Control over the unit is spread between the NCOs and officers. In theory, these guys run the show. In practice, however, much of the work is delegated down to the lowest level. This is where the specialists, senior airmen, seamen, and lance corporals come in.
The highest rank among junior enlisted is left in an awesomely weird predicament in which they can shuffle work to the privates, satisfy requirements from higher up the chain, and then relax for the rest of the day. This is called the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground.
But even those in these unofficial unions have a few bylaws that they must never break. Here’re a few of the rules that the Mafia/LCpl Underground are willing to admit:
For the most part, this book is one long essay on never volunteering for sh*t.
(Meme via Grunt Style)
See nothing, say nothing
The very first and most important law of the E4 Mafia is this: Plausible deniability is your best friend. These simple words can be used in almost every situation.
In the military, if you see someone doing something against regulations, you’re supposed to say something. But are you really going to call out your bros for putting their hands in their pockets when it’s cold outside? Hell no.
Because if you show a little bit of effort, that’s where the bar will be set for you.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
At first glance, it may seem odd that Sadi Carnot, a 19th-century French physicist, would have much to do with a bunch of slackers. As he once famously said, “total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time.” In layman’s terms, this basically means, “controlled chaos will always take the path of least resistance.”
If you ever ask a lance corporal to do anything, they will half-ass it and tell you that the task is complete. It’s science, really.
Always play the “Shaggy Defense”
This defense is named after a famous lance-corporal-turned-musician who was caught in an unpleasant situation. When confronted with the nasty allegations and irrefutable evidence, he simply kept repeating the Lance Corporal Underground mantra of, “it wasn’t me.”
If there’s evidence that something happened, but not enough to pin it on you, enthusiastically deny it.
If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
(Meme via LCpl Underground)
When in doubt, skate out
Unless you’re sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an incoming task will be fun, don’t agree to do anything that comes down the chain of command.
If the first sergeant calls for four volunteers, don’t ever ask, “for what?” Expressing interest is, essentially, as binding as a signature.
This is how you raise the bar. Take note, PFCs.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
If you look right, you are right
The military is a very busy system. Despite all of the hurrying-up-and-waiting that happens, everyone is constantly on the move.
All you need to do to get away with nearly anything is put some effort toward appearing like you’re squared away. Rarely will anyone take the time to make sure you’re actually doing things right.
The Mafia/Underground has been around since before anyone currently enlisted. That means that every Senior NCO was once a member.
Never forget where you came from
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re going with your career. Your buddies who tell you that they’re ride-or-die really mean it — you should keep the same promise.
If you happen to get promoted out of the Mafia or Underground, don’t forget that your guys are still your guys. You may have more responsibilities now and you may have to make them work. That’s understandable. However, don’t think — not even for a single second — about turning into the NCO that stabs every single one of their former friends in the back.
Blue Falcon-ing is a crime punishable by disassociation
There are three people that will always garner hatred from the E-4 Mafia: Jodie, the good-idea fairy, and the blue falcon.
If you ever dare to buddy-f*ck one of your fellow mafiosos, don’t expect them to have your back.
Soldiers leaving military service have a lot to prepare for as they transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. Thanks to the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, this transition can set soldiers up for success through the sometimes tricky process of translating military service and military occupational specialties to civilian workforce skills, resume writing and opportunities to participate in vocational certificate programs.
One program available at Fort Jackson offers service members a chance to trade their Army Combat Uniform for fire retardant bunker gear, equipment regularly used by firefighters to protect them from the intense heat from fires. The program is called Troops to Firefighters, and one Fort Jackson soldier has taken full advantage of what the program has to offer.
“Going through the Soldier for Life program here at Fort Jackson, I had a leader who was looking for information for his wife and he said ‘Hey man, they have a firefighter program here and they pay for it,'” said Staff Sgt. James Hall, Company A, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “So I did it.”
Chief Curtis Maffett, vice president of Training Troops to Firefighters speaks to the class during the 911 dispatch operators program, designed to assist veterans, transitioning service members, and family members in becoming nationally certified firefighters and 911 emergency dispatch operators.
(Photo by Ms. LaTrice Langston)
Hall has served on active duty for more than 20 years and is set to retire in August 2019. He, like all separating soldiers, attended a mandatory separation brief where he learned about the Troops to Firefighter program. He said he never thought about becoming a firefighter before the briefing, but he submitted a packet to enroll in the program, and a few weeks later he received the news that he had been accepted.
“I’d been leaning towards becoming an electrician; that’s what my Family business is,” Hall said. “But I really fell in love with firefighting after going to the fire academy.”
With the support of his unit’s chain of command, Hall was placed on permissive temporary duty to attend the South Carolina Fire Academy. After a grueling eight weeks, Hall graduated and returned to his regular duties with his company.
“I thought it was definitely physically challenging,” Hall said. “It’s not the easiest job, but it’s very rewarding.”
Hall said his military training as an infantryman helped prepared him for the physical demands a firefighter faces daily. The weight of the bunker gear is similar to the combat load of body armor and ammunition. He also explained how military structure is equally similar to a firehouse, including the camaraderie and style of training found within most military units.
“I think James is a very good fit to go into the fire service,” said Pete Hines, assistant chief of the Fort Jackson Fire Department. “He is intelligent. He can think. I wish he could stay [here at Fort Jackson].”
Members of the Fort Jackson Fire Department pose in front of two of their fire engines.
(Photo by Ms. Elyssa Vondra)
Hall graduated the fire academy in March 2019 but remains on active duty until he starts his terminal leave at the end of May 2019. With the support of his commander and Hines, Hall was able to keep his newly acquired skills sharp by spending a few days out of the week working for the Fort Jackson Fire Department. There, Hall’s duty day is like the other firefighters. He helps to maintain his personal protective equipment, the fire vehicles, the firehouse and respond to fire calls. Hall was also afforded opportunities to attend additional fire training classes to expand his firefighting certifications that will make him more attractive to prospective fire departments in Texas when Hall moves his Family back home in May 2019.
Hall’s successful completion of the program and his volunteer service with the fire department will allow him to begin seeking employment with a local fire department as soon as he is settled in Texas. Hall said he believes the transition will be a smooth one thanks to the program, support from his Family and support from his chain of command.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Fort Jackson Fire Department, (the program) and my unit,” Hall said. “Any of these programs that are available, I say take advantage of them while they are here.”
The Troops to Firefighter program is one of many offered to transitioning soldiers. Other programs include lineman, trucking, piping, solar energy and more. To find more information about these programs, contact the Soldier For Life – Transition Assistance Program office at www.sfl-tap.army.mil or 1-800-325-4715.
The Trump administration has decided not to send the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into retirement two decades early, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the carrier’s decks April 30, 2019.
“We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” Pence said, The Virginia-Pilot reported. “The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come,” the vice president added.
President Trump asked Pence to deliver the message, he revealed.
The Navy announced in its FY 2020 budget proposal that it had decided to mothball the Truman rather than go through with its planned mid-life refueling. The move was intended to free up funds for the purchase of new systems to give the US Navy an edge against rivals China and Russia, technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed-energy weapons, among other things.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“Great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity, demanding prioritization and hard strategic choices,” the US Navy had explained.
US military leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, have defended the move before skeptical lawmakers in recent weeks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke in favor of the Navy’s decision April 29, 2019.
“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” he said at a security forum in Washington, DC. “We’re trying to move, and that is exactly the decision dynamic with respect to what’s more relevant for the future. Is it going to be the Harry S. Truman and its air wing where there’s a lot of innovation taking place, or is it something else?”
But the Trump administration took a different view after overruled its military leaders.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But when the reporter asked Ermey “When you were in the Marines, which branch did you make fun of?” And with a grin on his face, The Gunny jokes “That would be Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club“.
But that had to have been from back in his active duty days. No one would ever make fun of the branch that’s closest to the TSA Agents staffing metal detectors in our nation’s air ports these days, right?
It’s all in good fun, guys. Only family can mock family. “You know, everyone bleeds the same color,” Ermey said.
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.
The US Marine Corps started issuing the Glock 19M pistol to marines, which they call the M007, in May 2017.
“The M007 has a smaller frame and is easier to conceal, making it a natural selection to meet the Marine Corps’ conceal carry weapon requirement,” Gunnery Sgt. Brian Nelson said in a November 2017 Marines Corps Systems Command press release.
And since the Corps continually upgrades and adds new weapons to its arsenal, we reached out to the Marines Corps Systems Command, which is in charge of all acquisitions for the Corps, to find out which standard issue weapons it currently gives to Marines.
Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Ranchukov, who died last year, primarily made a name for himself shooting architecture, and his pictures of buildings and urban spaces have appeared in several academic publications. But he also liked to take his camera out onto the streets of his native Kyiv and other cities to pursue his own gritty brand of street photography.
As he took many of these photos in the 1980s, his bleak black-and-white images provide a record of life in the latter days of the Soviet Union that stands in stark contrast to that which was portrayed in the official propaganda of that era.
In a recent essay on his work, fellow photographer and art critic Oleksandr Lyapin said Ranchukov primarily saw himself as a chronicler of his times and hoped his images would “complement the story of the sad end of the U.S.S.R., the dull streets of the city showing its decay…”
According to photographer and critic Oleksandr Lyapin, Ranchukov wanted to capture for younger generations “the faces of Soviet people — in a way very different from how they are presented on posters.”
People at a stall in Kyiv drink kvass, a fermented beverage made from bread, which is still a popular summer drink in many former Soviet republics.
“Ranchukov was a street photographer, but he had almost no interest in the aesthetics of street photography,” Lyapin said. Instead, he simply “painted the picture of Soviet everyday life — dull and inexpressive, even dead: identical gray streets, unsightly clothes, street vendors, puddles, and dirt.”
Many of Ranchukov’s photographs capture aspects of Kyiv life that have since disappeared forever, such as this cobbler’s kiosk in Zhytniy Market, which was once a familiar sight to generations.
A woman in a Kyiv alleyway walks past a poster proclaiming, “Glory to the Communist Party!”
Needless to say, conditions for street photography were not ideal in the somewhat paranoid milieu of the U.S.S.R., which is probably why Ranchukov relied mainly on the Soviet-era Kiev 4 camerafor most of his city shots. According to Lyapin, this “quiet but very accurate” device meant that Ranchukov was often able to photograph people without being noticed, thus ensuring a natural, realistic depiction of Soviet streets.
In addition to capturing what one critic has called the “gloomy dignity” of Soviet life, Ranchukov was also on hand to record the dramatic changes that occurred on the streets of Kyiv as the Soviet system rapidly collapsed. Indeed, his shots showing the advent of capitalism in his native city rank among his most striking images.
Curious residents inspect an American automobile on the streets of Kyiv.
A man in Kyiv reacts as people line up outside a shop selling American jeans.
Not surprisingly, for most of his career, there wasn’t much official appetite for Ranchukov’s warts-and-all approach to street photography and it wasn’t until the latter days of perestroika that he and other like-minded photographers were allowed to exhibit their depictions of city streets.
Nonetheless, even in such relatively relaxed times, these photographs’ unflinching look at Soviet life caused consternation among the authorities, and one of their first exhibitions in Kyiv was shut down after just one day by scandalized KGB and Communist Party apparatchiks.
Oleksandr Ranchukov (1943-2019)
Although these images didn’t go down well with Soviet bureaucrats, they obviously struck a chord with ordinary Kyiv residents, and crowds of people lined up to see them when the exhibition reopened at another location sometime later.
One of those who visited the Ranchukov exhibition in 1989 was a Canadian exchange student named Chrystia Freeland, who later became a prominent journalist and politician and is now her country’s deputy prime minister.
Describing Ranchukov as a “brilliant and prolific documentary photographer,” Freeland was instrumental in getting his images and those of some of his peers to the editors of The Independent newspaper in London, who “were hugely impressed by his work, and promptly published it.”
People form a line to buy herring in Kyiv.
“I was deeply moved by his ability to reveal the reality of life in Ukraine — the country’s people, places, and streets,” she told RFE/RL in an e-mail. “In capturing a key moment in Ukrainian history, often at personal risk, Oleksandr laid the groundwork for future Ukrainian photographers and artists to bring their work to the world stage. “
Unlike his architecture photography, Oleksandr Ranchukov’s portraits of Soviet street life have never been published in book form. You can view other Ranchukov images and find out more about his life and work here.
The first Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was founded in the areas of Fontana and San Bernardino, California in 1948. From there, the club grew exponentially, becoming one of the largest in the world. The club has since earned a reputation in media and popular culture, thanks to a number of high-profile raids and wars on its various national charters, and in no small part to Gimme Shelter, a 1970 documentary about a riot during a Rolling Stones concert. The Stones’ management allegedly paid the Hell’s Angels to provide security at the concert and paid them in beer, which was a terrible idea. As a banner once read on the club’s website, “when we do right, no one remembers; when we do wrong, no one forgets.”
What the motorcycle club never forgets is its own heritage. While mainstream media gave the club a creation myth involving drunken, misfit airmen who flew bomber missions in World War II and struggled to adapt to life after the war, the real story is much simpler.
The fake story starts with a WWII Army Air Forces unit in Europe during WWII, the 303rd Bombardment Group. The 303rd was not a misfit group, as popular lore has implied, but rather one of the highest performers in the entire air war. In its official history, the motorcycle club tells the story of the B-17 the 303rd named “Hell’s Angels,” and its commander, the capable (and not drunken) Capt. Irl E. Baldwin. Why? To make sure the world knows this aircrew wasn’t a band of drunken misfits, but instead were heroes of the war in Europe. The aircrew has nothing to do with the motorcycle club. The Angels just care that the memory of the crew isn’t dragged through the mud. (They care too much, right? That’s always been a fault of the Hell’s Angels.)
This B-17F, tail number 41-24577, was named Hell’s Angels after the Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots. The bomber would fly with several commanders and numerous crewmen over 15 months and was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in Eighth Air Force.
The 303rd’s story starts with naming their B-17 “Hell’s Angels” after the 1930 movie by famed aviator Howard Hughes. The plane was the first 8th Air Force B-17 to complete 25 combat sorties in the European Theater. It even participated in one of the first strikes on Berlin 1944. Two of the plane’s crewmen would earn the Medal of Honor. Another four would ear the Distinguished Service Cross. Fifty years later, the entire 303rd would vote to change its name to the Hell’s Angels, with “Might in Flight” as its motto. That name is the only common thread between the bikers and the airmen of the 303rd.
So where did the name Hell’s Angels really come from? The motorcycle club’s official history says it comes from a World War II veteran from the All-Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as “the Flying Tigers.” This Flying Tiger, named Arvid Olson, was a close friend of the founders of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club after the war, but never even tried to become a member.
The Flying Tigers were an all-volunteer group of airmen and maintainers in service to the Chinese Air Force who fought the Japanese Imperial Air Forces in China, preparing for combat even before the U.S. entered World War II. The unit’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron, comprised entirely of Marine Corps aviators, called themselves the Hell’s Angels. They first saw combat against Japan days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the life of the unit, the Flying Tigers would down almost 300 Japanese aircraft in combat between December 20, 1941 and July 4, 1942.
The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club’s copyrighted “Death’s Head” logo (below, left) can even be traced back to two U.S. Army Air Corps patches, from the 85th Fighter Squadron (center) and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron (right).
Over the course of four weeks in June, I flew seven flights on the largest airlines in the US including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
After on flight on Delta, two flights on American, two flights on United, and two flights on Southwest, I’ve been adequately reacquainted with flying having been grounded since February.
The experiences have been unlike anything I’ve seen before in a lifetime of flying with each airline having its own, unique way of handling the pandemic. No two airlines have been exactly alike on any of my journeys and seemingly ever-changing policies are creating confusion for passengers.
Social distancing, for example, has different definitions depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines have chosen to block middle seats and limit capacity in an effort to achieve social distancing while others have given up entirely or only give the appearance of social distancing.
Here’s what you can expect on each airline.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Starting July 1, American began filling its flights to capacity and not blocking any middle seats. If a passenger is on a crowded flight, there is an option to change flights free of charge to an alternate flight, if there is one available.
Middle seats can be selected in advance and passengers flying in basic economy may be automatically assigned a middle seat, even if other aisle or window seats are available. Only check-in or gate agents typically have the power to change seat assignments if a passenger isn’t happy with their seat location.
American has not stated what factors determine whether the option to change flights is offered. The airline has been operating a reduced flying schedule so alternate flights have not always been available for passengers but an airline spokesperson told Business Insider that more flights being flown starting July 7 should give passengers more options.
American operates a normal boarding process and passengers still board in their assigned groups, which vary based on seat location, fare type, and elite status. First class still boards first and basic economy boards last, regardless of seat location.
This results in economy passengers in the back of the plane walking through an entire aircraft of people before arriving at their seat.
Signage at the gate informs passengers that masks are required and that the airline has adopted new cleaning standards but does not go into detail.
Onboard the aircraft
American is limiting the in-flight service depending on the duration of the flight. Flights under 2,200 miles will no longer have a snack or drink service with non-alcoholic canned or bottled beverages being served on request in economy.
Flights greater than 2,200 miles will see a beverage service but no snack service in economy. The airline will also not distribute wipes or hand sanitizer kits to passengers upon boarding or as part of the in-flight service.
Flight attendants on American are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Delta Air Lines
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its flights until September 30. Passengers who still do not wish to travel on a crowded flight even with the capacity restriction will have the option to request a free rebooking to a later flight, a Delta spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.
Delta is boarding its aircraft back to front with passengers being asked to remain seated until their row is called. Elite status holders and first class flyers can still board first.
Signage at the gate area informs passengers that aircraft are being “sanitized and inspected,” asks passengers to social distance, and reminds passengers that face coverings are required onboard the aircraft.
The airline has also installed placards both on the floor and in jetways at hub and outstation airports reminding passengers to social distance. In its Atlanta hub, Delta employees were distributing hand sanitizer to passengers of all airlines after the security checkpoint.
The traditional in-flight snack and beverage service has been replaced by flight attendants distributing a sealed bag containing snacks, a water bottle, and sanitary products.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
United is not blocking middle seats but won’t assign them until there are no more aisle or window seats to assign. Passengers on flights with greater than 70% capacity will have the option to change their flight for free but as United’s flying schedule has been reduced due to the pandemic, options are limited.
United is boarding its aircraft back to front with first class passengers and elites still boarding first. Economy passengers are boarded from the last row forward in groups of five rows.
Gate agents are asking passengers to scan their own boarding passes when they board to reduce interactions between staff and passengers. Every passenger is given a sanitary wipe when they step on the plane that can be used to clean the seat.
Signage at the gate area informs United passengers of the sanitary measures the airline is taking including requiring face masks to be worn and the new fogging procedures. The displays, however, were inconsistent and were only prominent at United’s hubs and not outstations.
United has suspended the in-flight snack and beverage service for shorter flights in economy, including those less than two hours and 20 minutes. Passengers can, however, request beverages from the flight attendant.
On flights longer than two hours and 20 minutes, passengers in economy will receive a snack bag that includes a sanitary wipe, water bottle, stroopwafel snack, and package of pretzels.
Flight attendants on United are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight change
Southwest is limiting capacity by around one-third so that there is only a maximum of two people in each row, with exceptions for family. The airline does not assign seats in advance.
Southwest is boarding its aircraft in groups of 10 based on a boarding number given at check-in. The system is similar to the airline’s current procedure except only 10 passengers line up and board at a time instead of 30.
Some airports were not following the rule of 10 procedure, as I found on a recent Southwest flight, and passengers who boarded first chose to sit in the front of the plane. As Southwest allows for open seating, this meant passengers boarding last would have to walk passed crowded rows of people.
There is some signage at the gate asking passengers to social distance and informing them of the new boarding procedure but no visuals or anything pertaining to the airline’s new cleaning procedure.
Southwest is suspending the in-flight service on flights under 250 miles. Passengers on flights over that threshold will receive a cup of ice water and a snack bag served by flight attendants.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Delta Air Lines is the clear winner here as nearly every aspect of a flight has been revised to become more passenger-friendly during this pandemic while not compromising too much on service. From placards and informational signage in the gate area to blocking middle seats and maintaining an in-flight service, albeit limited, Delta is leading the way in multiple aspects.
Southwest Airlines comes in a close second with the low-cost airline earning its reputation for good customer service even more so during this crisis. The only downsides were the boarding process, the lack of informational signage at the gate area that I found on most other airlines, and a lack of consistency in staff following the new procedures.
United Airlines is the second-runner up mainly because I found its policies to be more empty gestures than actually helpful. The airline is offering free flight changes despite having few back-up options and restricting the advance selection of middle seats rather than blocking them but are still allowing flights to fill up,
United did have some positives in that it revised its boarding procedure and offered sanitary wipes upon boarding but I did find a lack of consistency in informational signage at different airports. Flights on United were boring, above all, as the in-flight service was also suspended.
American Airlines was the least passenger-friendly airline I found on my travels with a complete lack of social distancing policies and abandonment of in-flight service on most of its domestic flights. It’s largely business as usual when flying on American as if there is no pandemic occurring, with the airline happy to assign middle seats to basic economy passengers when entire empty rows are available and keep the standard boarding procedure.
I will say, however, that all aircraft I flew on from all airlines were clean and I was never worried I was getting on a dirty aircraft.
To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.
If standards are not met within six months, a soldier could face separation.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Nov. 15, 2018, in a media briefing at the Pentagon.
The number of soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October 2018 alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.
Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.
The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis February 2018 to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.
The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.
Deployers from Headquarters Company, 89th Military Police Brigade, unload their equipment into their temporary lodging quarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, Oct. 29, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Minor)
“The culture change is particularly important,” Calloway said. “We’re not only defining the deployability and the directive, it’s the first time we’ve ever put on paper what constitutes deployability.”
The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable soldiers on a case-by-case basis.
“The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership,” said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:
legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;
able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;
able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;
able to execute the Army’s warrior tasks;
able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.
Finally, soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.
Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.
Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.
Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a soldier’s chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.
Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.
To help soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured soldiers beginning in basic training.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.
“You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables],” Calloway said. “But the goal is … to get it as low as possible.”
In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.
In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.
“It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable,” she said.
Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is currently on an official visit to Russia, where he will tour several military facilities and discuss defense deals worth over $10 billion, according to Russian and Indian media.
One of the topics of conversation will be the T-14 Armata battle tank and other platforms part of the Armata universal chassis system, according to The Diplomat, which cited Indian defense sources.
At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.
“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.
Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.
Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:
12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.
11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”
10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.
9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.
8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”
7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”
6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.
5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.
4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.
3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.
2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.
1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.