The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

popular

This common health concern hits vets more than anyone — but nobody talks about it

Not feeling “in the mood” when your partner is trying to get you there. Erectile dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction.

There are a lot of ways to describe it, but there’s no denying what it is. For many men, sexuality is tied to masculinity — it’s a part of a man’s identity — and not getting there can shake a returning veteran’s confidence at every level.

Despite all of the pharmaceutical ads that make the issue seem like it’s an “old man’s problem,” it hits younger veterans — even those in their 20s — at an alarming rate. It might not make the best dinnertime conversation, but there’s no shame in it. It’s a very real problem for veterans of all ages and it’s something that you shouldn’t avoid discussing with your significant other — or a healthcare professional, at the very least.


This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously
The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

The loss of confidence in one major aspect could be the catalyst in sending veteran spiraling downwards.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Mauricio Campino)

There are two primary causes of erectile dysfunction: There’s the physiological component that affects blood circulation, preventing it from reaching the right spots at the right moment. This aspect is most common among older men, men who maintain sedentary lifestyles, and those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices — like smoking two packs a day, eating fast food five times a week, and generally avoiding exercise. A gym membership or walking the dog an extra lap around the block can do wonders for that, but that’s a conversation best held between you and a medical professional.

The problem that hits many returning veterans is rooted in psychological trauma — and it’s an often-neglected side effect of post-traumatic stress. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, right? Nobody wants to think about sex when their mind is still back in the war.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

And, well, if your mind is here… it’s not in the bedroom.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Follow our logic here for a little more understanding: If you’re a veteran, think back to your days at boot camp or basic training. Chances are high that you didn’t sport wood a single time during the entire nine weeks. While there, you probably caught wind of some BS rumor about saltpeter being put in the drinking water to prevent it from happening, but the logical side of your brain knew that it was because of the stress you were enduring.

Take that same stress and amplify it by the daily struggles that veterans who live with post-traumatic stress deal with. Of course, the severity of the situation varies. It ranges from just having the occasional “bad night” that a veteran would rather just sleep off to replaying a single tragic moment over and over, like some kind of broken record from Hell.

It’s becoming a little easier to understand how common this issue really is among veterans, right?

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

(U.S. Navy)

Whatever your case, not getting your private to stand at the position of attention really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Have an open dialogue with your significant other. Ask for their patience, their understanding, and their help in getting you to relax — foreplay is a two-way street, after all.

If you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s actually an extremely common thing brought up at the VA and there are plenty of treatment options out there.

If you’re interested in clinically tested medication, you can try the solutions offered by hims for just for the first month. hims will connect you with US-based, licensed doctors online so that you can find the right solution for you from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

And remember, there actually is a rating for ED that can only be brought up by talking to a medical professional.

This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The military origin of ‘turning a blind eye’ to something

There’s something to be said for aggressively pursuing the job you want. For British Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, that opportunity came at the Battle of Copenhagen when the famous admiral disobeyed the orders of a less-famous, less successful one in the funniest way possible.


Lord Nelson was arguably England’s most famous military mind, and without a doubt, one of its most famous admirals. By the time the British engaged the Danes at Copenhagen, Nelson had been commanding ships for more than 20 years and had been in command as an Admiral for nearly as long. But Nelson wasn’t in overall command of the British at Copenhagen. That honor fell to Britain’s Sir Hyde Parker, but Sir Hyde wasn’t as aggressive as Lord Nelson, certainly not aggressive enough for Nelson’s taste.

Until the Battle of Copenhagen, Parker was considered a very good commander, commanding Royal Navy ships for some 40 years in fights from Jamaica to Gibraltar. But Hyde was more of an administrator than a battlefield leader, sticking close to the rules of naval combat. This wasn’t a problem for anyone until 1801, when he ordered the Royal Navy at Copenhagen to disengage.

Nelson wasn’t having it.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Unlike Parker, Nelson was known to flaunt the doctrine of naval warfare at the time. He is famous for saying, “forget the maneuvers, just go straight at them.” Nelson was aggressive without being careless and had a sixth sense for the way a battle was flowing. From his ship closer to the fight, he could tell that the attack needed to be pressed. Parker was further away from the fighting, in a ship too heavy for the shallower water closer to Copenhagen. So when he was ready to disengage – as doctrine would have him do – he raised the flag signal.

Nelson is said to have put his telescope up to his blind eye, turned in the direction of Parker’s flagship, and allegedly said:

“I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.”
The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Nelson knew the battle would go his way, and even though some of his ships did obey the disengage order, most of the frigates did not. The battle began to turn heavily in favor of the British, with most of the Danish ships’ guns too heavily damaged to return fire. Denmark would be forced into an alliance with the British against Napoleonic France and received protection from Russia. For his actions, Nelson was made a viscount, and Parker was recalled to England, where he was stripped of his Baltic Sea command.

Articles

These are the only 3 countries America hasn’t invaded

The United States military gets around. There are the countries with which it’s gone to war – Iraq, Germany, and Japan. There are countries it helps protect – Turkey, Poland, and Bahrain. And there are countries most people don’t even know that America sends troops to, like Thailand, Pakistan, and Antarctica.


There are so many countries.

In fact, there are only three countries in the world America hasn’t invaded or have never seen a U.S. military presence: Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously
Do they need freedom?

American historian Christopher Kelly and British historian Stuart Laycock are the authors of “America Invades: How We’ve Invaded Or Been Militarily Involved With Almost Every Country on Earth.” They define “invasion” as “an armed attack or intervention in a country by American forces.”

Americans have been invading other countries since before America was a thing, as early as 1741, when the North American battleground for the War of Austrian Succession was called King George’s War – one of the French and Indian Wars.

That’s a lot of wars.

According to Kelly and Laycock’s book, the United States has invaded or fought in 84 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been militarily involved with 191 of 193 – a staggering 98 percent.

The authors pose mixed, apolitical ideas. Without America’s worldwide military involvement, the U.S. would be smaller with less clout, and Mexico would be bigger, with more clout. American invasions checked the spread of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, and without such opposition, the spread could have been much worse.

Finally, despite the image of an “imperial” United States, *only* America can meet some of the transnational challenges faced by the world in the 21st Century.

1. Andorra

The tiny landlocked country of Andorra is a parliamentary democratic diarchy, run by two princes — which should be easy for Gen X-ers to remember.

Andorra has no standing army. Instead, they have a militia ready to take arms if necessary. Since they are landlocked, they have no navy. Still, they were the longest combatant of World War I, technically remaining at war with Germany until 1958.

2. Bhutan

Bhutan is also landlocked between two countries. Unlike Andorra, the countries surrounding Bhutan would probably roll over the tiny country in the event of a war. Bhutan’s 16,000-strong army is trained by the Indian army, and the country has no navy or air force.

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously
The Nepali Hindus – called Lotshampa –refugees in Beldangi Camp. (used by permission)

Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with some Buddism sprinkled in – which meant the expulsion of 1/5th of its population of ethnic Nepali Hindus who would not conform.

3. Liechtenstein

This little principality is locked between Austria and Switzerland. At just 62 square miles, one of the reasons America has never been here is that they might have trouble finding it on a map, just like two U.S. Marines famously did. They missed Liechtenstein and hit Germany instead.

Liechtenstein doesn’t really need the help. They’re a constitutional monarchy with a democratically-elected legislature, low taxes, high employment, and a 100 percent literacy rate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 moments when you know the mess hall is about to serve the good stuff

Being a meal card holder has its benefits. It’s awesome to have the perfect excuse to get out at 1730. It’s food you get to enjoy without having to cook it. All you have do is overlook the fact that the meals are deducted from your pay when you’re assigned a barracks room and the fact that there’s barely any chow left by the time you get there —but outside of those details, it’s great!

That optimism starts to wane, however, after eight months of eating the same seven entrees ad nauseam. Then, one glorious day, the cooks throw you a curve-ball by turning what’s normally a grab-and-go dinner into an elaborate, fine-dining experience.


You’ll rarely hear the lower enlisted complain when they’re about to get something that’s not just decent but actually really good. (In reality, lower enlisted troops would probably complain about being given a brick of gold because it’s “too heavy,” but that’s beside the point).

It might seem like random chance, but there’s a method to the madness.

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Also, your chain of command will usually pop in to serve the food on the line. Savor that moment.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian Lautenslager)

Holidays

No one likes being stuck on-post during a holiday. If your leave form got denied or you just didn’t feel like putting in for a mileage pass, it often means your ass will be stuck on staff duty.

Thankfully, the cooks also get screwed out of block leave and work holidays with us. Even if it’s not a big holiday that revolves around a massive meal (we’re look at you, Thanksgiving), the cooks will still serve something festive.

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If you thought Air Force dinging facilities were leagues above the rest during the rest of the year…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim)

The lead-up to best-chef competitions

In the service, there’s a competition for cooks in which they’re expected to deliver a gourmet meal to a judge that has the emotionless vile of Gordon Ramsey with the knife-handing ability of a Drill Sergeant.

They don’t want to mess it up and will prepare the only way possible: by practicing. And that practice tastes delicious.

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“Can we get you anything else, Specialist? Steak sauce? Another drink? Another three months in this god-forsaken hellhole? How about some cake? We got cake!”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)

Right before the unit is about to get bad news

It’s basic psychology. If you outright tell the troops that their deployment got extended, they’re going to flip the tables over. If you break it to them gently over a steak-and-lobster dinner that somehow found its way to Afghanistan, they’ll take it slightly better.

This is so common in the military that any time the commander shows up and asks for a crate of ice cream bars for the troops, the Private News Network and Lance Corporal Underground buzz with rumors.

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You think they’ll serve the same scrambled eggs that they serve the average boot to the Commandant of the Marines? Hell no. Especially not if they get some kind of warning. That’s you cue to grab food and dash.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

When high-ranking officials make the rounds

Not even the cooks are exempt from the dog-and-pony show that comes with a general’s visit. In fact, while the other lower enlisted are scrubbing toilets in bathrooms the general will never realistically visit, the cooks know that the mess hall is the go-to spot to bring the generals to give them a “realistic” view of the unit.

If you’re willing to stomach the off-chance of being dragged into a conversation with a four-star general about “how the commander and first sergeant 100% absolutely always treat you like a real human being and that, oh boy, do you definitely love the unit,” then you’re in for one of the best meals the cooks can offer.

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Everyone loves the cooks on Taco Tuesday.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

Taco Tuesday (and any other themed meal days)

There’s no way in hell any troop would willingly miss Taco Tuesday at the DFAC. Even if you don’t post flyers about it, troops will magically crawl out of the woodwork if it means they’re getting free tacos.

As much as everyone in the unit uses their cooks as punching bags for jokes, they can deliver some mighty fine meals when they try.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one flag can put the spotlight on many veteran issues

In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.

Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.

This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.


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The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th. ​

(Team RWB)

Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.

There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.

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If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.

(Team RWB)

Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.

“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”

Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.

The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.

The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.

“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”

If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The unsung African-American heroes of D-Day

The salty spray of the ocean battered their faces as the boat rocked with the waves. High above in the thick grey clouds, the thunderous drone of Allied planes could be heard. In the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, these men were, “about to embark on the Great Crusade.”

Operation Overlord, D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, Omaha beach—these words invoke the memory of the events of June 6, 1944 when the combined allied nations assaulted the Western Front of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. As a result of media entertainment, the images that are associated with these words are often historical films of men running ashore through the high surf, John Wayne and Henry Fonda in The Longest Day, and Tom Hanks and Tom Sizemore in Saving Private Ryan. Unfortunately, this remembrance of D-Day omits the contributions of the African-American troops who supported the invasion at Normandy.


The 621 men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion were split up amongst the thousands of troops who would storm the beaches on June 6. Their job was to go ashore and raise hydrogen-filled barrage balloons to protect the landings from strafing runs by enemy aircraft. Despite their defensive mission, these men were not immune to the merciless fire of the German guns.

“…the 88s hit us. They were murder.” Waverly Woodson Jr., a corporal and medic with the 320th, recalled during a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. “Of our 26 Navy personnel, there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.” Woodson was wounded in the back and groin by a mortar shell. After receiving aid from another medic, he went on to tend to the other wounded men aboard the landing craft.

Despite his own injuries, Woodson went ashore and continued to provide medical aid to his wounded comrades. For the next 30 hours on the blood-soaked beach, Woodson removed bullets from wounds, dispensed blood plasma, reset broken bones, amputated a foot and saved four men from drowning. Only after he collapsed from exhaustion and his own wounds, was Woodson evacuated to a hospital ship.

For his actions on D-Day, Woodson received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Woodson’s commanding officer had originally recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross, and a memo from the War Department to the White House uncovered in 2015 revealed that Woodson had been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. The push to upgrade Woodson’s award continues to this day.

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Waverly Woodson in his Army photograph (photo provided by Joann Woodson)

Another corporal in the 320th, William Dabney, had his barrage balloon shot out above him. Without a replacement balloon to raise, Dabney dug in and did everything he could to survive. “The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers…I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” Dabney recalled in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. Dabney survived D-Day and continued the war providing barrage balloon cover for an anti-aircraft gun team. “I followed the big gun wherever it went. I went to Saint Lo, then near Paris, and then later to Belgium and Holland.” In 2009, Dabney was awarded the French Legion of Honor at the 65th Anniversary D-Day Ceremony at Normandy.

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William Dabney and his son, Vinnie Dabney, at the French Embassy in Washington D.C., before their trip Normandy in 2009 (photo provided by Vinnie Dabney)

The men of the 320th that survived the invasion of Europe were eventually reassigned to the Pacific Theater. They trained at Camp Stewart, Georgia, to fight the Japanese and protect friendly forces from the suicidal kamikaze planes. The 320th made it as far as Hawaii before the war ended.

Johnnie Jones, Sr. was a warrant officer responsible for unloading equipment and supplies at Normandy. As he came ashore, Jones and his men came under fire from a German sniper. “The bullets were going in front of you, back of you, side of you, everywhere,” Jones recounted. He grabbed his weapon and returned fire with his fellow soldiers. As he attempted to suppress the sniper, Jones witnessed another soldier rush the pillbox concealing the enemy. “I still see him, I see him every night. I know he didn’t come back home. He didn’t come back home but he saved me and he saved many others.” Jones is one of the last surviving African-American veterans of D-Day.

The contributions of these men and their African-American comrades was invaluable in saving lives and achieving victory in WWII. Though many of them have passed away, their memory lives on in our remembrance of D-Day as their stories are finally told.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.

Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.


EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.

But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.

“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.

The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.

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506th Air Expeditionary Group Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight members Senior Airman Aaron Skelton, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Ray Hunter Jr. and Senior Airman Joshua Brum, run a function check on a TALON robot.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.

Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.

EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.

“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”

The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.

Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.

Whether that means lasers is unknown.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24 Hind had a reputation as a cinematic bad guy in “Rambo III” and the original 1980s Cold War flick “Red Dawn.”


Helping the Mujahidin kill it was the focus of 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But how much do you really know about this so-called “flying tank?”

Let’s take a good look at this deadly bird. According to GlobalSecurity.org, this helicopter can carry a lot of firepower, including 57mm and 80mm rockets, anti-tank missiles, and deadly machine guns or cannon. But it also can carry a standard Russian infantry section – eight fully-armed troops.

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A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight. (DOD photo)

So, it’s really not a flying tank. It’s a flying infantry fighting vehicle.

There really isn’t a similar American – or Western – helicopter. The UH-1 and UH-60s were standard troop carries, but don’t really have the firepower of the Hind. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra have a lot of firepower, but can’t really carry troops (yeah, we know the Brits did that one time – and it was [very] crazy!).

While the Mi-24 got its villainous cinematic reputation thanks to 1984’s “Red Dawn,” and the 1988 movie “Rambo III,” its first action was in the Ogaden War – an obscure conflict that took place from 1977-1978. After the Somali invasion of Ethiopia, the Air Combat Information Group noted that as many as 16 Mi-24s were delivered to the Ethiopians by the Soviets.

It has taken part in over 30 conflicts since then.

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Mi-24 Super Agile Hind, a modernized Hind by the South African firm ATE. At the Ysterplaat Airshow 2006. Photo by Danie van der Merwe, Flikr

The Hind was to Afghanistan what the Huey was to Vietnam: an icon of the conflict. GlobalSecurity.org reported that as many as 300 Mi-24s were in Afghanistan.

In the Russian war movie “The Ninth Company,” the Mi-24 gets a more heroic turn than it did in Red Dawn or Rambo III.

At least 2,300 have already been built, and versions of the Mi-24 are still in production, according to the Russian Helicopters website. This cinematic aviation bad boy will surely be around for many years to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the sniper rifle that the US Army, Marines, and the special operators all want to get their hands on

US military snipers in the Army, Marines, and the special operations community are getting new bolt-action sniper rifles, and they all want a certain one from Barrett.


The preferred choice is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, Task & Purpose first reported, citing budget documents and previous contracting information.

Rather than force snipers to choose between weapons capable of firing different rounds for different purposes, the multi-caliber rifle can be chambered in 7.62X51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.

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“There are three ranges associated with the three calibers, and there are different target sets that we are trying for at those ranges,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, the lethality branch chief for the soldier division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Insider.

“It gives more flexibility to the sniper as to what configuration to put it in and what targets they are going after,” he added.

In its fiscal year 2021 budget request, the Army asked for 536 MRAD sniper rifles for a little over million for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The Marine Corps, which is also buying MRAD rifles for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, estimated that each one would cost about ,000.

The Army’s latest budget request described the rifle as “a multi-caliber, bolt-action sniper rifle, which is effective against personnel and material targets at extreme ranges.” The weapon is expected to replace the Army’s M2010 and M107 sniper rifles.

“What we are trying to achieve is to collapse those two systems into one instead of having the sniper choose one or the other,” Kennedy told Insider.

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The Army PSR, not to be confused with the older special operations PSR, is expected to be lighter, more accurate, and have a greater range than legacy systems.

The rifle, the budget request said, also “includes a sound suppressor and direct view optics (with fire control capabilities), which allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition.”

The goal is to offer a passive sighting system that is not emitting anything that could give away a sniper’s position, Kennedy said.

The Army’s PSR is the same MRAD rifle for which Special Operations Command offered Barrett a nearly million contract last year. It was selected for the command’s ASR program as a replacement for the older PSR for special operations snipers, Military Times reported last March.

In the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, the Marines included a million request for 250 Barrett multi-caliber sniper rifles. The service wants the new rifles to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”

The recent budget request describes the rifle, part of the ASR program, as a “multi-caliber system featuring extended range, greater lethality and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition than current systems.”

The purpose of the PSR and ASR programs, according to the budget documents, is to provide US military snipers with capable modern rifles that will allow them to maintain standoff and overmatch against near-peer competitors.

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

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5 of the most over-hyped military commanders in American history

These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?


Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.

1. Douglas MacArthur

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MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.

“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.

Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.

2. William F. Halsey

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Official U.S. Navy portrait of William F. Halsey, Jr. (US Navy photo)

Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.

But the fact is, in 1944, his limitations became apparent. Historynet.com noted his faults became apparent at Leyte Gulf, he “bit” on the Japanese carriers, which had been intended as a decoy. A thesis at the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College stated that Halsey “made several unfounded assumptions and misjudged the tactical situation.”

3. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart

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While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.

4. Robert E. Lee

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Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”

The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.

Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.

5. George S. Patton

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Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.

But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.

More worrisome from a military standpoint was the Task Force Baum fiasco, as described in this thesis. Patton, not the picture of humility, later admitted he made a mistake.

Patton probably was an example of someone promoted a bit past his level of competence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Confederate rivalry allowed 30,000 Union troops to escape

During the Civil War, a rivalry between two Confederate generals led to 30,000 pinned-down Union troops escaping encirclement in 1864, allowing them to go on and capture Atlanta, rallying Union morale, and ensuring a Republican victory in the elections and a Union victory in the war.


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The USS Hartford and Admiral Farragut forces their way past Confederate defenses at New Orleans in 1862,

(Julian Oliver Davidson)

The year 1864 was possibly the most important of the war. The presidential elections that year were framed as a referendum on the war. Supporters of a continued Union advance against the South were backing the Republicans as those who wished to create a negotiated peace backed George McClellan and the Democrats.

The Confederates, meanwhile, knew about the divisions and were doing everything they could to convince common Northerners that the war wasn’t worth the costs. Gen. Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland, privateers attacked Union shipping on the high seas, and commanders elsewhere redoubled their efforts to bleed the Union for every yard lost.

Amidst all of this, two capable Confederate generals in Louisiana were constantly arguing with one another. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was the commander of Confederate troops in the Trans-Mississippi in 1863 and 1864, and one of his subordinates was Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor and brother-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Both were described as having skill at tactics and strategy, but Smith was a cautious West Point graduate while Taylor was Yale-educated man with hot blood, constantly angling to take the fight to the Union.

In 1864, the Union was still trying to cement their control over the waterways in the south, completing their Anaconda Plan to choke off the South from external or internal resupply. To that end, massive numbers of troops were sent up the Red River that forms the border between Louisiana and Arkansas.

Smith wanted to slow the Union advance with defensive engagements punctuated by the occasional counterattack, while Taylor was itching to push his way back to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually re-take New Orleans.

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The Battle of Irish Bend Louisiana

(William Hall, Harper’s Weekly)

So, when Taylor saw Union Forces overextend themselves while moving up the Red River, he sent his forces to smash into their weak points, winning victories at the Battles of Mansfield and then Pleasant Hill. Union commanders, worried that they would soon find themselves separated from one another and encircled, fought their way south and finally holed up in Alexandria, Louisiana.

This was what Taylor had been waiting for. His enemy was in a weak position, outnumbered, and with no place to run. But Taylor didn’t quite have the forces necessary to finish the fight — all he needed was a little help from Smith.

Instead, Smith took the bulk of Taylor’s forces and re-deployed them to Arkansas where they helped harry an enemy that was already in retreat. The Union forces at Alexandria saw the sudden gap in the lines and broke out, making their way back east. 30,000 Union troops were now free to continue fighting.

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The Battle of Atlanta

This allowed them to arrive in the East just in time to join in important advances there, including Gen. William T. Sherman’s infamous push south. Sherman started his fight to Atlanta in May 1864 with 110,000 men split into three armies. If he hadn’t gotten the 30,000 from the Red River, he’d have been forced to decide whether to wait or advance with only 80,000 troops and two armies.

Follow that to the actual assault on Atlanta and following siege. While Union forces were able to get to Atlanta with relative ease — the last serious Confederate attempt to prevent a siege took place on July 22 and only 35,000 of the 100,000 Union troops actually engaged in the battle — the siege itself was a close-fought thing.

The siege ran from late-July to late-September, barely wrapping up in time for Northern newspaper reports to buoy Union morale and support for the war, leading to Lincoln’s strong re-election numbers. But Sherman relied on his numerical strength to win the fight. He used two of his armies to pin down Confederate troops or to draw their attention while his third army sneaked by to attack their rear or snip away supply lines.

With only two armies (or with three undersized armies), none of that would’ve worked. Instead, Sherman would have had to maintain a conventional siege against repeated and determined counterattacks, likely delaying the fall of Atlanta or even preventing it. The removal of 30,000 troops really might have tipped the scales against him and, therefore, against Lincoln.

Luckily, Sherman never had to face that possibility. Instead, he had plenty of troops to capture Atlanta, was able to split his forces after, marching east to the sea with the bulk of his men while the rest cut west across the South —all because two Confederate generals in Louisiana couldn’t work together.

As for them, Taylor was eventually recognized by the Confederate Congress for what successes he had achieved receiving promotion while Smith remained in the Trans-Mississippi, angry, until the end of the war.

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This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

The United States Special Operations Command just tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, marking the first time such a weapon has been deployed aboard a rotary-wing aircraft.


According to a press release from defense company Raytheon, the test was a complete success, “providing solid experimental evidence for the feasibility of high resolution, multi-band targeting sensor performance and beam propagation supportive of High Energy Laser capability for the rotary-wing attack mission.”

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Matthew Ketner, branch chief of the High Energy Laser Controls and Integration Directorate at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia, shows the effects of laser hits on materials during Lab Day in the Pentagon, May 18, 2017. (Photo Credit: Mr. David Vergun (Army News Service))

“This data collection shows we’re on the right track. By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later,” the release quoted Raytheon vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Art Morrish as saying.

The Apache used a HEL mated with a version of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which combined electro-optical and infrared sensors, against a number of targets. The data from this test will be used to future HEL systems to address unique challenges that stem from their installation on rotary-wing aircraft, including the effects of vibration, downwash, and dust.

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(DOD photo)

The Apache has had laser systems since it entered service in 1984, but the lasers were low-power systems that are used to guide AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. A HEL will have the ability to destroy targets.

An Army release noted that the service has also tested lasers on the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in April 2016 and the Stryker this past February and March. In both cases, the lasers downed a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy has a laser on board USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, formerly LPD 15), which is currently operating in the Persian Gulf.

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The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

Lasers offer a number of advantages over artillery and missiles. Notably, they are invisible, and the power of the weapon can be adjusted to handle a specific material, like steel plating or Kevlar. HELs can even be set for non-lethal effects on people.

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