A Vice News journalist took the Army’s new combat fitness test, scoring a 502 out of 600 while talking to the team that is implementing the new test about how it works, what it tells them about soldier performance, and how it will affect the Army in the future.
What It Takes To Pass The Army’s Combat Fitness Test
Alzo Slade, the journalist, completed all six events in the new test, including the maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint drag carry, leg tucks, and two-mile run.
Alzo deadlifted 300 pounds, threw the medicine ball 11.2 meters, did 42 hand-release push-ups, completed the sprint drag carry in 1:52, completed 13 leg tucks, and completed his two-mile run in 19:16.
Except for the two-mile run, that puts Alzo far ahead of the minimums. He more than doubled the deadlift requirement, over tripled the requirement for the push-ups, and did 13 times the minimum for leg tucks. Combined, this meant that Alzo qualified for the most physically demanding jobs. If you watch the video and see Alzo, it won’t come as a huge surprise. He looks pretty fit.
New York National Guard soldiers take the Army Combat Fitness Test on March 9, 2019.
(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Katie Sullivan)
But of course, any discussion of the Army’s new PT test includes the question, “Why?” The Army has tried to replace its test over and over. And the reasons for the Army Combat Fitness Test will sound similar to those for previous, failed PT test replacement efforts.
The push-ups, sit-ups, and two-mile-run of the old PT test was simply not a good predictor of physical performance in combat, the Army’s most important physical arena. It allowed long rests between events and tested a limited number of muscle groups.
But the new test, if implemented, has six events in 50 minutes. The lion’s share of that time goes to the two-mile run, but soldiers will also be required to lift weights, throw weights, and complete a complex shuttle run that tests complex movements. This is more like a Crossfit workout.
And while that can sound intimidating, remember that a journalist coming in off the street earned a 502 on the current score tables. You can outscore a civilian journalist, right?
Throughout the U.S. military’s long and storied history, there have been many different military jobs that could only be completed by troops in specific, highly-trained roles. These military occupations and ratings were once critical to the fight until, eventually. they went the way of the dodo.
The military is an ever-changing beast. In one war, sending cavalrymen on horses was essential to mission success — in the next, they were useless. Once, there was a need for the Navy to have its very own rating of sailors who’d paint the sides of ships — until they figured out that all the lower enlisted could do it.
While no one is hounding for the return of horrible military jobs, like loblolly boy (an unfortunate soul who’s entire purpose was to dispose of amputated limbs) or pigeon trainer, bringing back these roles would definitely make life better.
That roar? It’s the sound of freedom.
Nothing screams Americana like a badass riding on a Harley on the way to go f*ck some sh*t up. In WWI, these troops were seen as the evolution of horseback cavalry, able to effectively maneuver through battlefields. They served as both scouts and deliverymen.
Motorcycle riders could easily fit into the current cavalry — if they’re willing to give up the safety of up-armored vehicles for a boost of speed.
They’re one part door gunner, one part scout, and all parts badass.
Aeroscouts did exactly what their name implies: They scouted from up in the air. They’d ride along with helicopters and get a bird’s eye view of the battlefield or enemy movements and relay it back to headquarters.
The only modern equivalent to this would be a UAV operator, but not even the best technology could replace the need for a skilled eye.
If each musician in the band can get their own identifier, why can’t cooks?
Back in WWI, the WAC and the Red Cross had a specific military job for women who’d make sweets and deliver them to the troops. Apparently, the sweets they made were so good that doughnuts became an American breakfast staple as a result. But they weren’t just limited to just doughnuts. They made cakes, candies, and all sorts of desserts as well.
A return of the “doughgirls” isn’t that much of a stretch. Nearly every occupation in the military is broken down by specialization and areas of expertise with an exception for cooks. Cooks, in general, know who within their ranks is best at certain tasks better. One cook might be known for serving up gourmet, single-dish items while another is lauded for their ability to feed mass amounts of troops at once — or, in this case, making desserts that boost troop morale. Why not officially specialize and let a cook play to their strengths?
What other MOS can claim as many celebrities as cartoonists?
Within the public affairs corps was the once-coveted position of cartoonist. They’d work with the various news outlets within the military and draw comic strips. Many pop-culture icons that served in the military, including Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), Bill Mauldin of Willie and Joe fame, Shel Silverstein, and Stan Lee, cut their teeth on drawing cartoons for their fellow troops.
Comics as an art form are still beloved by troops today. Troops can’t get enough of Terminal Lance, even if they’re not in the Marines. If the military gave that creative outlet back to troops, many more stories could be told through a medium that troops adore, taking minds off the stresses of war.
How recently did Army barbers get the can? Well, Bill from 1997’s ‘King of the Hill’ was one.
(20th Century Fox)
Many branches used to have their very own barber that would be embedded within the unit. They kept everyone up to standards and troops didn’t have to pay a dime. As with most service-industry military jobs, civilian contractors eventually took over.
Not to discredit the fine men and women currently serving their country as tailors and laundry specialists, but troops need haircuts every week. Because troops don’t exactly make a fortune, they pinch pennies. When they pinch pennies in selecting a barber, the results are sometimes tragic.
The schoolmaster is the dude with the violin because of course he is.
Over a century ago, the Navy would take anyone willing to be on a ship. Whether they were smart (or even literate) wasn’t a factor. Schoolmasters had the duty of teaching adults what they would have learned in grade school, giving them a leg up on civilian peers who never had an education.
Let’s be real for a second. There are a lot of troops in the military who have a high school diploma or a GED that, despite the official paperwork, we all know are idiots. Having schoolmasters in service again would mean that command could refer these troops to night classes so they don’t get laughed at any time they need to read something out loud.
Hopefully, one of these will become a space shuttle door gunner and live out all of our wildest dreams.
As much as we all go to bed dreaming about being the first in line at the Space Corps recruitment office, each branch has had their own astronauts for a while- possibly the coolest military job to date. For a time, Uncle Sam exclusively sent service members into orbit. Recently, however, only a handful of actual troops have gone up.
The Army currently only has three astronauts serving under official capacity — but they’re more like liaisons to NASA. When the time is right for the Space Corps, these three are more-than-likely to rise among the ranks — you know, since they’re actually astronauts and not just people who like Star Wars.
In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed.
All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.
Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.
If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one.
Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources.
So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there.
Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.
The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities.
At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one.
Described as “the bravest man you’ve never heard of,” Captain Humbert Roque Versace’s story is one that is not as well known as it should be. So allow us to remedy that by discussing how he spent two years basically being a huge pain in the ass for his captors in a Vietnamese POW camp — so much so that he managed to become the first person in the U.S. Army to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct as a prisoner of war.
Born in 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Versace was the son of decorated army colonel, Humbert Joseph Versace, and famed author, editor, and pilot Tere Rios, who, among other things, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican, which would inspire popular 1960s TV show The Flying Nun.
The oldest of five children, “Rocky” as he was known was a smart and headstrong child who would later be described by his brother, Steve, as being “infuriatingly opinionated” and “If he knew he was right, he was absolutely atrocious…” — a trait that played a role in his earning a Medal of Honor.
Like his father before him, Versace joined the army, attending West Point Academy in 1959 and graduating with honors. Over the next two years Versace received training as both an Army Ranger and a parachutist, eventually rising to the rank of Captain during a tour in North Korea as a tank platoon leader. In 1962, the newly minted Captain Versace was assigned to serve in a mostly ceremonial role with the distinguished Old Guard at Fort Meyer. Soon enough, however, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.
Humbert Roque Versace.
Prior to being shipped off to Vietnam, Versace received yet more training, this time to become an Intelligence Officer. As part of his training, he received a crash course in Vietnamese, a language he was fluent in by the time his tour of duty began in May of 1962. This, combined with Versace’s fluency in French, made him an invaluable asset to the Army and incredibly popular with the South Vietnamese forces and civilians of the Mekong Delta.
His fluency in Vietnamese was important to Versace as his dream was to eventually become a Catholic priest and missionary to the people of South Vietnam. Thus, Versace spent much of his free time as a soldier there volunteering at local orphanages, assisting townspeople and securing vital and not-so-vital supplies to make life a little easier for the locals. In regards to the latter, in addition to securing food and building materials, Versace also continually wrote letters to schools in the United States asking for toys and learning materials for the children of the villages he visited.
A year later, with his tour of duty coming to an end, Versace applied to stay in Vietnam for another 6 months despite receiving news that his application to seminary had been accepted. As it would later emerge, Versace had decided that he still wanted to be a priest but his decision to embark on a second tour of duty was born out of an earnest desire to continue helping the orphans he’d become so attached to during his time in the country.
Two weeks before this second tour was set to end, Versace volunteered for a highly dangerous mission to assist South Vietnamese troops take down a North Vietnamese command post located deep in the U Minh Forest.
During the mission Versace and his fellow soldiers were ambushed and overrun by Viet Cong forces. Hopelessly outnumbered, he called for a tactical retreat, along with First Leiutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer, covering the exit of South Vietnamese soldiers with sustained rifle fire as a hail of bullets tore overhead. During the ensuing firefight, Versace was hit in the back and legs by bullets and shrapnel as he stood, completely exposed to the hellstorm raging around him firing his weapon into jungle.
Running low on bullets, Versace charged the enemy in an apparent effort to single-handedly beat them all to death with the butt of his rifle. During his charge, he was injured once more, falling to the ground and being quickly set upon and beaten by the enemy forces.
After being physically overpowered, Versace, along with Pitzer and Rowe, were stripped of their weapons and boots, before all three were marched barefoot into the jungle towards a POW camp…. Which is when Versace got mad.
Remembering Captain HR ‘Rocky’ Versace on Memorial Day 2016
For the next two years Versace made life for his captors hell as they tried and failed to do the same to him. Strikingly handsome with a tall, imposing frame and a magnetic personality, Versace became the pseudo-leader of his fellow POWs. Frequently tortured and interrogated, he refused to give them any information and relentlessly badgered his captors about their treatment of his friends and comrades, citing articles from the Geneva Convention and using his time in isolation to think up ever more creative insults.
Tired of his antics, in an effort to keep him away from other POWs, Versace was eventually locked inside of a bamboo cage away from everyone else, which didn’t stop him from boosting the morale of everyone around him by cheerily singing pop songs. When the Viet Cong locked Versace in an isolation cage even further away from the rest of the POWs, he just sang louder. When they began gagging him so that he couldn’t speak or sing, he started leaving messages of support in the toilet.
Not content to just sit around singing, during his imprisonment, Versace escaped four times, each time being captured not long after. In the first instance, he was so severely injured at the time that he couldn’t walk, but instead crawled away from the camp in agonizing pain through marshland. As you might imagine, it didn’t take the Viet Cong very long to locate him once they’d discovered he’d managed to escape.
Each time he was recaptured, Versace was noted as telling his captors that he’d do it again the first change he got, prompting them to redouble their efforts to break him. As you can probably guess by now, these efforts failed miserably.
At first the Viet Cong tried “re-educating” Versace, attempting to brainwash him with political propaganda. Versace reportedly spent much of his time during these sessions loudly arguing with his indoctrinators.
Along with inspiring his fellow POWs, this saw to it that the bulk of his captor’s frustrations and anger were directed towards him, something his fellow POWs were also reportedly very grateful for. As noted by President George Bush some four decades late, “By focusing his captors’ anger on him, he made life a measure more tolerable for his fellow prisoners, who looked to him as a role model of principled resistance.”
Humbert Versace’s memorial plaque outside MacArthur Barracks at West Point.
In addition to inspiring POWs, Versace’s tenacity inspired the people of Vietnam; when the Viet Cong tried to parade a beaten and bloodied Versace through local villages, he’d offer words of encouragement in Vietnamese to those gathered. This was much to the annoyance of the Viet Cong who’d warned against such insubordination by threatening to viciously beat him within an inch of his life if he did so.
Frustrated with their inability to break this man, the Viet Cong eventually made the decision to execute Versace. When he was informed of this, he reportedly responded by singing God Bless America for 5 hours straight the night before his execution was to take place. This song was the last thing any of his fellow prisoners ever heard from Versace.
Following through on their threat, Rocky Versace was executed on Sep. 26, 1965. His body was never recovered, but a headstone was placed above an empty grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
For his conduct as a POW, initially Versace only received a silver star, the Army’s third highest award. This was something his fellow soldiers didn’t feel reflected the full extent of his actions and sacrifice while a POW, resulting in a concerted effort from a “hodgepodge group of soldiers and civilians” aware of the full details of what Versace endured to see him awarded America’s highest military honor.
In 2002, this request was finally fulfilled, with one of Versace’s brothers, Dr. Stephen Versace, accepting the medal from then President George Bush. In his speech, Bush noted:
In his defiance and later his death, he set an example of extraordinary dedication that changed the lives of his fellow soldiers who saw it firsthand. His story echoes across the years, reminding us of liberty’s high price and of the noble passion that caused one good man to pay that price in full.
In addition to being the first American POW to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct during his time as a prisoner, Versace is an inductee in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as well as a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.
Said his former fellow prisoner Sergeant Dan Pitzer of the man himself,
Rocky walked his own path… for that guy, duty, honor, country was a way of life. He was the finest example of an officer I have known… Once, Rocky told our captors they might as well kill him then and there if the price of his life was getting more from him than name, rank, and serial number… He got a lot of pressure and torture, but he held his path… He was brutally murdered because of it… I’m satisfied he would have it no other way…. [He] valued that one moment of honor more than he would a lifetime of compromises.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
One of the best attributes a service member leaves the military with is the ability to perform exceptionally well in teams. Chances are, if you’re willing to put your life in the hands of the person on your left and your right, you tend to trust them.
Teamwork comes down to trust and we know there’s nothing more difficult than leaving the service and trying to figure out what really makes Tom in accounting tick or why Karen at the front desk always puts you on hold. We know you’re skeptical of those “civilians,” but with these 7 tips, your team will work through that whole “forming, storming, norming, performing” team dynamics cycle in no time.
Do things together after hours
No better camaraderie is formed than over a pool table, a dart board, appetizers, or a get together after work. Organize a monthly outing and put it on the office calendar. The first one might be a little awkward, so you really only need to book that babysitter until 9. But after that first layer of ice is broken, the “We should do this more!” emails will start rolling in.
Getting to know people outside of work helps break down their professional role into more of a, “Wow, these people are humans, too!” Turns out Karen has been through a lot — no wonder she is the way she is. Or how about when you finally find out that Tom has an unbelievable karaoke voice?
Recognize hard work
The military is known for promotions, ceremonies, and public displays of affirmation. Civilian life? Not so much. Anything you can do to get your office on board with recognizing one another’s efforts is a great way to boost morale. Maybe it’s informal, like sending out a quick email to the team every Friday. Maybe it’s a quick, monthly gathering where each member highlights something someone else did to help them professionally or personally. The more you can do to find out how people like to be recognized, the more motivated they’ll be to come to work with a good attitude.
Support one another
You’ve literally carried some of your battle buddies. Working in the civilian world isn’t all that different. Yeah, you might not have to fireman carry someone during training, but could you offer to stay late on Tuesdays so Jeff in HR can make it to his son’s baseball games? Little things like that go a long way. The new mom who might need an hour to run home for a nap, the project lead who you can send home for a few hours just to do one night of dinner and bedtime with the kids — anything you can do to help your team feel more like a family than a disparate unit will help.
Work through high-pressure situations together
You know adrenaline brings people together. Working in high-pressure situations should make a team stronger, not break. Find out what you can do to dissolve tension. What would you do with your unit? Crack a well-placed joke, offer support where you can, and look for the good while offering constructive feedback. Sure, we know it’s hard not to roll your eyes and start yelling about IEDs and ambushes when Eric from logistics tells you that, “You don’t understand the pressure!” but in the history of the world, one-upping someone has never worked in making them feel better. Dig deep for your empathy and find a solution together.
Do team-building activities
You’ve done 1000 leadership simulations in everything from the woods to abandoned buildings. The reason the military stresses team building and trust is because, spoiler alert: it actually works! When you’re able to develop your own leadership skills and philosophy alongside your teammates, you understand one another better. These experiential activities also help you all recognize one another’s strengths and areas for growth. The more you understand one another, the better your team will perform.
Come up with callsigns
Inside jokes (when everyone is in on it) give your team a sense of unity. Lay the groundwork for how someone gets a callsign and then do an officially unofficial ceremony once someone has earned one. Building camaraderie through humor is one of the reasons military culture runs so deep.
Learn from the experts
Finally, whether you’re an expert in managing teams or need some help, Purdue Global can help develop your leadership style with their Associate of Applied Science in Small Group Management as well as a host of other programs. The Small Group Management program provides a focus on small group management skills including: communication skills within small groups, managing conflict, risk management, ethical decision-making and problem solving, subordinate development, team synergy, and effective goal setting.
Learn more about this offering and their other programs.
This article was sponsored by Purdue Global. The appearance of Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
In order for a horror film to work, you need to have relatable characters. The more easily the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the cast, the more real the terror. That’s why, when a horror film is geared towards a younger crowd, the characters are primarily teenagers who are made to be as average and generic as possible.
Of course, while veterans come from every walk of life, one thing they all have in common is that they aren’t average. We’re generally brash, crude, and perform well in environments that would freeze your average horror film character.
And to be fair, there have been horror films that feature characters with military backgrounds, like Predator. The problem here is that troops and vets would easily turn any horror film into an action film. In fact, the 2018 sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic seems to be embracing this action/horror dynamic of “vets versus monster.”
But here’s why vets wouldn’t make the best fit in most horror flicks:
We’re not easily scared
Veterans often have a desensitized “fight or flight” reflex. When vets are spooked, it’s rare for them to freeze in place or scream like children. They’re conditioned to hop right into fight mode.
If a twig snaps, vets look in that direction. When someone screams off in the distance, they’re not just going to shrug it off and continue their party in the middle of the woods.
We would organize survivors
Veterans instinctively take control of situations when everyone stands around confused. It doesn’t need to be a life-or-death situation, either. At a kid’s birthday party, for example, vets expertly knifehand their way into getting balloons inflated and cake cut.
Vets would identify who’s useful and smack some sense into the idiots that say, “let’s split up!”
We could make due with few resources
In horror films, survivors often run around looking for supplies. Most would probably settle for finding a pair of safety scissors that they would then inexplicably throw at the unkillable monster.
Meanwhile, the veteran has fashioned a ghillie suit using mud, sticks, and leaves and they’ve found the sturdiest club they could get their hands on — and set it on fire.
We’d probably be carrying
Chances are, the veteran probably doesn’t need to scavenge. The moment the idiot who went skinny-dipping starts screaming bloody murder, a veteran would chamber a round.
Unless the vet is fighting some supernatural force, the credits would start rolling shortly after the knife-wielding clown starts rushing them.
We know how to actually run and start cars
From the most macho grunt to the wimpiest supply guy, everyone has done Land Nav enough times to not trip on their own feet every ten seconds while running through the forest.
If the monster couldn’t be shot to death, the vet probably wouldn’t even bother and, instead, leave. Especially if the monster just comes at them at a walking pace…
We’ve secretly been preparing for this forever
Ask any veteran why they stockpiled arms and supplies and they may joke that it’s for the zombie apocalypse. The moment an actual zombie apocalypse happens, that cache is definitely coming in handy.
We also have at least seven different plans on what to do in every situation. Catching us completely off-guard isn’t a realistic plot point.
*Bonus* The downside to being a veteran in a horror film
But realistically our f*ck-off attitude would get us killed. The masked killer would probably show up, covered in blood, and we’d mock them for whatever reason. That’s maybe not the best idea…
Stymied by the lack of funding for his promised US-Mexico border wall in the latest spending bill, President Donald Trump now wants the military to pay for the barrier.
The Pentagon confirmed on March 29, 2018 that Trump has spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about using military funds for the wall’s construction.
“The secretary has talked to the president about it,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said, according to Military Times. “Securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary. They have talked about it but I don’t have any more details as to specifics.”
The $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump ruefully signed late March 2018, only included $1.6 billion for fencing and levees on the border and just $641 million for new primary fencing in areas that do not currently have barriers. The bill also limits that money to “operationally effective designs” that were already in the field by May 2017.
That amount is well short of the $25 billion in long-term funding Trump was pursuing in negotiations with Democrats (offering three years of protections for young immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), and that stipulation means the prototype walls Trump has reviewed cannot be used.
Trump — upset about potential disappointment among his supporters and invoking “national security” — is now reportedly eyeing the $700 billion allotted for the Pentagon, The Washington Post first reported, a sum he touted as “historic,” to provide funding for the wall. Two advisers told The Post that Trump’s comment in a recent tweet, “Build WALL through M!” referred to the military.
Photo by James N. Mattis
During a press briefing on April 3, 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not explicitly deny the report when asked about it, saying only the Trump administration was continuing to work on it.
After broaching the idea to advisers, Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan that military should provide funding, three people familiar with the meeting told The Post. Ryan reportedly offered little response.
Senior officials in Congress told The Post such a move was unlikely, and a senior official at the Pentagon said redirecting money from the 2018 budget would have to be done by lawmakers. Setting aside money in the 2019 budget would require Trump to offer a budget amendment — which would still need 60 votes to pass the Senate.
Trump has also suggested to Mattis that the Pentagon pay for the wall rather than the Homeland Security Department.
Mattis has sought to distance himself from contentious issues, chief among them the border wall, that have wounded US relations with its southern neighbor.
During a September 2017 trip to Mexico, Mattis emphasized that US-Mexican military ties were strong and that the two countries shared common concerns.
“We have shared security concerns. There’s partnerships, military-to-military exchanges, that are based on trust and respect. I’m going down to build the trust and show the respect on their Independence Day,” Mattis said at the time. “Every nation has its challenges it deals with. And Mexico is keenly aware of these, and I’m there to support them in dealing with them.”
When asked about his role in the border-wall issue, Mattis said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.
When I heard the news of Prince Harry and Meghan sitting down with Oprah in a transparent interview, I was thrilled. It was my thought this would be their opportunity to set the record straight on so much negativity spewed in the press. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard or how it would make me examine my own life as a military spouse.
Meghan was and is an independent American woman who fell in love with someone, who just so happened to be a prince. From the outside, it looked so picturesque and romantic. I was one of the millions of people who watched their royal wedding. The beautiful outfits, world-wide traveling and ability to serve looked like an amazing life to lead. Little did any of us know how dark and ugly it really is behind the scenes. But we should have.
Those perfect pictures hid a woman who was told she needed to be less of herself. Their happy and in love smiles covered up the hurt they were feeling about the endless attack on Meghan. It definitely hid how bad things were becoming. As I watched the interview unfold, I saw the parallels to my own life as a military spouse. Being told how to act, what to say and losing your identity, having it replaced with the word “dependent;” the reminders “she should have known what she was getting into.” While the similarities might end there, it was enough to make me think about my own earlier years in this military life. The biggest difference (other than a castle and plenty of money) was the fact that I found my home and support within the community, Meghan was never given a chance.
As a therapist, I have the privilege of walking alongside my clients through some of the hardest times of their lives. The first time I heard a client tell me they wished they could disappear, I could feel the chills run down my arms. We never want to think a human being is suffering so deeply they are contemplating ending it all. While my role is to ensure they remain safe while supporting their needs through those dark thoughts, Meghan wasn’t allowed to have that lifeline.
It infuriates me. The courage it takes to openly admit to another person that you are thinking about suicide is immense, many can’t even take such a step and instead just end their lives. To listen to her share she sought help and was told she couldn’t have it because it wouldn’t look right caused the tears to openly fall down my face. It made me think of the almost 200 military dependents we are losing each year to suicide. This is what we’ve come to, despite hundreds of years of advancement and pushing against the negative stigma of mental health needs? How dare anyone care what it looks like beyond ensuring someone’s well being. Knowing the monarchy was more important than her life is unforgivable, in my opinion.
Listening to Meghan share how members of the family were worried about how dark her son would be when he was born caused me to cry even more. Here is a woman who has given up everything she knew for love and is pregnant with her first child, struggling in ways we can’t even contemplate. She was completely alone. Knowing what we know now, it’s a miracle she’s alive and I don’t say it lightly.
At this moment, I want everyone to look at what Meghan and Harry shared for what it is; a chance to get it right. As a global society we’ve allowed the tabloids, social media and the news even to do this to them. We are a part of the problem. It’s an important lesson for the military community to take in as well. Let this revealing interview be a lesson to everyone on the importance of honesty, empathy and above all, kindness. Without these things, we won’t evolve as a society to ensure the generations who come after us never know hate or unkindness.
Meghan and Harry’s revelations will be debated and talked about for a long time, not all of it in Meghan and Harry’s favor. This is their truth, their experience and is absolutely their right to go on the record to share. To those who would disparage them or deny the recount of their experiences: I hope your life is perfect enough to cast stones. I don’t think you could last a moment in their shoes otherwise.
Every single one of you reading this article has experienced hurt. We all know what it feels like to be disparaged and feel the sadness or deep loneliness that often accompanies those painful moments. These are feelings that slowly chip away at the innocence many children initially have of the world, until there is no more left. It is up to all of us to change that. We can all start today and it’s really simple: be better.
President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed into law a $717 billion defense spending bill that puts China in the crosshairs of a host of new US Navy missiles and tactics.
Beijing heavily protested it and may have scored some small concessions, but the bill puts nearly $1 trillion behind the idea that great power strategic competition has returned and that the US seeks to win it.
The increase in spending comes as China has increasingly edged out the US Navy’s competitive advantage in open waters. The US suffers a missile gap with both Russia and China, meaning those countries have longer-range missiles designed to sink massively valuable platforms like aircraft carriers before they can get close.
The US drifted from a focus on fighting near-peer adversaries like China and Russia after the Cold War, as military planners banked on continued US supremacy to limit potential adversaries to non-state actors and rogue states.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson and USS Pinkney, and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz operating in formation in the South China Sea.
Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.
US Navy submariners loading a Tomahawk cruise missile onto a sub.
(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)
Return to ship-sinking
To regain its status as the world’s premier ship-sinking force, the US has planned a few upgrades and set aside cash for them in the defense bill. It would pay for new long-range missiles for the Air Force and some Navy planes while bringing back a missile abandoned by the Navy after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Today, Tomahawk missiles have a massive range, of about 1,000 miles, but can hit only land targets, as they have in Syria recently. At the height of the Cold War, Tomahawks could strike moving ships, and now the Navy seeks to get that power back.
A modification in the works at Raytheon seeks to deliver 32 maritime versions of the Tomahawks by 2021 that would healthily out-range any Russian or Chinese missiles.
After a successful test of the upgraded Tomahawk in 2015, the deputy secretary of defense at the time, Bob Work, said (according to USNI News): “This is a potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
“It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet,” Work added.
But not only will the Navy get increased power to fight adversaries like China — it’s scheduling in some more patrols that could lead to run-ins, as have become increasingly frequent.
With Beijing building up its military presence in the South China Sea and rolling out new warships at a dizzying rate, the US’s return to great power competition will also include training neighboring navies in India and Sri Lanka.
When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.
Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.
After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.
Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”
Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.
Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.
Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.
Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.
On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”
Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.
The Marines are trading in their old Light Armored Vehicle for a new model – and it’s about time. In an age of stealth tanks and lasers, the Marines are still driving around in the 1983 model. But you’d never know it. The Corps’ LAV-25 has seen action from Panama to Afghanistan and everywhere in between, and few would complain about her performance.
But times are changing, and even the Marines are going to change with them. Within the next decade, for sure.
Staff Sgt. Heighnbaugh, a platoon sgt. with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon (reinforced), Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fires a M240G medium machinegun on a light armored vehicle at the Su Song Ri Range, South Korea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani)
The modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle will likely show up “in the next decade,” according to the Marine Corps. It will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal while the new technology allows it to take on the roles normally used by more heavily armored vehicles.
“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.
A LAV-25 patrolling the area near the Panama Canal during Operation Just Cause.
The Marine Corps didn’t list any specific roles or technologies they would look at integrating into the new modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle but the Office of Naval Research “has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments, and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.”
“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”
The Corps wants the new vehicle to equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions inside Marine divisions with a solution for combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance, and security missions by the mid-2020s.
The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.
They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”
While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.
As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.
To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.
Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.
That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.
And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.
H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
President Donald Trump has reportedly soured on Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and is now increasingly making US military policy on his own.
Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, stopped US military exercises in South Korea, and aired plans to create the first new military branch in 70 years all in snap, shock decisions that saw Mattis scrambling to keep up, according to a new report from NBC.
“They don’t really see eye to eye,” said a former senior White House official.
These policy moves represent a budding trend of Trump steering US foreign and military policy by himself, and often against the advice of his top advisers like Mattis, sources told NBC.
Trump has made a number of snap decisions that have met with slow responses from Mattis and the Pentagon.
In July 2017, Trump announced a ban on transgender people joining the US military. Four federal courts struck down the order, and by the end of the year Mattis was accepting transgender troops again.
Trump, unsatisfied with the Pentagon slow-walking his policy decisions, has increasingly cut out Mattis and taken matters into his own hands, NBC cites sources as saying.
Trump recently asked the military to come to the rescue of another imperiled policy by asking the National Guard to come to the border. Mattis reportedly resisted the idea in private but remained tight-lipped and dutiful in his public comments.
“[Mattis] didn’t feel like the mission was well-defined,” a senior White House official told NBC.
A Pentagon spokesperson told NBC that it was “silly” to say Mattis had been out of the loop on major US military policy decisions taken by Trump, but the White House and Pentagon have a record of making disjointed statements.