Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military - We Are The Mighty
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Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military


The reasons why individuals join the US military are as diverse and unique as each person serving.

But, whatever the reasons for why someone joined the military, service members can bond with each other over both the negatives and positives of serving in the armed forces.

In a recent Reddit thread, military members responded to the question, “What is your favorite part of being in the military?”

Predictably, the answers varied greatly, from the steadiness of pay in the military to the sense of belonging to something greater than the individual. We’ve collected our favorite answers below.

For Reddit user terrez, the greatest part of being in the military was the opportunities to see and experience things he would never have had the opportunity to otherwise:

Got to live in Japan, a place I never thought I would see I person. So that’s pretty neat. Occasionally an f16 will be doing loopdy loops and stuff over the flight line (idk why) and it’s like a quick little air show.

This point of view, the fact that the military is an eye-opening experience, was echoed by LordWartooth:

I would honestly have to say, both sarcastically and seriously, that my favorite part of being in the military has to be the eye opening experience about life in general. When you see senior field grade officers who can barely read, or senior enlisted whose uniforms could be painted on, considering how tight they are, and you know that they have found success in life, then I should know that consistently aiming to be better than that will take me where I want to be in life, in the military or outside of it.

Reddit user Esdarke quickly agreed with LordWartooth’s point:

Absolutely this. If nothing else, the military will teach you about yourself.

I for one have resolved to be less of a d— to people. Because now I’ve seen what happens when everyone acts like a YouTube comments section and nobody needs that in their life.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg

And for some, serving in the military was made worth it simply for the camaraderie and diversity that it fostered in the ranks. StonehengeMan writes of his favorite part of being in the military:

The people in the military.

All kinds of backgrounds – but we all work together as one (mostly). The sense of camaraderie and purpose.

Sorry if that comes across as a little earnest but it’s the people you work with that get you through the really bad days and who let you enjoy the good days even more 🙂

This sense of family that the military fosters was a common theme for the Reddit users. User Asymmetric_Warfare noted that the military imbues service members with a support system, adventure, and experiences that someone fresh out of high school might never otherwise experience:

For me first and foremost it has been mentoring my joe’s and watching my junior enlisted soldiers grow and mature and become NCO’s themselves.

Being able to call my deployment buddies up at any time any place anywhere with any issue and they will be there for me and vice a versa.

Making friendships with the people you deploy with that are stronger then your own familial bonds to your siblings and family back home.

Going to war, realizing a lot of sh– back home is just that, white noise, definitely puts life into perspective after.

Being stationed in germany at 18 years old, Donor Kabab’s, them crazy foam parties in Nuremburg. All those lovely German single ladies…I miss you Fräulein’s.

 

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
US Army by Spc. Michelle U. Blesam

And of course, for some, the best part of joining the military are the practical and concrete benefits that the organization imparts. As zaishade writes:

Not worrying about my finances: I don’t have to worry about being laid off tomorrow, or not making enough to cover rent and groceries. As much as I like fantasizing about my separation date, whenever I go visit civilian friends and family I’m reminded of how much the common man still has to struggle.

Reddit user jeebus_t_christ echoes the practical benefits of joining the military by writing simply: “Free college.”

And ultimately, as Reddit user ChumBucket1 notes flippantly, “Blowing shit up and shooting machine guns never got old.”

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Here’s how ISIS is making and supplying deadly IEDs

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
Ammunition rigged for an IED discovered by Iraqi police in Baghdad in November 2005. | Wikipedia


ISIS has taken the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to a nearly industrial level as the terror group continues to hold onto territory in Iraq and Syria, Foreign Affairs reports.

The terror group, which holds large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria despite being pressured from nearly all sides, has turned to the use of IEDs as a major force multiplier.

An investigator for Conflict Armament Research (CAR) told Foreign Affairs that ISIS’s use of IEDs has reached a “quasi-industrial scale.”

“It’s unprecedented. We have never seen this before—it’s in the thousands and thousands. It’s not just a few roadside bombs. There are literally fields of them,” the CAR researcher told Foreign Affairs.

CAR’s analysis has been confirmed by the US Department of Defense’s Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA). A spokesman from that organization told Foreign Affairs that ISIS has totally changed the nature of the threat from IEDs in Iraq.

“Previously in Iraq, we would go after the lone bomb-maker using captured biometrics off an IED and try to link events together from that,” the JIDA spokesman told Foreign Affairs.  “But now, we face IED factories on an industrial scale, with significant supply chains and funding lines.”

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
Screen grab of a US-led coalition airstrike in Syria. | CJTF Operation Inherent Resolve | YouTube

JIDA notes that this huge ramping up of the construction of IEDs has caused Iraq to become the single most affected country by IED attacks in the world. According to the organization, 11,500 IED explosions caused upwards of 35,000 casualties in 2015 alone.

And this upsurge in IED-related casualties linked to ISIS comes even as the US-led anti-ISIS coalition continues to hammer away at the group with airstrikes. Coalition airstrikes in the past have targeted multiple ISIS car bomb and IED factories.

However, due to the large amount of territory and civilian areas that ISIS holds, the group is still managing to find hidden locations to continue constructing its most devastating weapon.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 30 edition)

Here’s the current stuff you need to know about:


Now: 4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

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Meanwhile south of the border, there’s a lot of air-to-air action going on

Let’s be honest – the War on Terror hasn’t seen a lot of air-to-air combat.


In fact, since the start of the millennium, the U.S. military has a grand total of two air-to-air kills — both were UAVs, and one was an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper that went rogue.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
Peruvian Air Force AT-29 Tucano. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the real air-to-air action is taking place south of the border. In Central and South America, the Air Combat Information Group noted at least five planes have been shot out of the sky. In a June, 2016 report, WarIsBoring.com claimed that Venezuela had shot down 30 drug flights in 2015 alone.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
An A-37 with the Illinois Air National Guard. Similar planes have scored air-to-air kills over South America – targeting drug smugglers. (DOD photo)

That’s right, folks – the A-37 and AT-27 have over twice the kill total that the U.S. Air Force has notched since Desert Storm. Here’s a video showing one of the shoot downs in South America.

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4 things cluster bombs can do that JDAMs can’t

People think that the Joint Direct Attack Munition is an excellent system. Don’t get me wrong it is great when there is a point target you need to go away.


JDAMs usually land within 30 feet of their target thanks to the use of the Global Positioning System for guidance. In fact, a lot of other systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, use that system as their entire guidance package, or to supplement other precision systems.

But there are some things these precision-guided systems can’t do so well. In fact, the cluster bomb actually can do some things that the JDAM can’t – which is a reason why the United States has not signed the Oslo Treaty that bans cluster bombs.

Here’s a sample of situations where it proves useful.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. Cluster bombs can hit multiple targets

This is the big thing. One JDAM can take out one target. Bridges or bunkers are the sort of thing the JDAM specialize it killing. But let’s take a look at a company of tanks. Here, we are talking anywhere from ten to fifteen vehicles.

This is the sort of target something like the CBU-87 cluster bomb was designed to handle. With 202 BLU-97 bomblets, it has a good chance of landing one or two on the thin top armor of tanks. One bomb can kill multiple tanks, or trucks, or enemy troops.

That can be very useful for an Special Forces A-Team in a fight for their lives.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
When a lot of tanks are coming, You don’t have time for JDAMs to kill them one-by-one. (Photo: Wikimedia)

2. Cluster munitions allow missiles to hit multiple locations

Next to the BGM-109B TASM Tomahawk anti-ship missile, the BGM-109D Tomahawk TLAM-D is often a forgotten missile. But the BGM-109D has the ability to hit multiple locations, something the latest Tactical Tomahawks can’t do.

This is because the BGM-109D’s BLU-97s – the same ones used on the CBU-87 – are carried in a series of packets. For instance, one missile could dump some of its bomblets on parked planes, then fly on to hit a supply base elsewhere. The BGM-109D, therefore can do the work of two TLAMs.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

3. Cluster bombs provide multiple effects in one package

The JDAM has one warhead that can go off one time. But a cluster bomb can carry different kinds of submunitions in the same case. Perhaps the best example is the CBU-89 GATOR – it carried two kinds of mines – one was an anti-tank mile, the other was anti-personnel. The JP233 was another – it combined both a runway-cratering munition with area-denial munitions.

The other thing is that even when you have a bomb that is all one type of submunition, some bomblets can be set to go off immediately, while others could be set to wait for a period of time (the famous delayed-action bomb – or in this case, delayed-action bomblets).

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
The JP233 on display underneath the Panavia Tornado GR1 in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Cluster bombs can provide surprises without going bang

Some cluster bombs don’t even need their submunitions to go bang. For instance, Designation-Systems.net notes that the CBU-94 and CBU-102 are “blackout bombs” that drop carbon fiber chaff over power lines. This shorts out an entire power grid.

The CBU-19, though, dispensed 528 bomblets filled with CS, better known as tear gas. If you ever saw “The Big Break” episode of the 1950s TV show “Dragnet,” you saw CS in use.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military

Finally, some cluster bombs can also be guided in, thanks to the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser program. In essence, these systems can also be dropped within feet of their aiming point.

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If you can help capture this terrorist, you’ll be $10M richer

The Trump administration is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information about the whereabouts of the military leader of Syria’s al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front.


The State Department says the reward will be paid for information “leading to the identification or location” of Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The offer is the first under the department’s “Rewards for Justice Program” for a Nusra Front leader. In a statement, the department said that the group under Golani’s leadership had committed numerous attacks in Syria, including many against civilians, since 2013.

Golani has been identified by the U.S. as a “specially designated global terrorist” since 2013 and subject to U.S. and international sanctions, including an asset freeze and travel ban.

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The veteran’s guide to getting a job on Capitol Hill

Purpose:


This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.

How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position

  • Sign up for HillVets Insider
    1. HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
    2. HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
    3. As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
  • Get on a job list
    1. Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
    2. Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at m.r.baker@gmail.com and ask him to add you to his job lists.
    3. Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
  • Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
    1. Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
    2. When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
    3. Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
  • Questions to ask yourself
    1. What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
    2. What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
      1. Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
        1. Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
      2. Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
    3. When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
    4. Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
    5. Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.

Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!

  • Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
    1. The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
      1. If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
      2. Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
  • Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
  1. Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
  2. Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
  1. The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
  2. Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
  • You Got an Interview!
    1. Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
    2. If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
      1. Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
      2. Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
  • Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
  1. Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
  2. If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
  3. Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
  1. You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
    1. Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
    2. Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!

Financial Expectations

  • You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
    1. Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
    2. Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
  • Benefits:
    1. Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
    2. Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!

Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.

Happy Hunting!

Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

 

Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases. 

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The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Everyone wants to know who’s carrying the biggest stick. While everyone has their own measurements for how to judge the size of a nation’s military, these 10 militaries are easily some of the best equipped and trained in the modern world:


10. United Kingdom

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
A British sniper sights down his L115A3 sniper rifle. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

The United Kingdom has one of the world’s newest aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. It also has nearly 900 aircraft and an active duty military of over 150,000 people. But it has a small overall navy for an island nation at 76 total ships and its total armored vehicles, counting its 250 tanks, is just a hair over 6,000.

9. Germany

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery)

With almost 700 aircraft and over 6,000 armored vehicles as well as 180,000 well-trained active troops, Germany is well-positioned for a defensive war. Why only defensive? Because it lacks most significant power projection platforms like carriers and has few troop transports and submarines.

8. Italy

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan, during Eager Lion 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

Italy has two smaller aircraft carriers, lots of helicopters, and almost 250,000 active troops, allowing it to push significant force around the world. Those service members are equipped with over 800 aircraft and 7,000 armored vehicles. Unfortunately, a shortage of tanks (about 200) and ships (less than 150 for a peninsular nation) hurts its ranking.

7. France

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
A French paratrooper watches other airborne soldiers descend from a C-130. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Lloyd Villanueva)

The French military has 204,000 active military personnel and 183,000 in reserve. Those are relatively small numbers, but its forces are equipped with capable equipment produced by a homegrown defense industry — think of the Mirage fighter and the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

It relies more heavily than most on armored fighting vehicles as opposed to tanks with almost 7,000 of the former and just over 400 of the latter. The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American nuclear carrier in the world. Its foreign legion is one of the most famous combat forces in the world.

6. South Korea

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment and Republic Of Korea Soldiers (ROK) with 8th Division,137th Battalion conducts an urban breaching at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, March 9, 2016. (Photo: U.S Army Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong)

With over 624,000 troops; 2,381 tanks; and 1,412 aircraft ready to go, South Korea is anything but weak. It also boasts over 5 million reserve service members. Most of its equipment is on the newer side and some of it is homegrown. But, it’s important to remember why Korea keeps so much firepower at hand.

It’s most likely enemy is North Korea, which has one of the largest artillery stockpiles in the world stacked within range of the South Korean capital. And while the huge North Korean military is too badly equipped, trained, and prepared to make this list, it’s still likely that an invasion from the north would cripple South Korea and level its capital before the aggressors could be beat back.

5. Japan

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
Japan’s JS Atago, a guided-missile destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

Japan maintains a “Self-Defense Force” that is very capable on both offense and defense. With the fourth largest submarine force and four small aircraft carriers — often called “helicopter carriers” — as well as homegrown tanks and aircraft and imported weapons like the U.S. Apache, Japan has a varied and capable collection of military hardware.

Still, the country suffers from a significant size issue. It has less than 1,600 aircraft, 4,000 armored vehicles, and only about 130 ships. All of that is manned by a little over 300,000 troops. In a protracted war, Japan will keenly feel every loss of a submarine or other high-value asset.

4. India

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

India has a large number of troops, but those are largely reserve personnel (2.8 million reserve vs. almost 1.4 million active). It boasts a large number of armored vehicles at over 11,000, but has a relatively small air force and navy and relies on more prosperous allies for much of its defense development.

But some of those joint ventures are paying off. While India’s Sukhoi planes purchased from Russia have repeatedly ran into problems, the country is also working with Russia to perfect a fifth-generation fighter and a supersonic cruise missile that could be carried by submarines, planes, and vehicles.

3. China

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

China has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion and its largest military population at 3.7 million with 2.2 million of those being active troops. Those millions of men and women are equipped with almost 3,000 aircraft, 13,000 armored vehicles, and 714 ships.

But China struggles with modernization and organization problems as decades of power struggles between the army and navy hollowed out sections of the force. But with increased military spending that puts it behind only the U.S., it’s quickly closing the technological and equipment gaps, especially in strategically important areas like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Africa.

2. Russia

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
Russian special forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When it comes to countries punching above their weight, it’s hard to find an example better than Russia. Despite a relatively small economy (data differs, but it’s typically ranked 10th or lower in the world), it manufactures a large amount of military hardware and is the second largest exporter in the world after the U.S.

This allows it to field about 3,800 planes, 5,600 armored vehicles including tanks, and 282 warships (counting everything from its aircraft carrier to small logistics vessels). It’s currently trying to develop the T-14 Armata. If successful, that would be the world’s most advanced tank, boasting active protection systems, an auto-loader, and nearly unbeatable armor.

1. United States

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If you were surprised, you shouldn’t be. The U.S. spends the most on its military, both per capita and total. Its Navy has the largest and most aircraft carriers in the world with 11 full-sized carriers (counting the new USS Gerald R. Ford) and 8 “helicopter carriers” in service. Its Air Force flies the largest and most technologically advanced air fleet in the world which is just a little larger than the U.S. Navy’s air fleet.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps aren’t the largest of their respective groups worldwide, but they are some of the most capable. Both forces enjoy very high spending per service member compared to rival forces, and that allows them to bring their artillery and aircraft to the fight.

All four U.S. Department of Defense branches are trained to work together on a battlefield, combining their powers into one joint team.

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After 20 years of war, the U.S. will completely withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

The longest war in the history of the United States will finally come to an end, 20 years to the day after the terror attack that sparked it. 

Officials from the Biden Administration confirmed the plans on April 13, 2021. The original withdrawal date was set by the Trump Administration for May 1, 2021, and this time, it’s “set in stone.”

“The president has been consistent in his view that there’s not a military solution to Afghanistan, that we have been there for far too long,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. President Biden is expected to give remarks about the withdrawal plan in the coming days. 

After May 1, there will be just 3,000 U.S. troops in the country. Their ongoing mission will be to protect diplomats and other American officials still doing ongoing work there. A senior official who first leaked the news said that if the Taliban decide to attack, “we will hit back hard.” 

Turkey announced that it will hold a peace talks summit for all the warring parties in Afghanistan on April 24, 2021, but the Taliban said it would not participate unless all foreign forces were out of the country at that time. An intelligence report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. was unlikely to succeed within the coming year. 

According to the same intelligence reports, the pullout is good news for the Taliban, who stand to make decisive gains against the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan once the United States is gone. 

“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield,” it said.”The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support. Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory.”

The ODNI report, called the Annual Threat Assessment, was distributed before the news of the pullout came from the White House later that same day. 

“Afghan security forces remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or reestablish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020,” it said. In March 2021, a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), agreed. 

The Taliban “have not significantly changed their tactics,” says SIGAR. “Each quarter since the (U.S.-Taliban) agreement was signed has seen a higher average number of enemy-initiated attacks compared to the same quarters in 2019.” 

Critics of the war have long believed that the Taliban had no interest in really signing a peace agreement, believing they could simply wait out the Americans as support for the war waned back home.  Critics of the peace deal hit the Biden Administration almost immediately in response to the news. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Biden “plans to turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan… Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake.”  

Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe, called it “a reckless and dangerous decision.”  

Whether a good call or bad, 2021 will mark the end of America’s longest war after 20 years of fighting. There’s a good chance the United States will enter a new phase of wartime preparation — the great power conflicts looming with Russia and China.

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Top 10 things to know before BUD/S

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First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) candidates use teamwork to perform physical training exercises with a 600 pound log at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Log physical training exercises are one of many physically demanding evolutions that are part of first phase training at BUD/S. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas


Every week, most of my emails are from young sailors and civilians who wish to become SEALs one day. Though I try to focus more on fitness, I thought it was time to answer the several emails with my top ten things you need to know before going to BUD/S – SEAL Training.

1. Arrive Fit!

Not just able to do the minimum scores but the above average recommended PFT scores:

– 500 yds swim – under 9:00

– Pushups – 100 in 2:00

– Situps – 100 in 2:00

– Pullups – 20

– 1.5 mile run – under 9:00 in boots and pants

If you need letters of recommendation from SEALs, most SEALs will not endorse you unless you can achieve the above numbers. Sometimes it takes a solid year of training before you are physically capable of reaching these scores. You WILL have to take this PFT before going to BUD/S and on the first day at BUD/S.

2. Run in Boots and Swim with Fins

At least 3-4 months prior to arriving at BUD/s get the legs used to swimming with fins and running in boots. They issue Bates 924s and UDT or Rocket Fins at BUD/S. The fins are difficult to find, so any stiff fin that requires you to wear booties will do.

3. Officers at BUD/S

Go there ready to lead and get to know your men. Start the team building necessary to complete BUD/S. You can’t do everything by yourself, so learn to delegate but do not be too good to scrub the floors either. Be motivated and push the guys to succeed. Always lead from the front.

4. Enlisted at BUD/S

Be motivated and ready to work as a team. Follow orders but provide feedback so your team can be better at overcoming obstacles that you will face. Never be late!

5. BUD/S is Six Months Long

Prepare for the long term, not the short term. Too many people lose focus early on their training and quit. It would be similar to training for a 10K race and running a Marathon by accident. You have to be mentally focused on running the Marathon – in this case a six month “marathon.”

Learn More About Navy SEALs

6. Weekly Physical Tests

The four mile timed runs are weekly and occur on the beach – hard packed sand next to the water line. They are tough, but not bad if you prepare properly. The 2 mile ocean swims are not bad either if you are used to swimming with fins when you arrive. The obstacle course will get you too if you are not used to climbing ropes and doing pullups. Upperbody strength is tested to the max with this test.

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A U.S. Navy SEAL candidate swings to an elevated cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) course. | U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Les Long

7. Eating at BUD/S

You get three great meals a day at BUD/S, usually more than you can eat. During Hellweek, you get four meals a day – every six hours! The trick to making it through Hellweek is just to make it to the next meal. Break up the week into several six-hour blocks of time. In a couple of days, you will be on “auto-pilot” and it will be all downhill from there. And if you need any help with dieting before you go to BUD/S, I developed a new dieting aid that may help you:

Place This on Your Refrigerator

8. Flutterkicks

This seems to be a tough exercise for many. Practice 4 count flutterkicks with your abdominal workouts and shoot for sets of at least 100. There may be a day you have to do 1000 flutterkicks. By the way – that takes 45 minutes!

9. Wet and Sandy

Jumping into the ocean then rolling around in the sand is a standard form of punishment / motivation for the class at BUD/S. It is cold and not comfortable, so you just have to prepare yourself for getting wet and sandy every day at BUD/S. On days that you do not get wet and sandy, it will be the same feeling as getting off early at work on a three day weekend!

10. Did I Mention Running?

You should be able to run at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots with ease. If not, you will so learn to hate the “goon-squad”. The goon squad is to motivate you never to be last again or fail a run again. You only get three chances to with most events. If you fail three of anything – you will be back in the Fleet.

Related Navy Special Operations Articles:

Navy SEAL Fitness Preparation

How to Prepare for BUD/S

Getting Fit for SEAL Training

The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness

Joining Naval Special Operations

Navy SEAL Fitness Test

All Navy Special Operations Fitness

Find Available Special Operations Opportunities

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him atstew@stewsmith.com.

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The first ‘battle’ of World War II was a Nazi war crime

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The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.

On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.

At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.

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Nick Siekierski translates this article from a Polish newspaper:

Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.

In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.

The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.

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Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.

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11 Photos that show why the SR-71 ‘Blackbird’ was all kinds of amazing

When it comes to curb appeal, few airplanes in history can match the look of the SR-71 “Blackbird.” And nothing in the Air Force’s inventory — past or present — can beat its signature performance characteristics. Here are 11 photos that show why the Blackbird remains the standard of aviation cool:


The SR-71 “Blackbird” was a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed’s legendary “Skunk Works” team in the 1960s.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird was capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3.0. The fuselage was designed to expand at high speeds, which caused the airplane to leak fuel on the ground because the panels fit very loosely when jet was parked.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird’s service ceiling (max altitude) was 85,000 feet, which forced crews to wear pressure suits and astronaut-type helmets.

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SR-71 pilot Col. ‘Buz’ Carpenter. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

SR-71s were manned by two aviators: a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer who monitored surveillance systems from the rear cockpit.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 32 Blackbirds were manufactured, and they were in service from 1964-1998. Despite over 4,000 combat sorties, none of the planes were lost due to enemy fire. However, 12 of them were destroyed in mishaps.

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(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Claustrophobic types need not apply. The narrow space between canopy rails didn’t give crews much room to move around. The outer windscreen of the cockpit was made of quartz and was fused ultrasonically to the titanium frame. The temperature of the exterior of the windscreen reached 600 °F during a mission.

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Pilot mans the brakes as the SR-71 is towed out of the hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Nothing ‘glass’ about this cockpit. The SR-71 presented the pilot with a dizzying array of steam gauges and switches. And visibility out the front wasn’t the greatest.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Although not technically a stealth aircraft, the SR-71 was hard for enemy SAM systems to spot because it was designed with a low radar cross section in mind.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Because of its high approach speed the Blackbird used a drag chute to slow down on the runway after touchdown.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Aerial refueling capability allowed the SR-71 to perform long-range, high endurance missions.

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SR-71 refueling from a KC-135. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird still holds the record for fastest air-breathing manned aircraft (a record it broke in 1976). Although the SR-71 is no longer in service, the legend lives on.

Service members share their favorite parts of life in the military
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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The Pentagon has identified the soldiers killed in NATO convoy bombing

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan earlier this week as members of the 82nd Airborne Division.


The Fort Bragg-based soldiers were part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, deployed in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

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Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. (DOD photo)

Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana, belonged to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, officials said. Jackson Springs is in western Moore County, about an hour from the All American gate of Fort Bragg.

The soldiers were part of a convoy that was attacked south of Kandahar on Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack, which involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

NATO officials in Afghanistan said the four wounded soldiers were receiving care at a coalition medical facility and that their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Resolute Support Mission, I offer our deepest condolences to the families of our fallen comrades,” said Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and a former commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division. “These soldiers gave their lives in service of a mission that is critically important to the United States, our allies and partners. We will honor their sacrifice with our dedication to protect our homeland and complete the mission for which they sacrificed.”

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Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense announced the names of the two soldiers killed in the attack late Thursday.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Harris and Hunter.

On Thursday, a separate attack killed another coalition soldier and injured six other personnel during a patrol near Kabul, officials said. The wounded were reported in stable condition at the U.S. military hospital at Bagram Airfield.

The patrol was struck by an IED during a partnered mission alongside Afghan soldiers.

There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team alone has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country. Most of the soldiers deployed in June, led by Col. Tobin Magsig and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb.

The soldiers have a variety of missions providing base security, protecting high-ranking military and government officials, serving as Theater Reserve Forces and training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.

Harris and Hunter’s battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, has been tasked with overseeing security for a tactical base in southern Afghanistan and serving as a quick reaction force to deal with nearby attacks.

“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members,” Magsig, the brigade commander, said in a statement released Thursday.

“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal paratrooper,” Magsig said. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the nation expects from its warriors.”

“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for — strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous,” the colonel added. “He was revered by his paratroopers and respected throughout his unit.”

Both of the soldiers were on their first deployment, officials said.

Harris joined the Army in October 2013 and Hunter joined in April 2014, according to the 82nd Airborne Division. Both men attended Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to the 1st Brigade.

“Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors. They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow paratroopers,” Magsig said. “Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”

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