In August 2020, President Trump issued an executive order that suspended the collection of Social Security payroll taxes for most military members. The suspension applied to individuals that made less than $104,000 annually in taxable income and lasted from September through December 2020. Generally, this applied to service members at paygrades below W-5 or O-5. During these four months, troops saw a slight increase in their paychecks. However, the temporary pay raise was simply a deferment and the money will have to be paid back in 2021.
On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed a bill passed by Congress that will ease the repayment of the four months of Social Security payroll taxes. Instead of troops paying back the 6.5 percent back out of their paycheck for four months, the collection will be spread over the course of 2021. Beginning with the mid-month January paycheck, troops who had their Social Security taxes deferred will notice the deduction of 2.7 percent of their base pay monthly. Those that opt to be paid monthly will see the deduction at the end of the month.
However, there is more math to be done if you want to calculate your take home for 2021. Military members will also see a 3% base pay increase. BAS rates will also increase for 2021 with enlisted members receiving $386.50 per month and officers receiving $266.18 per month. Additionally, depending on their posting, service members could see an increase in their BAH. Of course, the 6.5% Social Security payroll tax will also return for 2021.
Because of all these new variables, and existing ones like years of service, troops may or may not receive smaller paychecks than they received in the last few months of 2020. If you find yourself taking in less cash and experience financial hardship due to an emergency, be sure to turn to your service’s emergency relief loan first before resorting to potentially predatory sources of capital. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for an interest-free loan or a grant. Troops have plenty of things to worry about in the service of the nation; money shouldn’t have to be one of them.
Amazon uplevels its commitment to U.S. military veterans and their families with a bold hiring pledge.
Amazon is pledging to hire over 100,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses by 2024, building on its commitment to military families after far exceeding its pledge to hire 25,000 by 2021.
Amazon currently employs more than 40,000 veterans and military spouses across multiple businesses, including Operations, Sustainability, Alexa, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). All regular full-time employees receive at least $15/hr and comprehensive benefits that begin their first day on the job, and access to programs to help them train for higher-paying jobs in robotics, cloud computing, and other in-demand fields.
“Amazon is focused on recruiting and developing military talent with training programs specifically designed to help veterans transition into roles in the private sector,” said John Quintas, Amazon’s director of global military affairs. “We value the unique skills and experience that the military community brings—and our new hiring commitment will expand the impact that military members currently have on every single business across the company.”
Amazon made its 2016 Joining Forces pledge with the goal of hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021. Inspired after far surpassing that original goal, Amazon is now using the momentum to work toward a larger recruiting and hiring pledge.
“Amazon recognizes the diverse backgrounds and experiences veterans and military spouses bring and how they strengthen the workforce,” said Eric Eversole, who leads Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The program is focused on helping veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment in communities across America.
Amazon offers a variety of programs to assist transitioning service members and military spouses in finding rewarding careers. This includes access to company-funded skills training in high-demand areas through initiatives like the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship Program and AWS re/Start.
Military members working at Amazon can also take advantage of the company’s free upskilling opportunities, which help participants gain new technical skills and move into higher-paying, in-demand jobs. Among the programs is Career Choice, Amazon’s pre-paid tuition program for fulfillment center employees looking to move into high-demand occupations. Amazon Technical Academy is a paid nine-month training program that equips non-technical Amazon employees with essential skills so they can transition into—and thrive in—software engineering careers.
“Through their commitment to provide upskilling and employment opportunities in high demand careers, Amazon is equalizing opportunity for veterans and military spouses,” said Eversole, who is also vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to skills training, veterans and military spouses working at Amazon have access to fellowships, mentorships, military spouse support, and deployment benefits. They also have the Warriors@Amazon affinity group, a community with more than 10,000 former service members, spouses, and allies across the company.
All Amazon jobs pay a starting wage of at least $15 an hour—more than twice the federal minimum wage—and all regular full-time employees enjoy healthcare from their first day of the job, a 401(k) plan with company match, up to 20 weeks of paid leave for birthing parents, access to free upskilling opportunities, and more.
Amazon currently has more than 35,000 positions open in the U.S. To learn more about career opportunities for veterans and military spouses at Amazon, please visit Amazon.jobs.
Featured photo: Amazon military employee. Photo/Amazon
An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.
Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.
General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.
The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.
“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.
“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”
Another insider attack
Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”
On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.
In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.
Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.
However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)
What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?
There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.
From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.
Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.
The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.
So what’s the tie-in to resilience?
The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.
1. Behavioral Health
People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.
For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.
In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.
2. Social Support
People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.
Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.
3. Positive Thought
Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.
U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)
In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.
Aren’t there downsides to religion?
It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.
If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.
Big Question Inspiration
What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
What do I believe?
Where do I need to go to learn more?
Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
Through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, announced his country is “ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation.” American and South Korean officials are dismissing the claim.
“The information that we have access to calls into serious question those claims, but we take very seriously the risk and the threat that is posed by the North Korean regime in their ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Kim made the announcement while inspecting an historical military site in Pyongyang. The regime first became a confirmed nuclear power in 2006 under Kim’s predecessor and father Kim Jong-Il when North Korea detonated the first of three nuclear bombs.
North Korea’s regime detonates nukes at “secret” underground nuclear tests sites. The announcement comes on the heels of the discovery of new nuclear testing tunnels, uncovered by satellite photos, at Punggye-ri in the northeast area of the country.
North Korea has a history of acting out in response to Western actions it sees as provocative. When the U.S. and South Korea performed its yearly joint Foal Eagle exercise in 2015, the North launched two scud missiles into the sea outside of South Korea. When the South conducted a combined arms exercise near Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands near the maritime border with the North, North Korean artillery batteries shelled the island for an hour.
The North is not yet able to put a nuclear weapon on one of its rockets, but its nuclear capabilities do threaten U.S. allies in the region.
“We don’t have any information that North Korea has developed an H-bomb,” a South Korean intelligence official told the South’s Yonhap News Agency. “We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb.”
The Germans in WWII were at the forefront of industrialized warfare. They produced the first jet-powered bomber, developed the first tilt-rotor plane, and discovered fission. In most cases, Allied scientists and planners struggled to, through long hours of research and experimentation, close the technological gaps exposed by German advances. When possible though, they just stole everything they could find and called it a day.
1. Airborne Operations
The first airborne operations in combat were all executed by Germans during invasions of European countries. Normandy, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands all fell quickly while small units of German paratroopers seized key infrastructure or destroyed enemy defenses ahead of the main army. In the Battle of Crete, British intelligence operatives were able to determine the exact locations that German paratroopers would land and inflicted heavy losses. Adolf Hitler banned future large-scale airborne operations, but Britain and America were impressed by the ability of the airborne to complete their mission despite the losses. The Allies drastically stepped up their training and organizing of airborne units. The paratroopers they trained contributed decisively to the successful invasions of Sicily and Normandy.
Synchropter is a specific class of helicopter, one that uses intermeshing blades that turn in opposite directions. An unmanned version is being evaluated for medical evacuation missions by the Marine Corps. The HH-43 was a Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force synchropter used from the 1950s-1970s as a rescue and firefighting helicopter. Designs for both helicopters borrow heavily from a Fleittner Fl 282 recovered during Operation Lusty. Allied aviators didn’t just benefit from recovering the helicopter though. They also got the designer, Anton Flettner through Operation Paperclip.
3. Jet-powered aircraft
The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet airplane used in combat and it was very effective against Allied bomber formations. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union seized Me 262s as they captured German territory and reverse engineered the German planes. While neither country would finish building jet aircraft during the war, when American F-86 Sabres later faced off against Soviet MiG-15s in MiG Alley over Korea, it was a fight between Me 262 descendants. Similarly, the U.S. captured the Arado Ar 234 jet-powered bomber. Technology from the Arado would go on to be found in the U.S. Army Air Force’s B-45s and B-47s.
4. Cruise missiles
In June 1944, V-1 flying bombs started raining down on London. The V-1, “the buzz bomb”, was inaccurate but took a psychological toll on the British. The U.S. wanted its own version in preparation for the invasion of mainland Japan, and so recovered pieces of crashed and detonated V-1s. By September, it had successfully tested the JB-2 Loon, a virtual copy of the V-1. The JB-2 was never fired in combat since nuclear weapons were dropped first and Japan surrendered. Technology from the V-1 would later appear in the MGM-1 Matador, though the Matador would use a turbojet instead of the pulse jet that gave the V-1 its signature buzzing sound.
Rocket science was one of the key areas of interest during Operation Paperclip. Famously, the scientists who pioneered the U.S. and Soviet space programs were taken from Germany in the final months and years immediately after the war. At first, both the U.S. and Soviets constructed their own V-2 bombs before kicking off the space race in earnest. The stolen V-2s and their creators paved the way for U.S. rocket programs from the Redstone rockets to the Saturn and Apollo missions. The Saturn rocket, used in the Apollo program, is the only rocket that has carried a man outside of low earth orbit.
When retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Goldsworthy joined the United States military, there was no independent Air Force. He was joining to get a commission in the Army infantry. Little did he know he would serve during the Air Force’s most important moments, under one of its legends: Curtis LeMay.
Goldsworthy reflected on his life and career on his 107th birthday, April 6, 2021. To celebrate, he rode in a parade driven by the Southern California Patriot Guard Riders.
“I get asked all the time, ‘What did you do to live so long?’ I tell them I think it’s just God’s will. Sometimes I wonder whether he’s rewarding me or punishing me,” he jokingly told WCAX News.
The centenarian also says his secret to a long life is to drink a shot of vodka every night before bed. That’s just how the old timers roll – and no one is more “old timer” than Harry Goldsworthy. He and a friend joined the military in 1936 near their hometown in Washington state. Within three years, he found himself at Texas’ Kelly Field, learning to fly single-engine aircraft.
After the outbreak of World War II, Goldsworthy cut his teeth hunting German U-boats in the Caribbean Sea, using B-18 Bolo bombers, specially fitted to hunt submarines. It was his job to keep them from being able to surface.
In 1945, he was relocated to the South Pacific theater, where he was flying combat missions in support of Allied operations in the Philippines, Balikpapan and Borneo. He was forced to bail out on his last combat mission. Over the island of Luzon, his B-25 Mitchell bomber took heavy fire from the ground.
Goldsworthy landed safely in the jungles, and even kept part of the parachute that saved his life. The war eventually ended and Goldsworthy opted to stay in the newly-created U.S. Air Force. His work as a unit commander at every level was worthy of recognition – he was eventually awarded the Legion of Merit for his staff officer work.
He would soon find himself in the Pentagon, where he would help shape the new service, ushering in the era of jet-powered flight. Far from the skies above Japan, Korea or Vietnam, Goldsworthy tackled the Air Force’s biggest logistical problems, including transportation, supplies and foreign sales.
He was also instrumental in building the silos for yet-to-be-constructed nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during the Cold War. It was Goldsworthy who made haste, with which Atlas, Minuteman, and Titan ICBMs capable of launch, countered the Soviet Union’s first-strike capability.
In his 33-year career, the retired general also flew more than 30 different Air Force aircraft, many of them instrumental to the Air Force’s air power achievements overseas, including the B-52 Stratofortress and F-105 Thunderchief. He even drew up specs for the F-15 Fighter.
Goldsworthy first retired from the military as a Lt. Gen, in 1973 before going to work for Boeing. At 107, he is believed to be the oldest living general. He told Military.com that the fighter aircraft they have today, such as the F-35 Thunderbolt II, are so advanced and technical, he’s not sure he’d be able to fly one of them.
There is a Goldsworthy at the stick of the latest generation of fighters, however. One of his great-nephews is an F-35 pilot.
While hiding in a fortified two level 3,000-square-foot underground bunker, one of history’s most brutal tyrants promised the world that his empire would reign for 1,000 years.
Hitler’s Third Reich lasted 12 years, and officially ended on April 30, 1945, when the Führer committed suicide in his bunker with his new wife after learning Allied Forces had surrounded Berlin.
Hitler’s last hours
The day before his death, 56-year-old Hitler married his long-term mistress, 33-year-old Eva Braun.
After his brief wedding ceremony Hitler began preparing his last will and political statement with his secretary Traudl Junge at approximately 4:00 p.m.
“What I possess belongs – in so far as it has any value, to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary,” Hitler’s will stated.
“I myself and my wife, in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation, choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”
Later on that day Hitler learned his Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini was executed by a mob of anti-fascist partisans.
Here’s a summary of Hitler’s last day as reported by MentalFloss:
1 a.m.: Field Marshal William Keitel reports that the entire Ninth Army is encircled and that reinforcements will not be able to reach Berlin.
4 a.m.: Major Otto Günsche heads for the bathroom, only to find Dr. Haase and Hitler’s dog handler, Fritz Tornow, feeding cyanide pills to Hitler’s beloved German Shepherd, Blondi. Haase is apparently testing the efficacy of the cyanide pills that Hitler’s former ally Himmler had provided him. The capsule works and the dog dies almost immediately.
10:30 a.m.: Hitler meets with General Helmuth Weidling, who tells him that the end is near. Russians are attacking the nearby Reichstag. Weidling asks what to do when troops run out of ammunition. Hitler responds that he’ll never surrender Berlin, so Weidling asks for permission to allow his troops to break out of the city as long as their intention never to surrender remains clear.
2:00 p.m.: Hitler and the women of the bunker—Eva Braun, Traudl Junge, and other secretaries—sit down for lunch. Hitler promises them that he’ll give them vials of cyanide if they wish to use them. He apologizes for being unable to give them a better farewell present.
3:30 p.m.: Roused by the sound of a loud gunshot, Heinz Linge, who has served as Hitler’s valet for a decade, opens the door to the study. The smell of burnt almonds—a harbinger of cyanide—wafts through the door. Braun and Hitler sit side by side. They are both dead. Braun has apparently taken the cyanide, while Hitler has done the deed with his Walther pistol.
4:00 p.m.: Linge and the other residents of the bunker wrap the bodies in blankets and carry them upstairs to the garden. As shells fall, they douse the bodies in gas. Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, will kill himself tomorrow. Meanwhile, he holds out a box of matches. The survivors fumble and finally light the corpses on fire. They head down to the bunker as they burn.
itting on a sofa next to each other in the living room of the Führerbunker, Hitler and his new bride Braun poisoned themselves with cyanide pills and then for good measure, the Nazi leader reportedly shot himself in the head.
While various historians dispute the scenario of Hitler actually ending his life with a gunshot, the Russian government claimed they had a portion of Hitler’s alleged skull complete with a bullet hole, The Guardian reports.
The fractured skull, which was reportedly taken from the bunker went on public display in Moscow in 2000. Paired with the skull was what Russian intelligence said is Hitler’s jawbone.
Almost a decade later, American researchers claimed by way of DNA testing that the cranial fragment actually belonged to a woman approximately 40 years old, The Guardian reports.
The orders to be “burnt immediately” were reportedly followed when SS officers wrapped the bodies of the Führer and Braun in blankets and then placed them on a small pyre where SS officer Otto Günsche set the remains ablaze.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15C Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland, Ore., lands at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.
Members of the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., conduct a multi-ship C-17 Globemaster III formation during Crescent Reach 15.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG82), front, conducts a trilateral naval exercise with the Turkish frigate FTCD Gediz (F-495) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) destroyers Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (DDG 993) and Gang Gam-chan (DDH 979) in support of theater security operations.
NEW YORK (May 24, 2015) Sailors assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17) march in the Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade in the borough of Brooklyn as a part of Fleet Week New York (FWNY) event, May 24. FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, unload their Stryker vehicles during joint readiness exercise, Culebra Koa 15, May 21, 2015, at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii.
Paratroopers, assigned 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct airborne operations off the coast of Athens, Greece, with the 2nd Para Battalion of the Greek Army.
Protect the Bird. A Marine with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, establishes security aboard Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.
Night Flight. An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter taxies to be refueled on the flight deck of USS Wasp during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May, 22, 2015.
Later this week we will take a look at what it’s like on an International Ice Patrol deployment! Here is a small sample of what is to come.
The United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard Silent Drill Team was caught performing at the Statue of Liberty this past Saturday.
The missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was involved in a second incident with Iranian forces in as many weeks, this time with speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
According to a report by BusinessInsider.com and Reuters, the speedboats came within 600 yards of the Invincible, forcing the ship to change course. Last week, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel, an action deemed “unprofessional” by the Department of Defense.
Iran recently carried out a number of ballistic missile tests, drawing sharp criticism from Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Iranian government officials have openly called for the destruction of Israel in the past.
Iran has a history of provocative actions in the Persian Gulf region. Last summer, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) was harassed by similar speedboats while carrying out routine operations. The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at other speedboats that harassed the ship in the region.
The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World noted that Iran has over 180 speedboats of various types, armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, and multiple rocket launchers. When asked about the incident, a spokesman for United States Central Command said, “we do not comment on the movement and destination of U.S. Navy vessels in the AOR.”
Had the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg, it’s possible that there would have been another Union victory down the road and the war would’ve ended the same way . . . but who knows? The fact is, Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War, gave Lincoln an opportunity to end slavery, and kept the country together. It’s safe to say the world would have turned into a vastly different place had there been two separate Americas.
Several times in history, the American military has taken action had huge ripple effects across the planet, sometimes immediately, sometimes decades later. Here are 9 examples:
1. Valley Forge
Historians point to Saratoga as the big turning point in the Revolution because it not only wiped out Burgoyne’s Army in the north but convinced the French that maybe those American peasants had a chance after all. Still stinging from their defeat in the French and Indian War ten years earlier, France’s King Louis XVI threw was all too eager to crash the North American party and make the American Revolution a global fight so the American Army entered its winter camp outside Philadelphia on a winner’s high.
But that soon changed. Undersupplied, tired, frozen, and starving, the Continental Army was on the verge of breaking every day for several long months in the winter of 1777-1778. It was the first time American perseverance to be free was put to the test and had the Colonials broken and run, there might not be an America at all. At Valley Forge, the bonds with the French were greatly strengthened, Von Stueben’s drill was perfected (making the Continental’s a real Army), and Washington, whom some wanted to replace with Horatio Gates, survived to go on to be the father of the greatest country ever.
2. The Battle of New Orleans
Andrew Jackson’s beat-down of the British in 1815 wasn’t the biggest battle of that war, but it kicked the last European invaders out of North America for good and propelled Jackson to the White House to be President for eight years. Jackson expanded the powers of the Presidency, made trade agreements with several European countries, opened trade agreements with Asia, and founded the modern Democratic Party. But his actions also led directly to the forced removal and relocation of nearly 50,000 Native Americans from the South to the Midwest on the Trail of Tears. None of that would have happened without his success at the Battle of New Orleans.
3. Winfield Scott’s March to Mexico City
It wasn’t much of a military action, but General Winfield Scott marched into Mexico City in 1848 to end the Mexican War and effectively made Texas and California US territories. Imagine what the USA would look like today if those two giant states were still part of Mexico. But those acquisitions also had a dark side. President James K. Polk was obsessed with westward expansion and once he had California, he needed routes for settlers to get there, which fueled the flames of slavery and (arguably) set the stage for the Civil War and Indian Wars.
4. The Second Battle of the Marne
WWI was a pivotal moment for the United States because it was the first time the nation deployed soldiers overseas to fight in another country’s war. Although America had been involved in power projection during the Spanish-American War, WWI was a whole new ballgame and established the U.S.A. as an international force to be reckoned with. In particular, the Second Battle of the Marne River in France was crucial to the Allied victory. That defeat was the beginning of the end for Germany just 100 days later.
5. The Battle of Midway
In June 1942, the war in the Pacific was supposed to be a “holding effort” while the war in Europe was America’s primary focus and demanded most of the nation’s resources. But the Japanese had different plans and attacked the U.S. Garrison at Midway Atoll, which ended up being a big mistake. When it was over, four Japanese aircraft carriers had been sunk and a crippling number of aircrews were lost. Japan was unable to mount effective offensive operations after Midway and its domination of the Pacific was on a downward spiral from that point on.
6. Normandy (Operation Overlord)
Invading Europe in 1944 was by far the greatest invasion ever attempted. Failure would have resulted in a Nazi Europe, probably to this day. You could argue the Battle of the Bulge was just as important, but no military endeavor in the history of the U.S. was so ambitious and critical as the invasion and liberation of Europe. The entire continent (and arguably the world) would not look anything like it does today if the Allies had failed at Normandy.
America is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima from the Enola Gay vaulted the world into the nuclear age and started the Cold War.
8. The Pusan Perimeter
In August 1950, the combined U.S. and U.N. Forces in Korea were backed into a corner by the invading North Korean Army between the cities of Pusan and Taegu. Despite constant attacks, the Pusan Perimeter never collapsed and by September, the Allies were on the offensive while MacArthur was invading at Inchon. If the perimeter had collapsed, it’s possible that we still would have prevailed, but who’s to say? All that is certain is that the perimeter didn’t break and South Korea is today a strong democracy with the ninth largest economy in the world. Imagine Kim Jong Un with twice as much land and resources as he has now.
9. The Invasion of Iraq
It’s only been thirteen years since the U.S. invaded Iraq and only time will tell the total effect of that action, but it’s safe to say that if Saddam Hussein were still around (even allowing that he wasn’t a very nice guy), the American military would be in better shape, AQI and ISIS would never have formed, Iran’s influence across the region would be less of a threat, and the domestic political landscape wouldn’t be so chaotic.
A recent Washington Post opinion piece sharply criticized President Obama’s policies in confronting the threats from ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The piece also put the crosshairs on the measured Congressional response, saying it substituted “actual thought” and real strategy for overused, cliché statements from Congress like these:
“The world needs American leadership,” said Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the new House speaker.
“We want our homeland to be secure,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California said.
Rep. Steve Scalise from Louisiana said we need “go and root out and take on ISIS.”
Not to be outdone, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State said we must “rise to the challenge” and find “the courage and the resolve.”
In the spirit of helping the U.S. fight the good fight, Team Mighty thought of 10 more non-statements lawmakers and other administration officials can use to continue not implementing a policy that meaningfully counters the threat:
1. “Smoke ’em out”
This was a staple of the days after 9/11 and the early days of the invasion of Afghanistan. While we may not have smoked out Osama bin Laden, we sure did smoke a lot of others. President Bush said it a lot while forces were building up and Green Berets were on horseback getting vengeance. He couldn’t just tell us U.S. troops were already in Afghanistan, but he had to say something.
My sincere apologies for referencing Fahrenheit 9/11. But you get it. He said it a lot.
2. “Time will tell”
This is the ultimate phrase to use as an excuse to skate. You don’t have to do anything at all, and you’re outright saying that’s your entire strategy.
3. “We need to build a bipartisan consensus”
In the current political environment, this will guarantee nothing will ever happen against the terrorist organization. The only thing our Congress can build bipartisan consensus on is . . . well, nothing.
4. “We need a Marshall Plan for [insert crisis here].”
This refers to the massive economic undertaking led by the U.S. to help rebuild Western Europe after WWII. The great part about this line is it makes whomever says it look like a big picture thinker, but no one is ever going to ask him about that Marshall Plan thingy ever again.
5. “We need higher level engagement with [insert country with which the U.S. has a toxic relationship here]”
This is another great one to use, because you can pass the blame on to someone like Russia, who seems like a pretty stubborn country, right? It’s like saying “Oh, I’d be in there right now, killing terrorists like whoa, but Putin won’t coordinate and we don’t want to start World War III here, do we?”
You’re not just a strategist, you’re a diplomat.
6. “We need a more comprehensive approach that integrates military and non-military tools”
Because everyone knows DoD and State work so well together. Wasn’t the Iraq War a perfect example of government agency interoperability? This also leaves everyone wondering and speculating just which tools you’re talking about.
7. “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle”
This is perfect if you’re a politician because you get to imply you’re doing something, reassure the public that you’re on the case AND invoke god, without having to do anything at all. It’s like a reelection hat trick.
8. “We should work with our allies to do [the thing we know damn well we’ll never get done]”
If you’re watching a Presidential debate involving foreign policy, drink every time someone invokes working with our allies and then comes up with some long Rube Goldberg pipe dream of doing whatever with 12 countries who don’t have the same foreign policy goals.
Just kidding, don’t do that. You will die trying.
9. “It’s a game changer.”
One canned statement is probably not going to cover everything ISIS does. You may have to face the media again when the terrorists step up their game. When a politician needs to do something but really wants to continue the status quo for fear of making a mistake, this is the go-to line.
10. “This is a Code Red”
This one has also gained popularity around the NFL recently when describing the need for a win at any cost in the middle of a losing season. But what happens after you go to Code Red? It’s not clear, but it better be good.
Be careful with this one, it’s more like a bet the terrorists won’t “go there.” But they probably will, and now you’ve just backed yourself into a corner.
Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior, and fellow pararescueman and Wounded Warrior, Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, prepare to deliver the Care Beyond Duty flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
In July 2011, Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, a pararescueman, was sent to rescue a group of Marines pinned down in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents opened fire on his team’s helicopter.
A round bounced off the helicopter’s door, tearing through both of O’Neill’s lower legs and critically wounding his left, resulting in 20 surgeries over the next three-and-a-half years as doctors tried to save the limb.
O’Neill finally told doctors to remove his left leg last year, but he remains determined to continue his career as a pararescueman.
Determined to Resume Career
“I haven’t looked back since,” said O’Neill, who’s training with the 342nd Training Squadron here, as he prepares to requalify for assignment to a pararescue team.
“I knew I wasn’t done doing this job,” he added.
Pararescue isn’t an easy job for any airman, let alone one who’s had their leg amputated just above the knee, but O’Neill believes he’s still up to the task.
“There are going to be issues that come up here and there,” O’Neill said. “But I’m sure I’ll make it back on a team. Just like anybody who hasn’t been in their job for a long time … I basically need to make sure everybody else knows that I’m capable of doing the job, and … I need to make sure I haven’t lost anything that I need.”
Pararescumen serve in one of the most physically demanding fields in the armed forces, with the journey from basic training to joining an operational unit spanning almost two years, according to the technical training course guide.
Seeking a ‘New Normal’
O’Neill said he isn’t expecting any special treatment as he trains over the next few months to demonstrate his mission readiness.
“I wouldn’t want to do this job if I couldn’t meet the same qualifications as everybody else, because that would put the people on my team at risk,” he explained. “You’re only as strong as your weakest member, so if I can’t keep up with them, that means they’re carrying me and that’s not something that I want.”
Living with a prosthetic is a minor annoyance in terms of his daily routine, O’Neill said. He doesn’t sleep with the leg on, for example, so he has to hop to the bathroom or the refrigerator when he wakes in the middle of the night.
“It’s just finding a ‘new normal’ for all the things I was able to do with two legs before,” he explained. “I’ve just been finding ways to get everything done.”
That minor annoyance turns into a bigger challenge during pararescue training, where O’Neill will have to depend on his ingenuity and adaptability to meet the other demands to the job.
“Anything from picking up a patient — where I can’t just roll down on a knee and lift them up — I have to find a different way to brace myself to get people up and move out,” he noted. “Everything is challenging, but it’s just a matter of finding out how to do it.”
As if navigating this “new normal” wasn’t enough, O’Neill said his training has been grueling.
“It’s tough mentally and physically,” he said. “You aren’t pushed to your limit — you’re pushed beyond that — to the limits that the instructors know you can reach. There are so many qualifications that you need to keep up with that you … can’t do so without being mentally prepared.”
One thing, at least, hasn’t changed for O’Neill since returning from his injury.
“I don’t like running,” he chuckled. “I’ve never been a distance runner and after four years of not running … that’s still difficult, but I can still run. It’s not as pretty as it was before, but I’m able to at least get the job done.”