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.
We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.
This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.
Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.
The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to email@example.com. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.
Military photographers from all branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked through the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
Tech. Sgt. Donnie McCorkle watches a C-17 Globemaster III land at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
A C-5M Super Galaxy sits on the flightline as Airmen clear snow Feb. 17, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Winter Storm Octavia dumped a total of four inches of snow on the base and throughout the local area.
SEMBAWANG, Singapore (Feb. 19, 2015) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Parks, from Fostoria, Ohio, heaves a mooring line on the forecastle of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during a sea and anchor detail.
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (Feb. 18, 2014) Cmdr. Ron Neitzke, Camp Lemonnier command chaplain, places ashes on the forehead of Chief Hospital Corpsman Alvin Cruz during an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a Christian religious observance that covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.
An Army Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), provides security for a mule carrying the Mk 47 grenade launcher during MULE Packing Training on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 27, 2015.
Army Medicine researchers are investigating possible long-term effects of exposure to dust and other airborne particulate matter.
ARLINGTON, Va. – Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett, the 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, relinquished his post to Sergeant Major Ronald Green, the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2015.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Lance Cpl. Zachary Painter (left) and Lance Cpl. Reymond Kane, machine gunners with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and natives of Roanoke, Va. and Long Island, N.Y., respectively, simulate firing at an enemy during a gun drill at training area G-G aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 18, 2015.
A USCG helicopter stands ready as the sun sets on another day of service to nation.
USCG crew responds to 13 yr. old boy needing medical attention aboard cruise ship.
This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10
Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.
As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)
It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.
Why you should hate the A-10
Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.
The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record – not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.
After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.
But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Incidentally the Bradley took a lot of flak early on, pun intended. People called it a “coffin ready to burn.” U.S. News and World Report placed it on their list of America’s 10 Worst Weapons. Even the legendary “60 Minutes” took its shots at the vehicle.
That said, the Bradley proved `em wrong in Desert Storm. Here are some of the reasons why:
Chain Gun Firepower
The Bradley has the M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, and can hold up to 900 or 1500 rounds, depending on whether you are in the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle or M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. This chain gun can handle just about any battlefield threat. Opposing armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles, dismounted infantry, trucks, just about anything on the battlefield short of a tank can be taken out. That sells the M242 short. In Desert Storm, one Bradley even took out a T-72 with that chain gun!
An Anti-Tank Missile, Too!
But the Bradley didn’t forget the fact that tanks are on the battlefield. It has a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile. The BGM-71E TOW has a range of about two and a third miles, and carries a 13-pound shaped charge. This is enough to rip just about any tank to shreds. The BGM-71F attacks the top of a tank with two explosively formed projectiles.
Oh, and the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can stow five reloads for its launcher. The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries ten — almost enough to take out an entire company of tanks.
The Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can carry up to seven grunts in the back. What can grunts bring to the table? Plenty. With M4 carbines, M249 squad automatic weapons, M203 grenade launchers, M320 grenade launchers, the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, and a host of other weapons, the grunts can add to the vehicle’s already impressive punch.
The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries two grunts, but they have access to the same weapons that the grunts in the Infantry Fighting Vehicle do.
The Bradley also comes in the Bradley Linebacker version. This Bradley, designated the M6, replaced the TOW launcher with a four-round launcher for the FIM-92 Stinger. Now, the Bradley could hunt aircraft and helicopters. It retained the M242, though, which still gives it the ability to handle ground targets.
The M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle replaced the M113-based M981, and while it still has a 25mm gun, it uses a sophisticated navigation system (a combination of GPS and inertial navigation) to serve as a reference point. The TOW system has been replaced with something far more deadly: the means to provide laser designation for anything from Hellfire missiles, to Copperhead laser-guided artillery rounds, to Paveway laser-guided bombs like the GBU-12 and GBU-24.
Other versions of the Bradley are used for command and control and for combat engineers. In short, this vehicle can do a lot.
The Bradley has not been easy to kill. During Desert Storm, only three were lost to enemy fire. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 150 Bradleys were lost from all causes. Still, the vehicle still allows the crew and grunts inside to survive.
It Keeps Up
One problem with the M113 armored personnel carrier has been the fact it couldn’t keep up with the M1 Abrams. The Bradley never had that problem — and was able to fight side-by-side with the M1, allowing such feats as the 24th Infantry Division’s advance of 260 miles during the 100-hour long ground war of Desert Storm.
The combat record of the Bradley also speaks volumes. In Desert Storm, Bradleys destroyed more enemy vehicles than the Abrams.
It Keeps Getting Better
The Bradley isn’t standing still. Like the M1 Abrams, it has received upgrades thoughout its career. By 2018, the new versions of the Bradley will be entering service, bringing a more powerful engine, new shock absorbers, and an improved power-management system, among other improvements.
So, before you dismiss the badass Bradley, keep these things in mind. The United States Army bought over 4,600 of these vehicles — and it has outlasted two efforts to replace it in the Future Combat Systems XM1206 and the Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Carrier Vehicle. Not a bad track record for this vehicle!
U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.
During the spring of 2003, the first medivacs were returning to Camp Pendleton from the battlefield of Iraq. Karen Guenther, a Marine Corps spouse who’s husband was deployed at the time, was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton, and saw firsthand the needs of the wounded arriving there.
Guenther immediately realized most of them were in need of basic health and comfort items, so she enlisted the help of some fellow military spouses and began assembling “welcome bags” full of toiletries, phone cards, and other items intended to make life better for the wounded Marines.
“We went out to local churches and Boy Scouts and had everybody help,” said Wendy Lethin, one of the first to join Guenther’s effort. “Everybody was very generous, but we realized there was much more than welcome bags needed.”
During this same time, the spouses learned of parents of wounded Marines sleeping in their cars while visiting hospitals because they could not afford to stay at local hospitals, and they also helped to provide an adapted vehicle to a Marine whose wife was having difficulty lifting him into their truck
“That was kind of the idea for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said.
Guenther gathered her group of spouses around her kitchen table in her house aboard Camp Pendleton and started brainstorming what they should do to get their collective arms around all of the needs that they saw rapidly emerging. They researched existing non-profits and were surprised that there didn’t seem to be any that were doing what they had in mind.
“We had the right group at the right time,” Lethin said. “We read all kinds of books on non profits and did our research. And we agreed to the ideals and tenants of the organization that still guide us today.”
As stated on the Semper Fi Fund’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
The Fund’s first official donation came for the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, California. The entire donation was given to the first three wounded Marines referred by the hospital with the thought that even if that was all that was raised it would at least help those three and their families at a difficult time in their recovery. Little did the organizers realize that that donation would be the first of many.
In the 12 years since the Semper Fi Fund has transformed the lives of thousands of wounded service members and their families. The Fund now has a dedicated staff supplemented by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
“I’m proud of what we do and how we do it,” Lethin said. “It’s a sacred duty to be able to do what we do.”
The Fund’s next major event is the “InVETational,” a charity golf tournament hosted by comedian and actor Rob Riggle (who, among other roles, is currently playing Col. Sanders in KFC commercials). Riggle is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan. The tournament will take place at Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
“We are so excited that Rob is doing this for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said. “He has the heart of our mission. He’s a Marine who knows the power and good of what we do.”
1. The property used for Arlington National Cemetery was an estate that was forcibly acquired from the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1864.
2. The first military burial at Arlington was William Henry Christman, who died of non-combat related illness, on May 13, 1864.
3. The first African-American to be buried there was William H. Johnson, an employee of President Lincoln.
4. In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Lee family’s favor that Arlington had been confiscated without due process. After that decision, Congress returned the estate, and on March 3, 1883 Custis Lee (Robert E. Lee’s eldest son) sold it back to the government for $150,000.
5. President Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1929.
6. Arlington did not desegregate its burial practices until President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.
7. Five state funerals have been held at Arlington: those of Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, his two brothers, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, and General of the Armies John J. Pershing.
8. U.S. presidents are eligible to be buried at Arlington whether or not they served on active duty since they oversaw the armed forces as commanders-in-chief.
9. The Tomb of the Unknowns has been perpetually guarded by the U.S. Army since July 2, 1937.
10. Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War was interred on May 28, 1984. President Ronald Reagan presided. The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred, under the authority of President Bill Clinton, on May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family had them reinterred near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. Since that time the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown has remained empty.
11. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently offers 57 authorized faith emblems for placement on markers to represent the deceased’s faith.
12. Prior to 2007, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs did not allow the use of the pentacle as an “emblem of belief” on tombstones in military cemeteries. This policy was changed following an out-of-court settlement in April of that year.
13. Arlington National Cemetery conducts approximately 6,900 burials each year.
The results of the last presidential election have brought national attention to a secessionist movement in California otherwise known as “Calexit.” Activists upset with the outcome are gathering signatures to place a secession referendum on the ballot in 2019.
While the probability of California seceding from the Union is remote, it is technically possible.
What if the movement ultimately gained enough traction to foment a rebellion in one of California’s most important and iconic cities? Here’s how the United States might try to take back the city and how insurgents might defend it.
Assuming the rebellion had broad-based popular support, the California National Guard would begin concentrating several units in and near San Francisco, where they would have the best chance of facing U.S. forces in the dense urban environment. In response, the Pentagon might deploy storied units like the 101st Airborne and 25th Infantry Divisions to San Francisco to seize and secure the city.
When U.S. forces make their push on the city, the 101st Airborne might conduct air assaults across the South Bay to seize and secure Highways 280 and 101, cutting off San Francisco’s southern supply route. Elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment would launch a raid on the San Francisco airport, safeguarding it for follow-on forces.
Simultaneously, Delta Force commandos would secure nuclear material in the East Bay at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, likely encountering stiff resistance from local forces. Rogue hackers might us the attack to initiate a propaganda campaign, hinting at a possible radiation leak. The news of such a disaster would spur a flood of refugees to flee inland from Berkeley and Oakland, inundating follow-on U.S. forces and overwhelming hastily constructed refugee camps.
Further west, a SEAL team would work to disarm explosive charges set by Chinese frogmen on the foundations of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, before the 25th Infantry Division’s lightly armored Strykers could cross over.
Columns of Strykers surging across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, would turn northwest from the Bay Bridge. Streaming along the Embarcadaro, they would race to seize the high ground at Telegraph Hill, where Coit Tower offers a commanding view of the city. To the northwest, forces crossing the Golden Gate would quickly occupy the Presidio, establishing a tactical operations center there.
National Guard units would lie in wait until U.S. forces became channelized in the city. Then, they would attack, firing small arms and RPGs from office buildings and high rises, and detonating IEDs hidden beneath concrete along the main streets. National Guard M1A1 Abrams tanks, hiding in parking structures would ambush Strykers, littering the streets with mangled and twisted metal. When beleaguered American units call for air support, Longbow Apache helicopters would stumble into massive arrays of balloons released just before they passed over the city. The balloons would tangle in the helicopters’ rotors and cause the aircraft to sputter and crash.
While the insurgents would have the element of surprise, American forces would recover quickly, rapidly seizing key communications nodes and power stations to deny rebels a link to the outside world. As American forces extend their control deeper into the city, they would hit a wall of resistance in the Tenderloin as meth-fueled gangs ambush them from every conceivable alley and window with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and car bombs.
To counter the chaos, U.S. forces would partition particularly restive parts of the city, walling them off with twelve-foot high, portable, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls or T-walls. At the same time, another battle would rage beneath the streets throughout the 28 subway miles of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
Within three weeks, the U.S. military would control two-thirds of the city, but dwindling food supplies would leave the civilian population increasingly desperate. Overflowing sewage and a swelling rat infestation would only make matters worse. This horrific environment would inspire a highly effective insurgent propaganda campaign, with hackers smuggling micro SD cards containing footage of alleged U.S. military atrocities and deteriorating conditions out of the city.
Soon, the U.S. military would be overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees, frantic to leave San Francisco. To prevent known criminals and insurgents from escaping the increasingly tightening cordon, soldiers would use tools like the Biometric Automated Toolset (BATS) to perform thumb and eye scans on every refugee. They would also confiscate all electronic devices to prevent insurgents from passing on critical intelligence information to other cells.
Yet some micro SD cards would make it through the U.S. military’s security checkpoints and end up on CNN. Terrifying images of rail-thin San Franciscans, bullet-riddled corpses of children, and rats the size of small dogs festering in refuse-strewn alleys would carpet-bomb the media circuit, making it increasingly difficult for U.S. forces to maintain a long-term occupation of the city.
While the U.S. victory over San Francisco would ultimately be assured, it would be a Pyrrhic one that would sully the U.S. military’s reputation. More importantly, it might have the unintentional impact of bolstering the resistance in the foothills and mountains to the east.
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:
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off on the first day of Red Flag 16-2 Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis AFB, Nev.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 2, 2016. During the high-altitude, low-opening airdrop, Jonas jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and parachuted to the base.
Tech. Sgt. Allan Habel, a tactical aircraft maintainer, performs preflight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a practice demonstration Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, returns fire with an M240L machine gun during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
Paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Spanish army soldier from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), work together to secure the perimeter of a building complex during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2016) President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. during a ceremony Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the White House. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a hostage rescue operation in December 2012.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 29, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199). Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Four EA-6B Prowlers belonging to each Prowler squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point conducted a “Final Four” division flight aboard the air station March 1, 2016. The “Final Four” flight is the last time the Prowler squadrons will be flying together before the official retirement of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 at the end of Fiscal Year 16 and the eventual transition to “MAGTF EW”. MAGTF EW is a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes to the EW mission, enabling relevant tactical information to move throughout the electromagnetic spectrum and across the battlefield faster than ever before.
U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa fly enroute from Pozo La Higueara drop zone to La Felipe drop zone after insertion of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers during exercise Sky Soldier, Spain, Feb. 27, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-AF participated in exercise Sky Soldier which promotes interoperability between Marine Corps Aviation assets and American and Spanish Airborne and Air Mobile forces.
Pfc. Bradley Brandes, a mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an 81mm mortar system during the supporting arms coordination exercise (SACCEX) portion of Exercise Iron Fist 2016 on San Clemente Island, Feb. 21, 2016.
Members of Station Burlington, Vermont’s ice rescue team adjust straps on their rescue board during training in Burlington Bay, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The ice rescue board uses a system of pulleys to make it easier for rescuers to pull a survivor out of the freezing water. Another method for getting a survivor out of the water is the self-help technique. This technique involves a team member walking the survivors through how to get themselves out of the water. The team member instructs the survivor to kick their legs until they are parallel with the ice ledge and use their arms to crawl forward.
Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City train together, ensuring they’re “Always Ready” when someone needs them.
The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.
The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.
“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”
Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.
The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.
So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.
Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.
Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.
Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.
Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.
Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.
“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.
Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.
He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.
Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.
He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.
The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.
Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”
In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.
Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.
BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?
SM: That’s exactly what it is.
BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?
SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.
There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.
BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?
SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.
BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?
SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.
Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?
BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?
SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.
We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.
I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.
BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?
SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.
You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.
They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.
BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?
SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.
President-elect Donald Trump named three members of his national-security team Nov. 18, including his pick for Attorney General, CIA director and National Security Advisor.
According to multiple media reports, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was selected to be Trump’s National Security Advisor, while Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions was chosen for the Attorney General slot.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was asked to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was picked to head the Central Intelligence Agency. (Official congressional portrait)
Flynn, who had been a strong supporter of Trump on the campaign train and was a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served in a number of posts during his Army career. He took part in Operations Urgent Fury and Restore Democracy, then served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to taking charge of the DIA.
Flynn’s service decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service medal with five oak leaf clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with five oak leaf clusters.
Flynn’s tenure as DIA director was marked by controversy, leading him to retire in August 2014.
Representative Pompeo was first elected to Congress in 2010 and was re-elected to his fourth term in 2016. Prior to entering Congress, Pompeo served for five years in the United States Army, reaching the rank of captain, then went to Harvard Law School before founding an aerospace firm and becoming president of an oilfield equipment company.
Pompeo has been an advocate of a hard line with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pompeo has served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Senator Sessions is in his fourth term, having first been elected in 1996. Prior to his election, he served as a United States Attorney for 12 years.
During his service as a U.S. Attorney, his 1986 nomination as a federal judge was derailed. Sessions later ran for Attorney General of Alabama serving two years before winning his seat in the U.S. Senate.
While best known for his tough positions on illegal immigration and border security, Sessions was the sponsor of the HEROES Act of 2005, which boosted the death gratuity benefit to $100,000, and upped Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance coverage to $400,000. The legislation became law later that year.
Sessions served on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the Senate Committee on the Budget, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Sessions also served in the Army Reserve from 1973-1977, reaching the rank of captain.
Both Flynn and Sessions had been reportedly under consideration to serve as Secretary of Defense in a Trump administration. Had Flynn been nominated for that post, he would have needed a special exemption from rules mandating civilian leadership of the Pentagon.