Last year, the Army announced its new initiative to provide workspace for military spouses, complete with comfy chairs, desk space and reliable Wi-Fi. The initiative is part of growing efforts across the branch to provide more stable working conditions for military spouses, who often have difficulty finding work through frequent moves.
It’s no secret that military spouses — and their careers — often take a huge hit with each PCS. There’s the inability to find a new job, or simply not being able to gain tenure with a single company. Add in stigmas about sudden PCSs, and the hits just keep on coming.
For many military spouses, this has meant finding work that they can do remotely or even starting a business of their own. The former was only increased through the COVID-19 pandemic. Army spouses across all bases were working from home offices, or even looking for office space to rent in order to maintain their careers. Of course, both options came with problems — the former with distractions at home and the latter is expensive.
Enter the new workspace initiative.
Powered by the Army Quality of Life Task Force, military spouse coworking spaces are slotted to land in eight bases in the U.S.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia opened its space this March, located in the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center. Where the co-working area now sits was once a barely-used respite lounge, said Lisa Marie Riggins, president and CEO of USO Metro. Wanting to do the project justice, the USO donated $80,000 and dedicated the space toward working spouses.
Space that’s now open to Fort Belvoir spouses includes state-of-the-art workspaces with new tech for video calls, noise-canceling telephone booths, an equipped conference room, outdoor seating space, ergonomic features and a coffee bar/lounge area.
Work has also begun at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with plans to open later in 2021.
Additional coworking locations are planned for Fort Drum, New York; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and West Point, New York.
The program was announced in December of 2020 by Lt. Col. Keith Wilson, a regional director for the Soldier for Life Program.
Wilson said a survey was sent out among service members, revealing that spouse work situations are a large factor in soldiers’ decision to stay in the Army. The survey was sent out in 2019 through Hiring Our Heroes. Of those answering, 48% of soldiers whose spouses had an upper-level degree said they considered leaving the military to allow for better employment options for their spouses; 40% of all participants said the same, regardless of their spouse’s education.
Spouses responded that they work remotely in order to add income to their family, find fulfillment and utilize upper-level degrees, whether that’s done through a home office or at various Wi-Fi spots near their current duty station, either on or off post.
“While most of our installations offer quality education centers, libraries and cyber cafes, none offer dedicated professional workspace focused on our self-employed and remote-working military spouses. That needs to change,” Wilson said.
The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law, providing a variety of benefits for returning World War II veterans, fondly known as GIs (short for “government issue” or “general issue”).
Designed by the American Legion, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 included education and housing expenses, low-cost mortgages and loans, and even one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to all veterans who had been active duty during the war for at least 90 days and had not received a dishonorable discharge.
Though it had its problems, the GI Bill transformed higher learning in the United States and drove an economic expansion that lasted well beyond the war. The GI Bill has evolved over the years and is still used today, serving over a million beneficiaries a year. The GI Bill benefit helps veterans — and their dependents — pay for college, graduate school, and training programs.
Honorably-discharged veterans who have served 90 days of aggregate duty after Sept. 10, 2001, or are still active duty military, are eligible for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for 36 months. The benefits can be applied to tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses.
While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?
Here are a few options:
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: M50 Ontos
New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun
The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.
But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.
The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.
But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.
That counts as a win-win.
Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle
New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle
While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.
So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).
Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: A-1 Skyraider
New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.
The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.
So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?
The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)
(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer
USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.
It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun
New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer
Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.
Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile
New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems
With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.
Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.
He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.
Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.
That’s false, Hanson said.
Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.
“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘
The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.
But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.
That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.
Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.
And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.
Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.
False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.
“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”
Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.
Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.
“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”
From the beginning, heavy drinking was fairly commonplace among the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point (founded in 1802). In an attempt to stem this in 1826, the academy’s strict superintendent and the “Father of West Point,” General Sylvanus Thayer, began a crackdown by prohibiting alcohol on campus. As Christmas approached and the cadets realized that the prohibition would put a damper on their traditional Christmas Eve festivities that included consumption of a fair amount of eggnog, a bold few began to plan away around the problem.
Back then, eggnog was always an alcoholic beverage (see: What is Eggnog Made Of and Who Invented It?), often made with rum or whiskey. Luckily for the cadets, both liquors were plentiful near campus, being served by three taverns within easy travelling distance: Benny Haven, North’s Tavern and Martin’s Tavern, just across the Hudson River.
Determined to make their season bright, a small cadre of cadets set out to smuggle some liquor into the North Barracks and chose Martin’s Tavern across the river as their supplier. A few nights before Christmas, three cadets crossed the Hudson, drank a bit at the bar, then purchased three to four gallons of whiskey to go. They then ferried the contraband back across the river. Met at the dock by a guard, they reportedly bribed him with $0.35 ($7 today) to look the other way while they unloaded the loot and snuck it into their rooms where it lay hidden until Christmas Eve.
On the fateful night, the superintendent assigned only two officers to monitor the North Barracks: Lieutenant William A. Thorton and Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock. Things were quiet at first, and Hitchcock and Thorton went to bed about midnight. At about 4 a.m., however, Hitchcock was awakened by noise coming from one of the cadets’ floors above him. Upon investigation, he discovered a small group of obviously drunk cadets and ordered them to return to their rooms.
No sooner had he dispersed that group than Hitchcock realized there was another party in an adjoining room. Crashing that one as well, Hitchcock found these cadets so inebriated that he later reported they attempting to hide under blankets, and one even thought he could avoid detection by stubbornly keeping his face behind his hat. Unlike the first party, however, things got heated in the second room, and after Hitchcock left, the drunk-mad cadets decided to arm themselves with their bayonets, pistols and dirks to attack, and perhaps even kill, Hitchcock.
Thus began the Eggnog Riot. While the drunken cadets were gathering their weaponry, it sounded to Thorton and Hitchcock a few floors below as if the parties had simply resumed. Returning to the cadets’ floors, Hitchcock met Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis), then a cadet who was also drunk. Vainly trying to help his friends, Davis burst into the party-room just ahead of Hitchcock shouting: “Put away the grog boys! Captain Hitchcock’s coming!” Hitchcock soon joined them and ordered Davis to his room, which likely saved him from later expulsion, since he missed out on the remainder of the riot. Had he been expelled, of course, his future in the military and politics, culminating in becoming the President of the Confederacy, likely wouldn’t have ever happened. (See: What Ever Happened to Confederate President Jefferson Davis?)
Other cadets who had already made preparations to attack began assaulting Hitchcock and now Thorton, who had joined the fray. Thorton was threatened with a sword and knocked down with a piece of wood, while another cadet actually shot at Hitchcock.
Realizing things were spiraling out of control, Hitchcock ordered a cadet sentinel (who apparently had not been invited to the party) to get “the ‘com,” meaning the Commandant of Cadets; however, in their drunken state the rioting cadets thought he had summoned regular army men from a nearby barracks to attack them. Seeking to defend the honor of the North Barracks, even more cadets armed themselves (in total including about one-third of all cadets at the academy), and, as is standard operating procedure in any proper riot, the mob began arbitrarily breaking anything in sight, including windows, furniture and other items.
Eventually, the ‘Com came, and since the cadets truly respected his authority, they finally regained a semblance of composure, and the so-called Eggnog Riot ended sometime Christmas day.
Over the next week, Inspector of the Academy and Chief Engineer of the Army, Major General Alexander Macomb, entered Orders No. 49 and 98, the latter of which placed 22 cadets under house arrest, and the former began a court of inquiry.
The investigation revealed that the riot caused $168.83 in damage (around $3,500 today), and identified 19 ringleaders who were subsequently court-martialed between January 26 and March 8, 1827. Cadets Aisquith, Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Gard, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Mercer, Murdock, Norvelle, Roberts, Screven, Stocker, Swords, and Thompson stood trial, and other cadets, including both Jefferson Davis (who was among the 22 originally under house arrest, but otherwise went unpunished) and Robert E. Lee testified for the defenses. Eleven of the group (Berrien, Bomford, Burnley, Farrelly, Fitzgerald, Guion, Humphreys, Johnson, Lewis, Roberts and Stocker) were dismissed, and the remainder were allowed to stay, although Gard, Murdock and Norvelle chose to leave the academy anyway.
As a result of the riot, in the 1840s when new barracks were constructed, they were designed so that the cadets had to actually go outside to move between floors in an attempt to prevent another mob uprising.
Here’s George Washington’s (yes, that George Washington) eggnog recipe (not verbatim):
Mix together well:
1 pint brandy
1 cup rye whiskey
1 cup rum
½ cup sherry
Separately, separate the yolks and whites of one dozen eggs. Then beat with the yolks:
¾ cup sugar
Add the liquor into the sugar-egg mixture, slowly at first, beating constantly so it fully incorporates.
Then add, again beating together slowly:
1 quart cream
1 quart milk
Separately, beat the whites stiff and gently fold those into the mixture. When incorporated, let it set in a cool place for several days, and as George said, “taste frequently.”
Fighter pilots have a lot of cool sayings like, “Don’t ask somebody if he’s a fighter pilot. If he is, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, why embarrass him?” and “Faster fighters, older whiskey, younger women,” but not all of these can be applied to real life.
Fortunately, they also have a few saying that can be applied to real life. Here are 11 of them:
1. Train like you fight
This saying was made popular by “Duke” Cunningham, Navy Vietnam-era ace who served a stint in federal prison for misdeeds committed while serving as a congressman from California. It seems obvious, but think of how many processes your organization has that don’t really matter when it comes to executing the mission.
2. Don’t be both out of airspeed and ideas
That’s a bad combo. As Dean Wormer said in the movie “Animal House,” “Fat, dumb, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
3. Keep your knots up
Speed is life. It gives you options. In business “speed” can be resources, revenue, people. Having X+1 is a good idea.
4. Keep your scan going
If you’re only focused on one thing, something else is about to jump up and bite you. While you’re staring at the bandit in the heads-up display, you’re missing the fact you’re about to run out of gas or get shot by the other bandit who just rolled in behind you.
5. Lost sight, lost fight
Regardless of Gucci technology or whatever, you can’t kill what you can’t see.
6. You can only tie the record for low flight
So don’t fly into the ground.
7. There’s no kill like a guns kill
This is as pure as it gets for a fighter pilot. Feels. So. Good. And, remember, stealth doesn’t work against bullets.
8. Don’t turn back into a fight you’ve already won
Know when to bug out and then do it. Live to fight another day.
9. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take
You also miss 100 percent of the shots you take out of the missile’s operating envelope . . . which gets back to No. 1: Train like you fight.
10. A letter of reprimand is better than no mail at all
As John Paul Jones once said, “He who will not risk, cannot win.” Nobody ever made history or changed the world by only worrying about his or her career.
11. If you know you’re about to die, make your last transmission a good one
No whining. Just key the radio and say, “Have a beer on me, boys.”
Feature image: DoD photo/ Staff Sergeant Alexander Cook
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A sunset is seen through the nose of a B-25 Mitchell during a military tattoo held at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, Sept. 16, 2015. The “warbird flight” consisted of two B-25 Mitchells, two P-40 Warhawks and a P-51 Mustang.
A P-51 Mustang flies over Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, during a military tattoo Sept. 16, 2015.
Soldiers in Basic Combat Training low crawl through the final obstacle during the Fit to Win endurance course at Fort Jackson, S.C., Oct. 1, 2015.
A soldier, sets up a claymore mine during the JMRC’s Expert Infantryman Badge Competition at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 29, 2015.
IWO TO, Japan (Sept. 29, 2015) Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 conduct a special patrol insertion/extraction exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 28, 2015) An AV-8B Harrier II assigned to the Black Sheep of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214 lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during flight operations. Boxer is underway off the coast of Southern California conducting routine training exercises and maintenance in preparation for its upcoming deployment.
11th Marine Regiment works through the debris and fog in order to fire rounds during Supporting Arms Coordination Center Exercise on San Clemente Island, California, Sept. 25, 2015. The exercise is the first time these Marines and sailors will work together at sea in preparation for deployment.
A AH-1Z Cobra with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force lands aboard the USS New Orleans during the PHIBRON-MEU Integration exercise off the coast of San Clemente, California, Sept. 27, 2015. This marks the first at-sea exercise for the PHIBRON-MEU Marines and Sailors as they work together in preparation for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility in early 2016.
USCG Cutter Healy uses spotlights while navigating through ice Sept. 20, 2015. The lights allow the helmsman to see pressure ridges and other obstacles, aiding in the completion of a safe night passage through the Arctic Ocean.
Time for some ice training USCG Cutter Healy crewmembers conduct ice rescue training Sept. 4, 2015, while underway in the Arctic Ocean. Qualified crewmembers stand ice rescue watch any time scientists or others are working on the ice.
The government’s main auditor wants each of armed service branches to prove how military bands accomplish the stated objectives of inspiring patriotism and raising morale.
Military bands have declined over recent years during funding drawdowns and some attacks from fiscal hawks, but a few of the services have actually increased spending on bands while band rosters shrink, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands’ missions, such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops,” the GAO wrote in a report released August 10.
Military bands have a long and distinct tradition in the US that the GAO admits is difficult to quantify. They are part of the military’s outreach to communities, playing in parades and for patriotic holidays and events. Several recruiters reported an increase in queries about joining the military after a band played for a school.
Bands have a civic function in performing at presidential events, and a diplomatic function in playing for foreign leaders, both in the US and abroad. The Navy told the GAO that bands can also be “an initial step towards improving relationships with foreign nations.”
All those approaches to proving the value and effectiveness of military bands “do not include measurable objectives nor exhibit several of the important attributes performance measures should include,” the GAO said.
The services the GAO contacted for its report stressed the difficulty of creating metrics to measure increased patriotism and troop morale from military bands, but the GAO says that through surveys and focus groups, the military could quantify how military bands achieve their mission.
All that would take resources, the band leaders told the GAO, which is part of why military bands are under fire in the first place.
The Pentagon spends about $437 million a year on the 137 bands throughout the five military branches. Even though that’s a fraction of the military’s $1.11 trillion budget, some in Congress think that money would be better spent elsewhere.
Most of a bands operating cost goes to travel, and the remainder goes to buying top quality instruments. The Air Force found a $75,000 Gagliano cello last fall that it determined was the only acceptable instrument for musical missions.
“After playing over 50 similar instruments, this is the only one that meets the rigorous demands required by USAF band,” the Air Force said in the contract solicitation. “This world-class instrument is an ideal choice for members of The USAF Band and the demanding standards required for our daily mission preparation and execution.”
Military bands have declined in size in every service since 2012, which has mostly led to reduced cost. Overall, the Air Force and the Navy, however, spent more on bands in 2016 than in previous years.
“The Navy and Air Force reported that their total operating costs for bands over this period increased by $4.1 million and $1.6 million” respectively, the GAO reported. Band costs for the Marine Corps, Army, and National Guard decreased during the same period by less than a million for each service.
The Navy attributed the $4.1 million increase to inadequate band funding between 2012 and 2014, and one-time costs like a $749,000 renovation on the band offices in 2016. The Air Force said that local commands are now responsible for their funding, “so bands may have had unique circumstances that led to increases in costs over time.”
Military bands will face more scrutiny for years to come. The defense spending budget for the remaining 2017 fiscal year asked the secretary of defense to “ensure that only the critical functions of military bands are supported while minimizing impacts on funding for essential readiness, military personnel, modernization, and research and development activities,” Military Times reports.
The GAO noted that as it conducted the review, Pentagon officials met with military bands and officials to “establish standard metrics to collect on events performed by bands.”
During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.
While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.
Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.
A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.
The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.
She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.
SS Cape Fear
A good example of the drawbacks of using concrete for shipbuilding, the Cape Fear ran into a cargo ship in Rhode Island, shattered, and then sank with 19 crewmen lost.
The Cuyamaca was stripped down in New Orleans after she was built. She was then converted into an oil barge. Like other concrete ships hauling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, not much is known about her final resting place.
Artificial structures sunk in coastal areas protect the coasts from negative effects due to weather and the spread of sediment. The Dinsmore is living on in this regard. She was sunk to be a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Latham also became an oil barge, storing oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico. While transporting oil pipes, she hit a jetty and nearly sank. She’s now floating around the Gulf somewhere, storing oil.
Moffitt is another oil barge off the coast of New Orleans.
SS Palo Alto
This ship was turned into a dance club and restaurant in California. It featured an arcade and a swimming pool before the company that ran the place collapsed in the Great Depression.
When a storm cracked her across the middle, the Palo Alto became a fishing pier.
Now in British Columbia, Canada, the Peralta spent time as a floating fish cannery and is now a floating breakwater. She’s the only one of the 12 still afloat.
The Peralta is also the largest concrete ship still afloat anywhere in the world. She protects the log storage pond of a Canadian paper company.
After hitting an underwater ledge, Polias shattered and sank off the coast of Maine. Fourteen crewmen died trying to abandon ship.
A 1924 hurricane further shattered her wreck. What remains is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine.
SS San Pasqual
When the San Pasqual ran aground off Cuba, no one was inclined to dig her out. She stayed there and became a depot ship and then a prison. Now, she’s a 10 room hotel.
Originally sold for scrap, Sapona was converted into an offshore liquor warehouse during Prohibition. She was grounded off the coast of Bimini, an island of the Bahamas, during a hurricane. The stern broke off, destroying the rum running owner’s stock and leaving him penniless.
The Army Air Forces and Navy used Sapona for target practice during WWII.
Called the “Flagship of Texas,” the Selma was an oil tanker that hit a jetty off the coast of Tampico, Florida. The government sent Selma to Galveston for repairs, but the shipwrights had no experience with concrete. She was taken to Pelican Island, Texa in 1922, where she sits today.
The Texas Army named her its flagship 70 years later.
“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.
While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”
The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.
As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”
Here is that video:
Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.
“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:
“Top Gun” adds one as well.
Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicization of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US, and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.
“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”
However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.
David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, said it was “disconcerting” that Trump appeared to have come to a conclusion about Iran before finding the intelligence to back it up.
“It stands the intelligence process on its head,” Cohen told CNN. “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicized in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”
In another move reminiscent of the Iraq debacle, the US administration is putting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be more aggressive in its demands to investigate military sites in Iran, just as George W Bush’s team pushed for ever more intrusive inspections of Saddam Hussein’s military bases and palaces.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited IAEA headquarters in Vienna to press the agency to demand visits to Iran’s military sites. Haley described IAEA inspectors as “professionals and true experts in their field”.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites, but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”
Unlike the case of Iraq and the Bush administration, where there were deep divisions in the US intelligence community over the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is now a general consensus among US intelligence and foreign intelligence agencies, the state department, the IAEA and the other five countries that signed the JCPOA, as well as the European Union, that there is no significant evidence that Iran has violated its obligations under the deal. Tehran scaled down its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear fuel stockpiles soon after the deal was signed in Vienna.
However, Trump, who denigrated the agreement throughout his election campaign, has appeared determined to torpedo it.
On July 17, the latest deadline for presidential certification of the JCPOA deal required by Congress, the announcement was postponed for several hours, while Trump’s senior national security officials dissuaded the president from a last-minute threat not to sign.
“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on July 25. He hinted it was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had persuaded him to certify the agreement.
“Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply,” the president said. “And so we’ll see what happens… But, yeah, I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”
Trump said his administration was doing “major” and “detailed” studies on the issues.
Richard Nephew, who was principal duty coordinator for sanctions policy in the Obama administration state department and a member of the team that negotiated the JCPOA said government agencies were producing such studies all the time. He said the difference under the Trump administration was that they were being told the conclusions should be.
“Behind the scenes, there is a huge machine that is pumping up reports and updates and status checks for the administration and Congress,” Nephew, now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said. “You have intelligence officers and analysts in a bunch of agencies who spend literally every day scrubbing every single report they have got of what is going on inside Iran trying to find instances of non-compliance.
“What I suspect is happening now is that those intel officers have been asked to go to the cutting room floor, [and are being asked:] ‘What have you forgotten? What have you discounted? What have you said doesn’t really fit and not really relevant?’
“I actually think that’s healthy if it’s an honest question,” Nephew said, but he added: “It seems there is a faction within the administration that is trying to lay the basis for getting out [of the agreement] on the basis of cooked books.”
He predicted that intelligence analysts would resign if they were pushed too hard.
“The intelligence community learned the lessons of Iraq hard,” Nephew said. “And the analysts I know who are attached to this effort I am quite convinced would resign and resign loudly before they would allow… their words to be twisted and turned the way it happened with Iraq.”
Robert Malley, who was a senior US negotiator at the nuclear talks with Iran, said that the Trump administration was discounting the information it was getting from its agencies because it viewed them as the “deep state” or “Obama holdovers.” But Malley predicted it would be harder for Trump to ignore the reservations of US intelligence and US allies and drive towards confrontation with Iran than it was for George Bush to go to war in Iraq.
“The main difference is that Iraq has already happened, which means that both the American public and the international community have seen a similar movie before, and therefore might well react differently than the way they reacted the last time around,” he said.
The other principal avenue of attack on the JCPOA being pursued by the Trump administration has focused on the question of inspections of Iranian military sites. Under the agreement, the IAEA can present evidence of suspect activity at any site to Iran and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not accepted by the IAEA, Tehran would have two weeks to negotiate terms of access for the agency inspectors. If the Iranian government refuses, a joint commission of JCPOA signatories could vote to force access, andIran would have three days to comply.
“There is a mechanism, a very detailed one and one of the issues we spent the most time on in negotiation,” Malley said. But he added: “There are people on the outskirts of the administration, and who are pushing hard on the Iran file, saying they should be allowed to ask for inspection at any sensitive site for no reason whatsoever, in order to test the boundaries of the agreement.”
During her visit to Vienna, Haley suggested that Iran’s past practice of using military sites for covert nuclear development work was grounds for suspicion. But Laura Rockwood, a former legal counsel in the IAEA’s safeguards department (which carries out inspections), said the US or any other member state would have to provide solid and contemporaneous evidence to trigger an inspection.
“If the US has actionable intelligence that is useful for the IAEA to take into account, and I mean actual and honest intelligence, not fake intel that they tried to use in 2003, then I think the agency will respond to it,” Rockwood, who is now executive director of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said. “But if they try to create evidence or if they try to pressure the agency into simply requesting access because they can, I think it will backfire.”
Some analysts, however, believe that the Obama administration was too willing to let Iranian infractions slide and that a more skeptical view of the agreement and implementation is overdue.
“Asking the system for knowledge of violations is different than asking anyone to falsify them,” said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. “This is a highly technical subject and the Obama administration downplayed and even hid violations and problems. So, there is a need to establish the true situation and ensure decision makers understand these issues. Spinning this as equivalent to Iraqi WMD claims is not only unfair but highly inaccurate. Certainly, the pro-JCPOA advocates would love to do that.”
Any Iranian objections to new inspections could be cited by Trump if he carries out his threat to withhold certification of the JCPOA in October. It would then be up to the US Congress whether to respond with new sanctions, and then Trump would have to sign them into law, in potential violation of the agreement. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that elements of the program that had been stopped under the agreement could be resumed “within hours” if the US walked out.
Ultimately, Tehran and the other five national signatories to the agreement would have to decide whether to try to keep the deal alive without US participation. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested over the weekend that if the other signatories remained committed, Iran would continue to observe the deal. It is an issue that would split Europe from the US, likely leaving the UK perched uneasily in the middle.
“As a practical matter, you’re not going to have the rest of the international community, you’re not going to have our allies in Europe, you’re certainly not going to have the Russians and the Chinese coming along with us to reimpose real pressure on the Iranians,” Cohen said. “So you’ll have this fissure between the United States and essentially the rest of the world in trying to reinstate pressure on Iran.”
On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy, France, in the largest amphibious assault in history, also known as D-Day.
By then, Europe had been largely controlled by Nazi Germany for four long years. Operation Overlord, as the invasion was known, included 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and 150,000 Allied troops as they hit five beaches in a synchronized attack across the English channel.
American battalions suffered crippling losses during the Normandy invasion, but the story of A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry is especially devastating. Tasked with capturing a road that led to the small French village of Vierville, things began to go wrong for the company before it even reached the shore. Rough seas left the men dazed and sea sick. Heavy clouds blocked the view of U.S. bombers, stopping them from taking out the German gunners that waited for the company in the Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach. When company A finally did run aground, it was overwhelmed by German mortar, artillery and machine gun fire. In under 20 minutes, 60 percent of the company’s men — many of whom had never seen battle before — were dead or wounded.
German forces were greatly outnumbered at Normandy, largely because the details of where the Allied invasion would take place was kept under lock and key until the moment troops hit the beaches on June 6th, 1944. A double agent working for the allies also gave the Germans false information about where the operation would occur, leaving the real locations with little German defense in place. It’s estimated that there were 175,000 allied troops on the beaches that day compared to a measly 10,000 Germans. Which begs the question: Why didn’t Germany just order reinforcements to those locations? Apparently, it was because Hitler was asleep! German officers were too afraid to wake up the Fuhrer, and too scared to send more troops without his permission.
The Allied advance failed to achieve its inland objectives that first day, but the amazing sacrifice by thousands of men had cracked the Atlantic Wall, dooming Hitler and the Third Reich. Still, another year of heavy fighting loomed between the beaches and Berlin.