Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Jason Momoa is a bona fide action star, a buff, bearded (most of the time) beast of a dude best known for playing fierce warriors of the Dothraki and underwater varieties. Off-screen, it seems that he takes the strength and free-spiritedness of his characters and combines it with an unapologetic commitment to his family.

In a new video – presumably for Harley-Davidson, though that’s not ever made explicit — Momoa talks about his lifelong love of motorcycles. Over scenic desert landscapes, a well-worn motorcycle shop tells the story of the very special way he shared that love with his kids.

“Fierce and proud I put my hand on the throttle and with a twist it rumbled and howled like I held the power to control its breathing,” he says, sounding like a muscled, tattooed Bruce Springsteen as slowed-down footage of his kids touching a motorcycle with wonder in their eyes plays.


“It was the first time I really felt speed. It was the awakening.”

In what sounds apocryphal, Momoa talks about finding an old, broken-down Harley motor in a garage and being seized with a dream to fix it up and build a bike around it.

Where the Wild Stomped In – Happy Papa’s Day!

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“Reality sunk in, and that young man’s dream, it had to wait. For my life,” he says. Translation: he had kids and didn’t have time to spend fiddling around in the garage for hours on end. That part is definitely relatable.

But the video is about motorcycles, so Momoa finds the time — with what looks like a very able, affable motorcycle-fixing dude — to make his dream come true.

“It has taken three decades in the making. The longest dream I have ever held onto. And now, the best part is that I get to share that dream with my children and the people that I love.”

More beautiful shots of sparks flying, dirt getting kicked up, scenic vistas, and Momoa and his crew drinking beers follow. The motorcycle is fixed up and taken all over the desert.

“We built our family heirloom. We’re the Momoas. We’re the knuckleheads. And with every ride, whether it’s me, my daughter, my son, or even a grandchild I don’t know yet. They will share in the miles and memories we were creating.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The hyperspeed of military spouse friendships

Part of the Air Force wife gig is making and losing friends constantly. It’s a revolving door of meeting people, forming fast friendships and saying goodbye. The whiplash pace of hails and farewells has conditioned me to act quickly in forging relationships, more easily done in Mil-world because of the high-pressure situations we find ourselves in together.


The average time spent at an Air Force assignment is two years and six months before PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) to the next. That’s 30 months to find a place to live, receive your household goods, pick up your vehicle from the nearest VPC (Vehicle Process Center), enroll your kids in a new school and get familiar with a new doctor before packing it all up and doing it again.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

(U.S. Army photo)

So there you are, standing on the steps of the Coffee, glass slipper in hand. Do you chase after a fast friendship or let her go? There’s only one answer for me.

“Hi, my name is Rachel. Let’s be friends.”

The great part of the military spouse culture is other wives get it. You show up, and you start getting invited to events. Two and a half years is already a short time to make a meaningful connection with someone, but odds are you don’t have that long. When you meet that special person you want to get drunk with at the Christmas party, either they are probably halfway through their assignment, or you are.

I went to a wedding at Shaw and hit it off with another pilot’s girlfriend who just moved there from out of state. She laughed at my jokes. I laughed at hers. We got our phones out to exchange numbers, but when we realized I was PCSing in under a month, we both just shrugged and put our phones away. The same thought went through our heads. “Damn. I liked her.”

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Heather Miner, president, Officers’ Spouses’ Club, left, speaks to a guest during the Havana Nights Gala Benefit Auction hosted by Smith’s Ranch in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo/Preston L. Morris)

For the past eight or so years, moving around as an active duty Air Force spouse, I’ve been trained to nose out my new friend in a crowd then get to making her realize we are friends as quickly as possible. The downside of Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends is that I forget that it scares civilians. It’s just too aggressive. Time is a luxury I can’t afford, and I suspect most civilians don’t have that kind of pressure. I have to dial it down or else I come on too strong, which is very easy for me to do.

Where are you from? Did you like your high school? These questions are okay.

What illnesses run in your family? How often do you guys have sex? Did your episiotomy go all the way to your butthole? These questions are nooooot okay in the civilian world. Sure, they are a little wobbly in the military world too, but when you live overseas for a few years with roughly the same 100 people, things heat up quickly, especially when alcohol is involved. If I’m being honest, it’s more fun that way.

After a series of cringe-worthy fails, I’ve untrained myself from using Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends with civilians, even when I want to be friends with you now. Like, right now. But the truth is if in my heart I like you, I still don’t want to waste time. I’m ready for us to be friends. Let’s get to it.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 important lessons for navigating marriage after the military

I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.

There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.

We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.


Quarantine and Retirement 

I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.

These three hard truths about what marriage is like after the military, apply just as much to what marriage is like during quarantine. But don’t panic! You will get through this, and it is possible to still like one another by the end of this long stretch of too much time together.

Here are a few things I have learned:

1. Be flexible and forgiving

It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?

Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.

Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.

2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet 

I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.

What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?

Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.

  • Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
  • Walks through the neighborhood
  • Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
  • Noise-canceling headphones while writing
  • Longer showers
  • Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence

3. Open communication makes all the difference

Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.

One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.

All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.

The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse led Instant Teams embarks on $1.5M investment partnership with Squadra Ventures

A military spouse owned business has big news this week with an impressive $1.5 million raise. Instant Teams is a remote workforce supplier and management business. It was founded in 2017 by two military spouses, CEO Liza Rodewald and COO Erica McMannes. Rodewald was a software developer for multimillion-dollar government contracts, and McMannes is experienced in building small teams for businesses. Together, they combined their skills and passion to create Instant Teams.


They created the company for the sole purpose of creating more employment opportunities for the untapped and underemployed military spouse community. A 2018 report from the White House found that 40% of military spouses held a degree, compared to only 29.7% of the civilian population. That same report showed that military spouses that were able to work – were underpaid compared to their civilian counterparts.

McMannes shared that they just knew that the market for military spouse employment was something that needed strong advocates.

When asked what sparked the creation of Instant Teams, McMannes laughed. She said that she and Rodewald had originally met in 2014 when they were both stationed in Virginia, but she never dreamed they would develop and create a business together. They had an idea, and one day after talking about the concept, they were all in. An idea borne out of passion to help military spouses has now grown 125% in size each year.

The need for more employment options for military spouses has been proven and is a current hot topic in the news and current legislation. A 2018 Blue Star Families survey found that 70% of Millennial military families reported needing two incomes to support their families. Frequent moves put the military spouse at a great disadvantage for maintaining gainful employment to support their families. A 2017 Department of Defense report showed that nearly 25% of military spouses were unemployed — something Rodewald and McMannes sought to change.

On Feb. 11, Instant Teams put out a press release announcing a id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment partnership with Squadra Ventures.

“I always say, it takes a village and I am just lucky that my village is the military spouse community,” said McMannes. She continued, “We knew military spouses needed it. We wanted to develop this concrete and sound business model that allowed companies to see the value immediately and where spouses knew they could come directly for remote work. Now three years later, it’s happening, and it’s an amazing feeling. So much work and time has been put into it and that’s only going to amplify now with this investment.”

What it means, according to McMannes, is that there will be more opportunities for the spouse community, more growth for their internal team which then allows Instant Teams to be able to hire even more military spouses. McMannes shared that conversations with Squadra Ventures began over the summer and continued into the fall with the deal solidified in January.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Erica McMannes, Instant Teams founder and COO.

MIC

McMannes said that she believes this is just the beginning. “There is a whole movement in advocacy in the federal, state, and international space on what the future of work looks like. Remote work is right on the leading edge of that,” she said.

When asked how it felt to get the news that it was a signed and done deal, she shared that it was even more meaningful because they were together when they got the word. McMannes is currently located in California, and Rodewald’s husband is stationed in Hawaii. As luck would have it, they happened to be together on the East Coast when the news came in – and they celebrated with cupcakes.

McMannes said that military spouses were the original “digital nomads,” meaning you could essentially travel the globe and bring your job with you. “Spouses were forced to be digital nomads, but the actual job component was always the struggle. To be a part of the future of work, we are really excited about,” said McMannes. She shared a story of a spouse that was recently able to keep her job because of Instant Teams through a PCS from North Carolina to Guam. McMannes said it’s stories like those that keep her and Rodewald fueled to continue working hard and committing to doing more. Thanks to the recent id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment of Squadra Ventures – they are well on their way.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Suddenly homeschooling? 10 pro tips from military homeschool moms

Maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you’ve considered homeschooling your kids, but have never taken the time to give much effort and research to the idea. Well, many schools in the U.S. have closed their doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and this is the perfect opportunity to try it out!


According to a census done in 2012, approximately 3 percent of U.S. students were being homeschooled. That is roughly 1.5 million students. This number has increased significantly since homeschooling platforms and options have diversified. There are co-ops and multiple curriculums to fit a variety of lifestyles and beliefs.

A new survey found that 11 percent of military families have chosen to homeschool for different reasons. One of the reasons is to give their child stability because they don’t like having to uproot them from learning facilities with every PCS move. It also allows them to have more control over their kids educational process and learning environment.

If you are a newbie and have been pushed into the role of “teacher” because of this pandemic, don’t fret. Here are some PRO tips from actual homeschooling moms that have been in the game for a while.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids
  • Keep it simple – Don’t try and print out every curriculum you can find and then stress yourself and your kids out. Let them read to you or practice writing their letters with their finger in a plate of salt (age appropriate of course).
  • Make a schedule but be flexible – Yes, schedules help with focusing and staying on course, but life happens.
  • Use what you have – Don’t make it complex. Go through household items to cover a lesson. For example, if you’re covering shapes, have your kids go through the house and find all the spheres that they can. This could include balls, fruit or even toys.
  • Make it practical – If you’re doing a science lesson, put the book down and go on a nature walk to find things outside that reflect what the lesson is about.
  • Start early – Everyone has a fresh mind in the morning. Afternoons are a hard time for kids to focus.
  • Don’t make lessons long – Learning should only be 1-3 hours max per day.
  • Take multiple breaks – You can stretch out your learning throughout the hours. Don’t try to do it all in one clump of time.
  • Be patient – Remember you are a parent first and you all need grace while you’re figuring it out
  • Make it engaging and FUN – This isn’t a classroom. You are in control of the fun meter. Turn it up!
  • Do what fits your family’s vibe – You have the freedom to tailor your lessons to the way you know your kid learns. Try different approaches until you find one that makes sense for all of you.
Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

media.defense.gov

There are many homeschooling resources available online. There’s always youtube where you can pull up subject and age-specific videos for activities and lessons.

Whether or not you are a fan of the idea of homeschooling your kids, it is upon us! Hopefully, these tips bring clarity and ease to this new journey.

Here is a link to find Military Homeschool Support Groups.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch these women change from pin-up girls to warriors in this viral video

The “Don’t Rush Challenge” has brought countless fun videos to our social media feeds. Set to the song, “Don’t Rush,” by Young T & Bugsey, a subject is featured wearing an outfit and holding an object. They put the object close to the camera, and when they pull the object away, they reveal they’re wearing something different. We’ve seen doctors change from scrubs and a facemask to sweatpants and a t-shirt, still holding the mask, exhausted. We’ve seen kids go from athletic uniforms and a soccer ball, to still bouncing that ball in a bow tie and khakis. Moms with wine glasses, delivery drivers, you name it.

But if the challenge had a victor, one non-profit featuring female veterans just won the whole damn thing.


Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

With over a million views on Facebook, the Pin-Ups for Vets’ “Don’t Rush Challenge” video has gone viral, and it’s easy to see why. Stunning women dressed as pin-ups hold a red flower, and when the flower is pulled away, you see the same woman who was moments before all dolled up, standing there — just as beautiful — in uniform.

Pin-Ups for Vets was founded in 2006 by Gina Elise. Disheartened by the number of Iraq War veterans returning from overseas in need of medical attention, coupled with the growing number of hospitalized older veterans, Elise wanted to do something to benefit both populations. She wanted to boost morale, provide meaningful opportunities for veterans to give back as well as raise money for veteran care facilities. Thus, Pin-Ups for Vets was born.

“I’d always been a big fan of World War II pin-up art,” Elise told WATM. “Pin-ups painted on the bombers was such a morale booster,” she explained. “I wanted to bring something like that to modern-day veterans.” What started as a pin-up calendar fundraiser featuring female “Ambassadors” has grown over 14 years to an incredibly successful non-profit, resulting in a 50-state hospital tour with the Ambassadors visiting over 14,000 veterans. In addition to donating calendars to these patients, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated ,000 in rehabilitation equipment.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

When asked what prompted the video, Elise shared that she felt everyone could use a little digital morale boost right now. “When we go into these hospitals, the veterans are so excited to see these beautiful women. And when they learn that she also served, there is an immediate, incredible bond. We wanted to provide that to people at home right now, too. It would make more sense chronologically for us to show the women in uniform and then as pin-ups, as that’s how most of them come to our organization. They want to continue serving after their service. But we chose to show them as pin-ups first for that surprise factor that mimics what we see in the hospital. Anyone can be a pin-up, but not everyone can be a veteran. So many people have stereotypes about female veterans; the ladies are often asked if they are the wife of a veteran because when people think of the military, they think of men. We’re proud to show that women serve, too. And we like to say we make volunteering look glamorous.”

Female veterans turned pin-ups!

They certainly do. The comments on the video have been overwhelmingly positive. Mary Moczygemba Stulting said, “Oh my gosh…so lovely as pin ups…so beautiful as warriors!!! #fierce!!!” Tommy Ford said, “Thanks to all you women for keeping my family safe… y’all are all beautiful in or out of Camouflage.” Alex Correa Rodrigues commented, “Amazing! It’s truly amazing to see your commitment to America and everything that you do in and out of uniform. I’m a huge fan of all of you and keep up with the great work.”

The 19 incredible ladies featured:

LeahAnn (USMC Veteran)
Erikka (Army Veteran)
Jennifer (USMC Veteran)
Simone (Army)
Jessica (USAF)
Megan (USMC Veteran)
Liz (USMC Veteran)
Vanessa (USAF Veteran)
Rosario (Army Veteran)
Sianna (USAF Veteran)
Michelle (Army Veteran)
Daphne (USMC Veteran)
Tess (USMC Veteran)
Allie (Navy)
Shannon (Army)
Jovane (USMC Veteran)
Linsay (Army Veteran)
Marceline (Navy Veteran)
Donna (USMC Veteran)

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Don’t worry, Coast Guard fans, there are plenty of USCG pin-up girls that participate in the organization as Ambassadors, they just weren’t available for the video.

To learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets or to get your 2020 calendar, visit their website. Way to go ladies – we salute you!
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Satellite snaps rare photo appearing to show Chinese submarine using secretive underwater cave at South China Sea base

A Planet Labs commercial satellite managed to capture a rare photo this week of a Chinese submarine at what observers believe is the entrance of a secretive undersea cave at a strategically important naval base.

The photo, first posted online by Radio Free Asia, appears to show a Chinese Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine at Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, The War Zone reported.

The important base sits at a strategic gateway to not only the contested South China Sea but also Taiwan and the Western Pacific.


Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Chinese submarine at the entrance of Yulin Naval Base. Planet Labs Inc.

China likes to hide some of its strategic assets underground. For instance, the “Underground Great Wall of China” is the name given to the network of tunnels China is believed to use to store intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While the vast, hardened underground tunnel system offers a potential second-strike capability in the event of nuclear war, Dean Cheng, an Asian studies expert at the Heritage Foundation, told Insider that “it is also a way of deceiving your adversary to make sure that they have no idea how many of anything you have.”

In the case of Yulin Naval Base, submarines are most vulnerable at dock, so hiding them in underground tunnels, as has been done in the past, offers a certain degree of protection from potential adversaries, such as US Navy forces patrolling nearby.

“The benefit of underground berthing is it prevents overhead sensors like visual or electronic intelligence satellites from tracking submarine deployments to cue other surveillance and tracking assets like US submarines, patrol aircraft, and surface combatants,” Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider.

“These kinds of cues are important for US and allied intelligence gathering against adversary submarines, since they can be hard to find once they get to sea and submerge,” he added, explaining that Yulin’s location at the southern end of Hainan allows PLAN submarines to access deeper waters more quickly than other bases might permit.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the Chinese view information as a resource,” Cheng explained.

“They work very hard to make sure that all information is tightly controlled,” he said. “To their mind, it is always in their strategic interest to keep you guessing about where are my boats, how many boats do I have, and for you to be left wondering.”

“Imagine you’re playing football and all of a sudden, the other side puts 14 additional people out on the field,” he said. “Your entire playbook just went out the window.

“That’s how the Chinese view information more broadly,” Cheng said. “If I can hide things from you, when I suddenly reveal new capabilities, new numbers, you’re going to have to chuck your entire playbook that you’ve been training to, that you’ve been resourcing to, that you’ve been typically oriented toward, out the window.”

The tunnels at Yulin also make it difficult for an adversary to observe Chinese military preparations and intentions, Carl Schuster, former director of operations at US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN.

“You have no evidence of (the submarine’s) combat readiness, operational response times and availability,” he said. “Tunnels blind potential opponents to the submarines’ operating status and patterns, denying them the ability to determine the state of China’s military preparations, knowledge critical to assessing China’s intentions and plans.”

Yulin Naval Base has been operational for decades and houses nuclear-powered fast attack and ballistic-missile submarines, among other assets.

The most recent Department of Defense assessment of China’s military strength states that the “modernization of China’s submarine force remains a high priority for the PLAN.”

The Pentagon expects the submarine force to continue to grow, and China watchers say Chinese subs are becoming increasingly capable as the country modernizes its force, making it more of a threat to rivals.

The photo from Planet Labs appears to show a Shang-class submarine, one of China’s newer nuclear submarines. While the boats are considered “substantially noisier” than US Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines, “the Shangs have vertical-launch tubes for YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles and could be a threat to US naval forces or logistics ships operating in the open ocean,” Clark said.

China is believed to have six of these submarines, some of which are based at Yulin.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Few things can truly lift a deployed troop’s spirits like hearing the words, “Hey you, you got mail” before having a big ol’ box plopped on their lap. It doesn’t matter what’s inside — just the fact that someone remembered them while they were away makes things better. Some troops are lucky enough to have family members who send out weekly boxes of momma’s cookies, but even those without a constant support network get love from churches, schools, and youth groups.

In the earlier years of the Global War on Terrorism, everybody sent care packages. There was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t putting something together to send abroad, whether it was for a cousin, a friend, a friend’s cousin — whoever. That same war still lingers today and troops are still struck with the same homesickness.

Care packages are the classic cure to homesickness and, even today, they remain the best remedy.


Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Don’t get me wrong. They will still fight each other over a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

Some of the older items that were frequently put in care packages for troops, like socks, bars of soaps, and candies that (hopefully) won’t melt after being left in the desert sun for hours, are still appreciated today. Any time troops get sent handwritten notes and children’s drawings, they’ll feel obligated to write back — but things have changed since the beginning of the war.

Fewer troops are in direct combat roles and, thankfully, deployments have gotten shorter. Today, troops are less likely to be put directly in harm’s way for over twelve months at a time, but they’re still not home. What this means is that necessities that may have once helped forward-deployed troops remember what a shower feels like are now stockpiled in the chaplain’s office.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Everyone learns how to play spades while deployed. Why not give your loved one a nicer deck of cards to play with?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Living conditions while deployed have changed a lot since 2001. Today, it’s far less common to see grunts crammed in a hastily made hut. Showers are definitely more abundant and troops have access to places where they can buy their own hygiene goods. That’s not to say that every single American GI is living a life of luxury, but the general level of “suckiness” has been reduced.

In short, this means that troops aren’t hurting for baby wipes like they used to. They’re still helpful to troops who leave the wire, but they’ll more than likely just be used so a troop can skip showering for a day. What troops need now are things for the mind, not the body. Books, movies, and games help pass the time. Without electricity, troops will always pull out a deck of cards and get a game of Spades going.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

The joys of having money and pretty much nothing to spend it on…

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by: Sgt. Frances Johnson)

The leaps and bounds in technology have also changed the definition of hot-ticket care-package items. Troops no longer need to wait in long lines and hope that there’s still enough time on their pre-paid card to call home. Bases have been getting better and more expansive WiFi networks through the USO, which now allows troops to simply use their smartphone to call home while off-duty.

This boost in technology also does a lot of heavylifting on the part of AAFES, the service that sells regular goods to troops. Instead of hoping that they might have a new pair of running shoes or a fresh hard-drive for storing movies in this month’s package from home, they can just order stuff off Amazon.

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Military cooks always try to shove the healthy options down our throats. What we really want is some junk food that reminds us of being back home.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

Which brings us back to what troops of today actually want and need. Anything given by a family member with sentimental value is always going to hit home. As corny as it sounds, troops will still put photos of their family and loved ones up on display, just as they have since photography was invented.

Any comfy fleece blankets will be used instead of the Uncle Sam-issued sleeping systems. I’ve personally known troops to keep those cheapo blankets they give out on international flights and use them for twelve months instead of the issued gear.

Sweets are always going to be enjoyed and shared — especially the homemade goods. It doesn’t matter if it was their own momma who made the cookies or someone else’s momma, they’ll be devoured.

It’s kind of a taboo thing to say, but troops will always ask for it, so it’s worth mentioning. If you know that the deployed troop smokes or dips, they could really use some actual stuff instead of the maybe-poisonous, maybe-just-awful tobacco products the locals sell.

It might seem like ancient history to some, but troops are still deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. That war has drawn on long enough that the needs of deployed troops have changed, but homesickness (and its remedy) remains the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New study shows energy drinks can actually hurt returning troops

Rip-Its are a comforting old friend to American Post-9/11 veterans. Most American probably don’t even know they exist, unless you happen to be a regular at your local Dollar General store. In war zones, Rip-Its are widely available for sale and, in some cases, are free. Move over, coffee, this is the unofficial beverage of the Global War on Terror.

The problem with this is overindulgence may actually be hurting troops as they transition back home.


Rip-It, the military’s favorite brand of energy drink (when deployed), is sold to the military by National Beverage Corp., the same team of drink magicians who brought us Faygo and La Croix. It’s sold in much smaller cans than the ones available in the U.S., but anyone naive enough to believe that keeps U.S. troops from drinking too much is sadly mistaken.

While American troops are big fans of Rip-Its and other energy drinks, a recent study published in the Military Medicine journal found an association between continued, excessive consumption of energy drinks and mental health issues in returning troops.

No one gets enough sleep in a war zone as it is. And when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are awake, they need to stay vigilant about their work, any external threats, and, in some places, internal threats as well. This is one reason coffee has been a mainstay of the U.S. military for so long.

The rise in popularity of energy drinks like Rip-It happened to coincide with a huge number of young people, the primary consumers of energy drinks, heading off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The love affair’s timing is a perfect storm. It became a little slice of home and comfort while pulling double duty keeping people awake when they needed to be.

Even people who never drank an energy drink before were likely to try at least one while deployed.

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Eventually, these same troops returned home from their combat deployments. The study found 75 percent of soldiers were still drinking them after coming home. Of those,16 percent were drinking two or more per day, an amount the study defined as “excessive.”

Those found to be drinking more were more likely to exhibit signs of mental distress or other mental issues, especially aggressive behaviors, sleeplessness, alcohol misuse, and excessive fatigue after being home for seven months after their combat deployment. Not only that, those drinking to excess “are associated with being less responsive to evidence-based treatments for PTSD,” the authors of the study wrote.

Troops who consumed fewer than two drinks reported a lower rate of these symptoms.

The study didn’t address Rip-It specifically, though it did ask what size study participants were prone to using. The use of drinks by this Army sample was five times higher than in a previous study of airmen and civilians in the general population.

Military leaders aren’t likely to call for an end to the widespread use of energy drinks, but many have already called on their troops to cut down on consumption.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Over half of NASA’s Artemis Team of astronauts have served

It’s no surprise that many of NASA’s astronauts have military backgrounds. However, it may come as surprise that one of the 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s Artemis team on December 9, 2020 is a submariner and another is a Navy SEAL. The Artemis program aims to land “the first woman and the next man” on the moon by 2024. Ten of the astronauts chosen for this historic program have military backgrounds.

Kayla Barron

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(NASA)

Barron graduated from the Naval Academy in 2010 and immediately went to grad school at the University of Cambridge in England as a Gates Cambridge Scholar. She graduated with a Master’s in nuclear engineering and joined one of the first groups of female naval officers to serve in the nuclear submarine fleet. After serving aboard the Ohio-class nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, USS Maine (SSBN-741), she became the flag aide to the Superintendent of the Naval Academy before being selected for astronaut training in 2017.

Jonny Kim

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(NASA)

If you haven’t heard of the Navy SEAL, doctor, astronaut, you might be living under a rock. Kim enlisted in the Navy out of high school and went straight from his Hospital Corpsman “A” School to BUD/S. During his time with the teams, Kim completed over 100 combat operations and earned a Silver Star with Combat “V”. He commissioned as an officer through the Navy ROTC program at the University of San Diego with a degree in mathematics. Afterwards, he earned a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School before being selected for astronaut training in 2017.

Raja Chari

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(NASA)

Chari has earned a bachelor’s in astronautical engineering from the Air Force Academy and a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he flew the F-15E in combat mission over Iraq. Chari has accumulated over 2,000 flight hours in the F-15, F-16, F-18, and F-35 fighters. When he was selected for astronaut training in 2017, Chari was an Air Force Colonel select serving as the Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron and the Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.

Matthew Dominick

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(NASA)

Dominick graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in electrical engineering and commissioned as a naval officer in 2005. He served as a naval aviator flying the F/A-18E Super Hornet. Dominick made two deployments with Strike Fighter Squadron 3 (VFA-143) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Afterwards, he earned a master’s in systems engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and graduated from the Naval Test Pilot School. He flew developmental flight tests in the F/A-18ABCD, F/A-18E/F, and EA-18G and has contributed to cutting-edge projects like the X-47B and F-35C. Dominick has accumulated over 1,600 flight hours, 400 carrier traps, and 61 combat missions. He was selected for astronaut training in 2017.

Victor Glover

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(NASA)

Glover is an experienced naval aviator with 3,000 flight hours in more than 40 aircraft, over 400 carrier traps, and 24 combat missions. He is also a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School, the Air Force’s Air University, and the Air Force Test Pilot School. In 2013, he was selected for astronaut training while serving as a Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate. Glover currently serves as the pilot and second-in-command on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which launched November 15, 2020. He will also serve as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 64.

Nicole Mann

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(NASA)

Mann graduated from the Naval Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering and commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 1999. She earned a master’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford in 2001. Following grad school, she completed TBS at MCB Quantico and flight school at NAS Pensacola. She flew the F/A-18C during combat missions in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom before becoming a naval test pilot. Mann has accumulated over 2,500 flight hours in 25 types of aircraft, 200 carrier traps, and 47 combat missions. She is currently training for the crew flight test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, the first crewed flight for the vehicle.

Anne McClain

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McClain graduated from West Point in 2002 and immediately attended grad school at the University of Bath. She trained on the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and went on to earn ratings in the C-12 Huron, UH-60 Blackhawk, and UH-72 Lakota. Over her career, she has accumulated over 2,000 flight hours in 20 different rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. She was selected from astronaut training in 2013. Most recently, McClain served as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 58 and 59.

Jasmin Moghbeli

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(NASA)

Moghbeli commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in 2005 after earning her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from MIT. She has since earned a master’s in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and has graduated from the Naval Test Pilot School. She flew the AH-1W Super Cobra in combat during Operation Enduring Freedom and has flown the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters in test and evaluation roles. Moghbeli has accumulated over 2,000 flight hours in over 25 different aircraft and more than 150 combat missions. She was selected for astronaut training in 2017.

Frank Rubio

Frank Rubio, Artemis

Rubio is a West Point graduate and Army Blackhawk pilot. He has accumulated over 1,100 flight hours during deployments to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Rubio earned a doctorate of medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He served as a clinic supervisor, an executive medicine provider and a flight surgeon at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. When he was selected for astronaut training in 2017, Rubio was serving as the battalion surgeon for the 3rd Battalio, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Scott Tingle

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(NASA)

Tingle earned a bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering and worked for three years at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California before commissioning as a naval officer in 1991. In 1998, he graduated from the Naval Test Pilot School and served as an Operational Test Pilot with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet program. He flew with Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). The wing was one of the first responders after 9/11 and conducted strikes in Afghanistan in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Tingle has accumulated over 4,500 flight hours in 51 different aircraft, 750 carrier traps, and 54 combat missions. He was selected for astronaut training in 2009 and most recently served as Flight Engineer on the International Space Station for Expedition 54/55.

“The Artemis Team astronauts are the future of American space exploration,” said Vice President Mike Pence after announcing the names of the Artemis astronauts, “and that future is bright.” Artemis I is scheduled for 2021 and will be an uncrewed flight test. Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test and is scheduled for 2022.

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(NASA)
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

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There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

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(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

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(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

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(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

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(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

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(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Exclusive: Pompeo vows U.S. action to ensure ‘good outcome’ for Belarusian people

PRAGUE — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking about the contentious Belarusian presidential election and the ensuing police crackdown against peaceful protesters, says that “we want good outcomes for the Belarusian people, and we’ll take actions consistent with that.”

Pompeo, who earlier condemned the conduct of the election that handed authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth-straight term by a landslide, said in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL in Prague on August 12 that “we’ve watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated.”


The August 9 vote, which the opposition has called “rigged,” has resulted in three-straight evenings of mass protests marred by police violence and thousands of detentions.

Pompeo said that the United States had not yet settled on the appropriate response, but would work with Washington’s European partners to determine what action to take.

Asked whether the election and its aftermath would affect the future of U.S.-Belarus relations, including the promised delivery of U.S. oil, Pompeo said: “We’re going to have to work through that…we were incredibly troubled by the election and deeply disappointed that it wasn’t more free and more fair.”

U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

Pompeo, who was in Prague at the start of a five-day trip to Europe that will also take him to Slovenia, Austria, and Poland, discussed a number of other issues, including allegations that Russia was involved in offering Taliban militants bounties to attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; expectations that Washington will seek to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran; and the effect violence against protesters in the United States might have on Washington’s image abroad.

The U.S. secretary of state declined to comment on whether he believed U.S. intelligence reports that reportedly said Russia had offered money to the Taliban and their proxies in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers, saying he never commented on U.S. intelligence matters.

“What we’ve said is this: If the Russians are offering money to kill Americans or for that matter, other Westerners as well, there will be an enormous price to pay,” Pompeo said. “That’s what I shared with [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov. I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well. We won’t brook that. We won’t tolerate that.”

Regarding the prospect of resistance among European allies to U.S. efforts to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, Pompeo said it “makes no sense for any European country to support the Iranians being able to have arms.”

“I think they recognize it for exactly what it is,” he said of the U.S. proposal, a draft resolution of which is reportedly currently being floated in the 15-member Security Council. “And I hope that they will vote that way at the United Nations. I hope they will see.”

“The resolution that we’re going to present is simply asking for a rollover of the extension of the arms embargo,” Pompeo said. “It’s that straightforward.”

Asked specifically about the prospect that Iranian allies Russia and China could veto such a proposal, the U.S. secretary of state said: “We’re going to make it come back. We have the right to do it under 2231 and we’re going to do it.”

UN Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously by the United Nations in 2015, endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

The United States withdrew from the deal, which offered sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for security guarantees aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in 2018.

Russian Media Pressure

Pompeo also discussed recent efforts by Russia to target foreign media operating there, which the secretary of state earlier warned would “impose new burdensome requirements” on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice Of America.

In an August 10 statement, Pompeo said that the two U.S.-funded media outlets already faced “significant and undue restrictions” in Russia, and that a recent draft order by Russia’s state media regulator requiring all media registered as “foreign agents” to label their content as such or face fines of up to 5 million rubles (,000) had left Washington “deeply concerned.”

In Prague, home of RFE/RL’s headquarters, on August 12, Pompeo said that he believed that “we think we can put real pressure and convince them that the right thing to do is to allow press freedom.”

“We’ve condemned it. We’ve also imposed enormous sanctions on Russia for other elements of their malign activity,” Pompeo said. “We hope that the rest of the world will join us in this. We hope that those nations that value the freedom of press, who want independent reporters to be able to ask questions, even if sometimes leaders don’t like them, will join with us.”

Asked whether the recent handling of protests against social injustice in the United States, which has included the use of police force against civilians and journalists, had harmed Washington’s image and weakened its moral authority in scolding authoritarian regimes, Pompeo called the question “insulting.”

He said that the “difference between the United States and these authoritarian regimes couldn’t be more clear.”

“We have the rule of law, we have the freedom of press, every one of those people gets due process. When we have peaceful protesters, we create the space for them to say their mind, to speak their piece,” he said.

“Contrast that with what happens in an authoritarian regime. To even begin to compare them, to somehow suggest that America’s moral authority is challenged by the amazing work that our police forces, our law enforcement people do all across America — I, frankly, just find the question itself incomprehensible and insulting.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New guidelines on Artificial Intelligence will not solve the ethics p​roblems

The European Commission has just published a white paper setting out guidelines for artificial intelligence. They hope to ‘address the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology,’ including concerns around privacy and human dignity.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon is finalizing its own rules on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, following a draft of the rules published in October. Like the European Commission, the Department of Defense is determined to keep people in the loop: ‘Human beings should… remain responsible for the development, deployment, use and outcomes of DoD AI systems,’ they say.

These are only the latest steps to catch up with the new technology. Oxford University has already launched a special program to keep artificial intelligence on the straight and narrow, while the World Economic Forum and others have highlighted the profound moral implications of AI.

The root of the fear is this: whereas earlier technological advances affected just our actions, artificial intelligence is replacing our thoughts. Labor-saving devices are morphing into a decision-making machine, and they operate in a moral vacuum.

Until now, the tough calls have fallen to programmers who write algorithms. Although the point of AI is that machines learn for themselves, the course they choose is set from the start by people who write the code.

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The stakes become enormous with the sort of automated decisions in defense the Pentagon is considering. And as long as the West’s main adversaries – Russia and China – are speeding forward with artificial intelligence, NATO countries have to stay ahead. Jack Shanahan, the Pentagon’s AI chief, has said that the US is locked ‘In a contest for the character of the international order in the digital age.’

While both the Pentagon and the European Commission are right to be alarmed at the profound ethical dimension to artificial intelligence, they are wrong to presume AI raises new ethical problems. It doesn’t – it just repaints old ones in technicolor. These problems have never been properly solved, and probably never will be.

Consider just these three of the most worrisome dilemmas Artificial Intelligence is said to create.

  1. If forced to choose, should a car driven by AI technology kill a pregnant woman or the two kids? The dilemma is no different when there’s a human at the wheel.
  2. Should algorithms draw on people’s race, gender or religion if it makes them more efficient? It’s been a question for airline security since 9/11.
  3. When our enemy has automated their battlefield machines so they can deploy them more quickly, should we do the same to keep up? This one pre-dates the First World War.
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In fact, all the problems which haunt artificial intelligence coders today can be traced back to conundrums, which vexed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The 23 centuries since he died have seen attempts to solve them, and some progress, but we still lack a definite answer to the fundamental question, ‘What should we do?’ Neither today’s European Commission paper nor the emerging Pentagon proposals will take us closer to a solution.

Some in the tech world – especially those who have cracked previously uncrackable problems before – are hoping money and brains will lead to a solution. After all, the determined genius of Newton and Einstein solved physics. Why can’t a little investment solve ethics in the same way?

The answer is that ethics is, at heart, a different sort of problem.

When we humans make decisions, we instinctively locate right and wrong in several places at once: in the motives behind the choice, in the type of action we do, and in the consequences, we bring about. Only if you focus on just a single place in the decision-making process – just on consequences, say – then you can rank and compare every option, but inevitably you will miss something out.

So, if an AI system was certain what to do when good deeds lead to a bad outcome, or when bad motives help people out, we should be very wary: it would be offering moral clarity when really there wasn’t any.

It is just conceivable that AI, rather than being a cause of moral problems, could help solve them. By using big data to anticipate the future and by helping us work out what would happen if everybody followed certain rules, artificial intelligence makes rule- and consequence-based ethics much easier. Applied thoughtfully, AI could help answer some tricky moral quandaries. In a few years, the best ethical advice may even come from an app on our phones.

Both the European Commission and Pentagon approach leave that possibility open.

It wouldn’t mean the profound ethical problems raised by artificial ethics had been solved, though. They will never be solved – because they do not have a single, certain solution.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.