.

One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!

So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.

And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.

Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!

So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?

Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.

WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?

Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

Articles

See why the Cold War-era B-1B Lancer is still a threat to America’s foes

As tensions with North Korea escalate in the wake of that country’s sixth nuclear test, the United States is also flexing its military muscle.


One of the primary systems being spun up is the B-1B Lancer.

This Cold War-era bomber is a very powerful system – it carries 84 500-pound bombs internally, and also could carry another 44 externally. Should Russia try to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Lancer is very likely to take out their ground forces with weapons like the CBU-97.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That sort of deadly precision can also apply to Kim Jong Un’s massed artillery. The preferred weapon in this case would be more along the lines of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Each B-1 can carry up to 24 of these weapons, enabling it to knock out hardened artillery bunkers. The B-1B can also use smaller GBU-38 JDAMs, based on the Mk 82 bomb, to hit other positions.

According to airforce-technology.com, the B-1B is equipped with powerful jammers and the Federation of American Scientists web site notes that the plane was designed as a low-altitude high-speed penetrator.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo

The B-1B has recently been demonstrating its capabilities over South Korea. North Korea has denounced those test flights, claiming that the United States is preparing for nuclear war (although most reports indicate that the B-1B no longer carries nukes).

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986. It has a top speed of Mach 1.2 at sea level, and “intercontinental” range. Among the other weapons it can carry are the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. A Navy release noted that the B-1B recently tested an anti-ship version of the JASSM.

You can see the B-1B carry out one of its recent training missions over Korea in the video below. Note the heavy F-15 escort. These are valuable bombers – and only 66 are in the active Air Force inventory.

Articles

This 100-year-old explosion completely dwarfs the ‘mother of all bombs’ blast

On April 13, the US military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan.


Nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs” (but officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb), the 30-foot-long munition allegedly crushed a network of caves, tunnels, and bunkers dug into a remote mountainside.

The strike was akin to setting off about 11 tons of TNT — a school bus’ weight worth of explosives.

However, the attack pales in comparison to an accidental explosion that rocked a coastal town nearly three decades before the first atomic bomb.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (USAF photo)

On the morning of December 6, 1917, a ship detonated in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, unleashing a blast equivalent to about 3,000 tons of TNT.

The resulting shockwave instantly killed more than 1,000 people, threw a cargo ship like a bath toy, and created a 50-foot-tall tidal wave.

This is the incredible and horrifying story of the Halifax Explosion: the largest human-made, non-nuclear blast in history.

By December 1917, World War I had been raging for three years. Halifax, located on Canada’s east coast, served as an important port for shipping troops and supplies to Europe.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Nova Scotia Archives Records Management | Wikimedia

On December 6, a Norwegian cargo ship, the SS Imo, was departing Halifax on its way to New York. The ship was en route from the Netherlands to ferry supplies back to a war-ravaged Belgium.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Lectures pour tous | Wikimedia

Source: NASA Safety Center

At the same time, the SS Mont Blanc was bound to return to France carrying a host of highly explosive materials: 2,367 tons of picric acid, 62 tons of guncotton, 250 tons of TNT, and 246 tons of benzol in barrels below decks.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Public Domain

To exit the Bedford Basin, where the ships were docked, they had to pass through a slim channel. The Imo — behind schedule and on the wrong side of the channel — refused to give way and crashed into the Mont Blanc.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Google Maps/Tech Insider

Although the collision occurred at low speed, the benzol spilled and sparks ignited the entire stockpile of fuel. The Mont Blanc exploded with the force of 2,989 tons of TNT — about 270 times more powerful than a “Mother of All Bombs” blast.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Library and Archives Canada/Wikimedia

The shockwave from the blast covered 325 acres of ground and leveled the neighborhood of Richmond. The temperature of the explosion exceeded 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, vaporizing water around the Mont Blanc — and pushing a 52-foot-tall tidal wave three blocks into town.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
W. G. McLaughlan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Source: NASA Safety Center

The force of the explosion lifted the Imo out of the water and threw it onto the shore. The Mont Blanc was ripped apart and completely destroyed. Almost no part of the ship survived the explosion.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management/Wikimedia

Only two parts of the Mont Blanc have ever been located: a 1,140-lb piece of its anchor, found buried more than 2 miles away, and a barrel from one of the ship’s guns, which flew 2.35 miles from the blast site.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Vonkiegr8/Wikimedia

Source: NASA Safety Center

Much of Halifax was leveled, with 12,000 buildings destroyed or made uninhabitable, leaving a huge portion of the city’s population without shelter from the frigid December weather.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Source: NASA Safety Center

Almost every window in the city shattered — some reportedly 50 miles away. Even the buildings left standing were severely damaged.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Library of Congress

About 1,600 people died instantly in the blast, and 350 later succumbed to injuries. An estimated 9,000 people were injured in the accident, making 22% of the city’s population a casualty.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management | Wikimedia

Losses would have been even worse had a railway dispatcher, Vincent Coleman, not halted a train carrying 300 people towards the train station directly in front of the burning ship.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
L’Illustration | Wikimedia

Source: Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

Coleman’s final action was sending a telegraph warning up the tracks: “Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
The Nova Scotia Museum | Wikimedia

Source: Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The force of the Halifax explosion was so large that it remained the largest human-made explosion ever until the United States developed atomic weaponry in 1945.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
The fireball of the Trinity nuclear bomb test of July 16, 1945. | Wikimedia Commons

Sean Kane wrote a previous version of this post.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans make great artists

It might be easy to assume that military veterans get out and do something similar to what they did in the military, but that’s not always true. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that plenty of us get out and become artists. We’re not just talking about painting and drawing; we’re talking about music and film as well. Either way, veterans can make some damn good art.


Service members may not always be seen as the artistic types, especially not those who served in the infantry, but the truth is that we go through the military and acquire all sorts of knowledge and experience that give us the tools we need to draw d*cks everywhere make great art.

Could it be that we all have stories to tell? Perhaps, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

The things that made our life tough are great for telling stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Life experience

We spend lots of time going places and collecting all sorts of experiences that one might not otherwise gain from sitting around their hometown. We get to experience life from a new perspective, and it helps us go from dumb, crayon-eating 18-year-olds to dumb, crayon-eating 22-year-olds with life experience.

This gives us a lot to say and the courage and wisdom to say it.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Even this photo is a great example.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Attention to detail

In the military, if you don’t notice even the smallest details, people can get hurt. That same quality contributes to making great art — attention to even the smallest of brush strokes.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

We know how to stand almost completely still for hours.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damon Mclean)

Discipline

We can sit down and force ourselves to focus on anything and continuously find ways to get better at it.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Standing in lines for hours is a great way to build this quality.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)

Patience

Veterans know that good things come with patience. Creating art is no exception to this rule. You simply can’t rush great work. Those that do end up with something like Justice League, and we all know how that turned out (terrible — it was terrible).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Learning to never quit is your first lesson in the military.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emmanuel Necoechea)

Persistence 

We don’t give up. We refuse to quit. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that they’ve dealt with a good amount of rejection.

We’ve been trained to keep attacking an objective until we succeed.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

We found 13 hilarious military memes from around the internet and collected them for you. It’s kind of what we do on Fridays.


1. Being able to just pick it up and shoot is a great feeling (via Military Memes).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Some things needed the bipod more than others.

2. Sure, sure, sure. Clean, clean, clean (via Devil Dog Nation).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
You know how famous the barracks are for being clean, right sir?

SEE ALSO: A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS 

3. Best part is, Plan C is an M4 and Plan D is an M9 (via Devil Dog Nation).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Plan E is a KA-BAR so you’re screwed even then.

4. Yup, sorry man. Mandatory training across the force (via Air Force Nation).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Otherwise, how will people know it’s important to wear a PT belt?

5. This is what the senior NCOs imagined when they heard the new armor would be made of plastic:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Should probably find some camouflage tape for that.

6. The Marines might be coming out ahead in this one:

(via Pop Smoke)

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Sucks that it’s Arby’s, but it’s still five bucks more than anyone else is getting.

7. When we say everything stops for colors, we mean everything (via Coast Guard Memes).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Now, fold the flag properly. The gloves are no excuse.

8. Seriously, Carl. We’re all hoping (via Military Memes).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Just kidding. We’d be heartbroken. Maybe.

9. These boots are going to be about 20 volts shinier than they used to be (via Sh-t my LPO says).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Nice coffee mug, by the way.

10. BRRRRRT!

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Also, whatever tries to kill my grunts, whatever wears the wrong flag, etc. The list is pretty long.

11. The Coast Guard knows what brings all the recruits to the station (via Coast Guard Memes).

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Remember high schoolers, the services are carefully selecting what parts of the military they show you.

12. Don’t remember going over the procedures for this in sustained airborne training:

(via Military Nations)

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
But congrats to the happy couple!

13. Do the Marines consider properly spelled words to be classified information?

(via Military Memes)

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
This explains so much.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Poland willing to pay for U.S. deterrent to Russia

As military personnel paraded through Warsaw on foot, horseback, and armored vehicles on Aug. 15, 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda reiterated his country’s call for a permanent US military presence on its soil — a presence that the Eastern European country has said it’s willing to pay $2 billion to get.

A permanent US Army presence would “deter every potential aggressor,” Duda said, it what was almost certainly a reference to Russia, whose recent assertive moves in Europe — particularly the 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine — have prompted NATO members to increase their activity along the alliance’s eastern flank.


Duda’s remarks came during Poland’s Armed Forces Day holiday. The Aug. 15, 2018 holiday commemorates Poland’s defeat of Soviet forces in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War — a victory known as the “Miracle on the Vistula.”

2018’s celebration was larger and more vibrant than usual because it marks the centenary of the country regaining its independence after a 123-year period during which it was divided among Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

“We won. Yes, we won. We Poles won,” Duda said. “Today we look with pride at those times.”

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Armed Forces Day 2008.

His comments also came a few months after Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said he had discussed establishing that permanent presence with US officials.

Blaszczak said the US Senate had contacted the Defense Department about the matter. Local media reported at the time that Poland was willing to spend up to billion to finance a permanent deployment.

The US has yet to respond to the request. Such a deployment would be costly and would almost certainly anger Moscow, which has sharply criticized NATO’s recent deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe.

Poland has lobbied NATO for a permanent military deployment in the past. In 2015, a US diplomat said the alliance would not set up permanent military facilities in the country. At the time, the diplomat said the US would maintain a “permanent rotating presence” of US military personnel in the country.

Since 2016, NATO has deployed multinational battlegroups of roughly 4,500 troops each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The battlegroup stationed in Poland is led by the US and includes personnel from the UK, Romania, and Croatia.

US forces and troops from other NATO members have carried out a variety of exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months, as the alliance works to deter Russian aggression. Those exercises have focused on established capabilities that had fallen out of use after the Cold War — like maneuvering and interoperability between units — as well as new practices to fend off Russian tactics, like cyberattacks and hacking.

President Donald Trump has also goaded NATO members to increase their defense expenditures more rapidly, believing they unfairly allow the US to shoulder the bulk of that expense. Members of the alliance have boosted their spending (though some have done so with the aim of reducing dependence on US arms makers).

Poland has already met the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that the NATO allies agreed to work toward by 2024. On Aug. 15, 2018, Duda said he wanted Poland to increase that outlay even more, reaching 2.5% of GDP by 2024.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

These are the airmen who fly to the coldest places on Earth

“Pole to pole.”


These three words are the motto of the 109th Airlift Wing – at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York – and though short, it is an accurate synopsis of the unit’s mission.

“We fly missions to Greenland, which is near the North Pole, and Antarctica, which is the South Pole,” said Maj. Emery Jankford, the wing’s chief of training. “So, we literally fly pole to pole.”

During the spring and summer months, the 109th AW operates out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and flies scientific researchers with the National Science Foundation and their materiel to remote field camps across the Arctic Ice Cap. In the fall and winter months, the unit conducts similar missions out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Antarctica and Greenland are among the coldest, windiest, and most inhospitable places on the globe and they provide a challenging opportunity to demonstrate the reach and flexibility of airpower, the capabilities of the joint force, and the integrated support of active-duty, Guard, and Reserve military personnel.

“Basically, we go from cold to really cold,” Jankford said. “The Greenland operating season helps us train and prepare for when we operate in Antarctica.”

Each year, the 109th AW flies more than 800 hours during the Greenland support season and transports 2.1 million pounds of cargo, 49,000 pounds of fuel, and nearly 2,000 passengers.

“If it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, the wing’s chief of Greenland Operations.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Air Force aircrews assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing conduct a combat offload of cargo off a 109th Airlift Wing LC-130 Skibird transported to the East Greenland Ice Core Project. US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. William Gizara

To accomplish this, the unit flies the world’s only ski-equipped LC-130s, called “skibirds,” which allows the planes to land on and take off from ice and compacted snow runways.

“We do have some traditional “wheelbirds” in our unit, but the LC-130s give us the unique capability of being able to land in snowy arctic areas,” Garren said.

While the LC-130s are able to operate without a traditional runway, the arctic environment does present challenges the crews must overcome long before the planes’ skis touch down on the ice.

“Our biggest challenges are weather and navigation,” said Capt. Zach McCreary, a C-130 pilot with the 109th AW.

Because most of Greenland is within the Arctic Circle near the North Pole and Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, there is a lot of magnetic interference when flying in these areas. This interference makes GPS navigation difficult, so the aircrews have to resort to old-school tactics.

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success
Airmen approach DYE-2, an abandoned radar site near Raven Camp that was one of 60 set up during the Cold War as part of an early-warning system that stretched across the far north of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Greg C. Biondo.

“Our navigators are some of the only ones in the military who still use celestial navigation,” Jankford said. “We still break out the charts and formulas to determine our positions and headings.”

Weather is another challenge. It can change quickly and it can get nasty, so aircrews try to stay as up to date as possible when flying missions.

“We receive regular weather briefings, before we leave and while we’re in the air,” McCreary said. “But there are times the weather changes quickly and you have to react and adapt to it on the fly.”

In some cases, usually with cloud cover, this means landing with limited to no visibility. At times the land and sky blend together with no visible horizon line.

“It’s like flying inside of a ping pong ball,” McCreary said. “Everything is white and it all looks the same.”Capt. Zach McCreary, C-130 pilot, 109th AW

New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

In these situations, the aircrew uses a spotting technique where the copilot and loadmasters will look for flags lining the runway and help the pilot line up the aircraft during its approach.

“It’s a very unique airlift wing,” Garren said. “We’re landing on snow and ice, we’re using the sun and stars to navigate, and we’re using our eyeballs to land – I’m not sure there’s another unit that flies like this.”

Because the 109th AW operates in such unique environments, utilizing dated techniques, effective training is only possible within the areas of operation.

“We can only train for these missions when we’re in Greenland and Antarctica,” Garren said. “We can’t train at home, so new crewmembers are learning and being signed off on tasks while they’re landing and taking off from the ice.”

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The uniqueness of the polar mission is one reason it was given to the 109th AW. Being a guard unit, its members stay in place longer and are able to train, develop, and enhance their skills and experience without having to move or relocate every few years like their active duty counterparts.

“We have guys here who have been flying this mission for 30 years,” Garren said. “That amount of experience is invaluable and the knowledge they pass on to the junior guys is irreplaceable.”

Also irreplaceable are the capabilities of the wing’s unique “skibirds.”

“We can fly into an austere area and land with our skis with no runway somewhere no one has ever been,” Garren said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s what we train to do.”

Articles

This is how the KC-10 delivers airpower to the enemy’s front door

Three KC-10 Extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying over 300 coalition paratroopers across the Pacific Ocean July 13.


Having received the gas they needed, the C-17s continued to Australia to successfully conduct Exercise Ultimate Reach, a strategic airdrop mission. The airdrop displayed US capabilities throughout the region, reassured allies, and improved combat readiness between joint and coalition personnel.

The aerial refueling also supported Exercise Talisman Saber, a month-long training exercise in Australia between US, Canadian, and Australian forces that began once paratroopers landed Down Under. The training focused on improving interoperability and relations between the three allies.

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A C-17 Globemaster III. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan.)

The KC-10s seamlessly refueled various aircraft over the Pacific Ocean supporting Talisman Saber. Some of those aircraft include Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and Air Force KC-10s, among others.

“This is the bread and butter of what we do in the KC-10 world,” said Lt. Col. Stew Welch, the 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander and the Ultimate Reach tanker mission commander. “We’re practicing mobility, air refueling, and interoperability. This is practice for how we go to war.”

Though participation in such a large and complex exercise may seem like a unique occurrence for the aircraft and their aircrews, in actuality, this is done every day, all over the world.

For members of the 6th and the 9th ARSs at Travis Air Force Base, California, the global mission of the KC-10 is evident each time they step onto the tanker. For the rest of the world, it was on full display at Talisman Saber.

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A KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, California, refuels a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet over the Pacific Ocean July 14, 2017. (USAF photo by 2nd Lt. Sarah Johnson)

Ultimate Reach was the most prominent piece of the KC-10’s efforts during Talisman Saber. Despite that demand, the crews continued a full schedule of refueling sorties after landing in Australia, allowing other participating aircraft to complete their missions.

While its primary mission is aerial refueling, the KC-10 can also carry up to 75 passengers and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo. This enables the aircraft to airlift personnel and equipment while refueling supporting aircraft along the way. Though it can go 4,400 miles on its own without refueling, its versatility allows it to mid-air refuel from other KC-10s and extend its range.

“With that endurance ability, we can go up first and come home last and give as much gas as everybody else,” said Maj. Peter Mallow, a 6th ARS pilot. “That’s our role is to go up and bat first and then bat last.”

The tanker’s combined six fuel tanks carry more than 356,000 pounds of fuel in-flight, allowing it to complete missions like Ultimate Reach where over 4,000 pounds of fuel was offloaded in a short time to the five waiting C-17s. The amount is almost twice as much as the KC-135 Stratotanker.

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A C-17 Globemaster III. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera.)

“KC-10s are critical to delivering fuel to our partners,” said Welch. “Not only can we get gas, but we have a huge cargo compartment capability as well. KC-10’s can bring everything mobility represents to the table.”

“The KC-10 is essential to the Air Force because we can transport any piece of cargo, equipment, and personnel to anywhere in the world… any continent, any country,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Cook, a 6th ARS instructor boom operator. “We’re able to refuel those jets who have to go answer the mission whatever it may be, or (engage in) humanitarian response.”

Additionally, the tanker’s ability to switch between using an advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system allows it to refuel a variety of US and allied military aircraft interchangeably, as it demonstrated during Talisman Saber.

“KC-10s were able to provide force-extending air refueling,” said Mallow. “We were able to provide the capability to the C-17s that other platforms can’t. Because we can carry so much gas, we have more flexibility simply because we can provide the same amount of gas over multiple receivers. That inherently is the KC-10’s duty.”

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US Army Spc. Kaelyn Miller airborne paratrooper from the Higher Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, waits on board a USAF C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., July 12, 2017 to airdrop in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

“When we refueled the C-17s, it helped them get to their location and drop those paratroopers so the world can see them flying out of the aircraft and see those angels coming down,” said Cook. “It’s a good feeling, knowing the KC-10 is a part of that.”

Ultimate Reach and Talisman Saber highlighted the KC-10 fleet as a fighting force, demonstrating the aircraft’s unique warfighting capabilities over a wide-array of locations, receivers, and flying patterns.

“Not only does this kind of exercise demonstrate what we can do, it demonstrates how we do it,” said Welch. “Our own interoperability — not just with the Air Force and the Army but with our coalition partners as well — sends a great message to our allies and those who are not our allies that we can get troops on the ground where and when we please.”

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DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin

The tankers’ performance during the exercise proved its unwavering support to combatant commanders and allies. It showed versatility in meeting unique mission requirements and reassured people around the world that the Air Force will always have a presence in the sky.

“Maybe one of those kids seeing a paratrooper come down will take an interest and maybe become the next Technical Sergeant Cook,” mused Cook.

Articles

Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Critics of the F-35 have jumped on the fact that it has suffered a host of problems during the developmental test process while Air Force leadership has remained bullish on the jet’s transformational potential. This isn’t the first time this dynamic has come into play while fielding an airplane.


Here are ten planes that had rough starts, but eventually became mainstays.

1. F4U Corsair

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(Photo: U. S. Navy)

The “Ensign Eliminator” was a high performer, but the complexity of the plane lead to a lot of fatal accidents. In fact, at one point, the Navy was willing to let the Marine Corps use the plane from land bases during World War II, sticking with the F6F Hellcat (not a bad bird, either). The plane kicked butt, to put it mildly. Eventually, the Navy began to fly Corsairs off carriers near the end of World War II, when it needed high performance to take down kamikazes. The plane then proved to be a good ground-attack bird, particularly during the Korean War.

2. P-51 Mustang

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The first version of the P-51, the P-51A, was saddled with the Allison engine. That gave it problems at higher altitudes. Still, some recognized that the P-51 had potential, and decided to try the Rolls Royce Merlin. We all know how that worked out.

3. P-38 Lightning

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Hard to believe that a plane designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson of Lockheed “Skunk Works” fame would have problems. But the plane used by Tom Lanphier to take out Isoroku Yamamoto had trouble – lots of trouble. Early versions of the Lightning were crippled by issues with compressibility. One such incident over a wheat field near Rostock nearly spelled the end for the legendary Robin Olds. Eventually, new dive flaps fixed the compressibility problems, and the P-38 went on to a glorious career – with Yamamoto as the most famous “kill” among many.

4. F-111 Aardvark

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The “Vark” had long range, high speed, and a heavy payload. It also had teething problems that earned it the wrath from William Proxmire, who called it a “Flying Edsel.” Well, the kinks got worked out – and the plane became a reliable all-weather attack bird – and during Desert Storm, F-111E and F-111F planes flew hundreds of sorties, with no losses.

5. B-1B Lancer

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It had a reputation as a “hangar queen” in the 1980s, and it had problems with the ALQ-161 jammers. Just procuring the plane was a huge fight in Congress. But in the 1990s, the B-1B came into its own as a conventional bomber.

6. C-17 Globemaster

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This plane had huge issues during RD. It nearly ended up canceled after only a few dozen airframes were built. However, the plane soon proved it was more than capable of replacing the C-141, and now is not only in service with the Air Force, but with NATO, the Royal Air Force, and a number of other countries around the world.

7. C-5 Galaxy

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Pyle)

This plane had its problems, too. Cracks in the wings and cost overruns put this plane in jeopardy and lead to load limits. Those have been fixed, though, and the C-5 is getting a round of modernization that will keep in service for decades to come.

8. V-22 Osprey

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

This plane was in the aviation equivalent of “development hell.” Many times, pundits, politicians, and even Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. But the Osprey survived, became a game-changer, and now is the backbone of Marine Expeditionary Units.

9. F/A-18 Hornet

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An F/A-18C Hornet with 10 AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This plane had its problems, notably short range (which was somewhat overblown – in the fighter role, it actually had longer range than the F-4 Phantom), and the ever-familiar cost over-runs. But the Navy and Marine Corps stuck with the Hornet and that plane became the backbone of carrier air wings in the 1990s and early 2000s.

10. F-16 Fighting Falcon

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Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The Air Force brass initially didn’t want it. The engine would cut out in the middle of flight, forcing pilots to make deadstick landings. But the F-16’s problems were resolved, and the plane has a long service record with the United States Air Force, the Iron Eagle movie franchise, and many export buyers.

So, when people want to chop a defense program over some teething problems, just remember that even the successful planes once had those problems, too.

Articles

This is how special operators respond so quickly when sh-t hits the fan

Special operators are often America’s 911 call, flying to the scene of emergencies and safeguarding American interests while outnumbered and sometimes outgunned. Years of training and military exercises hone them into deadly weapons.


But it takes a lot of logistics to get the premier warfighters from their home bases or staging areas and into the fight, ready to kill or be killed on America’s behalf. Here’s a glimpse of the process:

1. Step one of deploying special operators is preparing gear and recalling personnel.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

2. Operators and support personnel rush vehicles and other gear to loading areas. The exact makeup depends on the planned mission.

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This photo is from an exercise. Rumor is there are less smiles and jokes for actual combat missions. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

3. The vehicles are secured for transport. Often, this means the gear is going into planes. Gear that will roll off is secured to the plane itself while gear that will be airdropped is typically secured to a pallet.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

4. Operators sometimes take part in securing their gear since it guarantees that it will come out as expected on the objective.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

5. Once the gear is ready to go, the personnel have to get strapped in. While these guys are strapping on parachutes, some missions require they run off the ramp on the ground instead.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

6. Attention to detail is critical since any mistake on the objective can cost lives.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

7. While MC-130Js are one of the more famous planes for special operators, there are plenty of other aircraft that will do the job, such as this MC-12.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks)

8. Or Black Hawks… Black Hawks are good.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

9. Of course, operators on the ground like to have fire support, and they can’t be guaranteed artillery on the ground. So they’ll often fly in with extra firepower as well.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

10. The AC-130s can bring everything from 20mm miniguns to 105mm howitzers. The typical modern armament is 25-105mm cannons. Jets and helicopters can bring the boom when necessary.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

11. And then the operators get to work, grabbing bad guys, ending threats, and chewing bubble gum.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are more likely to have trouble sleeping – here’s the fix

You quit coffee, tea and chocolate! You put up black out curtains and got rid of all the screens in your bedroom. You even tried counting sheep. But still you find yourself lying awake, unable to sleep. Sleep Hygiene tips help many people. But they don’t work all the time and they don’t work for everybody — especially if you have been experiencing sleep problems for a long time.


Sleepless nights are not uncommon, but if they persist for weeks at a time and impact your life, it could be that insomnia, nightmares or other sleep problems are affecting your well-being. Insomnia after returning from deployment is one aspect of military service that relates to sleep problems. Training to be alert through the night, working extended shifts and upsetting memories from combat zones can all affect sleep, even after separating from service. This means that if you are a veteran, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping than civilians.

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Treatment is key to improving both your physical and mental health

Sleep problems often occur with PTSD, depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and can lead to trouble concentrating, challenging emotions, and a feeling of hopelessness that could worsen thoughts of suicide. So, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor early, when you first notice changes in your sleep that impact your functioning. Proven treatments for insomnia are more effective than sleep medications in the long-term without the side effects.

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, CBT-I, targets behaviors and thoughts that perpetuate sleep problems, and is a treatment that has demonstrated longer-term effects than sleep medications”, says Dr. Sarra Nazem, a VA psychologist and researcher. “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, IRT, is a treatment that involves re-scripting nightmares which can lead to decreases in nightmare severity and frequency.”

Take the Sleep Check-up to understand your own sleep. And remember, sleeping better means feeling better in all ways.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

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A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.