No love affair ever ended with more animosity than that of Iran and the United States. To this day, the two countries are constantly antagonizing each other.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that led to the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days, nearly a dozen incidents painted the relationship between the two countries. None was more violent than Operation Praying Mantis, the U.S. response to the USS Samuel B. Roberts striking an Iranian mine.
The Samuel B. Roberts deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, ordered by President Reagan to protect freedom of movement and international shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
When the ship hit the mine, it became the catalyst for one of the largest American surface confrontations since WWII. At 105 km east of Bahrain, it was close to Iran’s maritime boundary but still well outside. The mine blew a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull, injuring ten sailors. Luckily, the crew saved the Samuel B. Roberts, and it was towed to Dubai two days later.
For four years leading up to this event, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned to bring the U.S. into the ongoing Iran-Iraq War – on his side. In 1984, Iraq started attacking Iranian oil tankers and platforms to provoke the Iranians into taking extreme measures to protect its interests.
The Iranians responded as Hussein hoped, attacking Kuwaiti-flagged oil tankers moving Iraqi oil. Kuwait, though officially Iraq’s ally, was also a non-combatant and a key U.S. ally in the region. The Iranians were also illegally mining the Gulf’s international shipping lanes. Laying mines was an extreme measure Hussein hoped the Iranians would take and a move the United States didn’t take lightly.
In April 1988, Iran was caught mining international waters when U.S. Army Night Stalker MH-6 and AH-6 helicopters forced the crew of the minelayer Iran Ajr by to abandon ship. Navy SEALs then captured the Iran Ajr, finding mines and a log book on the ship’s mine placements. The Navy scuttled the ship the next day.
That’s when the Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine. The U.S. response was overwhelming. Aircraft from the USS Enterprise, along with two Surface Action Groups (SAG), moved on the Iranians on April 18, 1988.
The first SAG attacked the Sassan oil platform with two destroyers, an amphibious transport, and multiple helicopter detachments. Cobra helicopters cleared all resistance. Marines captured the platform and destroyed it as they left.
The other SAG, consisting of a guided missile cruiser and two frigates attacked the Sirri oil platform. The plan called for SEALs to capture the platform, but the pre-attack naval bombardment was so intense the SEAL mission wasn’t necessary.
Iran responded by sending speedboats to attack shipping in the region. American A-6E Intruders sank one and chased the rest back into Iranian territory.
One Iranian fast attack ship, Joshan, challenged the entire second SAG by itself. It got one harpoon missile off before the other ships, the USS Wainwright, the USS Bagley and the USS Simpson hit it with four Standard missiles, then finishing it off with their guns. Chaff countermeasures diverted the Iranian harpoon missile. It did no damage.
An Iranian frigate, Sahand, attacked the USS Joseph Strauss and its A-6E overwatch, who all returned fire with missiles of their own. The American missiles started a fire aboard the Sahand, which reached her munitions magazine. The frigate exploded and sank.
Another frigate, the Sabalan, moved to attack A-6Es from the Enterprise. One naval aviator dropped a Mark 82 laser-guided bomb on the Sabalan’s deck, crippling her and leaving her burning. As the Sabalan was towed away, the A-6Es were ordered to cut off the attack in an effort to keep the situation from escalating. The U.S. cut off all attacks in the region and offered Iran a way out of the situation, which it promptly took.
The U.S. retaliation operation, called Praying Mantis, cost the lives of three service members, Marines whose AH-1T Sea Cobra helicopter gunship crashed in the dark during a recon mission.
The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.
That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.
Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.
US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.
At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.
The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.
Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”
An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.
“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”
The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.
A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.
(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)
Reestablishing air defense in Europe
The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.
During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.
Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.
But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.
An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.
In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.
Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)
The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.
The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.
“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”
“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.
The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”
The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling
The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”
“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.
The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.
Every workplace has them: the loudest, most boisterous employees, constantly talking about how much work they’re doing and how good they are at their jobs or making a scene with their after-work activities. Meanwhile, quietly plugging away somewhere, there are the employees who really are good at their job, their performance going unnoticed because they simply just want to finish up and go home.
The Union Army in the Civil War was no different. Grant struggled with alcohol, Sherman had to work to maintain his sanity, and George B. McClellan just knew everyone in all the right places. Meanwhile, these guys were chugging along, slowly winning the Civil War.
Samuel R. Curtis
Missouri is likely a forgotten theater of the Civil War, but for the Union at the outset of the war, Missouri was the one bright spot that shined through an otherwise dreary day. The reason for that is Samuel R. Curtis. While the Union Army in Virginia was spinning its wheels, Curtis was kicking the Confederate Army out of Missouri and into Arkansas. For the rest of the war, he would be bogged down in insurgent violence in the region (Kansas was a violent mess before the war even started).
The Civil War West of the Mississippi was dominated by the Union Army, and it’s largely because of Curtis.
You may not have heard of Nathan Kimball, but that’s okay because he has one thing most Union generals could never have: a victory over Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson – in the Shenandoah Valley, no less. Kimball was a doctor and veteran of the Mexican-American War who assumed command of the 14th Indiana at the start of the Civil War. As Jackson began his famous 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, he tried to knock out a force a Kernstown that was guarded by the 14th, but it was the Hoosiers there who gave Jackson the bloody nose instead.
Kimball’s unit then went on to earn the nickname “The Gibraltar Brigade” for their assaults on the sunken road at Antietam. His future victories came at places like Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, and he was a division commander during the Battles of Franklin and Nashville that destroyed the Confederate Army in Tennessee.
The Civil War broke out after Prussian general August Willich emigrated to the United States. Never one to bow away from a fight, he decided he would stand up and defend his adopted homeland by raising a unit of German immigrants and drilling them into a crack Prussian unit the likes of which the Confederates had never seen.
Despite being briefly captured and held prisoner, Willich’s Prussians performed like champions at Shiloh and Chickamauga but it was his unit that broke the Confederates at Chattanooga.
Gen. George H. Thomas
Thomas might be the most underrated General of the entire Civil War. In January 1862, Thomas was leading a simple training command in Kentucky but Confederate movements forced him into a fight. At the Battle of Mill Springs, it was George H. Thomas that gave the Union its first significant win of the war. Thomas would go on to finish the war undefeated but unglorified – because he moved slowly and deliberately, caring more about his men than about his legacy as a commander.
He was responsible for some of the most key Union wins of the war. His defense at Chickamauga saved the Union Army from destruction and his later victory at Nashville completely destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood.
China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:
A Chinese Type 726 landing craft.
LCAC / Type 726
The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.
It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.
But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.
The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.
(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Y-20 / C-17
Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.
China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”
The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Arleigh-Burke / Type 052
China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.
This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.
The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.
When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.
That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.
But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century.
Take for instance, just one scene: Two Marines kneel with a dog before a grave marker. It is in the final frames of a film documenting the dedication of one of the three cemeteries on the island. Those two Marines are among hundreds present to remember the more than 6,000 Americans killed on the island in over a month of fighting. The sequence is intentionally framed by the cinematographer, who was clearly looking for the right image to end the roll of film in his camera.
I came across this film clip in my work as a curator of a collection of motion picture films shot by Marine Corps photographers from World War II through the 1970s. In a partnership between the History Division of the Marine Corps and the University of South Carolina, where I work, we are digitizing these films, seeking to provide direct public access to the video and expand historical understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in society.
Over the past two years of scanning, I have come to realize that our work also enables a more powerful relationship with the past by fostering individual connections with videos, something that the digitizing of the large quantity of footage makes possible.
The campaign within the battle
Iwo Jima, an island in the western Pacific less than 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, was considered a key potential stepping stone toward an invasion of Japan itself.
During the battle to take the island from the Japanese, more than 70,000 Marines and attached Army and Navy personnel set foot on Iwo Jima. That included combat soldiers, but also medical corpsmen, chaplains, service and supply soldiers and others. More than 6,800 Americans were killed on the island and on ships and landing craft aiding in the attack; more than 19,200 were wounded.
More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.
Even before the battle began, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle. Beyond a historical record, combat photography from Iwo Jima would assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, like engineering and medical operations.
Most of the cameramen on Iwo Jima used 100-foot film reels that could capture about two and a half minutes of film. Sgt. Genaust, who shot the color sequence atop Suribachi, shot at least 25 reels – just over an hour of film – before he was killed, roughly halfway through the campaign.
Other cameramen who survived the entire battle produced significantly more. Sgt. Francis Cockrell was assigned to document the work of the 5th Division’s medical activities. Shooting at least 89 reels, he probably produced almost four hours of film.
Sgt. Louis L. Louft fought with the 13th Marines, an artillery regiment; his more than 100 film reels likely resulted in more than four hours of content. Landing on the beach with engineers of the 4th Division on Feb. 25, 1945, Pfc. Angelo S. Abramo compiled over three hours of material in the month of fighting he witnessed.
Even taking a conservative average of an hour of film from each of the 26 combat cameramen, that suggests there was at least 24 hours of unique film from the battle. Many surviving elements of this record are now part of the film library of the Marine Corps History Division, which we’re working with. The remainder are cataloged by the National Archives and Records Administration.
While military historians visiting the History Division in the past have used this large library, the bulk of its films have not been readily available to the public, something that mass digitization is finally making possible.
For many decades, the visual records made by Marines have been seen by the public only piecemeal, often with selected portions used as mere stock footage in films, documentaries and news programs, chosen because a shot has action, not because of the historical context of the imagery.
Even when they are used responsibly by documentary filmmakers, the editing and selection of scenes imposes the filmmaker’s interpretation on the images. As a historian and archivist, though, I believe it is important for people to directly engage with historical sources of all types, including the films from Iwo Jima.
The ‘highest and purest’ form
After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.
At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”
After the dedication ceremonies, Marines walked the 5th Division cemetery, looking for familiar names. The photographers were there, and one recorded the footage of the two Marines – names not known – and the dog, at a grave with only the number 322 as a visible marking.
The image stood out. The two Marines looking directly at the camera seemed to reach across the decades to compel a response. Researchers at the History Division identified the Marine beneath marker 322 as Pfc. Ernest Langbeen from Chicago. It felt appropriate and important to add his name to the online description for that film, so I did.
I then located members of the Langbeen family, and told them that this part of their family’s history existed in the History Division’s collections and was now preserved and available online after more than seven decades.
Speaking with the family, I learned more about the Marine in grave 322. One of the two Marines in the picture may well be his best friend from before the war, a friend who joined the Corps with him. They asked to serve together and were assigned to the same unit, the 13th Regiment.
Now, family members who never knew this Marine have a new connection to their history and the country’s history. More connections will come for others. The digital archive we’re building will make it easier for researchers and the public at large to explore the military and personal history in each frame of every film.
The visual library of more than 80 online videos from Iwo Jima carries in it countless Pfc. Langbeens, ordinary Americans whose lives were disrupted by a global war. Each film holds traces of lives cut short or otherwise irrevocably altered.
The films are a reminder that, 75 years after World War II, all Americans remain tied to Iwo Jima, as well as battlegrounds across the world like Monte Cassino, Peleliu, Bataan and Colleville-sur-mer. Americans may find their relatives in this footage, or they may not. But what they will find is evidence of the sacrifices made by those fighting on their behalf, sacrifices that connect each and every American to the battle of Iwo Jima.
The Raiders of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are some of the world’s greatest warrior-athletes, specializing in taking the fight to America’s enemies across the globe. But not all fighting members of MARSOC are the human Raiders. Some are specially trained canines who deploy across the world and support Marines wherever they’re called upon.
Here they are, in 14 photos:
1. MARSOC dogs are highly-trained animals who work with their multipurpose canine handlers to execute missions around the world.
2. The dogs train to accompany their handlers on a variety of missions and can enter the battlefield via Zodiac boat.
3. When necessary, they can also swim stealthily to shore.
4. The canines and handlers will then make their way through the surf and toward their objective.
5. When the target is far from shore, the dogs and their handlers can even insert by parachute.
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)
6. Once they reach the objective, the dogs are capable of completing many missions. Some engage in direct action, helping MARSOC Raiders clear buildings and hunt down bad guys.
7. The dogs have to move tactically with the other operators and perform their tasks as a member of the team.
8. One of their specialties is seeking out enemies who’ve tried to hide or escape.
9. To work well together, the dogs and handlers have to train together in all their essential tasks, including range qualifications.
10. They also swim together.
11. They dive together.
12. They even complete obstacle courses together. Here, a U.S. Army soldier navigates the course with a Marine Corps canine.
13. The obstacle courses at Camp Pendleton, California, give the dogs and handlers plenty of realistic barriers to navigate.
14. We’re not sure whether the dogs take the training quite as seriously as their handlers, but they’re pretty darn impressive nonetheless.
As entrepreneurs like SpaceX founder Elon Musk launch increasingly powerful rockets, call for a new space race, and prepare to send astronauts into space for the first time, it’s an exciting time to think of joining NASA’s ranks.
But to even think of applying to be an astronaut, you must first pass a stringent list of requirements, including being a US citizen, having an accredited college degree in science, engineering, or mathematics, and three years of professional experience or 1,000 piloting hours.
Then you have to go through a grueling selection process that is about 74 times harder than getting into Harvard University: NASA selects a new astronaut class once every couple of years, and picked only 12 of 18,300 applicants in 2017.
So how much does NASA compensate its astronauts for their experience, extensive training, and willingness to risk their lives to explore space?
According to a frequently asked questions page on NASA’s website, the annual salary is “based on the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13.”
Such grades are used to determine how much white-collar career employees are paid across many government agencies, and they are further broken down into steps ranging from 1 through 10, which are based on acceptable performance and years of service.
The US Office of Personnel Management is in charge of the base pay and leave figures, and the numbers change each year.
In 2018, according to OPM pay scales, a new astronaut with a GS-12 grade and Step 1 experience and performance would earn $63,600 per year. After several years of excellent performance, the same astronaut might be eligible to make the GS-12’s Step 10 pay: $82,680 per year.
Meanwhile, more-qualified astronauts with a GS-13 pay grade could initially earn $75,628 per year (Step 1) and, after several years, up to $98,317 per year (Step 3).
Four words my father NEVER expected to hear come out of my mouth. Even more surprising because I was 26 years old when I said them. But come on, I was a proud BRAT, all too happy to follow in the family footsteps.
Once the shock wore off, the conversations began, and I have never been so thankful to come from such a strong military family as I was during the enlistment process. My father served 26 years in the Navy. My grandfather was in for 4. One uncle was in 20 years while another was in for 30! Add in my cousins (1 Navy, 1 Army, 2 Air Force) and I had a wealth of knowledge to pull from as I started my journey into service. But even with all that, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to face as I tried to enlist.
Enlisting Is Not As Easy As It Looks
In every TV show and movie, they show the young, bright-eyed kid going into a recruiter’s office and then walking out the same day with a ship date. For me, it was more like the scene from Sex in the City where Charlotte had to knock on the temple doors three times before the rabbi would talk to her about converting to the Jewish faith.
From the day I decided I wanted to enlist until I shipped off to Chicago for Boot Camp was two years and three days. Yes, you read that right. For two years I fought to enlist. Most people would have given up. Decided that the universe was saying the military was not their path and walked away. But not me. I knew that to achieve the goals I had set for myself and the military was the way to get there.
For someone looking to enlist and leave tomorrow, keep in mind that there is paperwork, and more paperwork, and even more paperwork that must be done. Waiver to sign (especially if you are older and have lived a little). ASVAB to take, jobs to pick, and quotas to be filled at specific times. Make sure that you go in with a realistic expectation of when you may ship out.
Don’t Buy The First Car You Test Drive
I got lucky. Because I am a military BRAT, I knew that the recruiter was essentially a military car salesman. If you’re anything like me you just pictured a guy in a cheap suit with too much cologne on trying to convince you that the neon yellow 1980’s vehicle sitting on the lot is a *classic* and not a lemon. That’s not exactly what I mean when I say that recruiters are salesmen. But it can be close.
The whole job of a recruiter is to hit a goal number of new recruits put into boot camp each month. They have jobs that are easier to fill (an example being an undesignated Sailor) and some that are harder to fill (a Navy nuke for example). They know when there will be lulls in numbers for the year and when high recruiting time is (right before high school graduations is a peek time!) A savvy recruiter is going to word their pitch to entice new recruits to sign up for the window that works for their quotas more than what will work for the recruit because many do not know enough about the process to know how to question what is being said.
If you walk into the recruiting office and things sound too good to be true, use the same line I did, “May I please take this paperwork to read over with my father/uncle? I would like them to help me understand some of the military terminology since they are both in/veterans.” Don’t be afraid to use the resources available to you in a military family to make sure you’re not being worked over. This will let your recruiter know that you’re taking the process seriously, that you have someone to walk you through the grey language they may use, and that you’re not going to be an easy tick on their number sheet.
Do Your Research
Remember when I said it took me 2+ years to leave for boot camp? Well, it was 1 year and 6 months from, “Hi, I want to enlist,” to me picking a job and signing a contract. Then another 6 months until I was able to ship out because the quotas for October were open while the ones for April were not. Part of the long wait for me was that I was not willing to sign a contract that I didn’t agree with. Prior to ever walking into their office I had researched the jobs I would take, the ASVAB scores that it would require to get them, and what jobs would require a 5-year vs 4-year commitment.
My entire goal for enlisting was that I wanted to go back to school to get a degree in education and eventually get my teaching license. I knew that I was a “one and done” Sailor. For me to have the career outside the military that I wanted, I needed a job that was a bit more desk duty that flightline chaos. Growing up in such a military family I was able to grill everyone on which jobs would allow for more personal time and which were 24/7 on-call positions. The fact that I am not at all mechanically-inclined (I blew up a car engine because I didn’t know to change the oil) meant I was not going to be working on planes or helicopters any time soon. And I am not good with blood and guts so medical was not for me. But paperwork, heck yeah! I love the meticulous nature of keeping files and writing awards and all the tasks that would drive a less organized person batty. Add to that my intention to focus on English teaching after the Navy and an administrative position was perfect for me.
Of course, my recruiter and the Sailors at MEPS doing my paperwork didn’t see it that way. They saw my ASVAB scores and my prior college experience as a way to earn their version of bonus points. They wanted me to enlist in as a nuke. Their pitch included telling me that I would earn enlistment bonuses since it was such a selective process to get the job, that A-School was in my favorite city of Charleston, SC and I would have time to explore while I was there for a year, and that I would have my pick of bases on both coasts and Japan.
Sounds great right? I mean, what smart person would turn down that offer?
One that has done their research!
I knew that as great as a year in Charleston sounded, nuke school had a nearly 90% fail rate. Meaning, if I did not pass, I would enter the fleet as an undesignated Sailor with no official job and be at the mercy of the military where I ended up. And even if I did do well in school, with only a 10% pass rate I was going to have to spend most of my time studying, not enjoying shrimp and grits at Poogan’s Porch. Oh, and that pick of bases? They didn’t mean ALL Navy bases. They meant ones with the right ships for the stand I picked up. And once on said ship, I would have to wear a pretty device that would alert me if I was picking up too much radiation and might start to glow in the dark.
Take your time and DO THE RESEARCH! Come in with documents to let your recruiter know you’ve look into the options, you understand why that branch of the military is the best fit for you, and you know what you want to get out of your time in service, whether it is 4 years or 30. And it allows you to really understand what it means to be committing to your enlistment. It is much easier to make the best out of a strange new situation (which it is no matter how much military you have in your family) when you have prepared yourself before getting to boot camp. Oh, and don’t let your pride get in the way when doing your research either. If the job you want requires a high ASVAB score, study, study, study! Hire a tutor. Bust your butt to do well because as much as I hate saying that a test can decide your military fate, it has a big role in what opportunities are available to you. Knowing what score you need on a test is just as important as knowing how many pull-ups you will be required to do in a fitness test when it comes to background research.
Tackle The Tough Stuff Before Leaving
To enlist, I faced some challenged. The biggest one was my weight. I have never been a skinny girl and I certainly wasn’t when I walked into the recruiter’s office. I knew I was going to have to lose weight and get into better shape before Boot Camp, but I didn’t expect that recruiters wouldn’t even speak to me because they didn’t think I had the ability to do that. A personal trainer, new cooking skills, and a half-marathon to keep me motivated had the weight off before they knew what hit them. But it was an eye opener from that point as to just how much physical standards were going to rule my life while I was enlisted. I was able to get a crash course in nutrition and fitness before shipping out when I had always assumed that boot camp would be where I was whipped into shape. The stamina I had to complete every task, and the pallet to deal with boot camp food, were built in the months before I left and it made those challenges something I didn’t have to face and be ridiculed for while I was being turned into a Sailor.
And I’ll admit, I had a very weird fear about boot camp. I’m pretty modest. I lied. I’m very modest. And no matter who I asked, everyone told me that showering with others was just part of the deal. No way around it, I was going to have to get over my modesty and wash up just like everyone else. So, what did I do? Well, not what most people may do but it certainly helped me! I found a local art class that needed figure models. Yup. I bared all for about 10 art students to tackle my debilitating fear of having to do the same in front of a bunch of strangers on my first day at boot camp. While it didn’t make me want to strut my stuff in front of 40 women I’d never met before, it certainly made it less awkward. Then again, by the time I got a shower for the first time in boot camp it had been almost 48 hour since my last one, I was exhausted, fighting a migraine from lack of sleep and would have been ok if the male recruits hopped in with me as long as I was allowed to get clean finally!
I know everyone has a different fear, different challenge they are facing, prior to heading out to boot camp. I do get that. However, I will say boot camp is not the place to face it. Do everything you can prior to leaving the comfort of your home to prepare you for what is to come. Boot camp is new for everyone. No matter how much the military is a family tradition, your boot camp experience will take you out of your comfort zone, put you with people you never would have met otherwise and test you in ways you never imagined, physically and mentally.
So, go in ready and willing to learn, leave your hang-ups at home, and keep your eyes on the end of the situation, not the tough day you are in at the moment. Before you know it all the preparation, the researching, will pay off and you will be able to proudly wear the uniform you worked so hard to earn. There is no feeling like graduation day when you realize you are now part of an elite group of people that are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their country.
Watch the teaser trailer of Hurricane (2019) which tells the story of the Pilots from the Polish 303 Squadron who found themselves fighting for the freedom of their own country in foreign skies. Seen through the eyes of Jan Zumbach, fighter ace and adventurer, it tells how the Poles, driven across Europe by the German war machine, finally made their last stand.
I only don’t understand why they did not keep the name “303 Squadron” instead of renaming it to “Hurricane”. 303 Squadron really identified the courage and efforts made by one of 16 Polish squadrons (during the Battle of the Britain they were one of the two Polish fighter squadrons) who fought for the Royal Air Force and had one of the highest ratio of destroyed enemy aircraft vs. their own losses.
Milo Gibson will be starring as Lt. Johnny Kent, other actors include Iwan Rheon and Stefanie Martini.
The U.S. Army recently released a video in which Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey implores all of those serving to get out there and share their reasons for enlisting — to, ultimately, recruit their friends. The video is entitled, Everybody is a recruiter.
So, ladies and gents: it’s official. Each and every soldier within the United States Army is now a recruiter. Who knew that we’d all manage to get in without even going through the recruiting course at Fort Knox? Now all we need to do is get our recruitment numbers up and we can all sport a recruiting badge!
If you can’t read between the sarcastic lines, SMA Dan Dailey probably has no intentions of shipping everyone into USAREC and crowd shopping malls across the country. First off, that’d be a logistical nightmare. And secondly, if we were all recruiters, then there’d be nobody left to mop the motor pool when it rains or perform lay-outs for the eight change-of-command ceremony this month.
What SMA Dailey was trying to convey is that everyone had their reason for joining and everyone should share their stories with civilian friends and family members in hopes of inspiring them to follow suit. But that’s not as fun as imagining a ridiculous situation in which we all become actual recruiters.
Here’s the video for the full context. For a look into the daily lives of Army recruiters through the lens of a joke that’s (mildly) at the expense of the most senior enlisted soldier (from one of his biggest fans), read on:
We can’t let them realize the Army isn’t all rainbows and sunshine until they get to Basic, now can we?
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo)
1. We’ll all learn to smile through unpleasant situations
One of the biggest challenges a recruiter faces is keeping their military bearing at all times of the day. After all, recruiters, to many civilians, are the face of the military. As much as you’ll want to choke-slam that particularly obnoxious teenage applicant through your desk because they referred to you as, “bro,” you can’t. Not even once.
We’ll all have to quietly smile, correct them, and hope we don’t scare them into checking out the Navy’s recruiter instead.
The paperwork doesn’t even stop when you finally get them to swear in. It only ends when they’re the drill sergeant’s responsibility.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
2. We’ll all become experts at doing mountains of paperwork by close of business
So, you’ve managed to get someone interested in enlisting — great work! Your job here is done. Just kidding — you’ve only just begun.
Think back to when you enlisted. Remember all that paperwork that was shoved in your face? That’s nothing compared to the paperwork recruiters have to complete. As a recruiter, you’ll have to scrub through every piece of paper that the applicant has touched to make sure they’re the right fit for the Army. Birth certificates, diplomas, arrest warrants — you name it. You’ll get so good at reading SAT scores that you’ll be able to sense which MOS a recruit is suited for well before they do.
It’d be great if all the people coming to the Army booth at the fair actually wanted to enlist — instead of just wanting to fail to impress their friends on the pull-up bar.
(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)
3. We’ll all learn to motivate lazy applicants who can barely do a single push-up
There’s nothing more disheartening than finding yourself staring down some scrawny kid who’s probably never broken a sweat in their life after spending the last twelve business days filing out their paperwork. You’re going to have to force out a smile and give a rousing, “you can do it!” when they start trembling after just one push-up.
But, hey, they don’t have any neck tattoos or active arrest warrants, so they’re the best chance you’ve got at getting your numbers up. God forbid you ever let your numbers slip near the end of the quarter…
But hey! At least you get your own snazzy business cards!
(Photo by Steven Depolo)
4. We’ll all judge our lives based on how “incentive points”
Oh, yeah. The incentive points. We couldn’t forget to include the primary reason why every recruiter drinks heavily when they get off duty. Recruiters need to get a certain amount of potential applicants to walk through their doors or else they face a stern talking-to. On one hand, the recruitment quota (or “goals”) isn’t as bad as most people make it out to be. On the other hand, it’ll likely become the single-most important thing in your life.
Getting those nice, little stars on your badge is basically the infantry equivalent of shooting better at the range. The better you shoot/recruit, the better your chances of winning impromptu pissing contests that have nothing to do with the situation at hand.
“What’s life like in the Army?” — Well, at first you’ll hate it. Then you won’t. Then you’ll miss it about two weeks after you get your DD-214.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki)
5. We’ll all have to deal with the worst questions at all hours of the day
At some point in your recruiting career, you’ll get so tired of answering so many stupid questions that you’ll just stop sugarcoating everything. Now, it’s not out of some moral footing, but mostly because lying takes too much creative effort by the time you’re answering that question for the 87th time.
“So, I won’t be able to become a Delta ranger sniper and do James Bond sh*t?” — Not with that attitude you won’t! “What options are available for my ASVAB score of 25?” — Night school. “If I don’t like it, can I just quit at any time?” — Technically, you can quit whenever you feel like, but legally? F*ck no.
It’s no secret that military recruitment numbers have been on the decline in recent years. There’re many factors that play into this, but one of the main reasons is eligibility. According to Tim Kennedy, however, the military isn’t out of luck just yet. And his solution doesn’t (and none should ever) involve lowering the standards.
On a recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Kennedy discussed, at great depth, the problems that plague recruiting depots, specifically recruitment within the Special Forces community. There simply aren’t enough able-bodied recruits. Obesity remains the leading disqualifying factor among young Americans.
(Photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)
Recruits need to be able to meet physical requirements. While basic training and boot camp help slim down prospective troops, recruits must join up at a trainable level — after all, a drill sergeant isn’t a miracle worker.
“It’s harder to get into the military than it is to get into college,” says Kennedy. “You can’t go into the military if you smoke weed. You can’t go into the military if you have bad eyes. You can’t go into the military if you’re diabetic,” and the list goes on. “You can go to college if you have all those things.”
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)
Those factors above disqualify, off the bat, roughly 71 percent of young adults. Then, when you factor in the willingness to join among the remaining 29 percent, you’re stuck with the headache-inducing task of bringing in just 182,000 new troops this year. “The perception of the military is way less of an issue than us just having a qualified population of viable candidates to chose from.”
The obvious solution is to tell young adults to get healthy. But, as anyone who has had any sort of interaction with young adults can tell you, you’d be better off asking a brick wall to do something. Being unfit for service is a cultural problem that no amount of snazzy recruitment videos can fix.
Kennedy’s suggestion makes far more sense — and it was how he was brought into the military: selectively recruiting physically fit student athletes. Convincing a small subset of students to join is a much easier task than convincing the youth at large to slim down.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)
Back in Tim Kennedy’s high school wrestling days, he was approached by an Army Special Forces recruiter in a really bad suit. All it took was for the recruiter to show up and say, “hey guys, ever thought about Army Special Forces?” He handed Kennedy the card and took off.
That’s all it took to snag the most-beloved Green Beret of our generation.
To watch the rest of The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, check out the video below.