3 gifts you get from having military parents - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Who knew that folding clothes the “navy way” and putting on sheets so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of them would have such a profound affect on my life.

I grew up in Virginia Beach, where most students came from military families and knew what it was like to have military parents. They knew the struggle of parents who had to leave for months at a time, the amount of discipline that was applied to daily chores and homework, and of course the expectation to succeed at anything you do.


Fast forward nearly 20 years and I find that there were many small things instilled in me from my military parents that shape much of the person, husband, and father I am today. Most of what my military parents taught me stemmed from three mandatory rules that I now realize weren’t rules at all, but were actually gifts that have changed my life.

1. Finish what you started.

Baseball was everything for my family. Attending practices, winning games, and playing tournaments were some of my earliest memories. While my father was in love with the sport, that same passion didn’t come naturally for me. I remember wanting to quit right in the middle of a season, only to be denied by parents that “didn’t raise quitters.”

3 gifts you get from having military parents
Army Capt. Ben Russell, carries his son Todd, 18-months-old, on his shoulders.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

The rule of “finish what you started” applied to everything in our lives including baseball. It was those moments when I wasn’t allowed to give up that led to many high school awards, graduating college, marrying my wife, and living unafraid to step through life’s open doors. I can even trace my career success that has lead me to my dream job, back to this foundational rule.

2. Treat others with respect.

If my dad was the source of inspiration for my dreams, my mother was the source of discipline to see them become a reality. She never missed a moment or opportunity for me to treat others with respect because she knew that it would set me apart in life.

I’m not quite sure, but I’m pretty sure “yes ma’am” were my very first words. I’ll never forget the time when my mother suspected that I had disrespected an older gentlemen in public. As we were driving home, my mother could sense something was wrong with me. She prompted me to tell her the truth, and believing I was in the wrong, she turned the car around. I was forced to face the man once again and apologize for being out of line with my comments. As a kid, I thought this was absolutely ridiculous and a waste of time. As an adult, I am thankful because my military mother instilled in me the importance of respecting people no matter who they are or where they come from.

I can honestly attribute living a life of treating others with respect to helping me win more clients, close more deals, gain promotions, and winning the heart of my wife. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be who I am without a mother that championed the rule of treating others with respect.

3. Being a military kid is an asset.

My parents had traveled the world in the name of protecting and serving others. The pride they took in being a part of the military was evident in everything we did as a family. They held my sister and I to a standard that we didn’t realize was different, but it would end up making all the difference. We were challenged to be leaders on our sports team, in the classroom, and even when hanging out with friends.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

They made sure that we knew that we were different (not better), than others, to help make a difference wherever we were. My sister and I witnessed this many times as they volunteered, helped those who were less fortunate, and never apologized for the lifestyle they lived because of serving in the military. Today, the most rewarding moments of my life have come from the foundation of making a difference instilled by my military parents. It has lead me to help build water wells in remote countries, prioritize time to volunteer on a monthly basis, and living with a sense of direction.

What my parents set as rules for our household, ended up being gifts that grounded me. Most of what I have and who I am are built upon the foundation of finishing what you start, respecting others, and not being afraid to be different. I am thankful for military parents that were intentional about making sure I knew the value of serving and living beyond myself. I can only hope that my daughter will one day realize these same rules, will be gifts given to her that will make her better like they did me.

Tyler Medina is the Brand Operations Manager at Simplr, a startup specializing in customer service outsourcing. He’s the son of two Navy veterans that served multiple tours overseas, and like most military kids, grew up all over the U.S. He currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Sabrina and 2-year old daughter Audrey.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five sobering 9/11 Memorials across the United States

After 9/11 we vowed that we would never forget. We set out to find those responsible for the horrific attacks and bring them to justice. To remember the people whose lives were taken that day, we erected memorials across the nation as focal points for grief and healing and as symbols of hope for the future. Here are five of the most beautiful, sobering and awe-inspiring.


3 gifts you get from having military parents

(Frederic Schwartz Architects—Wikimedia Commons)

1. The Rising—Westchester, New York

Naturally, New York is home to the most 9/11 memorials. The Rising in Westchester remembers the 109 Westchester residents who lost their lives on 9/11 with 109 steel rods intertwined like strands. They rise 80 feet from the ground, “reaching upward to the heavens,” according to the architect. It also includes the names of 10 additional victims who were former Westchester residents etched on stones. A 110th victim from Westchester was unintentionally omitted from the memorial. Since their identification, their name has been added to the stones.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

(9/11 Memorial Museum)

2. Postcards—Staten Island, New York

Dedicated on the fourth anniversary of the attacks, the Postcards 9/11 Memorial features two fiberglass structures that resemble postcards. It honors the 275 Staten Islanders who lost their lives on 9/11. Each victim is memorialized with a profile on a granite plaque that lists their name, date of birth and place of work at the time of the attack. The memorial frames the location across the water on Manhattan where the Twin Towers stood. Postcards was the first major 9/11 Memorial to be completed in New York City.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

(Steve Tobin)

3. Trinity Root—New York, New York

Sculpted by artist Steve Tobin, Trinity Root measures 12.5×20 feet and weighs three tons. The bronze sculpture memorializes the stump of a 70-year-old Sycamore tree that shielded St. Paul’s Chapel from falling debris on 9/11. Unveiled in 2005, the sculpture has since been moved to Trinity’s Retreat Center in Connecticut.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

(Boston Logan International Airport)

4. Boston Logan International Airport 9/11 Memorial—Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Logan International Airport houses a permanent memorial to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11, both of which departed Logan for Los Angeles before they were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers. A landscaped path leads to a large glass cube that houses two glass panels etched with the names of every person aboard the two planes.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

(Public Domain)

5. Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism—Bayonne, New Jersey

Dedicated on the 5th anniversary of the attacks, this memorial stands 10-stories tall and was an official gift from the Russian government to the United States. The sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, drove by the American Embassy in Russia every day for work. Following the attacks, this daily commute would bring him to tears, inspiring the teardrop focus of the memorial. It highlights the 26 Russians who were killed on 9/11 and also memorializes the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. The memorial was originally gifted to the local government of Jersey City. After they rejected it, the memorial was placed in its current location in Bayonne.

There are dozens more memorials across the nation that honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. In big cities and small towns throughout the United States, we keep our promise that we made all those years ago. We will never forget.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Golf made my friend a better Marine

We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.


3 gifts you get from having military parents

Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.

“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.

Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.

“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Major Ortiz tees off with focus

As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his series Adventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.

As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.

“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.

Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.

“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”

Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.

But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.

Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.

“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”

I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how ‘Ripley at the Bridge’ became a Marine Corps legend

It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.


3 gifts you get from having military parents
Think about that when you have trouble getting out of bed for PT.

Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
That second trip though…

The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.

As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.

At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
The tanks would drive down Highway 1 and into Saigon unless someone did something about it… SOME body… hmm…

“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.

With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.

Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.

By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
And the Marine attached to those hands.

 

Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”

Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.

The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.

“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”

For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.

Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.

 

3 gifts you get from having military parents
John Ripley’s legendary action at Dong Ha Bridge, portrayed in a diorama at the U.S. Naval Academy. (U.S. Naval Academy)

 

His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.

Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.

 

3 gifts you get from having military parents
Colonel John Ripley, hanging out in Dong Ha, one more time.

Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

3 gifts you get from having military parents

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

See the stealth fighters and bombers patrolling the Pacific

The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.


3 gifts you get from having military parents

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.

Source: US sends stealth B-2s to the Pacific, warning regional rivals that America’s bombers are ‘on watch’ 24/7

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”

Source: Pacific Air Forces

3 gifts you get from having military parents

The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”

Source: Air Force

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The multi-role B-2 Spirit bomber has the ability to break through tough defenses, bringing a significant amount of firepower, both conventional and nuclear, to bear on enemy targets.

Source: Air Force

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A close-up of the B-2 Spirit bomber refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable or stealth characteristics make it almost invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

3 gifts you get from having military parents

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.

Source: Air Force

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber flies near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Together, a B-2 accompanied by a pair of F-22s could kick in an enemy’s door, let loose a firestorm of devastation, and get out before the enemy figures out what happened.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

12 of the best football party foods, ranked

Fall is definitely a sports season. Baseball season wraps up with the World Series, hockey and basketball are just getting started, and football season is in full swing. The odds are good that, at some point, you’re going to either throw or at least be part of a sports party. Whether you like sports or not, you still like your friends and will probably want to join them.

What to bring to that party is, however, an important decision — especially if you don’t know sports, because you want to get invited to the next one.


With this simple decision, you can either turn yourself into a party snack legend by going the extra mile or you can ensure that you’ll never be invited again and irreparably damage the personal relationships you’ve built with people who thought you were their friend until you proved otherwise with that terrible thing you brought.

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Note: This list is just for snack foods. Just because something didn’t make the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it. Nearly any party will also accept finger-food desserts, like brownies, cupcakes, and Jell-O shots.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Who puts okra on a cheese plate?

12. Cheese Plates

How to win: A cheese plate is an easy crowd-pleaser. Add some crackers, some cold cuts, and a few grapes for effect and you’re good to go. No one ever objects to a cheese plate. Be advised: Blue cheese is for wings, not cheese plates. That stuff smells like feet.

How to be a legend: Upgrade the cheeses from your standard cheddar, colby, and pepperjack. Get some real cheeses in there. We’re talking brie, gruyere, and fresh mozzarella. Spring for better crackers. Ditch the cold cuts and make all those meats prosciutto.

How to lose: Fried cheese sticks. You know this game is three hours long, right? If you aren’t deep-frying them at the party, there’s no way to win by bringing these. Ever see fried cheese sticks after they’ve been sitting out for an hour? Not pretty.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

French Onion dip is the easiest thing to make on this list. At least make it yourself.

11. Chips & Dip

How to win: Even if you only brought a tub of sour cream with a packet of french onion seasoning mixed in, you already won. Even if no one actually puts this on a plate, almost everyone will have at least one chip with dip. And no one will feel like they should save it when there are leftovers.

How to be a legend: Make your own layered dip that doesn’t involve packets of seasoning. Pro tip: the more layers, the better. Yeah, you could make a 35-layer dip, but if you’re feeling really saucy, why not make a 50-layer dip?

How to lose: Kale chips.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

If they’re mushy, we hate you.

10. Potato Skins

How to win: Proper potato skins have crispy shells and don’t skimp on the cheese and bacon. I don’t actually want big chunks of mushy potato in my mouth. That’s not what I signed up for.

How to be a legend: More meat. Every time. Maybe add a little spice to kick up the bland potato parts. Buffalo chicken potato skins are always a winner. Maybe some sriracha. Maybe even twice bake them.

How to lose: Bring a bag of Friday’s Potato Skins chips. C’mon, man.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

It’s entirely likely both of these ingredients came from a can. Amazing.

9. Pigs in a Blanket

How to win: Bring all-beef junior franks wrapped in crispy golden-brown dough. Brush on melted butter for extra effect. Even your friend who swears they don’t eat processed food is going to sneak one or two.

How to be a legend: Bratwurst in pretzel dough.

How to lose: Someone once told me that anything wrapped in dough is a surefire winner, then I discovered Spanakopita. If you bring spinach wrapped in dough to my football party, I’ll know we aren’t friends.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Bringing sub sandwich ingredients not in sandwich form will get you ejected from the party.

8. Party Subs

How to Win: Sandwiches are the closest thing to an entree anyone should bring to a sports party. From cold cuts to po’boys, they will be the unofficial main course on everyone’s plate.

How to be a legend: Tie the sub to the favorite team in the night’s game. If you’re watching the Steelers or Penguins, get some french fries and make a Primanti Brothers sandwich. For the Bills or Sabres, Beef on weck. Watching the Saints or Pelicans? Make a Muffuletta. You get the idea.

How to lose: Bringing Sloppy Joes or Manwiches. Those sandwiches are about as appetizing as their names make them sound.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Literally anything.

7. Bacon-Wrapped Anything

How to win: The best part of this is that you get to mix up everyone’s expectations and bring something memorable. Bacon-wrapped pork medallions with little toothpicks are a surefire winner. Bacon-wrapped scallops are a classic. Even bringing bacon-wrapped bacon will be good for a laugh — and people will still want it.

How to be a legend: Get some cheese in there, too. Everyone likes bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. Everyone.

How to lose: Anything where the bacon ends up served cold. Desserts. Salad bowls. Bacon needs to be served hot and crisp.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

If these aren’t actually soft, then we’re not actually friends.

6. Soft Pretzels

How to win: It’s important to emphasize that we’re talking about soft pretzels here. Not a bag of hard, sourdough pretzels. Those are for when I’m drinking all the leftover Bud Light later because the Bengals blew their playoff win with less than a minute left on the game clock.

How to be a legend: The pretzels are the easy part. What you’re going to bring is extra salt and an assortment of dipping sauces for everyone to enjoy with their pretzels – hot cheese, stone ground mustard, and pizza sauce are just the beginning.

How to lose: Few things in life are worse than picking up a warm pretzel, expecting to sink your teeth into its soft, buttery flesh and finding out it’s rock hard, either because it’s stale, old, or wasn’t cooked properly. Do your due diligence.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

If it’s DiGiorno, you better have a good reason.

5. Pizza

How to win: Everyone loves a fresh, hot slice. Your best bet is to come with one cooked and ready and have a prepared, uncooked one ready to heat up mid-game. Coordinate with your host.

How to be a legend: Individual calzones.

How to lose: If you put pineapple on a pizza meant for a group, you’re a sadist. Some people hate that. If you dip it in milk, you might as well be ISIS.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

The only item on the list that is acceptable in its deconstructed form.

4. Street Tacos

How to win: Your biggest problem will be that some people will expect flour tortillas and/or cheese when we all know real street tacos have neither. It’s fine; bring both. This is America.

How to be a legend: Bring a spit and carve off some al pastor filling for you and your friends. No one will ever be able to forget you. Make a day of it.

How to lose: Forgetting the pickled onions.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Extra credit for King’s Hawaiian buns.

3. Sliders 

How to win: It’s hard to go wrong with tiny cheeseburgers, my dude.

How to be a legend: Imagine the best burger you’ve ever had. Was it made with lamb? Wagyu or kobe beef? Did it have an amazing cheese component? Think of the veggies – pickles, arugula, tomatoes, onions, caramelized onions… the sky is the limit. Whatever made it so good, make a ton of those for your friends. Grab a few Beyond Meat patties for your vegetarian friends.

How to lose: Everyone will eat turkey burger sliders if you bring them, but many will resent you for it.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Blue Cheese still smells like feet but is an expected condiment here.

2. Wings

How to win: I know, everyone’s probably wondering how wings ended up at #2 on a ranking of football foods. I love a good wing as much as anyone. While they’re still tops, they’re not the top. They’re just expected at a football party these days and when was the last time you heard anyone say, “oh, you have Buffalo Wings?! I love these!”

How to be a legend: Bring a bunch of different flavors, outside of ‘hot’ and ‘mild.’ You should always bring the classics (because everyone expects them) but nowadays, there’s so much everyone wants to try on a chicken wing: lemon pepper, Old Bay seasoning, spicy ginger, and so on.

How to lose: If you brought a bunch of crazy flavors and neglected to bring hot and/or mild, everyone is just going to ask for hot or mild. When you tell them you only brought garlic parmesan, they’re going to look down and just say “oh.” They’re looking down because delivering any respect to your face is going to be difficult in that moment.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Admit it.

1. Ribs 

How to win: If I went to a football party and someone brought a legit racks of ribs, they’ll be invited to every party I ever throw until the end of time.

How to be a legend: You brought ribs, buddy. You ARE a legend.

How to lose: McRibs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Not In My Squad’ – US Army tackles sexual assault

The Army has recently expanded its Not in My Squad initiative as part of its ongoing fight against sexual assault, the Army’s top enlisted leader told lawmakers Feb. 27, 2019.

Introduced in 2015, the program empowers junior leaders at the squad level to reduce sexual assault and violence by building cohesive units through shared and mutual trust.

According to written testimony provided to lawmakers by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, the service has now spread the program to 27 ready and resilient campuses on Army installations.


In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, Dailey testified that the service has also conducted 17 workshops that showed positive feedback.

Certified resiliency trainers have been embedded at the company level to train soldiers on sustaining readiness and optimizing performance.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey introduces the “Not In My Squad” initiative during the launch of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at the Pentagon.

(Photo by J.D. Leipold)

“The Army strives to provide an environment of dignity and respect for all service members and is fully committed to eliminating sexual assault,” Dailey told lawmakers in Washington, D.C. “We recognize that regardless of the progress that we have made, more work still needs to be done.”

Dailey spoke at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services’ subcommittee on military personnel policies and military family readiness.

In addition to making the service a welcome place for all soldiers, the Army has also seen progress in retention. Dailey cited a 90 percent retention rate in 2018 and said the service is on track for similar results in 2019.

To help improve retention, the Army has made quality of life a top priority.

Army senior leaders have worked to hasten civilian hiring times to provide quality childcare for soldiers and their families. The service recently developed and implemented hiring tools to help childcare providers transition from one installation to another, such as not requiring them to go through the hiring and background check process again.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii watch the “Not In My Squad” initiative introduction by Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ondirae Abdullah-Robinson)

Dailey also wrote the service is exploring ways to maximize limited space at childcare centers.

At a family forum on Feb. 5, 2019, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said he supported the idea of having more spouses run childcare businesses from home to reduce backlogs.

Army senior leaders also continue to work on improving the quality of military housing.

Earlier this week, leaders traveled to installations to speak with families living in military housing. The service is currently analyzing data from housing surveys completed by families in February 2019.

Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley even ordered an environmental hazard screening to be performed on Army-owned, -leased and -privatized homes.

By 2021, plans call for the Army to eliminate its lowest level of military housing, known as Q4. Only 190 families are currently living in Q4 housing, Dailey testified.

“We will regain the trust of our soldiers and families through immediate and tangible actions that have already began,” he wrote.

Dailey added there will be no reprisals for soldiers and families who share their concerns about housing and quality of life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

France flexes by firing nuclear-capable missile

France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.

France tested all phases of a nuclear strike with an 11-hour mission that saw a Rafale fighter jet refuel and fire an unarmed missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Reuters described France’s military as saying.


“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”

3 gifts you get from having military parents

A French Dassault Rafale.

France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.

France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.

The US has accused Russia of having violated the treaty for years, and with all of NATO’s backing, the US decided to exit it.

But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.

France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US


In 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron, during a spat with US President Donald Trump, pushed the idea of creating a European army, which got backing from Germany.

Experts, however, have said this idea is largely redundant under NATO and unlikely to ever take shape.

Nonetheless, Trump took direct offense at Macron’s idea and mocked him over it on Twitter.

Reuters reported that France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly, said on Feb. 25, 2019, at a conference in Portugal, “We Europeans cannot remain spectators of our own security.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Former Navy Commander: What the US should have built instead of the F-35

Lockheed Martin announced the F-35 program in 2001. Since then, hundreds of billions of dollars and 15 years of testing have brought the program to where it is today — on the verge of becoming the world’s premier fighter/bomber and the future of the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy.


But while the idea of launching a single, advanced, stealthy plane for all three service branches seemed good on paper, and ultimately won approval from US military planners at the highest level, it was never the only option.

Also read: The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Former US Navy Commander and aviator Chris Harmer, also a senior naval analyst for the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that the F-35 only really holds a single advantage over the Cold War-era legacy aircraft it’s set to replace — stealth.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way. The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth,” said Harmer.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
Lockheed Martin photo

Indeed the F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights. Combat-aviation expert Justin Bronk told Business Insider flat-out that the F-35 could “never in a million years” win a dogfight with an advanced Russian or British plane.

However, defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, but rather aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, can simply shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But according to Harmer, who has spent much of his life around carrier-based aircraft, the F-35’s advantages begin and end with stealth. Harmer suggests that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, F-16, and F-18.

These platforms — proven, legacy aircraft — could easily be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that set the F-35 apart.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. | McDonnell Douglas photo

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities.” said Harmer. The F-18 for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F-18, has a smaller radar cross section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

However, an F-15, the Air Force’s best air-dominance fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on an enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” said Harmer, adding that the US has “literally never done that.” Additionally, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with an even better stealth in its inventory — the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 they talk about sending.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
The US already has a super-stealthy fighter — the F-22. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer added.

But the F-35 ship has sailed. Despite a very troublesome development, the program is now at or very near readiness with all three branches.

“As a practical matter, the F-35 is a done deal; we’ve incurred the ‘sunk cost’ of the R D, and neither the USAF or USMC has any intentions of buying any more legacy airframes.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The power of hope and determination

Never say “all.”

If 36 years in the Army hadn’t taught me that, then the culmination of the first two weeks of my job as the City Manager of Panama City, Florida certainly did. From Iraq to Afghanistan to posts across the U.S., I have been extremely fortunate to serve our country as an officer in the U.S. military – and thought I’d seen it all.

I was wrong.


With an impact like a hammer on a plate glass window, Category 5 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, with a force not seen since Hurricane Andrew leveled parts of South Florida 26 years earlier. And although I had accepted my new job in February – the city gave me a grace period so that I could finish my service in the Army, conclude a civilian job as a church business administrator, and donate a kidney to one of my fellow parishioners – nothing prepared any of us for this hurricane and its brutal aftermath.

Yet, even as the clouds parted and the enormity of the challenge ahead became clear, so too did the community’s resolve to take control of its future. Devastated as the city was, the sense of inspiration to rebuild Panama City with renewed opportunities for all was palatable.

From the outset, we adopted twin fundamental tenets: we would surpass the pre-storm status quo, and this initiative would only be successful if it was truly driven from the “bottom up” and not dictated from the “top down.” And every undertaking had to deliver tangible benefits to improve the safety and security, quality of life, vital infrastructure, and/or economy of the newly reimagined Panama City.

The series of citizen-driven public events we kicked-off in June 2019 to shape anew the city’s historic downtown and waterfront are perfectly illustrative of this effort. Neglected over the years, there was now a once-in-a-century blank canvass on which everyone in Panama City could paint. Embracing this opportunity, hundreds of neighbors joined the design teams to ideate around their vision, join the process via open microphone sessions, surveys, and hands-on work with maps to render a key part of the blueprint for a new Panama City. Earlier this year, we (virtually) staged additional events across other equally historic neighborhoods within the city.

Often, the simplest of statistics brings definition to particularly important, albeit unglamorous, accomplishments. As a case in point, in the 18 months following the storm we removed the equivalent of 40 years’ worth of debris (3.9 million-plus cubic yards) mostly in the form of downed trees and limbs, compared to a pre-hurricane average annual collection of 100,000 cubic yards per year.

Indeed, there is nothing more foundational to rebuilding a community than housing. I am especially proud of the almost million we secured in State funding to establish the ReHouse Bay initiative to help Panama City and Bay County residents secure affordable housing. With direct financial assistance of up to ,000 for down payments and closing costs, to repair and recovery aid, to help preventing foreclosure and short-term mortgage assistance, to short-term rental assistance, these programs are key to the city’s long-term vibrance and resolution to its acute shortage of housing stock. This effort has already provided help to more than 300 applicants, with hundreds more in the pipeline – and more than 5,000 houses currently in development or under construction.

Equally important, we’ve seen a surge in economic opportunities for our residents. Post hurricane, we have supported the opening of 436 new businesses, for a total of 3,288 – which is 171 more than existed before the storm.

With companies from Suzuki Marina Technical Center to Clark and Son Inc. moving to Panama City, existing employers like Eastern Shipbuilding expanding, Verizon inaugurating 5G service (making the city one of the first in the country equipped with this high-speed service), and the St. Joe Company announcing a long-term land lease to bring a new hotel and restaurant to the historic downtown waterfront district, the city’s growth is only accelerating.

For those who ask, “are we done yet?” – the answer is an unequivocal “not by a long shot.” Two years on from the storm, our community’s steadfast joy of hope for a better and brighter future simply wouldn’t permit this collective commitment to stall. Not even for a moment. We press on to become the Premier City in the Florida Panhandle.

Mark McQueen is the City Manager in Panama City, Florida. Prior to his service with the City, he spent 36 years with the U.S Army, retiring as an Army Major General.

popular

Why the Queen of England took a member of Parliament hostage

They do things a little differently over in Britain. They say the U.S. and the UK are two nations separated by a common language — but we’re also separated by food quality and bizarre traditions. Just as the English might be a little concerned when the Leader of the Free World pardons a turkey every year, we’re a little leery when we see Queen Elizabeth II holding a member of Member of Parliament hostage — as she does every year.


It’s now more a Parliamentary tradition more than the political necessity it once was, but every year, the English monarch does take a member of Parliament hostage.

While this may seem like a strange tradition for one of the world’s top ten powers, remember that the United States purposely keeps a lower-ranking member of the Presidential Cabinet away from the State of the Union Address just in case everyone in that room dies somehow.

3 gifts you get from having military parents

For example, this would have been your President if something like that happened at the 2018 State of the Union Address. If you know who that is without looking it up, you are 70 percent more ‘Murica than everyone else.

Related: What a ‘designated survivor’ does during the State of the Union

At the opening of Parliament every year, the reigning monarch delivers a speech from the throne. It’s just one part of a grand tradition that really showcases a lot of British governmental history. But before she gets to the throne, a number of fascinating events take place. They first ensure there aren’t any Guy Fawkes impersonators loading gunpowder in the cellar, then the members (called “Peers”) assemble. Then, before the monarch leaves the palace, one of the members of the body is taken hostage to ensure the safe return of the Queen.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
“Let us all be prepared to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble.”
(Crown photo)

The reason for this was that Parliament hasn’t always been a welcoming place for the monarch. In fact, a very long war resulted from this division that left Britain under the rule of a de-facto military dictatorship for a few years. King Charles I was actually beheaded in 1649 as part of that Civil War.

Nowadays, Parliament keeps Charles’ execution warrant displayed in the monarch’s dressing room as a reminder of what can happen if the Queen oversteps her authority.

3 gifts you get from having military parents
Savage.

Once the monarch’s crown and regalia arrives and the Hostage MP is under guard, the Queen departs Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster (where Parliament meets). The Commons are called to assemble in the Lords chamber, where the monarch will deliver her speech.

The sitting monarch has not entered the Commons chamber since Charles I burst in, trying to arrest five members of Parliament whom he believed were using a Scottish invasion as a pretext to rally the people of London to rise against him. We already covered where this took the English Monarchy and Charles I personally.

Savage.

Once assembled in the House of Lords’ Chamber, the Queen will give a speech, written by the Prime Minister and the cabinet, outlining the body’s agenda for the coming year. The whole procession is then done in reverse, with the monarch departing Westminster for Buckingham Palace.

Once the Queen has safely returned to the Palace the Hostage MP is released, presumably unharmed.

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