10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately - We Are The Mighty
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10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.

They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.

Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they’re doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people’s posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.


If you’re a military spouse considering an overhaul, these 10 characters are some of the folks who might not make the cut…

1. The Gossip

At first, reading The Gossip’s witty quips about annoying moms at Starbucks or fashion faux pas might be hilarious. Scrolling through The Gossip’s posts could be an easy way to burn an hour outside baseball practice… until you find yourself the subject of one of The Gossip’s posts.

For The Gossip, everything is fair game. When people listen to The Gossip, or “like” or comment on The Gossip’s posts, the rumor mill churns. And every milspouse knows that the rumor mill is pretty damaging – especially if you live on base. So, if you receive a friend request from The Gossip, think twice before clicking “Accept.”

2. The Negative Nancy

Sometimes we might like seeing The Negative Nancy in our feed. If we’re already down, her critical gaze on life’s horizon validates our own low feelings. But this is dangerous – beware! The more you read her negative posts, the more you’ll feel negative, depressed and weary. In fact, research shows that negative thoughts and emotions can reduce your brain’s ability to function effectively and even weaken your immune system.

That is the LAST thing you need when you’re holding down the home front during a deployment or a long TDY! Do yourself a favor: if The Negative Nancy’s posts are breeding the blues in your life, make the call: hit “Unfriend,” lift your chin up, and notice the sun rising on the horizon.

3. The Stranger

The Stranger piques your interest. Coming out of nowhere, The Stranger has something in common with you and might need help. Maybe The Stranger claims to be stationed at the same installation and needs help finding counseling for marital troubles. Since your profile says you work at Family Advocacy, The Stranger thinks you can help…

At this point, revert to every OPSEC (Operational Security) commercial you’ve ever seen and don’t respond (and tighten up your profile privacy). The Stranger is up to nothing but finding out military-related information or stealing money; you don’t want to take part in either one of those nightmares!

And, don’t be so sure that this scenario is far-fetched. A woman in Pensacola impersonated a military wife to trick service members and spouses into giving her money for supposedly sick children. It could happen on Facebook, too, and if it does, tuck your sympathy away and save it for a real friend who truly needs it.

4. The Selfie Addict

The Selfie Addict manages to capture herself (okay, or himself) in the most attractive poses, accentuating her most beautiful features, against the most impressive landscapes. And remarkably, she captures said images ALL. THE. TIME.

Looking through her series of carefully crafted selfies, you might start to believe (erroneously) that her whole life is perfect; worse, you might make comparisons to your own life and decide it’s pretty dull. Research shows that these comparisons can chisel away at your self-esteem and it’s all for nothing! Perfection is an illusion, after all. Hit “Unfriend,” and focus on relationships that are real and meaningful instead.

5. The Soapboxer

The Soapboxer can’t stop ranting. Whether it’s something going on in the local community, the government, the war or the nation, The Soapboxer has an opinion and feels compelled to share the details. What’s worse, if you post a comment that disagrees just a bit, The Soapboxer will drill into it and make you feel like complete mush for sharing your voice. There’s no room for respectful debate here!

Much like Negative Nancy, The Soapboxer has a way of creating unnecessary stress and frustration. If that’s what The Soapboxer is doing in your life, it’s a signal to end your virtual relationship. After all, you’ve got a PCS to plan for, a deployment on the horizon, and a surprise visit from Murphy – there’s no time to waste stressing over The Soapboxer.

6. The Ex

Friending The Ex might be tempting. Perhaps Facebook recommended The Ex in “People You May Know,” so, out of curiosity, you skimmed unsecured photos and posts. And now you’re inclined to send a friend request. We’re all adults, so it couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong!

Distance has a way of magnifying worries. If your service member is deployed or TDY for a long time, he or she doesn’t need the added worry or stress of seeing The Ex’s comments on your posts or photos. Even if you think the connection is totally harmless, think of your service member and nix the virtual friendship.

7. The Acquaintance

It’s become common practice to meet someone briefly at a party or barbeque, only to find a friend request hours later. Regardless of whether or not The Acquaintance knows a friend of yours, pause before accepting the friend request.

Honestly, what do you really know about The Acquaintance? How will a Facebook relationship deepen your relationship? Odds are, it’s only going to invite snooping – snooping from a person you barely know. Would you invite a mere acquaintance to come into your home and dig through your photo albums and drawers containing other personal information while you’re not home? No? Didn’t think so. Friending The Acquaintance on Facebook isn’t much different. So, wait till you meet The Acquaintance a few more times before you are comfortable enough to leave him or her in your “home” unsupervised.

8. The Judge

If there’s one thing military spouses know, it’s that time is important. When our service members are about to deploy, all of our focus is directed at spending meaningful time with them. That usually comes at the expense of time spent with others, and it can mean declining invitations from close friends.

Most friends understand this, but The Judge does not. If you decline an invitation and later post a selfie of your family relaxing at home, The Judge might comment, “Looks like you weren’t so busy after all.” Or, if you opt out of a lunch date so that you can FaceTime with your deployed service member, only to post later that you’re “feeling sad” because you never got to talk to him, The Judge will comment, “You should have just come to lunch!”

Military spouses are under enough pressure to hold down the home front, keep day-to-day operations running smoothly and support our service members who endure high-stakes careers; we don’t need the added stress of feeling the need to please The Judge. Unfriend!

9. The Drama Queen

When you think of The Drama Queen, think of one word: Perception. Virtual relationships with The Drama Queen could reflect poorly on you, too, because her personal drama might end up appearing on your Facebook page. The Drama Queen might comment on your posts with inappropriate gifs or memes, tag you in photos that depict you in an unfavorable light, or write posts on your wall that are better suited for a private message or phone call.

Everyone else can see these posts, and they associate them with you and possibly your service member, as well. If that’s not how you want to be perceived, then keep your Facebook feed Drama Queen-free.

10. The Boss

When you arrive at a new assignment, your service member’s commander and commander’s spouse might offer a genuinely warm welcome. In some situations, their commander and commander’s spouse might welcome you, too.

This is all well and good, and it’s appropriate to accept their welcome kindly, but be sure to respect the professional line that exists between your service member and The Boss… and The Boss’ Boss. Friending The Boss can cross the line of professionalism, inviting The Boss into your personal world and asking if you can enter his or hers. Generally, people need to maintain their personal space, so while it’s perfectly fine to enjoy friendly conversation at unit barbeques, allow everyone some breathing room on Facebook.

Who would you add to this list?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.


Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.

But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

(Stefan Grossman)

Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.

Articles

Today’s UCMJ was born out of the summary hanging of 13 American soldiers by the US Army

In the pre-dawn darkness of December 11, 1917, thirteen American soldiers died together at the same moment, hanged in a mass execution on gallows that were immediately torn back down to lumber so other soldiers wouldn’t see them. If you serve in the military today, your life is better because of that morning, and because of the debate that followed. Samuel Ansell left the Army nearly a hundred years ago, and he might save your life one day.

The men who died on December 11 were black privates and NCOs, infantrymen who served together under white officers in the segregated 24th Infantry Regiment. Earlier that year, in the spring of 1917, they had been sent to Texas to guard army facilities as the United States went to war in Europe. Posted outside Houston, the men of the 24th collided with Jim Crow laws and the social customs that went with them. By mid-August, arguments were nearly turning into fights, and a white laborer on Camp Logan stabbed a black civilian to death in the payroll line.

On August 23, two Houston police officers saw a group of black teenagers shooting craps on a city street, and tried to arrest them for illegal gambling. The teenagers ran, and the police chased them, bursting into homes in an African-American neighborhood. A black woman named Sara Travers complained, and a pair of white policemen dragged her outside, half-dressed, to arrest her. Watching white police rough up a black woman, a soldier from the 3/24 in the city on a pass stepped forward and told them to stop. They beat him and took him to jail. Soon after, an NCO from the 2/24 approached the officers and demanded an explanation for the beating and the arrest. At that point, Officer Lee Sparks pulled his revolver out and began to beat Cpl. Charlies Baltimore over the head with it – then fired at his back as he ran away, before catching up to him and hauling him away to jail, too.

It was the moment when the arguments ended and the fighting began. Back at Camp Logan, a group of about 100 soldiers stormed an ammunition tent, loaded rifles, and went into town to find the police officers who had beaten and shot at their fellow infantrymen. They found them. At the end of a running gun battle, nineteen people were dead: Fifteen of them white, including police officers, and four black soldiers.

The courts-martial that followed were a joke, mass trials meant to placate infuriated Texas politicians. Sixty-three men were tried before the first of three courts, with single witnesses casually implicating dozens of defendants and men being convicted on the strength of testimony that had flatly misidentified them in court. For their defense, they were represented by an infantry officer with no legal training. On November 29, returning guilty verdicts by the box lot, the court sentenced 13 defendants to death. Facing local pressure, the convening authority, Maj. Gen. John Rickman, approved the verdicts and scheduled the executions – on his own authority, without seeking approval from the Army or the War Department.

The 13 men were simultaneously hanged on December 11 at 7:17 a.m. local time — one minute before sunrise — in the presence of U.S. Army officers and one local official, County Sheriff John Tobin.

It was the event that kicked off the debate about military justice during World War I: American soldiers were being killed by their own army without any kind of legal review or approval by national authorities.

Incredibly, the War Department issued a general order forbidding local commanders to put soldiers to death before the Judge Advocate General and the president had a chance to review their convictions – an obvious expectation that was only imposed for the first time in the second decade of the 20th century. Imagine serving in an army that could put you in front of the firing squad or put a noose around your neck a few days after a shoddy trial, with no one checking to make sure you hadn’t just been railroaded. That was a possible feature of military experience for the first century and a half of our history.

The War Department order was just in time. While the court-martial in Texas was delivering its sentences, drumhead courts-martial at the front in France were sentencing four other privates to death. Jeff Cook and Forest Sebastian had fallen asleep on guard duty on the front line, slumped forward against the trenches, while Olon Ledoyen and Stanley Fishback refused an order to drill. All four had even less of a trial than the soldiers of the 24th Infantry. Ledoyen and Fishback were represented in their defense by an infantry lieutenant who was pulled from the line for the job. Shrugging, he told them both to just plead guilty and hope for the best. All four trials took somewhere in the neighborhood of a few minutes, with little to no testimony, argument, or deliberation.

This is where our contemporary military justice system was born. In Washington, the Army had two top legal officers. The Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Enoch Crowder, was temporarily assigned to other wartime duties, so Brig. Gen. Samuel Ansell was the acting JAG; both thought of themselves as the Army’s top legal officer. The two men had completely different reactions to the trials in Texas and France, and a totally different view of the way courts-martial were supposed to work. Their argument – the “Ansell-Crowder dispute” – kicked off a full century of debate.

To Crowder, the purpose of a court-martial was discipline and good military order, and the results of a trial could only merit objections from army lawyers if blatant unfairness screamed from the record of the proceedings. Commanders needed near-absolute latitude to deliver the punishments inflicted by courts, and the JAG office had little to no reason to interfere. If the army’s lawyers objected to the death sentences in France, Crowder warned, Pershing would believe that his authority had been undermined in a critical matter involving his command.

But to Ansell, courts-martial had to be courts. They needed standards of evidence and reasonable rules about due process, and the outcome of a military trial could become illegitimate when courts broke rules. The acting JAG and the circle of reformers around him tore into the records of the courts-martial in France – finding, for example, that Cook and Sebastian had gone four days with almost no sleep at all, but their courts-martial had taken no notice of those extenuating circumstances in delivering death sentences. “These cases were not well tried,” Ansell wrote.

President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Ansell and pardoned all four men. Sebastian died in combat soon afterward, fighting with courage, and Wilson told War Department officials that he was glad to have given a soldier a chance to redeem himself.

Then the war ended, and the argument got serious. Ansell presented a long report to Congress, detailing a series of proposals for changes in the Articles of War, the pre-UCMJ law that governed the army. He especially wanted to see the law adopt some form of mandatory post-conviction legal review, creating an appellate authority that had the direct power to overturn bad convictions. But Crowder eased him out of the office, arranging a job for Ansell at a law firm before telling him that he was done in the army. As Congress prepared to vote on Ansell’s proposed reforms, Crowder – back at his regular duties as the army JAG – gave his congressional allies a set of more modest changes. In an amendment to the pending legislation, they swapped out Ansell’s reforms for Crowder’s, and the law passed.

Even as Crowder won, though, Ansell had forced a more serious set of reforms on the army than his adversaries had wanted to see. Among the changes to the laws governing the army in 1920, Congress created boards of review for the first time. A retired JAG officer, Lawrence J. Morris, calls those boards “the first step toward a formal appellate process.” Another change required courts-martial to reach unanimous agreement to impose the death penalty, where the previous Articles of War had only required a two-thirds majority vote to put a soldier to death.

Ansell began the long effort to make courts-martial into true courts, giving soldiers some degree of due process protection. And he planted the seeds for all of the debates that have followed. After World War II, when Congress and the newly created Department of Defense decided to pursue the more serious reforms that led to the creation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the person who led the effort was a law school professor, Edmund Morgan – who had spent World War I in uniform, working for Ansell in the office of the Judge Advocate General.

Injustice led to justice. Your legal rights before the military justice system today – including your right to a trial that isn’t tainted by unlawful command influence, your right to be represented by a lawyer, and your right to appeal serious convictions to real military appellate courts – were born in a field outside Houston in 1917. Arguing over the death of soldiers, Samuel Ansell and the generation of army lawyers who served alongside him began to make military justice a far better system for everyone who followed. They were patriots who served their country with honor and left it a better place.

Chris Bray is the author of “Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond,” published last month by W.W. Norton.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The latest MOH Recipient’s citation is immortalized as a graphic novel

“Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.

Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.


The mission which was a joint operation between the United States Special Forces and the Kurdish Special Forces was chaotic from the start. Usually when it comes to military awards, we read the citation and might get a book later which goes into more detail. Sometimes, as in the case of Black Hawk Down, we get a movie. But the United States Army decided to give us an amazing visual on the mission via graphic illustrations.

That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.

On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.

Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.

There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.

The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.

Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”

If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.

Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.

Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.

Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.

Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.

He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.

By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.

He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.

He had to make sure no one was left behind.

Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”

70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima doesn’t have a grave

When Paul Tibbets died in January 2007, he had been retired from the Air Force since 1966. He was never forgotten, however, and never would be. He was the man who dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat against an enemy city. But instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel.


10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Tibbets in his later years.

It wasn’t that Tibbets wasn’t proud of his service. At the time of the Hiroshima bombing, he was one of the youngest, but most experienced pilots in the Army Air Forces. He proudly named his airplane Enola Gay after his beloved mother. He even re-enacted the bombing in a B-29 during a 1976 Texas air show and denounced the Smithsonian’s exhibition of the actual plane when it debuted because of the exhibition’s focus on the suffering of the Japanese people, and not the brutality of the Japanese military.

His family was also a proud military family. His grandson is an Air Force Academy graduate who came up flying B-2 Spirit bombers. But when he died at age 92, he requested cremation with no headstone – and no funeral, military honors or not.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Paul Tibbets Jr., left, and his grandson, then-Capt. Paul Tibbets IV, fly the last flyable B-29 Superfortress, ‘Fifi,’ in Midland, Texas.

The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters, or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel, where he had flown so often during the war.

Lists

6 tips to help you get through Air Assault School

Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.


Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.

(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)

If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne

If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.

If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.

Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.

Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending

The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.

The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)

Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day

“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.

The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.

(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)

There’s actually a lot of math

After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.

And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.

(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)

Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping

Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.

The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.

(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)

Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed

If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.

If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘Herky Bird’ is a favorite of Rangers and special operators

Special operations forces have long been fans of the C-130. Why not? It’s one of the most versatile platforms available. The basic transport has been a standby for airborne units over the years, but when it comes to carrying the precious cargo that is American special operations forces, no ordinary Hercules will do.


Over the course of several decades, the Air Force has developed advanced versions of the C-130 platform to be used specifically by special operations. One of the first was a variant of the old C-130E, dubbed the MC-130E “Combat Talon,” which entered service in 1966. The MC-130P “Combat Shadow,” derived from the HC-130P, entered service in 1986. The MC-130H was a special-operations version of the C-130H that entered service in 1991.

All of these planes, however, are pretty old by now.

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A MC-130J with the 413th Flight Test Squadron takes off. Note the winglets on the plane.

(USAF photo by Samuel King)

The C-130J version of the Hercules entered service in 1999, replacing aging C-130E models. Continuing the tradition of its predecessors, the C-130J was also modified for use by special operations forces. Older MC-130Es and MC-130Ps were first in line to be replaced by a total of 37 MC-130Js, according to a United States Air Force fact sheet.

The MC-130J first entered service in 2011. It was given the name “Commando II,” taking on the designation of the Curtiss-Wright C-46 “Commando,” a cargo plane that mostly saw action in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was retired in 1968.

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A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

(USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

The MC-130J has a top speed of 415 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 3,000 miles. It’s capable of refueling up to four helicopters or tiltrotors at a time. It’s also equipped with advanced electro-optical and infra-red sensors.

Learn more about this impressive special-ops plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qun5hkYXkk

www.youtube.com

Articles

The odds of dying in an American war (applying the Lt. Dan scale)

The honor of making the ultimate sacrifice is timeless. But casualty counts in the United States’ current conflicts are relatively low relative to previous wars.


Of course, no competent warfighter signs on to die for his (or her) country (because as we all know by now (and as General George S. Patton famously said during World War II), the whole point of war is to make the other poor bastard die for his (or her) country).

But what if you lived in another time? Would you have survived the Civil War or World War I?

In the movie “Forrest Gump” Forrest notes that Lt. Dan “was from a long, great military tradition — somebody from his family had fought and died in every single American war.”

So what do the Lt. Dan family’s odds look like on paper? WATM has the answer:

The American Revolution

1 in 50 – 2 percent

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Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor wasn’t so lucky, but these are relatively good odds considering the conditions at the time and the nature of how the Revolutionary War was fought. Back then FOBs meant New York, Boston, and Saratoga Springs. Orders to Valley Forge? Get ready for cold and a diet of nothing but bread.

Civil War

1 in 15 – 6.7 percent

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Tough luck, Lieutenant Dan . . . and everyone else. If you add the Union and Confederate Army casualties vs. the best assumed total number of troops, the rate of killed and injured is a staggering 43 percent. As of 2013, the government was still paying veterans benefits related to the Civil War (and those people were probably waiting in line since 1962).

World War One

1 in 89 – 1.1 percent

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This is where the combat starts to look more familiar, except for the whole “running at a machine gun” thing. It’s surprising the numbers aren’t much, much higher since human wave attacks were standard operating procedure. A cool twenty bucks (which went much further in 1917) says Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor in “The Great War” was suffering from trench foot and Jerry just put him out of his misery, which is probably why his standing order in Vietnam was to change socks at every stop.

World War Two

1 in 56 – 1.8 percent

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Lieutenant Dan’s surprised look probably stems from the low number for this one too. Keep in mind, this is just the rate for the American Army. The Soviet Union lost 26 million people, significantly more than the losses suffered by the army that actually lost. (That would be the German Army for you history buffs.)

Vietnam War

1 in 185 – .5 percent

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Lieutenant Dan lives (severely wounded in his case, but alive). Of all America’s major wars, Vietnam offered best odds of survival. It also had (arguably) the highest quality of life in the field (very much dependent of where you served in-country), and the best food. (There might be a correlation between those things.)

Articles

This is why Cheyenne Mountain is one of the most secure bases in the US

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

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The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The mountain itself is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

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Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

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The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker located at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its entrance is equipped with two 23-ton blast doors and the mountain has a facility with 15 buildings that rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast or earthquake. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

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The two 23-ton blast doors at the entrance inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex are made of steel and can take up to 20 seconds to close with the assistance of hydraulics. If the hydraulics were to fail, the military guards stationed in the tunnel can close the doors in 40 seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

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Senior Airman Ricardo Collie, a 721st Security Forces member, patrols the north gate of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex at Cheyenne Air Force Station, Colorado. Collie is one of many security layers to enter more than a mile inside a Colorado mountain to a complex of steel buildings that sit in caves. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

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Tech. Sgts. Alex Gaviria and Sarah Haydon, both senior system controllers, answer phone calls inside the 721st Communications Squadron Systems Center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The systems center monitors around the world for support and missile warning. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

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Kenny Geates and Eric Skinner, both firefighters with Cheyenne Mountain’s Fire and Emergency Services Flight, put out a simulated fire in an area underneath the facility during an exercise. With no room to drive throughout the facility to reach the fires, firefighters have to run to them. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

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Steven Rose (left), the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station deputy director, and the safety chief paddle a boat toward the back of one of Cheyenne Mountain Complex’s underground reservoirs to place a floating device. The underground reservoirs carved from solid rock provide drinking and cooling water, while a lake of diesel fuel sits ready for the six locomotive-sized diesel generators capable of powering a small city. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why everyone feels better with a SuperCobra overhead

It’s an airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War, but it’s served for nearly 50 years and is still a comforting presence for those protected by its missiles, guns, and rockets: Meet the AH-1 SuperCobra.


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Pilots aboard an AH-1W SuperCobra helicopter fly into a forward arming and refueling point at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 6, 2014.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)

The AH-1 Cobra was the first dedicated attack helicopter, though it was technically an interim solution, filling a gap in capabilities until the AH-56 could make it to the field. The AH-56, however, was never constructed, so the Army stuck with the AH-1.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was looking for an attack helicopter of their own, and they were interested in what the Army had to offer. There was one glaring problem, though: The Army AH-1 had only one engine. The Marine Corps wasn’t comfortable with this since their helicopters might have to fly dozens of miles across open ocean to reach beachheads. If you lose an engine six miles from the ship or the shore, you really want a second engine to close the gap.

And so the Marine Corps asked Bell helicopters for an AH-1 with two engines, thus creating the AH-1 SeaCobra, which later became the SuperCobra. It first went into service in 1971, which the math nerds will note is 47 years ago.

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An AH-1W SuperCobra, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, performs a break turn after conducting a close air support mission in an exercise at Twentynine Palms, California, June 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

The reason the AH-1 SuperCobra has lasted so long — and the reason that it’s being replaced by the AH-1Z Viper, which is basically just an upgraded version — is that it’s very effective. The first Marine variant, the AH-1J SeaCobra, was originally fielded with a three-barrel 20mm cannon in 1969. But the Marines wanted more power and weapons, and they’ve upgraded the helicopter multiple times over the decades since.

Now, the AH-1W can carry everything from from TOW missiles and Hellfires, both of which are very good at killing enemy tanks. The AGM-114 Hellfire is a potent weapon, carrying an up to 20-pound warhead. It uses either a shaped charge warhead, tandem warhead, or a HEAT warhead. The tandem warhead is the most effective and is thought to be able to defeat all current tanks and armored vehicles.

The TOW, meanwhile, is heavier and has even more variants, but can also open up pretty much any armored threat in the world today.

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U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 load a 2.75-inch rocket configured with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II, a hydra 70 rocket motor and M282 High Explosive Incendiary Multipurpose Penetrator Warhead onto an AH-1Z Viper at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 29, 2018

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)

The helicopters can also fire rockets in support of the Marines on the ground, sending out Hydras against troop and vehicle concentrations. These rockets were historically unguided, but kits are now available when necessary. The rockets can carry fast-flying flechettes, small darts that shred enemy combatants, as well as explosive warheads, infrared flares, or smoke.

Zuni rockets, meanwhile, are technically an air-to-air or air-to-ground weapon, but since they’re unguided, the U.S. uses them pretty much only against the ground and ships nowadays. The rockets can carry warheads of almost 50 pounds, and can be sued to rip apart tanks, personnel, or pretty much any target that isn’t heavily fortified.

The rockets can also deploy chaff to throw off enemy radar-guided munitions.

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Michehl, a line noncommissioned officer with Marine Wing Support Detachment 24, controls forward arming and refueling point operations during a field test for the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability system at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 18, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Montera)

Finally, the SuperCobras can fire Stinger Missiles, a potent, short-range air defense missile that can send shrapnel flying through enemy helicopters and planes, shredding the engines, wings, or cockpits of the target.

All of this combines to make the SuperCobra a Marine’s deadly big brother in the sky. They can tackle slow-moving air threats, armor, and personnel, protecting Marines under attack from nearly anything, though the helicopters can be made vulnerable themselves by enemy air defenses or air interdiction.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the pilots from laying waste, even when the enemy has their own weapons in play. Marine Capt. John Patrick Giguere earned the Silver Star for flying his AH-1T, a TOW-equipped variant, over enemy air defenses while protecting a downed aircrew in Grenada.

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An AH-1W SuperCobra, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, March 8, 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Murray)

First Lt. Sydney Baker also earned a Silver Star. His came while flying an AH-1G supporting the insertion of Marines in Vietnam. Despite ground fire so fierce that it knocked out his communications gear and threatened to down the bird, he kept up a heavy volume of fire to protect Marines on the ground.

So, while their younger, sexier AH-64 Apache counterparts get all the love, the AH-1 SuperCobras and Vipers are out there saving Marines every day, so raise a glass for these old school infantrymen of the sky. They’ll be happy to save you if you’re ever in trouble.

Articles

These soldiers are the Army’s FBI and Secret Service

The Army has its own criminal investigation service filled with special agents that investigate major crimes, protect VIPs, and maintain criminal records.


The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.

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Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.

Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.

The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.

This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.

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A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.

But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.

They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.

Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics show what F-35 ‘Beast Mode’ looks like

F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), are currently in the Indo-Pacific region deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).

Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the region “to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.”


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F-35B flying in “Third Day of War” configuration.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Images being released these days show the Marines STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft in VMFA-121 markings carrying external weapons during blue water ops, a configuration being tested for quite some time and known as CAS (Close Air Support) “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”).

In particular, the aircraft are loaded with 2x AIM-9X (on the outer pylons) and 4x GBU-12 500-lb LGB (Laser Guided Bombs).

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Marines load a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12 onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)

This configuration involving external loads is also referred to as a “Third Day of War” configuration as opposed to a “First Day of War” one in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors.

As we explained in a previous story: “as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft are degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) the environment becomes more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capabilities for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads.”

LO (Low Observability) is required for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses at the beginning of a conflict, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done (two, three days, who really knows?), the F-35 is expected to “go beast”.

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An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

In “Beast Mode“, exploiting the internal weapon bays, the F-35A can carry 2x AIM-9X (external pylons), 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM (internal bomb bay) and 4x GBU-31 2,000-lb (pylons) and 2x GBU-31 PGMs (internal bay). It’s not clear whether the F-35B can launch from a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in this configuration.

On Sept. 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B jets made their combat debut. U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, used their F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters to hit insurgent targets in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province launching from U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft used in the strike were loaded with GBU-32 1000-lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) but were also equipped with the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays. And sported the radar reflectors too.

At least two aircraft, modex CF-00 and CF-01, made a stopover in Kandahar Air Field after the air strike, before returning to the aircraft carrier.

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An F-35B takes off with 2x AIM-9x and 2x GBU-12 LGBs.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Myers)

Back to the “Beast Mode”, F-35B have launched from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the STOVL stealth aircraft conducted by Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) in 2016. Still, the ones just released are probably the very first images of the aircraft launching in “Beast Mode” operationally.

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Flight deck crew members guide an F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), in preparation for flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

According to a Pentagon test office document recently obtained by Bloomberg, “Durability testing data indicates service-life of initial F-35B short-takeoff-vertical landing jets bought by Marine Corps “is well under” expected service life of 8,000 fleet hours; “may be as low as 2,100″ hours.”

This would mean that some of the early F-35B jets would start hitting service life limit in 2026.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rewilding war zones can help heal the wounds of conflict

Where the Iron Curtain once divided Europe with barbed wire, a network of wilderness with bears, wolves, and lynx now thrives. Commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, people wear poppies to evoke the vast fields of red flowers which grew over the carnage of Europe’s battlefields. Once human conflict has ended, the return of nature to barren landscapes becomes a potent symbol of peace.

These tragedies, which force people away from a place, can help ecosystems replenish in their absence. Though rewilding is typically considered an active decision, like the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, abandoned rural land often returns to wilderness of its own accord. Today, as people vacate rural settlements for life in cities, accidental rewilding has meant large predators returning to areas of Europe, long after they were almost made extinct.


Sudden changes, such as the the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disasterin 1986, result in wildlife recolonising exclusion zones in previously developed areas.

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Abandonment of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster ushered in wildlife.

Warfare can also result in human exclusion, which might benefit wildlife under specific conditions. Isolation and abandonment can generate wild population increases and recoveries, which has been observed in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The strange link between war and wildlife

Fish populations in the North Atlantic benefited from World War II as fishing fleets were drastically reduced. Fishing vessels were requisitioned by the navy, seamen were drafted and the risks of fishing due to enemy strikes or subsurface mining deterred fishermen from venturing out to sea.

As a result, the war essentially created vast “marine protected areas” for several years in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, armed with faster and bigger trawlers with new technology, fishermen reported bonanza catches.

A more gruesome result of World War II allowed opportunistic species such as the oceanic whitetip shark to flourish, as human casualties at sea proved a rich and plentiful food source.

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The growth of oceanic whitetip shark populations during WWII is a grisly example of how war can sometimes benefit wildlife.

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Warship wrecks also became artificial reefs on the seabed which still contribute to the abundance of marine life today. The 52 captured German warships that were sunk during World War I between the Orkney mainland and the South Isles, off the north coast of Scotland, are now thriving marine habitats.

Exclusion areas, or “no mans lands”, which remain after fighting has ended may also help terrestrial ecosystems recuperate by creating de facto wildlife reserves. Formerly endangered species, such as the Persian leopard, have re-established their populations in the rugged northern Iran-Iraq frontier.

An uneasy post-war settlement can create hard borders with vast areas forbidden to human entry. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a 4km by 250km strip of land that has separated the two Koreas since 1953. For humans it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers patrolling its edges. For wildlife however, it’s one of the safest areas in the region.

Today, the zone is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the Korean peninsula, such as the long-tailed goral.

Miraculously, even habitats scarred by the most horrific weaponry can thrive as places where human access is excluded or heavily regulated. Areas previously used for nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean have been recolonizedby coral and fish, which seem to be thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, declared a nuclear wasteland after nuclear bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s.

War – still good for nothing

For all the quirks caused by abandonment, warfare overwhelmingly harms human communities and ecosystems with equal fervor. A review of the impact of human conflict on ecosystems in Africa showed an overall decrease in wildlife between 1946 and 2010. In war’s aftermath, natural populations were slow to recover or stopped altogether as economic hardship meant conservation fell by the wayside.

Humans often continue to avoid a “no mans land” because of the presence of land mines. But these don’t differentiate between soldiers and wildlife, particularly large mammals. It’s believed that residual explosives in conflict zones have helped push some endangered species closer to extinction.

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Today’s European Green Belt traces the original route of the Iron Curtain.

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However, where possible, accidental rewilding caused by war can help reconcile people after the fighting ends by installing nature where war had brought isolation. There is hope that should Korea reunify, a permanently protected area could be established within the current demilitarised zone boundaries, allowing ecotourism and education to replace enmity.

Such an initiative has already succeeded elsewhere in the world. The European Green Belt is the name for the corridor of wilderness which runs along the former Iron Curtain, which once divided the continent. Started in the 1970s, this project has sprawled along the border of 24 states and today is the longest and largest ecological network of its kind in the world. Here, ponds have replaced exploded land mine craters and forests and insect populations have grown in the absence of farming and pesticide use.

Where war isolates and restricts human movement, nature does seem to thrive. If, as a human species, we aim for a peaceful world without war, we must strive to limit our own intrusions on the natural paradises that ironically human warfare creates and nurture a positive legacy from a tragic history.

Feature image: SpeedPropertyBuyers.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.