The F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed to be a daytime air superiority fighter, but over the decades of its service life it has evolved into a all-weather multi-role attack platform. The first F-16 rolled off the manufacturing line in 1976, and ultimately over 4,500 aircraft followed it.
The Fighting Falcon (a.k.a. the “Viper” in aggressor squadron circles) remains technologically advanced and lethal throughout its full range of mission areas, which is remarkable considering the legendary Col. John Boyd and his “fighter mafia” first conceived of the airplane in the late ’60s.
Here are four design features that were years ahead of their time when they first hit the fleet and remain so today:
1. Fly-by-wire flight controls and side-stick controller
Unlike every airplane built before it, the F-16 was designed to be aerodynamically unstable until it reaches supersonic airspeeds. As a result there is no mechanical linkage between the stick and the moving parts of the airplane. A computer interface is required to interpret pilot inputs and move the flight controls accordingly, technology known as “fly-by-wire.” Because the F-16 is designed for high-G loading, the stick is mounted on the side of the cockpit instead of in the center to make it easier on the pilot’s right arm. It barely moves; full throw is only one-eighth of an inch.
2. Bubble canopy
The pilot sits up very high relative to the canopy rail in the F-16, giving him superior visibility in all quadrants, including at six o’clock. The bubble canopy is designed to enhance this feature, and new pilots talk about feeling like they’re going to fall out of the airplane at first. Unlike other fighters there is no canopy bow forward of the pilot, so the forward view is completely unobstructed. The net result is a fighter that gives pilots an advantage in the dogfighting arena where “lost sight means lost fight.”
3. Reclined ejection seat
Because the F-16 is designed to pull 9 Gs or more (compared to 6.5 for most other American fighters) the ejection seat is tilted 30 degrees back (compared to around 12 degrees other ejection seat aircraft) for superior G tolerance by the pilot. Pilots sit almost like their riding a reclining bicycle, with knees up high, which makes for a very comfortable ride while killing MiGs and other bad guys.
4. Multi-function displays
The F-16 was one of the first military aircraft with a “glass” cockpit instead of the legacy “steam gauges,” which allows a pilot to tailor his displays for a particular mission as well as personal preference. MFDs also allow software upgrades with very little trouble, which has helped to keep the Fighting Falcon relevant and in the fight for decades.
Capt. Josh Powers (far left) of the 101st Airborne Division gathers the males of the village for a shura in eastern Afghanistan.
COMBAT OUTPOST YOSEF KHEL – The brief was held in the early morning in front of battalion headquarters in the shadow of a Conex box. The mission was to get the governor of Paktika Province from the capital of Sharana to a shura – a traditional Afghan meeting of regional tribal elders with government officials – at the small town of Yahya Khel 25 miles to the south. Because of the threat of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs along the route, the men of the U.S. Army charged with getting the governor safely to the shura and back elected to use a convoy of four MRAPs.
Once off of the forward operating base and at Sharana’s town center the American convoy was joined by a handful of up-armored Humvees from the Afghan National Army and nearly a dozen armed pickup trucks from the Afghan Uniformed Police. The Afghan governor was placed in the second MRAP in the convoy along with the American battalion commander and his interpreter (known simply as “Chewy”).
As the convoy started its push out of Sharana, the battalion commander expressed concern to the governor that the sub-governor of Yahya Khel had heard about the shura from an unauthorized source, which in turn was an indicator of possible hostile activity along the route. The colonel’s concerns were somewhat mitigated by a stronger than usual presence of Afghan National Army troops along the roadway, and the convoy made it through the bottleneck hotspots without incident.
As the lead vehicles made it to the bazaar at Yahya Khel – the largest in the province – The colonel suggested to the governor that he lead the meeting that would take place before the shura, thereby furthering the impression that the governor was fully in charge. The governor agreed.
Once inside the confines of the combat outpost at Yahya Khel, the parties dismounted their vehicles. While the security forces set about bolstering the perimeter, the military and civilian officials made their way to the “pre-brief,” joining a handful of their peers who’d preceded them.
Inside the small room the participants sat on weathered chairs and rugs and pillows against the far wall. Sun-faded posters of Afghanistan and Harmed Karzai dotted the plaster walls. Several attendants dutifully poured milky tea into clear mugs as officials got into place.
The governor took the lead as the American colonel had suggested.
“Can somebody explain the situation to me?” he asked in Pasto. “How many of the enemy do we have?”
The sub-governor answered matter-of-factly: “The government cannot guarantee the security of the people against the Taliban.” With that, the discussion grew heated, with various officials either pointing fingers at other agencies or explaining that they couldn’t do their jobs because of improper resources. The sub-governor complained that the ANA didn’t listen to his needs. The Afghan Uniformed Police chief said one of the ANA generals told him he couldn’t have ammunition because the police force was “not for fighting.”
A U.S. Army company commander, the American military officer most keenly focused on the area around Yahya Khel, added his thoughts during a brief lull in the discussion: “The main problem is a population that is willing to work with the Taliban because many of the Taliban are from the area.” He also pointed to a lack of Afghan-generated intelligence fusion around Yahya Khel, which kept forces from seizing the initiative and proactively preventing attacks on the district center and surrounding areas.
After several displeased officials walked out in the middle of a discussion about cell phone tower security, the governor bemusedly declared the meeting over. The group shuffled out of the pre-brief room and walked down a dirt and gravel alley bordered by high walls and guard towers pockmarked with large-caliber bullet holes and RPG shrapnel. Inside an adjacent building the district elders had gathered for the shura.
With the help of an interpreter (center), First Lieutenant Marcus Smith (right) discusses the needs of the village of Mest with tribal elders. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
The elders (a misnomer of sorts as some of them appeared relatively young) crouched on the dusty concrete floor in front of the governor, who stood behind a modest table at the front of the room.
“I am here to hear your problems,” the governor pronounced. He considered the faces of those before him and asked, “Why are you so sad? You have to be happy. Afghanistan is not like it was 30 years ago. Other countries are spending money in Afghanistan. Don’t send your children to Pakistan or Iran to work. They need to stay here.”
The governor went on to outline his strategy and what he needed from the elders and their charges. He asked them to help the security forces and not work with the Taliban. He urged them to send their children to school. And, like any good politician, he reminded them of the election coming up and told them that they were a very important part of the process.
The governor finished his opening remarks by insisting that the insurgents are not as numerous as their propaganda might have indicated, and further, they were not true Muslims. “Stop an insurgent and ask him to recite one of Muhammad’s speeches,” he said.
The governor was followed by several government officials – the chief of police and the education minister – who shared a common theme: “Tell us your problems and we will work to solve them.”
But when the floor was turned over to the elders, one-by-one those who stood up emphatically said they had asked the government for help but their requests had fallen on deaf ears.
The elders’ airing of grievances was suddenly interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion in the distance followed by another and another, each sounding closer to the city than the last. There were four total. Uniformed personnel (including American forces present) hurried out of the entrance to investigate as the elders exchanged concerned glances. Governor Sameen continued the proceedings, expression underselling the potential threat the explosions might have posed to those in attendance.
The governor ended the shura with a simple sentiment: “Right people always win; wrong people always lose.”
Meanwhile, as the elders and government officials sat for a traditional post-shura lunch, the American military forces were in the tactical operations center busily trying to figure out from which direction the mortars had been fired. The TOC’s laptop computer screens showed images broadcast from high-powered cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras repeatedly moved side to side, scanning the surrounding fields and tree lines but came up empty.
On the roof gunners focused along their designated fields of fire. The American Army company commander explained that one of the enemy’s common tactics was to lob mortars into the fields to the north as a misdirection play followed by small arms fire and RPGs from the wooded grove to the southwest. Overhead a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet awaited tasking from the radio-laden Air Force tactical air controller standing next to the Army captain.
A half hour passed without any follow-on attacks or any sign of where the original attack had emanated from. Without any coordinates to offer, the controller requested that the Super Hornet perform a “motivational pass.” The carrier-based Navy jet complied, roaring loudly overhead at about 500 feet then pulling dramatically into a climb.
The post-shura lunch concluded, and the security situation was deemed stable enough to allow the convoy to man-up and move out, back-tracking along the route it had taken a few hours earlier. In the command vehicle the colonel asked the governor if he shared his sense that the elders had done a lot of complaining about those trying to help them while letting the Taliban off the hook. The govenor pushed back a bit, pointing out the stat he had put out during his opening remarks that the Taliban were killing one elder a day – 30 a month. In return the governor pronounced the shura a qualified success.
And as the convoy snaked and bumped its way north, the insurgents re-initiated their attack on Yayha Khel, this time more brazen. They pinned down a U.S. Army dismounted patrol on the outskirts of the city with small arms fire while their mortars fell into the bazaar and closer to the observation post. Reports crackled over the radio that the walls to the city had been breached. Units in adjacent areas were put on alert and made ready to assist their comrades. A Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter answered the call for airborne firepower, but by the time it had arrived American ground forces had pushed the insurgents back into the ether from which they’d emerged.
The enemy message associated with the timing and intensity of the attack was unmistakable: Shuras don’t mean peace.
Transitioning from the military can be tough for a lot of reasons. There’s the trip to buy a civilian wardrobe, the lost camaraderie, and the sudden absence of awesome problem-solving tools.
Few things are as frustrating as spending hours with an HR rep talking out something you could’ve solved in uniform in minutes with one of these 6 techniques:
1. Take it to the woodline (or the boiler room, or wherever)
When service members simply can’t find common ground, they dip into a secluded space and duke it out. Win, lose, or draw, the fighters don’t come back until they’ve made peace with each other. But this isn’t exactly an accepted way to settle the temperature setting of the office thermostat.
2. 10 minutes prior to the 10 minutes prior
Padding the timeline allows commanders and planners to know that everyone will be in position on time for a mission … because the troops had to arrive three hours early to inspect gear, practice movements, and just sit around wondering why they’re awake so early. Civilians really don’t go for arriving at 6 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. meeting. Try this at the office and someone is getting a call from the union.
3. Working parties and troop details
Need to get a row of 12 massive connexes unpacked in a single day? Then first sergeant needs four people from each platoon. Since the military owns all of the time of its members and those members are trained above all else to work together, the military can just throw men at a problem until it’s solved. But imagine a bunch of accountants being sent from their spreadsheets and calculators to put up tents.
That’ll go well . . .
4. Acquired gear
When units need something too quickly for the supply office to take care of it, there’s an ancient military tradition of “acquisition” that will get what you need as long as no one asks questions. The civilian world has too many bean counters and snitches for this to work though. If a copier mysteriously appears in one department, someone will check the serial number to learn where it came from.
5. “Suck it up and drive on.”
Of all the techniques here, this is the one that many civilians most need to learn. Troops know that they don’t go to sleep until the mission is done, their weapon is clean, and someone is on watch. If you’re tired or in pain, suck it up and drive on. It’s also known as, “Ruck up.” Tell your co-workers to ruck-up and your supervisor may be asking why he’s on tap to pay massive amounts of overtime.
6. Call for fire
There’s not a lot of problems that 155mm artillery rounds or a nice BRRRRRT from an A-10 can’t solve. In the civilian world, solving problems head on instead of working the system often results in nothing but more problems.
In the skies over Korea in the 1950s, both the Soviet Union and the U.S. debuted new jet fighters of very similar design. The Soviet MiG-15 and American F-86 were nearly evenly matched, but both sides wanted to capture and crack open the other’s jet to see what made it tick.
The Soviets got the chance first when they managed to capture a F-86 Sabre in Oct. 1951.
On Oct. 6, 1951, Air Force 2nd Lt. Bill N. Garrett was engaged by a Russian-piloted MiG-15 that got the better of him. Garrett made it out of the fight with his jet, but his engine and ejection seat were damaged.
As Garrett fled to the ocean, another MiG-15 caught sight of him and began chasing him. The American pilot began evasive maneuvers as Soviet rounds ripped past his aircraft. Losing altitude as he fled, Garrett barely made it to the coast before ditching.
But the jet didn’t end up in the deep seawater Garrett had originally aimed for. Because of the altitude he lost and the MiG’s aggressive attacks, Garrett was forced to ditch into mud flats that caught the jet.
The mission wasn’t over for the Russians. They were forced to disassemble the jet overnight as the tide receded. Working with hundreds of Chinese laborers while U.S. ships fired on them, a Soviet team disassembled the plane and packaged it for transport.
Then the Russians carefully moved it on large trucks north to the border, moving mostly at night. The one time they failed to reach cover before first light, an American plane spotted the convoy and attacked the lead truck with rockets. The truck just managed to get away.
The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.
It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.
Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain.
All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve.
On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.
At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship.
A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet.
According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out.
The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men.
Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men.
Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest.
Of the 902 men, only 230 survived.
Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”
Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.
During the Cold War, the American nuclear deterrent strategy required coming up with ways to guarantee the survival of nuclear weapons if the Soviets managed a surprise first strike. The surviving devices would then be used to destroy Soviet civilization.
Keeping U.S. nukes out of Soviet crosshairs required a lot of imagination. The Americans had to keep the nukes deeply buried or constantly on the move. Then they had to make sure the surviving devices could be used effectively.
One such scheme was outfitting a full-size Minuteman III Inter-continental Ballistic Missile to fit in the back of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft, dumping the nuke out the back and triggering the ICBM’s full ignition sequence.
Minuteman III ICBMs carry multiple warheads bound for separate targets. This makes the Minuteman III the ideal missile for the mobile nuclear weapon strategy. At 60 feet long and 78,000 pounds, the missile is easily carried by the gargantuan aircraft.
The C-5 Galaxy’s maximum payload is an amazing 285,000 pounds and the aircraft itself is just under 248 feet long. With an operational range of 5,250 nautical miles, the C-5 can fly from Dover Air Force Base to the Middle East without having to refuel.
Launching a fully functional ICBM out the back of an aircraft inflight might sound crazy, but the Air Force first tested this concept successfully in 1974.
World War I is commonly thought of as soldiers fighting across trenches that stretched along the entire European continent, but there were major clashes on the oceans, as well. The largest was the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916, the only time that the famous “Dreadnoughts” of Britain and Germany actually faced off in battle.
Fought between 249 ships and 100,000 men, it is the largest naval battle in history (in terms of tonnage of ships involved).
“Dreadnoughts” were massive battleships named for the HMS Dreadnought, a British ship launched in 1906. Dreadnought was a feared battleship. It was massive, fast, and lethal. Its launch triggered an arms race that saw major navies of the world, especially Britain and Germany, race to create the largest and most technologically advanced battleships.
After World War I broke out, the people of each country eagerly awaited the chance for their navy to prove itself the most capable in the world. But the admirals on each side wanted to avoid this, fearing that a single major defeat in a battle between dreadnoughts could cripple their navy and leave the country vulnerable to attack.
But, by 1916 the British had forced Germany’s hand. An effective blockade of Germany’s coast had limited the ability of the German Navy to put to sea. Worse, German ships that made it into the North Sea couldn’t make it to the Atlantic Ocean because of British ships operating both in the English Channel and off Britain’s northern tip.
The German fleet was sent to draw out the British in late April and they did so by attacking British coastal towns. The British responded by launching the Grand Fleet. Twenty-eight of the fleet’s 32 Dreadnought and Super-Dreadnought battleships took to the waves with another 122 ships supporting them. They were coming for the 99 ships of the German fleet.
The British Admiral John Jellicoe waited until the Germans were fairly close before initiating his attack, giving up his advantage in range. But, he was able to maneuver against the German fleet effectively, three times “capping their T,” meaning he was able to get his battle line at the head of the German line.
The Germans, with the British line directly in front of them, could only engage with their forward-facing guns while the British, with their sides facing the Germans, could fire broadsides into the German ships.
Still, superior armor and ship design combined with excellent gunnery skills allowed the Germans to sink more British ships than they lost themselves. The British suffered 14 ships and 6,784 lives lost to the Germans’ 9 ships and 3,058 men.
Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”
So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.
Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.
And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.
Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.
He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.
Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.
That’s false, Hanson said.
Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.
“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘
The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.
But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.
That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.
Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.
And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.
Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.
False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.
“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”
Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.
Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.
“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”
Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.
The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.
Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.
Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.
In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.
Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.
With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:
1. Tell your story
Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.
2. Participate in surveys
Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.
3. Give Feedback
We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.
4. Self-identify in the workplace
CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.
One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.
Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.
The most comprehensive study yet made of veteran suicide concludes that on average 20 veterans a day are taking their own lives.
The average daily tally is two less than the VA previously estimated, but is based on a more thorough review of Defense Department records, records from each state and data from the Centers for Disease Control, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“One veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better-informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero.”
The VA said in a statement that the report will be released at the end of July.
The study found that veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults in 2014 — a decrease from 22 percent in 2010.
Veteran suicides increased at a rate higher than adult civilians between 2001 and 2014. The civilian rate grew by 23 percent while veteran suicides increased 32 percent over the same period. “After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans,” the VA said.
The study also found that the suicide rates among veterans — male and female — who use VA services increased, though not at the rate among veterans who did not use the services.
Overall, the suicide rate since 2001 among all veterans using VA services grew by 8.8 percent versus 38.6 percent for those who did not. For male veterans, the rate increased 11 percent and 35 percent, respectively. For female vets, the rates increased 4.6 percent and 98 percent, according to the study.
In its last study, the VA noted that its figures probably were underestimated, in part because it relied on state records that were not always complete or accurate. Another shortcoming with the earlier report is that it used information from only 21 states.
“The ability of death certificates to fully capture female Veterans was particularly low; only 67 percent of true female Veterans were identified,” the report stated. “Younger or unmarried Veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate.”
The increasing rate of female suicides prompted Congress to pass the Female Veterans Suicide Act, which President Obama signed into law last month.
The VA’s announcement does not offer an explanation why older veterans are more likely to commit suicide, though Dr. Tom Berger, a Navy corpsman in Vietnam and now executive director of the Veterans Health Council at Vietnam Veterans of America, previously told Military.com that sometimes veterans reach an age where they’re not as active with work or other commitments that may have been coping mechanisms for post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues.
The VA said in its announcement on Thursday that over 1.6 million veterans received mental health treatment from the department, including at more than 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers. Veterans also enter VA health care through theVeterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points.
The VA anticipates having 1,000 locations where veterans can receive mental health care by the end of 2016.
Efforts to address the high suicide rates among veterans also include predictive modeling — using clinical signs of suicide — to determine which vets may be at highest risk, the VA said in its statement. This system will enable providers to intervene early in the cases of most at-risk veterans.
The VA is also expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA health care system, hiring more than 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line, and building new partnerships between VA programs and community-based programs.
The U.S. Air Force is out to wreck ISIS’s command and control capability. To do so, they are developing cruise missiles equipped with the ability to fire electromagnetic pulses (EMP).
An EMP weapon on a cruise missile can to fly over a city or populated area and fry phones, computers, power grids, and any other objects predetermined by strike planners.
EMPs create rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields may couple with electrical and electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges. While most advanced military technologies are designed to be protected from an EMP attack, such weapons would be useful in the wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other non-state forces.
Nuclear weapons produce an EMP when exploding, but unlike during World War II, now the Air Force doesn’t have to nuke a city to fry a phone network.
The Air Force’s newest missile will be a CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-power microwave Advanced Missile Project. The CHAMP is just such an EMP weapon which the Air Force wants to modify cruise missiles to carry. The service just handed Raytheon $4.8 million to do it.
In an October 2012 demonstration, Boeing demonstrated the anti-electronics package could disable banks of computers at the Air Force Research Laboratory. That demonstration used conventional cruise missiles launched from a B-52 Stratofortress.
Laboratory officials confirmed the CHAMP system was capable of firing up to “100 shots per sortie” to fry military and commercial electronics. CHAMP can keep firing EMP as long as it has enough power.
“Our real goal is to take what we learned in CHAMP and apply it to the next weapon,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said at the Air Warfare Symposium in Florida last month. “We kept some, a very small number, so we have some capability with it now. Our intent is to move that to the next weapon, a more advanced weapon, and continue to modernize it.”