Women's Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers - We Are The Mighty
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Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, playing a pivotal role in the first women’s hair policy change in 70 years. On February 19, 2021, U.S. Air Force senior leaders directed a second racial, gender and ethnic disparity review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Empowered Airmen Can Solve Any Problem

In August of 2020, General C.Q. Brown, Jr. released a series of action orders to “Accelerate Change or Lose.” The guidance states that in order to compete with near-peer adversaries, the U.S. Air Force must re-examine which attributes the service requires to fight and win in a high-end fight. Gen. Brown’s strategic approach describes a ‘people-first’ approach that enhances the quality of life of Airmen and their families and improves the U.S. Air Force’s ability to be an attractive service for future prospects.

General Brown’s guidance reads, “We must develop leaders with the appropriate tools to create and sustain an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, valuing the many aspects of diversity within our Air Force. These efforts must also enhance the quality of service and quality of life for our Airmen and their families, making the U.S. Air Force an attractive career choice for all Americans.”

Women’s Initiative Team

Maj. Alea Nadeem, a Reserve Airman who serves as the leader of the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team, has played a key role in bringing about positive changes for women across the Air Force. Major Nadeem teamed up with Master Sgt. Jonathon Lind, a fellow leader who was made aware of the issues with the female hair policy when one of his young Airmen experienced complications first-hand. Master Sgt. Lind’s wife, a fellow Airman, also remarked that she was considering leaving the Air Force due to the same issues.

Together, the Airmen were able to collect input and data from thousands of women Airmen across the force and present their findings to decision makers. With the backing of dozens of commanders and years of research and data in hand, they went on to deliver their findings to the 101st Air Force Uniform Board. Their report stated that constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss. Additionally, the feedback revealed that the existing hair policy had failed to support a culture of inclusion for almost a quarter of Total Force Airmen.

On January 21, 2021, the Air Force announced that women would be permitted to wear their hair in two new styles – two braids or a single ponytail. The 101st Air Force Uniform Board sourced ideas from Airmen across the Air Force, including the thousands of Air Force women who provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team. The Air Force chief of staff approved the new policy after considering feedback from the force, the uniform board recommendation, and the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.

The hard work, dedication and thoughtful risk-taking displayed by Maj. Alea Nadeem and Master Sgt. Jonathan Lind has garnered attention across the service, including top Air Force leadership. In a news release dated Jan 21, 2021, the 101st Uniform Board recognized the Women’s Initiative Team for their research and support.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass also voiced her support saying, “In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force. I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kiah C. Cook, 377th Security Forces Group defender, poses in the new female body armor on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Feb. 4, 2021. Airmen from the 377th Security Forces Group were among the first Air Force defenders to receive the new issue of female body armor starting January 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Disparity Reviews

In December of 2020, the Air Force released its first report on the findings of an Air Force Inspector General independent review into racial disparity. The IG report defines racial disparity as “existing when the proportion of a racial/ethnic group within the subset of the population is different from the proportion of such groups in the general population.”

The review goes on to state that while the presence of a disparity alone is not evidence of racism, discrimination, or disparate treatment, it presents a concern that requires more in-depth analysis. Key stakeholders within the Air Force and Space Force have now been tasked to identify the root causes of these disparities.

The report also states that the data does not address why racial disparities exist in these areas, and that while the data shows race is a correlating factor, it does not necessarily indicate causality. While the first investigation was focused on Black/African American Airmen and space professionals, future efforts of the review will not be exclusive to a single minority group.

On February 19, 2021, Air Force senior leaders directed the Department of the Air Force Inspector General to conduct an additional independent review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Senior leaders stated that “Ensuring fair and equitable discipline and development for all our Airmen and Guardians is critical. We are committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social and institutional barriers that might prevent our members from rising to their highest potential. Diversity makes us a stronger and more capable force.”

Additionally, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team (LIT) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams (INET) were formally established by the Department of the Air Force in early 2021 under the umbrella of its Barrier Analysis Working Group.

Originally created in 2008, the Barrier Analysis Working Group was dedicated to analyzing data, trends and barriers to service for the civilian workforce. Since then, the group’s focus has broadened to include Airmen as well. As of March 2021, the Department of the Air Force has established the following initiative teams:

Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, Indigenous Nations Equality Team, LGBTQ Initiative Team, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and Women’s Initiatives Team.

Airmen or Guardians interested in getting involved with the Barrier Analysis Working Group should contact SAF/ODI at SAF.ODI.Workflow@us.af.mil.

Hair Regulations / AFI 36-2903: https://go.usa.gov/xsrra


This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Jaimee Freeman

Articles

8 reasons your DTS voucher was kicked back … again

Submitting vouchers through the Defense Travel System is one of those tasks that probably originated in military purgatory. Sure, an automated, online form for documenting travel expenses and getting paid sounds like a miracle, but it’s actually like having to do your taxes a few extra times per year.


Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Meme: via Air Force Memes and Humor)

Here are common reasons that DTS vouchers get kicked back, each with a quick example of what you will hear from the DTS manager for the mistake.

1. You checked a box the way your old unit wanted it.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dale Greer)

“This isn’t your old unit. Re-do your request. No, you can’t just edit your last voucher. I deleted it so that you would learn how to do it right.”

2. You put airfare and airfare taxes in the same box.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lynette M. Rolen)

“Do you think the DoD doesn’t want to save some tax money? Figure out what your airfare is without taxes, figure out what the taxes are, and separate those numbers into different line items.”

“The system might try to make you assign different legs of your trip to each dollar amount. If your flight only had one leg, that won’t work. You should’ve booked a trip with a layover.”

3. You changed an entry to how your unit-level reviewer wants it, but the next higher reviewer wants it the opposite way because screw you.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

“I know how Mr. X says he likes the voucher filled out. Do I look like Mr. X? Exactly. Now re-do your voucher from scratch. And staff it through Mr. X before it gets to me.”

4. You forgot to collect passport photos from the people in front of and behind you in line while traveling.

“How do we know you went on the trip if you can’t even be bothered to steal the passport photos of people near you in line? Did you really go on the trip? No, your jump manifests, training certificates, and hotel receipts don’t count. We want those passport photos.”

5. You haven’t bribed anyone yet.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: Department of Defense)

“Seriously, what is wrong with you? You think we handle your DTS vouchers because we’re charitable? Or because we like collecting our salaries? No. It’s for the bribes.”

6. You failed to sacrifice at least three virgin sheep to the dark undergods of the Defense Travel Service.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

“How am I going to go back to my bosses and tell them that I reviewed your packet without a single dead, unblemished sheep to gift to them?”

7. You have a firstborn son, but have not relinquished him to your reviewer.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

“We probably won’t actually take your child, but you have to offer. It’s an ‘Abraham and God’ sort of thing.”

8. You didn’t attach the right receipts.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

“Seriously, this is easy stuff. Just do the paperwork and you’ll get your money.”

Articles

To combat ‘Godzilla’-type threats JLTV needs a bigger gun

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers


The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.

Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.

So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.

At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.

The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.

Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

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Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans


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Dale Dye wants to make the “air version” of “Saving Private Ryan,” and he wants to film it with as many military veterans as possible.
“If you think of the first 18 minutes or so of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” Dye said, “This will be that but airborne. This will be guys coming out of those aircraft and sky full of tracers.”
 
Dye wrote the script for “No Better Place to Die” from a story he’d studied during his active duty days. He felt the story perfectly exemplifies what Americans troops can do when they come together after everything goes wrong.
 
It’s about the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers during the D-Day invasion and their contribution to winning the war. If it weren’t for these troops, the German’s may have pushed the allied beach invasion back out to sea, according to Dye.
 
While the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant, Dye has reserved the director’s seat for himself.
 
“Given what I’ve done in my 30-year career the only way this going to get done right — the only way this is going to blow people right out of their seats — is if I direct it because I know how,” Dye said. “I know how to do this cool.”
 
As for hiring veterans, Dye is looking to fill on and off camera roles to make a filmmaking statement.
 
“My absolute promise is that I’m going to make this movie with as many veterans in front of the camera and behind the camera as I can find,” Dye said. “That’s the way I’m going to do it. I’m hoping that it will serve as a showcase to Hollywood. It will show them the talent that’s out there and what these folks can do. What they bring to the table and how motivated they can be, and I want to demonstrate that.”

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Guest: Captain Dale Dye

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Captain Dale Dye at We Are The Mighty

Before Dale Dye was making some of our favorite military movies, he was fighting America’s wars overseas, eventually retiring as a Marine Corps captain. Having been around infantrymen all his life, he knew we were badly represented on film. The majority are intelligent, creative, and full of heart.

He felt the image of the dumb boot blindly following orders was a grave disservice to those brave service members who had risked and often gave their lives so that our nation could survive and prosper. So he looked for the best medium available to reach the hearts and minds of the public to spread his message — film and television.

Articles

An American flag’s journey across the United States

Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.


Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians in the communities they call home.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Tim Kolczak

“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” said Team RWB Executive Director Blayne Smith. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”

With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.

But the Old Glory Relay takes that connection one step further, linking together Team RWB’s 210 chapters and over 115,000 members with their love for the Stars and Stripes.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Team Red, White Blue

“This is all about connecting folks to the American flag,” said Donnie Starling, Team RWB’s national development project manager. “One hand-off after another, under the symbol of Old Glory.”

“People see the flag, and they see different things,” remarked Navy veteran Sean Kelly. “But when they see people together in their community, they’re drawn to it. I think it’s an interesting time in our country – and to see a positive force that tries to pull people together, that’s a super important mission that I’m excited to be a part of.”

The Old Glory Relay began on Sept. 11 under the Space Needle in Seattle. Runners carried the flag through the Pacific Northwest, through California and across the desert Southwest and deep south.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Tim Kolczak

The relay ended on Veterans Day in Tampa. And while it was a long journey through some grueling country, the feeling of accomplishment showed through from all the participants.

For Shawn Cleary, a runner in Arizona who delivered the flag to the Tucson team to finish out the Phoenix leg, being part of Team RWB has helped him to get to know a culture he wasn’t a part of as a civilian but had always respected as a military child.

“My life before Team RWB was kind of a college lifestyle,” Cleary says. “It started about two and a half years ago, I wanted to get healthy again, and I was starting to run.”

A friend suggested Cleary run with Team RWB. “I was just hooked,” he says.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Tim Kolczak

There are tens of thousands of veterans and civilians alike who have gotten “hooked” and found a home with Team Red, White Blue. Through the organization, they continue to give back to one another and the community at large – and have an incredible time doing so!

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!

MIGHTY CULTURE

New guidelines on Artificial Intelligence will not solve the ethics p​roblems

The European Commission has just published a white paper setting out guidelines for artificial intelligence. They hope to ‘address the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology,’ including concerns around privacy and human dignity.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing its own rules on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, following a draft of the rules published in October. Like the European Commission, the Department of Defense is determined to keep people in the loop: ‘Human beings should… remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of DoD AI systems,’ they say.

These are only the latest steps to catch up with the new technology. Oxford University has already launched a special program to keep artificial intelligence on the straight and narrow, while the World Economic Forum and others have highlighted the profound moral implications of AI.

The root of the fear is this: whereas earlier technological advances affected just our actions, artificial intelligence is replacing our thoughts. Labor-saving devices are morphing into a decision-making machine, and they operate in a moral vacuum.

Until now, the tough calls have fallen to programmers who write algorithms. Although the point of AI is that machines learn for themselves, the course they choose is set from the start by people who write the code.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

The stakes become enormous with the sort of automated decisions in defense the Pentagon is considering. And as long as the West’s main adversaries – Russia and China – are speeding forward with artificial intelligence, NATO countries have to stay ahead. Jack Shanahan, the Pentagon’s AI chief, has said that the US is locked ‘In a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age.’

While both the Pentagon and the European Commission are right to be alarmed at the profound ethical dimension to artificial intelligence, they are wrong to presume AI raises new ethical problems. It doesn’t – it just repaints old ones in technicolor. These problems have never been properly solved, and probably never will be.

Consider just these three of the most worrisome dilemmas Artificial Intelligence is said to create.

  1. If forced to choose, should a car driven by AI technology kill a pregnant woman or the two kids? The dilemma is no different when there’s a human at the wheel.
  2. Should algorithms draw on people’s race, gender or religion if it makes them more efficient? It’s been a question for airline security since 9/11.
  3. When our enemy has automated their battlefield machines so they can deploy them more quickly, should we do the same to keep up? This one pre-dates the First World War.
Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

In fact, all the problems which haunt artificial intelligence coders today can be traced back to conundrums, which vexed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The 23 centuries since he died have seen attempts to solve them, and some progress, but we still lack a definite answer to the fundamental question, ‘What should we do?’ Neither today’s European Commission paper nor the emerging Pentagon proposals will take us closer to a solution.

Some in the tech world – especially those who have cracked previously uncrackable problems before – are hoping money and brains will lead to a solution. After all, the determined genius of Newton and Einstein solved physics. Why can’t a little investment solve ethics in the same way?

The answer is that ethics is, at heart, a different sort of problem.

When we humans make decisions, we instinctively locate right and wrong in several places at once: in the motives behind the choice, in the type of action we do, and in the consequences, we bring about. Only if you focus on just a single place in the decision-making process – just on consequences, say – then you can rank and compare every option, but inevitably you will miss something out.

So, if an AI system was certain what to do when good deeds lead to a bad outcome, or when bad motives help people out, we should be very wary: it would be offering moral clarity when really there wasn’t any.

It is just conceivable that AI, rather than being a cause of moral problems, could help solve them. By using big data to anticipate the future and by helping us work out what would happen if everybody followed certain rules, artificial intelligence makes rule- and consequence-based ethics much easier. Applied thoughtfully, AI could help answer some tricky moral quandaries. In a few years, the best ethical advice may even come from an app on our phones.

Both the European Commission and Pentagon approach leave that possibility open.

It wouldn’t mean the profound ethical problems raised by artificial ethics had been solved, though. They will never be solved – because they do not have a single, certain solution.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

For five months in 1916, German artillery shells rained down on British trenches, contributing to the more than 1 million casualties incurred at the Somme. Futile attempts to seize ground were traded back and forth until England finally claimed one of the deadliest battles in history — a Pyrrhic victory. During the battle, a young J.R.R. Tolkien penned the foundation for Middle-earth.

“You might scribble something on the back of an envelope and shove it in your back pocket,” Tolkien wrote 50 years after the battle.

In the introduction for Unfinished Tales, his son Christopher Tolkien said one of those first scribbles was on Tolkien’s official orders while serving as a lieutenant in the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. These small notes were the beginning of “The Fall of Gondolin”: Tolkien’s first story of Middle-earth. 

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Soldiers of the Lancashire Fusiliers fix bayonets in July 1916. Photo by Ernest Brooks, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tolkien turned those early scribbles into a full story once he was evacuated from the front lines due to trench fever. Anything beyond scribbles was all but impossible while living in the trenches. Dispelling the common misconception that he wrote The Lord of the Rings while fighting, Tolkien once said the claims are “all spoof.” But the notes and scribbles he wrote on the backs of his orders marked the first descriptions of gnomes (later dwarves), elves, and epic battles between good and evil: essential elements to the rest of his work. 

Just like the myth of his writing The Lord of the Rings while in the trenches, Tolkien fervently denied the suggestion that his time under fire inspired him to create Middle-earth as an allegory for World War II.

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. […] An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex,” Tolkien wrote in the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. 

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Tolkien famously modeled the Shire after rural England. Photo by Nikhil Prasad, courtesy of Unsplash.

His experiences in World War I provided the seed for most of his work. In “The Fall of Gondolin,” the heroic unit of the House of the Hammer of Wrath is completely annihilated, a fate shared by Tolkien’s own company, the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, who were destroyed at the Somme after his evacuation to Birmingham.

While Tolkien typically shied away from pointing out direct connections between his work and the war, he admitted in a letter that “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme.” 

The Fellowship of the Rings, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, was published July 29, 1954. The Two Towers followed on Nov. 11, 1954, and The Return of the King on Oct. 20, 1955. Since its release, Tolkien’s definitive trilogy has sold over 150 million copies, but the sapling of his “vast tree of tales” sprouted in the trenches of World War I over 100 years ago, scribbled on the back of his orders.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Military Life

6 important things recruits should do to prepare for basic training

So you want to join the U.S. military and become a flat-bellied, steely-eyed killer of men (or mover of supplies, or photo-taker of soldiers, whatever). That means some trips to the recruiter and boot camp might be in your future. Here are six things to help prepare you for basic training:


1. Work on your physical fitness

 

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mackenzie B. Carter)

Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first. You should exercise. A lot. Recruiters can tell you what exercises are most important for your branch and job school since they do differ. In general, future Marines and soldiers should concentrate on overall muscular strength and endurance. Soldiers can be lax about pull-ups but Marines should hit them hard.

Everyone, including sailors and airmen, should build up their endurance by running, biking, and strenuously hiking.

2. Read books from the professional reading list

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Don’t worry, there aren’t this many on the list. (Public Domain photo)

 

Every branch has a professional reading list for their service members. Some are extensive, like the Marine Corps’, which includes a list of required reading for all Marines as well as lists assigned to each pay grade.

Others are shorter with just a few books that focus on future fights, tradition, and military history such as the Coast Guard’s 2015 list, which contained just nine books selected by the commandant and one nominated by Guardians. The Army, Air Force and Navy lists are available as well. The Air Force one even includes must watch Ted Talks and other videos. Get the books from a library if you don’t want to buy them.

3. Actually read those books of information the recruiter gives you

 

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

A little more on the topic of reading: Recruiters give new recruits pamphlets, booklets and little primers on military customs and courtesies, rank structure, the phonetic alphabet and other easy to learn and vital bits of knowledge.

Read these. Really read them. Some of them, like ranks and the phonetic alphabet, should be turned into flash cards for studying. The training cadre at basic training units will expect you to know these things. That’s why the recruiter gave you the pamphlets.

4. Study for entrance exams

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

If you haven’t been given those pamphlets yet, then you probably haven’t officially joined yet and may still be waiting to take the entrance exams. The most common is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, but some specific jobs have additional testing requirements.

Most of these tests have study guides that can help you prepare for the real experience. The best ones feature questions that were used in previous iterations of the actual test.

5. Practice hiking and navigating by map and compass

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class William Johnson

Every military branch has access to good, reliable GPS systems, but most units are training members to navigate by map and compass anyway. The seagoing services are even getting back into celestial navigation.

It’s part of a “back to basics” push to keep military operations moving forward if an enemy destroys America’s vulnerable GPS satellites. Luckily for new recruits, it’s a trainable skill that they can practice on their own while getting some of the fitness discussed in number 1 on this list.

But bring a friend, let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to return, and/or bring GPS with you. After all, it doesn’t help anyone if you end up stranded in the woods.

6. Learn some discipline

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
(Photo: US Marine Coprs Staff Sgt. J.L. Wright Jr.)

Seriously, more than anything else, practice taking direction and doing what you’re told without question or argument. The military is full of experienced and smart people who want to show you the ropes and let you develop critical thinking skills, but they need to know that you can take orders quickly so that they can trust you in a potential combat situation.

The first part of that trust is knowing that, if they tell you to spend two hours standing in the sun without moving, you will do it. Basic training cadre members will test this by having you stand for two hours in the sun with an order to not move. Learn to do annoying things without moving, complaining or asking for special treatment.

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The US Army is planning to combine 2 legendary weapons into one

The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.


The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Soldiers fire a .50 caliber machine gun at Camp Atterbury, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.

The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.

The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.

 

The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”

The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
The hot barrel of an M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun. |US Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

New lightweight .50 cal

The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”

“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
A US Army soldier with an MK-19 grenade launcher. | Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Parsons

An intimidating combat-tested weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.

The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.

“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”

The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.

The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.

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Today in military history: Ford Motor Company took its first order

On July 15, 1903, Ford Motor Company took its very first order.

Henry Ford was a talented engineer who was personally encouraged by Thomas Edison when he began designs for a horseless carriage. After two failed startups, he established the Ford Motor Company in 1903. His designs would change the very fabric of human civilization.

The company’s first order was for a two-cylinder Model A automobile for Chicago dentist Ernst Pfenning for the price of $850 ($26,001.79 today).

Ford would go on to create the very popular Model T and an impressive inventory of military vehicles, including the B-24 Bomber and the M4A3 Sherman Tank. 

During World War I, the Model T was a high-tech vehicle that made a significant contribution to the war effort as an ambulance model. During World War II, Ford Motor Company produced hundreds of thousands of vehicles for defense, including cars, station wagons, trucks, and more.

Ford’s plants were located in the U.S. and around the world and went to work to produce war goods — not just planes, tanks, and trucks, but cruise missiles like the JB-2 Loon as well.

Today, Ford remains one of the most well-known tough-duty vehicle manufacturers in the world.

Featured Image: 1903 Ford Model A. (Photographed by DougW of RemarkableCars.com at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, NV.)

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6 last-minute holiday items you’re better off buying at the exchange

With no sales tax and some name-brand discounts, the Exchange is a military benefit designed to help troops and their families save money. But, as most military shoppers know, some items don’t end up being cheaper at the Exchange, especially things that regularly get marked down. Sunglasses, Keurigs, and a lot of other items can be bought for less at Amazon or big box stores.


But many essential or high-demand items are cheaper at the a local exchange or at shopmyexchange.com. Here are 6 last-minute gifts that fit in that category:

1. Fitness trackers

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Wikipedia/Desmondma

Whether your gift recipients want to track their sleep, their runs, or both, the market is filled with awesome new options. Most trackers, including the popular Fitbits, are available at the Exchange for the same price they would be anywhere else, minus sales tax.

2. Video game consoles

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe

The tax savings on video game consoles at the exchange are typically $20 or more, so it’s a great place to pick up Playstations or XBoxes, if they have the bundle you’re looking for.

Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are primarily sold with a game included in a bundle. While getting a bundle like Gears of War will cost less at the exchange, the LEGO Movie Videogame Bundle isn’t available there. And the cost saving at the exchange aren’t enough to justify buying a game you won’t play.

3. Fragrances

While the Exchanges’ selection of perfumes and colognes is small, what it does have is cheaper than a lot of other outlets and there are a number of “stocking stuffer” sized bottles for $5 or less.

Those looking for a specific scent may have to pick up their bottles somewhere else.

4. Tactical gear

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Getting military gear from a random website can be risky since badly sewn pouches won’t fit properly on a military vest and many items at tactical stores aren’t authorized for wear.

The items at the Exchange are more likely to appear on approved gear lists. But, remember that anything that can be bought used will likely cost less at a military surplus store.

5. Macs

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: Wikipedia/Intel Free Press

Macs usually sell for $10 less than at the military exchange than from the Apple Store. On the more costly models, the tax savings of shopping the Exchange can save over $100.

But, in the Apple store customers can buy upgraded memory or processors that come pre-installed in the computer. These options aren’t available at the Exchange.

6. PCs

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy L. Wood

Dell and Office Depot both run online storefronts with special pricing on computers through the military Exchange. Before making the final purchase though, do an internet search of the model number. Some still end up being cheaper at civilian stores.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Marines take your beach

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.


Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can’t fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Many of the Marine Corp’s current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they’re seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don’t get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

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