Shortly after the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, New York Gov. George E. Pataki wrote a letter to the Navy requesting to bestow the name “New York” on a warship in honor of the victims.
During the naming ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan, Pataki said, “USS New York will ensure that all New Yorkers and the world will never forget the evil attacks of September 11, and the courage and compassion New Yorkers showed in response to terror,” according to the Navy.
On March 1, 2008, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and his wife Dotty England christened the USS New York (LPD-21) at Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.
The ship’s hull was forged with 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.
“The significance of where the WTC steel is located on the 684-foot-long ship symbolizes the strength and resiliency of the citizens of New York as it sails forward around the world,” Navy program manager Cmdr. Quentin King said. “It sends a message of America becoming stronger as a result, coming together as a country and ready to move forward as we make our way through the world.”
Today, the USS New York (LPD-21) is one of the most state-of-the-art amphibious warships in the Navy’s fleet, designed to deliver Marine landing forces stealthily and swiftly anywhere in the world. It is manned by a crew of 360 sailors and three permanently assigned Marines. Her motto is “Strength Forged Through Sacrifice – Never Forget.”
“Most of the world thinks about September 11 just once a year, we carry that responsibility forward,” said Master Chief Perez in this U.S. Navy video:
While the world is sorting out the new normal of social distancing, parents everywhere are also trying to do it with full-time jobs, and in many cases, no child care. For the first time in most of our lifetimes, schools have been shut down for extended periods, and no one really knows when it will end. Moms and dads are suddenly finding themselves wearing far too many hats: parent, employee, caregiver and teacher are just naming a few.
Stuck at home with canceled spring break plans, and summer vacations next on the chopping block, things might be looking pretty grim right now. No doubt, parents find themselves constantly looking for ways to entertain their kids 24/7, and with the quarantine well underway, many are at a loss for resources.
With everyone doing their part to curb the spread of Coronavirus, the usual haunts for children’s entertainment are now closed to the public. In their attempt to comply with social distancing directives, museums, zoos and amusement parks the world over have announced temporary closures; when they will reopen is anyone’s guess.
While these places have physically closed their doors, many have realized that the need for children’s entertainment is at an all-time high, and many have stepped up to offer just that. Parents can also find a wealth of resources for educational entertainment through Google Arts Culture, some of which are linked below as well.
While these resources are being shared all over the internet, finding the time to make heads or tails of them is another story.
We know parents, we know. Help is on the way.
Here’s a comprehensive list of some great virtual tours, zoo cams, and STEM activities (and we even threw in some doodling and celebrity readings), and it’s all free!
Cincinnati Zoo Botanical Garden Every weekday at 3 PM EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo will host a Home Safari Facebook Live that features a different animal each day. For those who don’t have social media, the zoo will post the safaris on both their website and YouTube.
The Smithsonian Museum offers virtual tours of their current and permanent exhibits, and viewers can even take a look at a few of the past exhibits. Users can easily navigate between adjoining rooms of the museum and click on the camera icons for a closer look.
Josh Gad is even doing his part to help parents deal with life in quarantine. Every night on Twitter, Josh Gad is doing ten-minute storytime. Josh has already read a few children’s classics like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein and Hooray for Diffendoofer Da by Dr. Seuss. And it looks like he plans to do so for the foreseeable future. This one is not to miss, as he puts a little Josh Gad into it with voices and everything!
How About a Lunch Doodle? Mo Willems, beloved author of Waiting Is Not Easy! and The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! is hosting a Livestream Lunch Doodle. Every day at 1 PM EST, new episodes will be posted on the Mo Willems page on the Kennedy Center’s Website. Additionally, Willem is encouraging kids to send him questions at LUNCHDOODLES@kennedy-center.org, and he will attempt to answer those questions in his videos.
We all have to do our part to stem the outbreak of Coronavirus, but life in quarantine doesn’t have to be that bad. Every day, new resources are popping up to help us get through it. These virtual tours and online resources have a little something for kids of all ages. What a great opportunity to see the world from the comfort of your own couch!
Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.
One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.
We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.
You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.
1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.
Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.
2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.
Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.
3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann
After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.
The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.
One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.
This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.
5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.
6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee
I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.
This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.
I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.
8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.
It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.
I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.
This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.
I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.
During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.
“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”
Alcohol plays a prevalent role in many cultures, with many of us toasting to big life moments, enjoying happy hours with coworkers or friends, or simply indulging in a few drinks after a long, stressful day.
Of course, health experts have long cautioned against binge drinking, which roughly equates to consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in about two hours. If you’ve ever overindulged in your favorite drinks, you know that it typically doesn’t feel great the next day, and repeated alcohol abuse can impact your mental and physical health.
But research has also shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can actually be beneficial for your health in some surprising ways.
Here are some of the most interesting ways drinking in moderation can benefit you, so long as you consume it safely and responsibly.
1. Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a longer life.
It’s true that drinking to excess can lead to illness and disease, including several types of cancer, brain damage, and liver damage, and it can even shorten your life span. But drinking moderately might actually help you live longer, according to a 2014 study conducted by three universities in Spain.
Researchers followed a small group of Spanish participants over the course of 12 years and found that those who who drank “low amounts of wine spread out over the week” but avoided binge drinking showed a 25% reduced risk of mortality.
Another study from 2017 followed approximately 333,000 adults who drink alcohol and found that those who kept their drinking habits in moderation saw a 21% lower risk of mortality than participants who never drank.
Similarly, a 2018 study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, has found that people who drink in moderation may be less likely to die early than those who stay away from booze altogether.
A 2006 study found that light to moderate alcohol consumption “is associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke,” as well as a reduction in vascular risk in middle-aged people in particular.
A 1999 study found that “moderate drinkers are at lower risk for the most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease than are either heavier drinkers or abstainers,” due to the “protective effects” of alcohol on the heart linked to blood chemistry and “the prevention of clot formation in arteries that deliver blood to the heart muscle,” leading to a lower risk of coronary disease.
Another study completed between 1980 and 1988 found that the risk of coronary disease and stroke in women was particularly low in those that reported moderate alcohol use among a sample of 87,526 female nurses between the ages of 34 and 59.
Though these findings are promising for those who already have a healthy relationship with alcohol, it’s also important to note that adopting overall healthy lifestyle habits is the surest way to protect your heart.
3. You might have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
A 2005 analysis published in the journal Diabetes Care noted a “highly significant” reduced risk of type 2 diabetes among moderate alcohol drinkers than heavy drinkers and abstainers, compiling data from 15 different studies, linking healthy lifestyle habits with those who report moderate alcohol use.
“As it stands, we are expecting to see a 37% influx in type 2 diabetes cases around the world by 2030, and though studies have shown no abatement in the risk of type 2 diabetes in those who already drink heavily in their day-to-day lives, there is a notable 30% reduced risk in those that drink in moderation,” cardiologist Robert Segal told Insider.
4. Moderate drinking might help with male fertility.
A 2018 study conducted by an Italian fertility clinic and published in the journal Andrology showed that male fertility was highest among participants who consumed four to seven drinks per week compared to those that drank between one and three alcoholic beverages or more than eight.
The sample size was 323 men, so it was a relatively small pool, but it seems to be another reason to stick to a drink per day or so if you’re hoping for optimal fertility.
5. Drinking in moderation can help prevent the common cold.
Though too much alcohol can worsen cold symptoms by dehydrating you and potentially interacting with cold medicines, it seems that moderate drinking can help prevent you from catching a cold in the first place.
In a 1993 study by the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption led to a decrease in common cold cases among people who don’t smoke. In 2002, according to the New York Times, Spanish researchers found that by drinking eight to 14 glasses of wine per week (particularly red wine), those who imbibed saw a 60% reduction in the risk of developing a cold, with the scientists crediting the antioxidants found in wine.
“Wine is rich in antioxidants, and these chemicals help prepare your body to combat any free radicals in your system by allowing your body to absorb resveratrol, a key compound that helps keep your immune system in top form,” Segal told Insider. “Regardless of healthy or unhealthy drinking habits, smokers should expect to confront the common cold more easily and with more frequency than those who abstain from nicotine consumption.”
In a series of studies published by the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment in 2011 that began in 1977 and included more than 365,000 participants, researchers found that moderate drinkers (those who drank one or two drinks per day) were 23% less likely to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Science Daily reported.
“Small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia,” said Edward J. Neafsey, co-author of the study, told Science Daily. “We don’t recommend that nondrinkers start drinking, but moderate drinking — if it is truly moderate — can be beneficial.”
7. There might also be a reduced risk of gallstones.
Capping your drinks to two per day might reduce your risk of gallstones by one-third, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. The 2009 study found that participants who reported consuming two drinks per day had a one-third reduction in their risk of developing gallstones.
“Researchers emphasized that their findings show the benefits of moderate alcohol intake but stress that excessive alcohol intake can cause health problems,” according to a press release.
The finding was further supported by a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Qingdao University in Qingdao, China, who found “alcohol consumption is associated with significantly decreased risk of gallstone disease.”
As for how this happens, Segal told Insider that “consuming moderate amounts of alcohol does help in the production of bile, which keeps gallstones from fully forming.”
8. Postmenopausal women might experience bone health benefits from moderate alcohol use.
People lose bone mass or density naturally as they age, which can lead to osteoporosis, a disorder in which the bones become fragile or weakened. This is particularly common in postmenopausal women, who are more susceptible to bone disorders due to their naturally smaller bones and hormone changes after menopause.
But a 2012 study published in the Journal of The North American Menopause Society showed that moderate alcohol intake can actually slow down bone loss in women after menopause, potentially leading to a lower risk of developing bone disorders like osteoporosis.
9. You might also be less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2010 study published in the journal Rheumatology showed that people who don’t drink are almost four times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than those who have at least one drink three times per week.
Researchers said that’s likely due to alcohol’s anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent joints from aching and swelling if drinking is in moderation.
Researchers also found that people with arthritis who drink alcohol in moderation have less severe symptoms, though they noted that heavy drinking can be damaging to those who already suffer from arthritis, as it can exacerbate symptoms and interact with medications.
Meanwhile, wine has iron in it, as well as the aforementioned antioxidant properties.
Of course, a pint of beer shouldn’t take the place of your daily multivitamin, but the occasional drink can be part of an overall balanced diet and lifestyle without impacting your health in a negative way.
One study found that those who consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol reported an increase in happiness and “pleasant and carefree feelings.” Researchers also found a decrease in “tension, depression and self-consciousness,” saying that “heavy drinkers and abstainers have higher rates of clinical depression than do regular moderate drinkers.”
Though your mental and physical health with respect to alcohol is best discussed with your doctor, the connection between heavy alcohol use and depression is well known, and should not be taken lightly.
If you’re able to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and not rely on it as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression, you might find a healthy balance between moderate drinking and your mental health. Check in with your doctor to ensure that alcohol is playing a safe and responsible role in your lifestyle.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Do you know someone who is going to Marine boot camp or who is already at boot camp? If so then your recruit is officially beginning their journey to becoming a United States Marine! Over the next 12 weeks, your recruit will be pushed beyond their limits and if successful be made into a Marine. Through this transformation, your recruit will need your support and motivation to help them succeed. Here is all you need to know about sending Letters to Marine boot camp.
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company” Platoon #### ##### Midway Avenue San Diego CA 92140-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 38001 Midway Avenue San Diego, CA. 92140-5670
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company Name” Platoon #### PO Box ##### Parris Island, SC 29905-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 PO Box 16945 Parris Island, SC 29905-6945
What should I write in my Letters to Marine boot camp?
Over the next thirteen weeks recruits will be pushed beyond their limits and, if successful, transition into a United Staes Marine.
Mental and physical exhaustion will become a norm as the loved one you said goodbye to is transformed into a completely new person.
Mail call will be the most anticipated time of the day, and your recruit will enjoy receiving a lot of mail from your over the course of the next three months.
In case you ever face writer’s block, we’ve come up with some questions to ask your recruit when writing Letters to Marine boot camp.
1. What were your first thoughts when you got off of the bus and stepped onto the yellow footprints?
2. What time do your mornings start?
3. How delicious is the chow?
4. What has been the worst thing about boot camp?
5. If you could describe boot camp in one word what would it be?
6. How many recruits are in your platoon?
7. What’s the name of one friend you’ve made, where are they from?
8. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much fun are pugil stick battles?
9. What is one thing your platoon gets yelled at for the most?
10. What time do you normally get to sleep?
11. Have you been given a nickname?
12. Is there anyone in your platoon not receiving mail that I can write to?
13. Has it been hard to keep your rack area clean and in tip top shape?
14. What have you liked best about boot camp?
15. How hard is it to keep your M-16 clean?
16. How fast can you take your M-16 and put it back together?
17. What has been the funniest thing your DI has said this week?
18. What’s the best advice you have received at boot camp?
19. What was going through your head when you jumped off of the repel tower?
20. What is the dumbest thing you have seen or heard another recruit do?
21. Has boot camp been what you expected it to be?
22. What is your wish list of bases you would like to be stationed at?
23. What’s the first thing you want to do after graduation?
24. What homemade/fast food meal do you miss the most?
Your Letters to your recruit don’t need to be long and they don’t need to be fancy. What’s important is that you’re sending mail to support them through this journey.
Sending Letters via the Sandboxx app, will get your message and photos into your recruit’s hands within a couple of days (we overnight your Letters directly to the ship). We also include a return envelope with every Sandboxx Letter so your loved one can write you back!
Ready to send your first Letter to Marine boot camp?
Send your first letter to Marine boot camp with the Sandboxx app, write your message, include a photo and hit send.
Save and attach our week one image below to give your recruit motivation for their first week at Marine boot camp.
Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”
Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)
But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.
Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.
“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”
Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”
“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)
Improving the Squad
Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”
To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.
“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.
The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”
Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”
Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”
L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.
“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”
Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.
“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.
It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”
The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.
“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.
(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)
No Budget, But Deep Pockets
Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.
Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.
But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.
The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”
“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”
The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.
“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”
The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.
“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.
Endorsing Futuristic Kit
One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.
“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”
The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.
The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.
The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.
The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.
“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)
The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.
“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”
The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.
“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.
“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.
“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.
“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Army has been tossing around the idea of adding another uniform to their wardrobe for a while now. During last year’s Army-Navy game, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wore an updated version of the classic, WWII-era “Pinks and Greens,” which had many people predicting the iconic uniform would be making a comeback. Well, now it’s official.
The Army announced the upcoming addition of new Army Greens on November 11th and with it comes a whole slew of information that soldiers need to know.
Say what you will about the garrison cap, but it does bring back a bit of style back to the uniform.
First and foremost, they’re not called “Pinks and Greens” like the old WWII-era uniforms. These are called, simply, “Army Greens.” It seems like someone finally got around to realizing that the beige-colored shirt and pants aren’t actually pink.
While the Dress Blues will still act as a soldier’s dress uniform and the OCPs will still be used in the field or deployment, the Greens will be worn during duty hours while the soldier is stationed in garrison stateside or outside the continental US, like in Germany or South Korea.
Get ready for uniform inspections on a near daily basis everyone…
The biggest concern that a lot of soldiers have about the new uniform change is the price — which is entirely understandable. The Army has said that the change in uniform is “cost-neutral” and won’t be coming out of tax payers’ pockets.
That being said, enlisted soldiers will need to buy them using their annual clothing allowance. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey told the Army Times in September that they are doing everything in their power to keep the costs low. Even still, it’s going to cost a bit for the average Joe.
Since it’s a duty uniform, the average soldier will need at least three sets to make it through the week before doing laundry. It will also require that soldiers spend more time preparing their uniforms for the next day, setting their ribbon racks right, shining their shoes, and keeping everything ironed. This could also off-set “hip pocket training” from being more sporadic as leaders would be less willing to mess up perfectly good uniforms.
Take that as you will.
I speak for all Army veterans when I say “F*ck yes!” to that jacket.
Costs and effort aside, there are a lot of positives coming with this change.
First off, the slight variations in the uniform seem poised to revive a strong sense of pride in the Army. It hasn’t been officially mentioned yet, but it seems as though airborne and Rangers will still wear their berets instead of the garrison cap. Units authorized to wear jump boots will wear those in lieu of the brown leather oxfords. The Greens also allow for more choices for female soldiers, as they can choose between pants or a skirt and pumps or flats.
Also, the new Greens will supposedly feature an “Ike-style” bomber jacket that goes over the Greens — and that’s badass.
New soldiers will receive Greens in basic training by summer 2020 and it’ll be entirely mandatory, service-wide, by 2028.
As with most uniform changes, it’ll probably look better on the soldiers that take the initiative and start buying them as soon as they hit the PX in summer 2020.
Despite a visibly less dominant string of qualifying matches and a questionable performance early in the group stage, as the reigning World Cup champions, when it came to the 2018 tournament, Germany could not be written off by any means. When you think about it, after handing Brazil a sound 7-1 whooping in the semi-finals in 2014, how could one even imagine that they wouldn’t even make it out of the group stage this year? Well, after a stunning 2-0 loss to South Korea — of all the teams — Germany is going home and the internet is going nuts.
For starters, Fox Sports Brazil’s reaction is both petty and priceless. Still, that 7-1 L Brazil took in 2014 is by no means better than going out in the first round. It’s better to go out early than be a world-renowned team that chokes and gets smashed in the semi-finals, especially considering the fact that Brazil had beaten Germany when it really really mattered so many times in the past, but I’m digressing here.
The American Outlaws, a band of next-generation US Soccer fans are actually offering Germany a seat on the couch of embarrassingly crippling defeat.
Maybe Americans were just generally elated that someone else besides them blew it when they didn’t have to?
Speaking of couches.
But, South Korea still isn’t even that good!
When you think about it, Germany deserved this, they just didn’t seem to play that hard.
The fans are pissed.
The fans are shocked.
But, it’s been a weird week in general anyway.
Meanwhile, everyone who stood to benefit from their elimination *cough cough* England and Mexico, are turning all the way up right now.
Still, it’s not like Germany’s exit is unfounded. This is the third World Cup in which the reigning champs have gone out in the first round. Italy did it in 2010 and Spain did it in 2014. Plus their exit gives less experienced but talented teams like Mexico and South Korea a chance to prove themselves in the round of 16 and that’s something to be excited about.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.
Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.
To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.
“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”
Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.
These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.
An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Have a presleep game plan.
“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”
During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.
Definitely: turn off your electronics.
TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”
La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.
We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.
In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.
“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”
Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.
Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.
The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Sleep when you can.
One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.
A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.
“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”
Just think of it as a lull in combat.
Set yourself up for nighttime right.
(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)
Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.
“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.
He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.
“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.
Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.
(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)
Put away that phone. Seriously.
It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.
“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.
Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Sleep can be a team sport.
An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.
“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”
“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Confederate flag’s dark and nuanced history has long made the rebel banner an uncomfortable topic of conversation. In the minds of many Americans, it is a symbol of slavery and institutionalized racism – an emblem on par with the Nazi swastika. For others, it’s simply an expression of regional pride.
However, after the racially-motivated church slayings in South Carolina last week – committed by a man who was a proud flyer of the stars and bars – state governments have begun to remove the Confederate flag from their federal buildings. The United States military, on the other hand, has yet to address the issue officially.
South Carolina’s Army Guard still flies 16 streamers that were created under the Confederacy, and servicemen and women are allowed to sport the Confederate flag on clothing and tattoos — something the Defense Department does not consider offensive material. Still, some military officials have decided to retire the flag after the shootings, including The Citadel, South Carolina’s famous military academy, which removed the Confederate Naval Jack from its chapel.
Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of the U.S. Army, spoke to the The Military Times about the rebel flag’s importance within the American military:
“I think that, when you are a student of military history, let’s face it: One of our greatest military generals in the history of our nation was Robert E. Lee,” Allyn said, referring to the legendary Confederate commander.
At Army posts throughout the country, there are “thousands of battle pictorials of Grant and Lee going up against each other with their requisite flags,” he added, noting Lee’s Union counterpart, Gen. Ulysses Grant, who later became America’s 18th president. “So yes, you will find those resident. And if those are offensive to people, I’m sure that our commanders will deal with that.”
“We swear our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” Allyn said, “… and we will protect and defend that flag.”
When the Red Army crossed the border into Finland in 1939, along with them came a battalion of remote-controlled tanks, controlled by another tank some 1000 meters behind them. Along with the usual heavy armaments, the tank drones shot fire from flamethrowers, smoke grenades, and some were even dropping ticking time bombs, just waiting to get close to their target.
It’s a surprising technological feat for a country that had only just recently undergone a wave of modernization.
The Soviets had this remote technology in its pocket for a decade, having first tested the tanks on a Soviet T-18 in the early 1930s. While the earliest models were controlled with a very long wire, the USSR was soon able to upgrade to a more combat-friendly radio remote. By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army had two battalions of the drones, which it called teletanks. At this time, the teletank technology was in Soviet T-26 tanks, called the Titan TT-26, and there was a big list of tanks, ships, and aircraft on which the Soviets wanted to equip with tele-tech.
Unfortunately, the TT-26 wasn’t able to fully participate in the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War. In the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s Luftwaffe was able to destroy the vast majority of the Red Army’s TT-26 teletanks. In the months that followed, it proved to be more economical and timely to produce a regular version of the T-26 and man them with human crews.
T-20 Komsomolets Teletanks
It would have been unlikely that the teletank technology would have made the difference on the Eastern Front of World War II anyway. They were notoriously unreliable in unfamiliar terrain and were easily stopped by tank spikes. If a teletank managed to outpace the range of its controller, it simply stopped and did nothing. The Soviets mitigated this by mining the hatches of the tanks, but an inoperative tank is still not very useful to the Allied cause.
Eventually, the USSR’s remaining teletanks were converted to conventional tanks in order to join the fight against the Nazis. Perhaps the emerging technology of the time was an interesting aside for military planners before the war, but the fun and games must stop when you have to start fighting for survival.
On Dec. 8, 2018, cadets from the Military Academy will take to the field to defend its current winning streak against the Naval Academy midshipmen in the 119th annual Army-Navy football game.
“America’s game” is no typical rivalry. Cadets and midshipmen, including the players on the field, endure rigorous challenges that extend far beyond the classroom.
Which of these prestigious institutions outperforms the other is an enduring debate. To settle the question, we compared the academies in terms of academics, the “plebe” experience, location, career options and football statistics — read through to find out which of these rivals has the edge.
Full disclosure: The author of this post graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2010. This comparison is based on totally objective analysis, but you can weigh in with your perspective at the links on her author bio.
The US Naval Academy’s sprawling campus, known to midshipmen as ‘the yard,’ is located in Annapolis, Maryland.
(US Naval Academy Flickr photo)
LOCATION: The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is nestled in an idyllic location on the Chesapeake Bay.
Annapolis, the “sailing capital of the world,” is just outside the Naval Academy gates. Midshipmen are part of life in the picturesque town.
The correct term for students at the Naval Academy is “midshipmen,” not cadets like their counterparts at West Point.
The US Military Academy in West Point, New York.
(US Military Academy Flickr photo)
Army’s West Point is a bit more isolated, and located on the western bank of the Hudson River.
Cadets have to travel much farther to experience the joys of time-off in a city.
On the rare occasion they get to experience extracurricular activities, midshipmen have an abundance of options in closer proximity.
In terms of location, the Naval Academy takes the trophy.
Midshipmen toss their midshipmen covers at the end of their class graduation in May 2018.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kaitlin Rowell)
ACADEMICS: US News ranks the Naval Academy as the #2 Public School for an undergraduate degree.
The student-faculty ratio is 8:1 at Annapolis, and about 75% of classes there have fewer than 20 students, according to US News.
Cadets enter Michie Stadium for their graduation ceremony at West Point. 936 cadets walked across the stage in May 2017 to join the Long Gray Line, as West Point’s graduates are known.
(US Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)
West Point is ranked at #1
At West Point, the student-faculty ratio is 7:1, and about 97% of classes have fewer than 20 students. West Point also offers 37 majors, compared to the 26 offered at the Naval Academy.
Based on self-reported data compiled by US News, West Point has an edge over Navy in academics.
A new cadet reports for ‘Reception Day’ in summer 2016. Cadets must endure a difficult 7-week training regimen before being accepted into the Corps of Cadets at the beginning of the academic year.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vito Bryant)
MILITARY TRAINING: Academics are only part of the curriculum at these federally-funded academies. Students begin with tough summer training to kick off their military careers.
These training regimens are generally comparable to basic training for officers and enlisted, and provoke a lot of debate about whether they’re easier than what other officers must go through.
Plebes must endure difficult challenges during their first summer at the Naval Academy.
(US Navy photo by Seaman Danian Douglas)
At the Naval Academy, “plebe summer” involves rigorous physical activities, including PT in the surf.
At both academies, freshmen are referred to as “plebes” to indicate their lesser status. These students are also known as midshipmen fourth-class; first classes are seniors.
Cadets from the class of 2022 ‘ring the bell’ at the end of their March Back, marking the culmination of Cadet Basic Training.
(US Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)
At the end of their first summer, cadets conduct a 12-mile ‘March Back’ to West Point from Camp Buckner before being formally accepted into the Corps of Cadets.
The initial summer training at both institutions are physically and mentally challenging. In terms of difficulty, the two stand on even ground.
But Naval Academy midshipmen have to endure one more week than their cadet brothers and sisters, so we have to give the edge to Navy’s plebe summer.
(When the last real plebe summer took place remains an open debate among graduates).
30 cadets ended up injured during the pillow fight in 2015.
(CBS / Screenshot from Youtube)
At West Point, plebes celebrate the end of their difficult summer with a giant pillow fight.
In 2015, cadets took the fight to the next level, and The New York Times reported 24 freshmen got concussions from the bloody brawl.
Navy doesn’t have a pillow fight, and it’s unclear whether that should count as a win or a loss.
Midshipmen run across the Naval Academy bridge during the Sea Trials event at the U.S. Naval Academy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan L. Correa)
CULMINATION OF TRAINING: Midshipmen must endure a rigorous 14-hour set of physical and mental challenges known as “Sea Trials” at the end of their freshman year.
Cadets do not have a “Sea Trials” equivalent.
Overall, the Naval Academy’s plebes face more hurdles than plebes at West Point — the scales therefore tip towards Annapolis for a more challenging regimen that they can, and will, brag about.
Naval Academy plebes climb Herndon monument.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brianna Jones)
The plebes then climb a monument called Herndon, which their upperclassmen have greased with tubs of lard, to replace the iconic ‘plebe’ dixie hat with an upper class cover.
The tradition is also a competition among classes — bragging rights belong to the class that can replace the cover in the shortest period of time.
Plebes climbing Herndon.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brianna Jones)
The tradition has seen various iterations throughout Naval Academy history, but can sometimes get ugly — and even bloody.
The Herndon climb is considered the final rite of passage for ‘plebes’ at the Naval Academy.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the USS George H.W. Bush on November 2, 2018 during a routine training exercise. Every year roughly 1,000 Navy and Marine officers are commissioned from the Naval Academy to join units like these around the world.
(US Navy photo by Seaman Kaleb Sarten)
CAREERS: Upon graduation, newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers ‘join the fleet.’
Marines will be selected for either an air or ground option. Once they graduate from a common officer training course, the officers will go on to receive specialized training in their fields, which include infantry, artillery, intelligence, aviation, and several more.
Navy officers are commissioned for roles in surface, subsurface, aviation and special operations communities. A handful will be selected as Navy SEALs. A select few may be accepted into medical school.
A new cadet shoots an M203 grenade launcher for the first time at West Point on July 31, 2018 during cadet basic training.
(US Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)
West Point commissions its cadets into one of over 17 branches of the Army when they graduate, sending them into careers ranging from artillery and infantry to intelligence and engineering.
While West Point has an impressive selection of career options, when considering both Navy and Marine Corps communities, Annapolis offers more options and therefore has an edge.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Stephenson)
ATHLETICS: On Dec. 8, 2018, the cadets and midshipmen will face off in the 119th Army-Navy football game.
In terms of their football team’s 2018 statistics, Army has the edge to beat Navy for the third year in a row.
West Point’s current record stands at 9-2, and holds a current 7-game winning streak this season.
Navy’s record is bleak: 3-9 this season overall.
A player from the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen football team is stopped inches from the goal line by a University of Virginia Cavaliers player at the 2017 Military Bowl.
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)
Overall, midshipmen have won the majority of Army-Navy games, in football and most other sports.
Historically, Navy is the better team. In football, and most other sports as well.
Navy holds 60 wins over Army, who has won only 51 games. (Seven games have ended in a tie).
Midshipmen also hold the longest streak — 14 wins between 2002 and 2015. The Army will have to defend its 2-year streak.
Though other sports are largely overlooked by the public, the Army-Navy rivalry extends well beyond the gridiron. The all-time Army-Navy competition record holds Navy as the better athletic program, with a 1071-812-43 win-loss-tie ratio.
For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.
In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.
Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.
“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”
Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.
Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.
The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.
“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.
Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.
American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?
The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.
Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.