This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The Thousand Islands Region in upstate New York is famous for the Saint Lawrence River seaway, impressive castles, gorgeous summers, and the salad dressing named for the region. Aside from the dressing, the region’s best-known features bear quite a bit of resemblance to the Moselle and Rhine River regions in Germany, which are famed for their beauty and wineries. One Army officer took notice of the similarities during his time in the service and decided to recreate the winery scene of the German river regions in the North Country.

(Thousand Islands Winery)

Steve Conaway joined the Army straight out of high school in 1981. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant before commissioning as an officer. His service in the Air Defense Artillery branch took him to bases across the United States, Greece, and Germany. When Conaway was posted to Fort Drum, NY, he discovered the Saint Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands Region. “The Saint Lawrence River reminded me of the rivers in Germany,” Conaway recalled. “The castles and the river were very similar.” During his five years in Germany, Conaway had become passionate about Riesling and, in 1999, had the idea to start a winery in the Thousand Islands and began conducting market research.

Through the course of his research, Conaway discovered that there were no wineries in the Thousand Islands Region. He contacted New York grape experts at Cornell University who informed him that grapes had never been grown in the Thousand Islands Region and could not be grown there because of the cold climate. Undeterred, Conaway continued his research and, using the limited power of the early internet, found that cold-hardy grapes were being grown by wineries across the border in Quebec. In 2001, then-Captain Conaway took a road trip to Canada to meet with the farmers and learn the trade. The Canadian farmers showed him how to nurse the grapes through the frost of winter and introduced him to a variety of cold-hardy grapes that could survive temperatures as low as -30˚ F.

The winery produces 23 varieties of wine (Thousand Islands Winery)

Before Conaway could put the newfound knowledge to use, his winery plans were interrupted by the events of 9/11. In response, Conaway deployed with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment took him to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before he eventually arrived in Afghanistan. Now working as a contracting officer, Conaway helped to establish the initial coalition forces contracting footprint across all three countries including the first establishments at the former Soviet airbase at Bagram. However, perhaps his most important establishment was taking place back in the states.

With the help of his wife Erika, Conaway purchased an old dairy farm in Alexandria Bay, NY while he was deployed. Fittingly, the farm had previously been owned by a famed Riverboat Captain and an Army Reserves Captain, making Conaway the third Captain to own the farm. Upon returning from deployment in 2002, Conaway and his wife set to work converting the dairy farm to a winery. It took one year to get the winery going.

Capt. Steve Conaway and Sfc. Derrick Whitington in Afghanistan in 2001 (Steve Conaway)

In 2003, the same year that Conaway retired from the Army as a Major, the Thousand Islands Winery had one part-time employee and sold and produced 1,100 gallons of wine. The first four years saw the winery operating at a loss. “I bought the farm with houses, boat storage, and tenants,” Conaway said. “I had my military retirement income. So, I never counted on the winery to make any money initially.” Luckily, the fifth year of operation saw the winery turn a profit and it has turned a profit every year since.

The first year of operation, all of the winery’s sales were local. “I sold every bottle at retail out of the front door,” Conaway said. As the winery expanded, Conaway began distribution in liquor stores throughout New York State. In 2010, Thousand Islands Winery expanded into other states as well. Online sales have helped to expand distribution, but so has the Army.

Conaway takes great pride his product (Steve Conaway)

The 10th Mountain Division maintains two Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Drum, NY and one at Fort Polk, LA. Oftentimes, soldiers that have been stationed at one will eventually find themselves posted to the other. Thanks to a partnership with the 10th Mountain Division Association, Thousand Islands Winery wines made their way down south to Fort Polk where they can be found in the Class Six. In 2020, the Thousand Islands Winery had 65 employees in the summertime, including employees in Louisiana, and produced and sold over 75,000 gallons of wine. This year also saw the winery enter an agreement with Republic National Distribution Company as operations expanded into Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Georgia.

Since 2007, the Thousand Islands Winery has received 168 medals in wine competitions throughout the country. Despite the doubt that many people had about the Conaways and their winery, the Thousand Islands Winery has thrived. “I didn’t know anything about private industry,” Conaway said about starting the business. “I got out of the Army and failure wasn’t an option.” Using the skills he had acquired throughout his 22 ½ years in the Army, Conaway was able to apply planning considerations like safety, hazmat, personnel structure, and organizational charts to the winery. “I encourage soldiers to fall back on the stuff they did while they were in the military,” Conaway said. “I always tell them, ‘If you want to be an entrepreneur when you get out of the military, everything you’re already doing translates into the civilian workforce.’”

Following Conaway’s success, other wineries have opened up in the Thousand Islands Region. In hopes of encouraging the industry to grow, the Thousand Islands Winery offers its services and nearly two decades of experience to other individuals and wineries in the form of specialized vineyard services. As the winery and the region grow, Conaway continues to serve as a leader in the Thousand Islands by applying the skills and knowledge he acquired in the Army to his business.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 must-read books about the Global War on Terror

Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.

The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”

1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte

A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.

When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.

2. “War” by Sebastian Junger

What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.

Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”

3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright

In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.

The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.

Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.

4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore

The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.

The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.

(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)

5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan

The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.

General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.

There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.

6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins

The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.

What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.

Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.

7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett

In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.

Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.

A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.

When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the funeral costs the VA will actually pay

It’s something none of us want to think about: our demise. What will happen after we’re gone? Will we have a big funeral? Will anybody show up?

If you want to have a big funeral and a fancy tombstone in a nice cemetery, it will cost a lot. That’s OK. You’re a veteran; the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay. Right?

Well … not so fast.


The high cost of dying

Before we discuss what the VA will pay, let’s discuss the major costs associated with dying.

Funeral prices

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral with burial in 2017 was ,755; the average cost of a funeral with cremation was ,260.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Hazard)

That’s just the cost of transporting and preparing the body, and holding a small viewing. If you want a service and a wake, expect to pay more.

Casket prices

If you want a fancy casket, expect to pay an average of ,000 for it. Amazon, Costco, and Walmart sell caskets for less than id=”listicle-2632767403″,000, but some fancy ones cost more than ,000.

If you just want to be buried in a pine box, be sure to check local laws. Some states don’t allow that.

Cemetery prices

The cemetery will cost you even more.

While some states allow you to be buried in biodegradable caskets and some even have natural burial preserves where they allow you to be buried in the woods, most don’t.

A burial plot in a public cemetery will cost between 0 and ,000. If you want to be buried in a private cemetery, that price can go up to ,000 in some places. If you’re in a city, the price can easily go up to ,000 for the gravesite alone.

If you want to be cremated and have your ashes buried, expect to pay up to ,500 for the plot.

Of course, there are additional fees. You have to pay for them to dig the hole and fill it back up; this can cost more than ,000. Just doing the paperwork (some places require a permit to be buried) can reach up to id=”listicle-2632767403″,000. Some fancy cemeteries even charge a fee for “perpetual care;” this is the cost of upkeep for the cemetery — cutting grass, planting trees etc.

If you want a tombstone, expect to pay at least 0 to ,000.

Paying the high cost of dying

Cemeteries aren’t regulated by the federal government. They don’t have to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which requires an itemized bill allowing you to pick and choose which services you wish to buy. Some states have regulations, but many do not.

Don’t expect to get a line of credit from the funeral home or cemetery, either. They want payment up front. What will they do if your family doesn’t pay the bill, dig you back up?

What will the VA pay?

Since you’re reading this, you probably are a veteran. Doesn’t the VA pay for all of this?

It will pay some, but not all, of your burial costs, and probably very little of your funeral costs. Of course, all these benefits are only for veterans with at least an “other-than-dishonorable” discharge.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Burial and plot allowance

The VA will pay a burial allowance to an eligible veteran’s family to help defray burial and funeral costs. The burial allowance is a tax-free benefit paid automatically. If you are eligible for a plot allowance the VA requires receipts to show the actual cost paid.

  • If the death occurs while hospitalized by the VA, it will pay a 0 burial allowance and 0 for a burial plot.
  • If the death is considered service-connected, the VA will pay a burial allowance of up to ,000 and may reimburse some of the costs of transporting remains.
  • If the death isn’t service-connected, the VA pays a burial allowance of 0.
  • For an indigent veteran with no next of kin, the VA will furnish either a casket or cremation urn for interment in either a national, state or tribal veterans cemetery.
  • The Social Security Administration also will pay a death benefit of 5.

These amounts usually change every year.

Cemetery

All veterans with other-than-dishonorable discharges are eligible for free burial in a national VA cemetery. Space is limited; the VA recommends you request a pre-determination of burial eligibility to avoid any delay when the time comes.

Most states have their own veterans cemeteries. Usually, the eligibility requirements are the same as for federal cemeteries.

In most cases, spouses are eligible for burial next to the veteran at little or no cost. Also, markers are provided.

Arlington National Cemetery has very limited space for burial; there is more space available for inurnment of cremated remains. Only certain veterans are eligible for burial at Arlington.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

If you wish to be buried in a civilian cemetery, the VA may pay a small fee, as described earlier, for your plot allowance. It will also provide a free headstone. Some states also help with the cost of burial and the cost of setting a headstone.

You can always choose to be buried at sea from a Navy ship.

Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to make a plan. Also, remember that the funeral director can help with a lot of this stuff. They know how to submit the paperwork to the VA, and usually how to get the most out of your state benefits as well.

Check out all our information about memorial benefits, including requesting military honors at a funeral.

Stay on top of your veteran benefits

Military benefits are always changing. Keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox while giving you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Army Cyber Command plans to add more direct commissioned officers after its first two were recently sworn in as part of a five-year pilot to bolster the emerging force.

Since October 2017, almost 250 applicants have applied for the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program, which allows talented civilians a fast track to becoming an officer.

Those who qualify have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank in the near future pending a decision by Congress. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.


“The cyber realm is developing at a speed really not seen in the traditional military career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School here. “We, the Army, think it’s important to leverage the capability provided by the private sector to make our forces more ready and capable to combat the adversaries we’re going to face now and in the future.”

Most applicants have fallen into one of four categories, including prior-service enlisted military personnel, government employees and contractors, private sector workers, and academics.

Each category represents roughly a quarter of the applicants.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

First Lts. Timothy Hennessy, left, and James Gusman during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Desired skills and qualifications include experience in cybersecurity, software or hardware engineering, or product management. A four-year degree or higher in a computer science or related field, such as data science or industrial control systems, is also required.

At least seven applicants have already been recommended by a board for the program. The board plans to convene again in a few weeks to consider additional applicants who may one day protect networks.

“We need to have a very technically adept workforce to be able to do that and stay ahead of what’s coming,” Hersey said.

First Lts. James Gusman and Timothy Hennessy, both former enlisted soldiers, were the first to be commissioned in early May 2018.

In 2008, Gusman left the Army after serving in military intelligence to pursue higher education, and to ultimately find work in information technology and cybersecurity fields at major U.S. and international companies. When he heard of the program, he decided to sign up and do something more meaningful to him.

“On the commercial side, you’re working for that one single organization and maybe helping their bottom line or keeping certain systems online,” he said. “With the Army, you’re keeping the United States online, you’re keeping its citizens safe and you’re creating something that’s really making a difference in this world.”

Those chosen for the program are commissioned upon arrival at the six-week direct commissioning course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which indoctrinates applicants into the Army.

Prospective officers typically go through Officer Candidate School, a 12-week-long course.

Once the direct commissioning course is completed, there is a 12-week Cyber Officer Basic Leadership Course here, which is more specialized to the career field. When a top-secret clearance is obtained, officers are then eligible for additional follow-on training.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School, right, swears in 1st Lts. James Gusman, far left, and Timothy Hennessy during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Both Gusman and Hennessy plan to start the leadership course in July 2018.

Hennessy, a former signals intelligence analyst who became a cryptologic network warfare operator in the Army, is currently working on his master’s degree in computer science.

“With the academic background I have, I would really like to help soldiers who might not have that same background,” he said. “I think that’s a part I really can help develop for the Army. And any opportunity I get to roll up my sleeves and write some code and build some algorithms would be one that I would enjoy [too].”

The cyber direct commissioning program is similar to those the Army has for lawyers, doctors and chaplains.

The newest program was developed amid a push to strengthen the Army’s role in the cyber domain, which senior leaders envision will be key in its future warfighting concept: multi-domain operations.

In early 2017, Army cyber also stood up a civilian cyberspace-effects career program for current and future government workers. The year before, Army leaders decided to move 29-series electronic warfare soldiers into Cyber’s 17-series career field by the end of this fiscal year.

“We have to be on our toes at all times,” Hersey said of the career field. “As we’ve learned, the attacker has the advantage in the cyber realm. They only have to be right once. Us, as defenders, have to be right every single time.

“To that end, the Army is working on initiatives like the direct commissioning pilot program to make ourselves better and more ready to answer the call when things like that happen.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Major tells Marines to ‘see something, say something’

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shared his second video message to Marines as part of the Own It! campaign. In the video, he calls for Marines to “look around you and see who might be struggling and ask them, how can I help?” Own It! is a Marine Corps awareness campaign designed to provide tips to Marines on how to start tough conversations with fellow Marines.


“We all need to support each other in protecting what we’ve earned. So, if you see something, do something, and help our Marine Corps family be safe and ready for the next fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Green.

Marines and their families can join the conversation by texting OWNIT to 555-888.

By texting OWNIT, participants will receive links to resources that will guide them on how to have a tough conversation with a Marine Corps family member about difficult situations like suicide, consent, rejection, bullying, substance abuse, as well as family issues including relationship red flags, divorce, child abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. These tip sheets are available at www.usmc-mccs.org/ownit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watching YouTube videos took this Green Beret from Afghanistan to the NFL

Everyone has a different way of passing the time during deployments. Some people work their way through seasons on Netflix, some CrossFit their way to a better physique, while others pursue academic goals. For Green Beret Nate Boyer, it was watching YouTube videos and practicing those skills that helped him chase his dream of becoming a professional football player.


In Sunday’s Super Bowl commercial, we see the journey of Nate Boyer. Following his service in the Army, Boyer wanted to go to college and to be a starter on the Texas Longhorns football team.

There was only one tiny wrench in his plan: he had never played football.

Boyer was told he was “too small, too slow, too old. Nobody wants a 30-year-old rookie on their team.” But just ask Boyer: he’s no ordinary rookie. Following tryouts, Boyer learned that there would be a starting position open as a long snapper for the Longhorns.

“I didn’t even know what a long snapper was,” he said.

Boyer learned and honed the skills through YouTube and watched as his dreams came true:

YouTube

www.youtube.com

YouTube

You’re never too old to pursue your dreams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One year after devastating hurricane, Tyndall AFB continues slow recovery

In the early hours of Oct. 10, 2018, many communities in Northwest Florida prepared for a storm expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane.

Tyndall Air Force Base was also preparing for the storm named Hurricane Michael.

Base leaders evacuated nonessential personnel, stored equipment in protected areas as much as possible and a team of individuals battened down the hatches in a two-story cinder block emergency operations center building with almost no windows to ride out the storm on base.

Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, was one of the individuals who stayed during the storm. The “ride-out team” was ready for a Category 2 hurricane.


However, the scene soon changed.

“We realized very quickly that this would be the storm we had trained for,” Laidlaw said.

The Category 2 hurricane escalated into a Category 5 within just a few hours.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, walks with President Donald J. Trump, after a flightline tour at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 8, 2019. Tyndall AFB leaders and civic leaders met with Trump to provide an update on base recovery efforts.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)

Hurricane Michael hit the coastline and surrounding areas of Tyndall AFB, Mexico Beach and Panama City.

“Without question, this was not just a Tyndall AFB event,” Laidlaw said. “This was a Northwest Florida event. The whole area took a hit. Thankfully we were in a secure building to wait out the storm.”

As the storm progressed, the eye of the hurricane passed over Tyndall AFB for a handful of minutes.

“The only reason we knew we were in the eye of the storm was because the walls stopped shaking,” Laidlaw said.

The eye passed. After the second half of the storm ran its course, it was safe for the ride-out team to emerge from their shelter and survey the damage.

“We recognized very quickly how much work we had to do,” Laidlaw said. “It will probably take five to seven years before the rebuild (of Tyndall AFB) will be complete.”

An assessment of the damage concluded that 484 buildings on base were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, while the other half were stable enough to sustain repairs.

“This base has been here for 79 years and most structures pre-date modern day building codes,” Laidlaw said. “We built the infrastructure in the 40s and 50s and repurposed it many times over the years. It was important, very soon after the storm, to bring in engineers to take a close look at the base. As we did so, we learned what worked and what didn’t work.”

According to Laidlaw, the Air Force allocated 8 million for immediate repairs. To get the base back to pre-storm capacity will require more time and more funding in the future.

One of the first concerns was how to make the base available to accept relief forces.

“The Air Force and our joint partners sent us relief just a little faster than we were able to take it,” Laidlaw said. “We saw an outpouring of support from the Air Force, and other organizations, to get us back on our feet.”

“Much like many communities across Florida, our community is fiercely protective of our airmen and the missions we have here,” Laidlaw said. “We have to make the base compatible not only for today’s missions but for those of the future and to protect assets and aircraft we haven’t even invented yet.”

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Staff Sgt. Jake Gonzalez, fire truck and refueling mechanic temporarily assigned to the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron, repairs a refueling truck component at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 4, 2019. Hurricane Michael brought devastation to Tyndall AFB and units across the base adapted to limited manning and temporary facilities.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Prior to Hurricane Michael, Tyndall AFB was home to two F-22 Raptor squadrons including the training school house for that weapons system. Today, some aspects of that mission are still here at Tyndall AFB, like the academics and simulator facility, while others have moved temporarily to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

As for the rebuild of Tyndall AFB, the base is preparing to take on a new mission consistent with the long-range goals of the Air Force.

“The secretary of the Air Force directed a rebuild to house up to three squadrons of F-35A Lightning IIs, and the base remains the preferred alternative for the MQ-9 Reaper,” Laidlaw said.

According to Laidlaw, Tyndall AFB is a critical asset for the nation’s defense strategy.

“We have some of the best training airspace anywhere in the Department of Defense,” Laidlaw said. “Tyndall AFB has 29,000 acres of land, 70% of which are in their natural state and are uninhabited.”

According to Laidlaw, the buffer Tyndall AFB acreage and 129 miles of coastline provides, allows for testing and training that is invaluable and free from encroachment. The base takes great pride in maintaining the land in its natural state.

Almost one year after the storm, Tyndall AFB is building up forces again.

“Currently, we have 80% of the (personnel) we had before the storm,” Laidlaw said. “As we recover the base we’ve transitioned from living in offices, to living in tents, to living in modern facilities and, in some cases, in repaired dorms and lodging rooms.”

“We no longer have any airmen living in tents” he continued. “We moved our airmen from these short-term temporary tents into facilities to hold us over until we fully rebuild.”

Tyndall AFB had 11 operational dormitories available when Hurricane Michael hit. Only three survived the storm but required immediate repairs before personnel could move in. Currently, there are four dorms available for housing airmen.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Task Force Talon II Airmen rally around Chief Master Sgt. Craig Williams, 325th Fighter Wing command chief, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Williams spoke to his fellow Airmen on the state of Tyndall AFB now and in the future. Task Force Talon II Airmen are responsible for clearing debris from various parts of Tyndall AFB.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)

In addition to building replacement dorms for personnel, Tyndall AFB has the enormous task of rebuilding other buildings across the installation. For this task, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Program Management Office stood up a unit on Tyndall AFB to coordinate the construction efforts.

“We are going to combine multi-purpose facilities, which will give us fewer buildings, but we will get much more use out of them,” Laidlaw said. “Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, Tyndall AFB Program Management executive director, is championing the technologies needed to build the base of the 21st century.”

Tyndall AFB and AFCEC PMO have been working together from the very beginning to get Tyndall AFB back to full capability and ready to accept F-35s and MQ-9s.

“The partnership between the 325th Fighter Wing and the Tyndall AFB Program Management Office following Hurricane Michael has been like no other,” Melancon said. “Col. Laidlaw’s leadership has been instrumental to the base’s success. I am so very proud of the dedicated airmen, civilians, and contractors who flew in from around the country with their sleeves rolled up ready to work. These dedicated individuals have literally moved mountains of debris and worked to repair key buildings quickly this past year to get critical base missions back online.”

According to Melancon, Tyndall AFB will be ready for an F-35 mission by October 2023.

“The rebuild will support a 21st century mission while also focusing on structural resiliency and efficiency,” Laidlaw said. “The people who are here want to be here. We have the right experts in the right areas.”

“When an event like this happens, it becomes a team effort,” he continued. “I do think there’s a story to tell. We’ve learned a lot, and the communities around us have learned a lot, and we are happy to share what we have learned.”

“The (partnership between Tyndall AFB and) the state of Florida and Bay County is very beneficial,” Laidlaw said. “It will take a long time to recover. Like us, our community takes great pride in taking care of our airmen and our mission.”

“I never thought we’d come this far so fast,” Laidlaw said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year. Our people are amazing. We have the right people in the right places with the right resources, and they have accomplished so much.”

“There have been some great airmen, both military and civilian, at Tyndall AFB before, during and after the storm,” Laidlaw said. “Their hard work and determination have sustained our momentum through twelve long months.”

“I can’t imagine where we would be without these people and the support from their families,” he continued. “The reality is, (you can replace buildings, but) you can’t replace people. The mission needs airmen. Tyndall AFB’s airmen make the base just a little bit better every single day.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how powerful names of military operations are picked

The tradition of naming major operations with an inspiring name is relatively new considering the long history of warfare. Battles and conflicts before 1918 are titled after a city or territory: The Battle of this, The Siege of that, or The Third battle of this and that. In 1918, the central powers launched Operation Fist Punch and were able to capture the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine from the Russian Bolsheviks. Over the course of 11 days the Russians surrendered and highlighted the merits of naming offensive operations with a name. From this point forward commanders around the world contemplated giving operations proper names.

The World Wars made it a thing

During World War I Germany favored naming operations over radio communications to maintain secrecy. When we fast forward to World War II the naming of operations had evolved. The Nazi empire, armed with the newly forged weapon of propaganda, blazed across Europe with the intent of intimidating allied forces and inspiring support for the war in Berlin. However, the allies had their own champions such as Frank Capra, to counter the Nazi’s Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the will. While the media giants battled on the silver screen to win the hearts of the civilians at home, allied commanders debated, agreed, and named operations to maintain operational security and motivate the troops conducting them. For example, the British launched Operation Chronometer in 1941 to capture the port city of Assab on the west coast of the Red Sea. On the American front, operations follow a color code prior to 1943.

Marines work a 155mm gun position on Guadalcanal in 1942. National Archives photo

Winston Churchill is the grandfather of modern ops names

The turning point for the Pentagon on the subject of operational names came when Winston Churchill petitioned a better way of naming them. He convinced allied high command that they should change the name of Operation Soapsuds, the bombing raid of Romanian oil fields, to Operation Tidal Wave. At the time British commanders were vulnerable to committing their troops to comical names he outlined three clear guidelines:

1. Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency. They ought not to be names of a frivolous character. They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, names of living people, ministers and commanders should be avoided.

2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called “Bunnyhug” or “Ballyhoo.”

3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.

Winston Churchill

The U.S. adapted to use nouns and adjectives for operations consistently afterwards. With success gaining momentum in both the European and Pacific theaters, the importance of good sounding names grows as well. America did have some proper sounding names that obscured the mission such as the Manhattan Project in 1941. America had parallel thinking with Britain, it just needed a little nudge to cross over.

The U.S. is the current champion of Badass Operation Names

The allies had Operation OVERLORD for the D-Day invasion and Operation Downfall, the proposed invasion of Japan. Among the sea of operational names that sprouted from the war, it had become an American tradition to pick awe inspiring names for operations of future wars. Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom – Americans are the best at it. Our secret ingredient is a little computer system, NICKA. It that tracks the names of code words, exercises, and nicknames to ensure they are not duplicated. The task of new names falls upon commanders at the highest levels. The pentagon chooses first and second words for an operation dictated by OPNAVINST 5511.37D in three steps:

First, Permanent First Word Assignment. Major users are permanently assigned first words in enclosure (1) to avoid duplication. Applicable activities shall use these for all originating nicknames/exercise terms. Authorized Navy first words are chosen from blocks of letters assigned to Navy, listed in enclosure (1). All nicknames which are exercise terms will follow the criteria for propriety given in subparagraph 7d.

Second, Requests for first word assignments will be made in writing by the initiating activity (see paragraph 9a) to CNO (N30P), who will ensure its validity. Nicknames/exercise terms must be approved before use. CNO (N30P) is the approving authority.

Third, Second Word Assignment. The second word is used in combination with the permanently assigned first word to identify a specific nickname/exercise term. Users with first, word assignments can suggest a second word to CNO (N30P) in writing. All second words must be approved by CNO (N30P) before use. Unlike first words, second words are not restricted by alphabet. The first and second words combined must meet criteria in subparagraph 7d.

OPNAVINST 5511.37D

For decades the U.S. has had names that get the juices flowing. Operation Red Dawn was the prelude to the toppling of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein. Operation Urgent Fury served to make an example of the island nation of Grenada. It was getting too close for comfort with the Soviet Union. The millennial generation has Operation Phantom Fury, the Battle for Fallujah. There are still more blank pages in the book of history with room for future wars. Rising tensions in the South China Sea may call upon the pentagon once again to come up with a name. This time to liberate the pacific, only time will tell what it may be.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=414&h=60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c&size=980x&c=872827628 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D414%26h%3D60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c%26size%3D980x%26c%3D872827628%22%7D” expand=1]

A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how this Army general wishes he could handle internet trolls

Anybody that spends even the slightest bit of time on social media today is woefully aware of internet trolls. If, by some miracle of a chance, you haven’t had a run in with one of these anger facilitators on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve still almost certainly seen their kind surfacing in the comments sections under news articles and YouTube videos as though these digital outlets are little more than the sharpie-laden door of a bathroom stall.

They strike without warning, offering nonsense arguments without context or citation, caps-lock tirades, or insulting one-liners that someone, somewhere apparently thinks is funny while the rest of us are stuck scratching our heads or shaking our fists. In the societal hierarchy of the digital domain, internet trolls rank somewhere just below trantrum-throwing toddlers in terms of discourse, but their presence has become such an expected bit of online life that most of us log into our social media platforms of choice with our eyes already rolling in anticipation.


But what if it didn’t have to be that way? That was clearly on Lt. Gen. Ted Martin’s mind this week. The deputy commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released a hilarious video on Twitter Wednesday showing exactly how he’d like to handle the masses of keyboard warriors.


Twitter

twitter.com

“I got another snarky comment,” Martin tells a member of his staff after calling him into his office. “Can you get ahold of [Army Cyber]? I need to find out about @jackwagon. I don’t know who that is.”
This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. (US Army photo)

Obviously, war fighting is serious business, as is training for the same–but it’s nice to see someone at the 3-Star level exercising his sense of humor in what has otherwise been one brutal year.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to get the 10-digit grid coordinates of every snarky jackwagon with a black belt in keyboard-fu, but at least we know we’re not the only ones that wish we could send a tank platoon and some Rangers after them.

Bravo Zulu, sir.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Punisher is so beloved by the military

The Marvel Comics universe has such a wide and diverse assortment of characters that there’s a superhero for everyone. Within that vast collection of characters, there are many heroes who have military backgrounds, each of which represents a different aspect of military service. Captain America, for example, is remisicient the soldier who’s willing to lay down his life for the betterment of mankind. Falcon is the airman who’s always going to help his fellow veteran. Even the Coast Guard gets a champion in Spectrum, who’s always going to protect the homefront.

But you don’t usually see Cap’s shield spray painted by troops onto the sides of Hesco barriers while deployed — but you’ll definitely see the Punisher’s skull. It doesn’t matter which branch a troop serves in; universally, troops find more in common with the vigilante anti-hero whose only real power is shootin’ real good than they do with some morally-unwavering, genetically-enhanced super soldier.


The rest of the heroes can handle all the big superhero fights. The Punisher is after all the scum the caped heroes won’t touch and he’ll make sure they stay down.

(Marvel Comics)

Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher, is a very deep character. In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, he was actually an antagonist pitted against our favorite wall-crawler. He’s hired to kill Spider-Man by a villain seeking revenge for the death of Norman Osborn (known as the Green Goblin by most), which was pinned on Spidey. Castle puts up a good fight, but eventually has a heart-to-heart with Parker. He reveals his frustrations with being a vigilante killer, but it’s something, in his mind, that has to be done sometimes.

Many writers have penned fantastic stories for the Punisher since his 1974 debut, but throughout them all, the heart of the character remains the same. He’s a highly-skilled Marine Corps veteran who lost his family to criminals and is forced into taking extra-judiciary measures to ensure the killers can’t strike again. From storyline to storyline, Castle dons his infamous white skull on black gear and puts a bullet into the worst of the worst of the Marvel universe.

He’s not a typical hero — he definitely commits countless crimes for the sake of good — but he’s also not a villain. He will go out of his way to not harm the innocent. He’ll gather information on whoever he’s going after to know if they’re really evil, he’ll spare any low-level bad guy who wants to surrender, and (perhaps the most prominent piece of evidence against villainy) he never enjoys killing.

He’s comfortable with it, and his mind is at ease knowing someone innocent is safe because of his actions, but he has never been shown, in all of his 45-year-long comic history, enjoying the act of killing. That’s what separates him from the psychotic villains he encounters. It’s his duty to protect the innocent. It’s his burden to have to do terrible things to make it so. That’s something many troops can get behind.

It also helps that he truly encapsulates the rest of the minor moments that come with being a veteran. Like his monologue in Daredevil season 2.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

For all intents and purposes, Chris Kyle was the real-life Punisher. No ifss, ands, or buts.

Another key element of the Punisher that’s enjoyed by fans is the famous skull logo. You can’t drive around a barracks parking lot without seeing a lifted Ford F-150 with adorned with a Punisher decal modified to have either the U.S. flag pattern or the “Back the Blue” stripe incorporated.

Related: Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Though the skull has its origins in comic book, it’s taken on an entirely new meaning with the troops. It’s now a brand for anyone willing to stand for what’s right. Sure, Captain America’s shield might be a more apt symbol for that, but the Punisher’s skull has more of an impactful meaning easily caught by the viewer.

Chris Kyle explained his use of the skull best in his autobiography, American Sniper:

“Our Comms guy suggested it before the deployment. We all thought what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him. That’s what we were all about. So we adapted his symbol  — a skull — and made it our own, with some modifications. We spray-painted it on our Hummers and body armor, and our helmets and all our guns. And we spray-painted it on every building or wall we could. We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to f*ck with you… It was our version of PsyOps. You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us. Because we will kill you, mother f*cker. You are bad — we are badder.
MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when two carriers kick in your door at once

American aircraft carriers are kings of the ocean. They come loaded with dozens of lethal warplanes, ready to take off from “4.5 acres of sovereign soil” and send missiles into enemy jets while dropping bombs on enemy troops and infrastructure.

U.S. carriers often operate independently of one another, typically sailing within their own strike groups even when operating against the same targets. But the Navy does have another option: combining the carrier strike groups into a single entity with 9 acres of sovereign soil bearing down on hostile forces.

Here’s what that looks like:


This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, from the “Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron 115, launches from the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan during dual-carrier operations in 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

Carrier air wings have 60 or more aircraft, and, when two carriers show up, they bring both of their wings for a combined total of between 100 and 150 aircraft. For Carrier Air Wings 1 and 7, the air wings assigned to the USS Harry S. Truman and the USS Abraham Lincoln, which took part in an exercise in August, this includes nine squadrons of F/A-18 Super Hornets. These fighters can kill most anything on the ground or in the sky, though they aren’t stealthy like the coming F-35C Thunder II.

Each squadron has 10-12 of the Super Hornets, equipped with 20mm cannons, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AIM-7 Sparrows, AIM-120 AMRAAMs, Harpoons, HARM, SLAMs, Maverick missiles, Joint Stand-Off Weapons, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Paveway Laser-Guided bombs.

If you got lost in that extended list of deadly weapons, just know that the Super Hornets can carry a large variety of missiles and bombs with warheads or payloads ranging from a couple pounds of high explosives to a few thousands pounds (one of those bombs even made our list of weapons that could bring down a Star Wars AT-AT Walker).

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

A combined formation with planes from six squadrons and two carriers flies past the USS Ronald Reagan during a dual-carrier operation in 2016.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Lerner)

So, if two carriers with nine squadrons of Super Hornets, each with 10-12 aircraft show up, the enemy is facing about 100 highly armed aircraft—but those aircraft and pilots are highly vulnerable to enemy air defenses since they lack real stealth capability.

So, how is the Navy going to kick in your door? By crippling your air defenses and shooting down your fighters, of course.

Those HARM missiles mentioned above? Those are high-speed, anti-radiation missiles. When the Super Hornet finds an enemy air defense site, they can fire the missile towards the enemy radar, and the missile actually follows the radar back to the source, eliminating the enemy radar dish.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

An E-2C Hawkeye from the “Liberty Bells” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 transits the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan. The Nimitz-class Aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan conducted dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Riggs)

That knocks out the “eyes” of the enemy, but it’s not like enemy fighter pilots are gonna sit around drinking tea and discussing how rude the Americans are for destroying their radar dishes — they’re gonna go try to kill ’em.

And that’s why the Navy doesn’t send only fighters up during a big fight. They’re accompanied by E-2D Hawkeyes, airborne early warning aircraft that are basically flying radar dishes, feeding target and threat information to all the fighters it’s linked to.

This gives a huge advantage to the American fighters it supports in the form of a greater view of the battlefield, allowing the airborne commander to better direct the fighters’ efforts. It helps guarantee that the American jets are always at the decisive engagement, tipping the scales in their own favor. With two carriers and two air wings, this will be especially important as literally hundreds of fighters could be fighting at once.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The Nimitz-class Aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conduct dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke)

Door, meet kick.

So, if the Navy is called upon to break into enemy airspace, and they successfully do it with the dual-carrier setup they practiced this summer, what happens next? With the enemy air defenses weakened, any number of follow-on operations are easier.

For instance, a Marine Expeditionary Force can much more easily take the beaches when friendly Harriers and Super Hornets are the only jets in the sky. Friendly jets and helicopters can take out beach defenses and ferry troops from ship to shore with minimal to no losses.

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

Chief Naval Aircrewman Joel James, assigned to the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11, observes from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter as ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group and the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group transit the sea in formation while conducting dual-carrier sustainment operations.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas Gooley)

Marines under fire can call for help and, with two carriers in the area and minimal air defenses left, be basically guaranteed to receive it.

Meanwhile, if American pilots or aircrews had been shot down during the doorkick, MH-60 helicopters can swoop in to recover them quickly because it would have two carriers worth of jets to protect them.

If the enemy tries to use submarines to sink the carriers, there are two sea combat squadrons and two maritime strike squadrons as well as multiple American attack submarines available to hunt down the undersea threat. Anti-ship ballistic missiles face additional Aegis destroyers to get to the U.S. assets.

So, yeah, a dual-carrier strike group brings a lot of firepower and capability, so why doesn’t the Navy do it more often, in exercises and in combat?

Well, it’s crazy overkill for a lot of operations. The Navy only has 11 carriers, and some of those are in drydock or other service at any time. So, giving up over 20 percent of the deployed carrier fleet for a single operation would only happen in the case of a large, decisive operation. The Navy likely sent the Lincoln and Truman to practice, just in case.

If there were a war with China or Russia, there would be a good reason to combine two carrier strike groups. With hundreds of enemy jets likely to take to the air against the U.S., the Super Hornets would need at least a few squadrons in the air to have a chance. That would take multiple carriers to maintain, and it’s more easier to defend one pair of carriers than two separate ones.

At the end of the day, for freedom of navigation missions, humanitarian relief, and reassuring allies, one carrier easily gets the job done. But, if there is a two-carrier, three-carrier, or even larger fight, the Navy is prepared.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information