Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”
The summer road trip is an iconic American institution.
Whether a cross-country tour with the family, a trip to the beach with friends, or the long haul home from college when the second semester ends, American motorists log millions of collective miles on those summer road trips. A US Department of Transportation study found that the average recreational summer road trip sees an average of a 314-mile drive one-way on such trips, or more than 600 miles in total. Many trips, of course, measure well into the thousands of miles.
Road trips can be enjoyable and relatively inexpensive compared with air travel, but they can do a number on the car, truck, or SUV logging all those miles. To keep your vehicle in its best possible shape, you need to complete a number of car care tasks after the long drive is over, and these go beyond the routine maintenance you offer a commuter vehicle.
Here are the steps to take to service a car after a long summer road trip.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)
1. Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out
After days on the road, deep cleaning your car is a necessary and timely step. As Mike Schultz, Senior Vice President of Research Development with Turtle Wax explains: “Not only are smashed bugs unsightly on your ride, but some also contain acidic substances, which can bite into the paint. Simply trying to scrape of stuck-on bugs can damage paint, too.”
He recommends using a dedicated car cleaning product to lift away the smashed insects. You should also remove floor mats and thoroughly clean the car’s carpets and upholstery and then let it air out for hours to prevent mold growth.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
2. Check the tire treads
Long drives can wear down tires past their point of full efficacy and safety, so check the treads once you get home.
As Fred Thomas, Vice President and General Manager for Goodyear Retail explains: “Proper tire depth is an easy way to help maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the ‘penny test.’ Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
3. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank
After a long road trip, it’s likely you won’t use your car as heavily for a period of time, especially if you live in a city and store the vehicle elsewhere.
Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank can help fuel remain fresh and prevent corrosion. If your car is likely to go unused for more than a month following your long drive (or any time) you should use a fuel stabilizer.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
4. Top off the fluids
Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert with Avis Car Rental says: “Fluids are like blood for your car, and after a long trip they’ll be depleted. To keep levels where they should be and ensure your car is in drivable condition for the next time you use it, replenish windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid,” and so on.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
5. Get an oil change
Even if your car isn’t due for an oil change for another few months or few hundred miles, it’s a good idea to get an oil change after a long trip.
The extended journey will have put more strain than usual on the motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or was more heavily laden than normal what with luggage and passengers.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
6. Replace the wiper blades
Auto experts recommend you get fresh wiper blades twice a year anyway, but the likely heavy use your windshield wipers saw during a long road trip may necessitate earlier replacement.
Wiper blades usually cost less than and you can install them yourself or have a shop do it, which will likely only charge you for 15 minutes of labor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
7. Run a diagnostics check-up
You can buy a top quality OBD-II scanner that lets you assess all sorts of systems within your car for less than , and using such a scanner might detect an issue before it becomes a big problem, saving you an even costlier repair.
After a long drive, these scanners can check everything from filter quality to engine health, and it can explain what’s behind that annoying check engine light.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
8. Test your brakes
Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com, says: “You gave your car a work out on that long road trip – now it’s time to pay extra attention to how it’s driving now that you’re back on local roads with slower speed limits. Is there a squeal happening when you hit the brakes or a weird sound coming from the wheel? Give your ride a test drive so that you know what work needs to be done when you take it in for maintenance.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.
Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.
Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.
The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.
While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.
A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.
As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.
At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.
“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.
Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.
“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.
However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.
In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.
The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.
However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
In March, Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (ret) is turning 90, and there is a celebration of her life and legacy at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on March 14 from 1-4 p.m EST. She is one of the most highly decorated military women in United States history. Not only did she pioneer history for women with her many accomplishments, but she was also instrumental in the funding, building and creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which tells the story of military women and keeps their stories as a record of history.
Brig. Gen. Vaught joined the military in 1957. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 and began working, but saw very little chance of advancement. Having come across an Army recruiting letter that offered her an opportunity to work in a management position (officer), she started looking into joining the military. In her research, she was given the advice to see if the Air Force had a similar program and when she found out they did she decided to join the Air Force.
1957 was after the Korean War but before the Vietnam War. When Vaught went through her training, she wasn’t taught how to use a weapon, instead, she went through a course on how to put on makeup and how to get in and out of a car tastefully. When she arrived at her first assignment at Barksdale AFB, she was assigned to the Comptroller Squadron but was sent to manage all the ladies on base until another female officer arrived.
Vaught always did the best at whatever job she assigned, and worked to take care of the Airmen below her. Throughout her career, men would find out that a woman was their next commander and try to get transferred. After a few months, people would come up to her and say, “When I heard you were coming, I wanted to be reassigned because I didn’t want to work for a woman. But I just want to let you know I don’t feel that way anymore, I would work for you anyplace.”
When asked what the key to her success was, she talked about the stories of helping people. She was known for taking over commands that may have been meeting the mission, but no one was taking care of the people. She knew how important it was for people to be put in for awards and promotions and made it a point to ensure that happened while still meeting the mission. She also continually pushed those she worked with to get their education or take required courses for promotion. Story after story of people whose lives were impacted by Brig. Gen. Vaught involved her pushing them harder to be their best.
Not only did those who worked for her want to follow her wherever she went, but her leadership also didn’t want to go anywhere without her. In 1966, when her bomber unit was preparing to deploy, her wing commander asked her to deploy to Guam with bomb wing in support of the Vietnam War. She told her boss she thought she couldn’t deploy, but he found a way to make it so that she would deploy. She was the only female deployed with 3,000 men, and spent six months working for the wing commander as a management analyst. She was the first woman to deploy for Strategic Air Command, but that wasn’t her only deployment. She was also deployed to Vietnam. While she wasn’t the first to deploy to Vietnam, she was still one of very few, and she was not issued a weapon or given fatigues to wear. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a weapon hidden in her hotel room in case she needed it. She was assigned to the MACV headquarters.
In June of 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act to replace the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) that was set to expire.
In November of 1967, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-130. This law removed the promotion and retirement restrictions on women officers in the armed forces. These laws had far-reaching effects and were a tipping point in the role of women in the military.
In 1982, she became the first woman to reach the rank of Brig. Gen. in the comptroller career field. The second woman to reach that rank as a comptroller didn’t happen for another 22 years. When she retired in 1985, she was one of the three female Generals in the Air Force and one of the seven female Generals in the U.S. Military.
She was a woman who changed the course of history for the women who followed behind her. With her can-do attitude and perseverance to get the job done, doors opened that stayed open for the women who followed her. But one of her most lasting impacts is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located at Arlington. As president of the Women’s Memorial Foundation board of directors, she spearheaded the campaign that raised some million dollars for the memorial that was opened in 1997. It stands today as a place of record where visitors can learn of the courage and bravery of tens of thousands of American women who have pioneered the future.
The US Army is moving forward on next-generation concealment technology to ensure that American soldiers can hide in plain sight.
Fibrotex has built an Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System that can be used to conceal soldier’s positions, vehicles, tanks and aircraft. The new “camouflage system will mask soldiers, vehicles and installations from state-of-the-art electro-optical sensors and radars,” the company said Nov. 8, 2018, in a press release sent to Business Insider.
Fibrotex has been awarded a contract to supply this advanced camouflage to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.
Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.
Soldiers, vehicles, and other relevant systems can just about disappear in snowy, desert, urban, and woodland environments, according to the camouflage-maker.
The new program aims to replace outdated camouflage that protects soldiers in the visible spectrum but not against more advanced, high-end sensors. ULCANS “provides more persistent [infrared], thermal counter-radar performance,” Fibrotex explained.
The Army has awarded Fibrotex a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million. Full-scale production will begin in 2019 at a manufacturing facility in McCreary County, Kentucky, where the company expects to create and secure hundreds of new jobs in the coming years.
“Today, more than ever, military forces and opposition groups are using night vision sensors and thermal devices against our troops,” Eyal Malleron, the CEO of Fibrotex USA, said in a statement.
“But, by using Fibrotex’s camouflage, concealment and deception solutions, we make them undetectable again, allowing them to continue keeping us safe.”
Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.
Enemies can’t see in, but US soldiers can see out
The result came from roughly two years of testing at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, where new technology was tested against the Army’s most advanced sensors.
Fibrotex noted that the netting is reversible, creating the possibility for two distinctly different prints for varied environments. And while outsiders can’t see through the netting, those on the inside have an excellent view of their surroundings, as can be seen in the picture above.
The new camouflage for troops and vehicles has reportedly been tested against the best sensors in the Army, and it beat them all.
The Mobile Camouflage Solution (MCS) takes concealment to another level, as “the MCS provides concealment while the platform is moving,” the company revealed. Business Insider inquired about the secret sauce to blend in moving vehicles with changing scenery, but Fibrotex would only say that their “technology combines special materials, a unique fabric structure and a dedicated manufacturing process.”
ULCANS and its relevant variants are based on “combat-proven technologies” designed by the Israel-based Fibrotex Technologies Ltd., the parent company for Fibrotex USA, over the past two decades. The company’s products have been specifically modified to meet the needs of the Department of Defense.
“We have more than 50 years of experience, with thousands of hours in the field and a deep understanding of conventional and asymmetric warfare. The U.S. Army tested our best camouflage solutions and the camouflage repeatedly demonstrated the ability to defeat all sensors known to be operating in the battlefield and throughout the electromagnetic spectrum,” Malleron explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.
Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.
But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.
Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.
The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.
In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.
There are plenty of lofty quarantine goals going on right now. We stand firm that using this time to start marathon training, grab a new certification or simply up your nap game are all worthy endeavors. However, there is one thing which all service members should be checking in on right now: their benefits.
Beyond the paycheck, there’s plenty of benefits offered to military personnel that way too often go unutilized. The second we can all get back to “normal” life again is the second things like “use or lose days” and tuition assistance packets should be tossed into play. We’ve conveniently outlined everything you should square away while we all know you have the time.
Use or lose days
Americans have a weird unspoken tradition of taking pride in hoarding (and never using) vacation days. “Use or lose” refers to the unused vacation days service members accrue that are carried over into the next fiscal year. Anything above 60 days of leave “in the bank” will be slapped with an expiration date, which is when you either use them by a certain date or lose them. At 2.5 days per month earned, things can add up at high tempo locations.
We’re fiercely advocating to end that weirdness right now and mandating that you book a trip to go on before the end of the year once all the travel bans are lifted, get out, and enjoy the freedom you protect. A long weekend getaway, a surf trip, or a drive down the 101 highway are all exactly what you need to recharge and show back up to work even better than before.
Tuition assistance is one of the best benefits available to service members across multiple branches. It’s not the GI Bill and it’s not a loan. Plainly put, tuition assistance is a certain dollar amount you are eligible for per semester to use toward earning college credit.
Participating universities often offer flexible online courses that can accommodate for field training, deployments and occasionally give credit for military training courses you have already completed depending on your degree.
If you’re sitting on your couch, three years into active duty and haven’t used a penny, we suggest starting. Earning a degree slowly while on active duty, all without touching your GI Bill benefits is smart.
Pay changes after a PCS
Ok so this isn’t a benefit per se, but it’s a big mistake we see made way too often that can send your finances into a death spiral that is hard to recover from. Special pay options like hazard, jump, flight or any other hardship or incentive pay you’re receiving thanks to specific circumstances don’t always transfer with you from one PCS to another.
Knowing exactly what special pay benefits will or will not transfer with you in addition to the incoming new BAH and BAS rate you fall under is essential. Why? Because nothing is worse than earning an extra few hundred dollars each month, having the military find the mistake (they will) and then having it all taken from your next paycheck leaving you with next to nothing to cover your bills.
There is no such thing as tricking the military in terms of pay. Making a mistake with your pay will never be a “my bad” situation that you benefit from. Always know exactly what you should be paid, put in the correct paperwork to stop special pay, and meticulously check your LES statements to ensure the figures are correct.
Special programs for dependents
There’s enough out there in terms of programs, scholarships, grants, loans and more that it would take an entire other article (or three) to outline, so we’ll keep it brief. Just like service members, military dependents should investigate opportunities first before tackling any educational costs out of pocket.
The Army Emergency Relief rolled out an exciting new program offering up to ,500 that spouses can apply for toward professional relicensing expenses when they PCS. Also new from AER is a Child Care Assistance Program created to help offset areas with high living expenses at up to 0 per month per family in the few months after a PCS.
Military spouses are offered preference when applying for certain DoD and other governmental jobs, including working for USDA, US Fish and Wildlife jobs and more.
The bottom line here is that when the quarantine is over, we should all emerge smarter, stronger and ready to take charge of our lives. So check your benefits and make sure you’re getting all you can out of your paychecks.
“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
This chilling line, spoken with gleeful malice by Ramsay Bolton in season 3 of Game of Thrones, always felt like the closest thing the HBO show had to a thesis statement. From the very beginning, Game of Thrones has made it abundantly clear that it was not in the business of pleasing its fans. Heroes like Ned and Robb Stark suffered brutal, shocking deaths that highlighted the cruel and chaotic nature of the world of Westeros. Oberyn, a man seeking vengeance for the death and rape of his sister, was instead killed by the very man who murdered his sister. A young girl was burnt alive by her own father seeking to further his claim to the throne.
Even George R.R. Martin made no efforts to hide the story’s unabashed acknowledgment of darkness, as he famously alluded to Game of Thrones ending as “bittersweet.” So naturally, heading into the final season, we all braced for the worst. Would the White Walkers end up on the throne? Would Arya’s bloodlust overcome her, sending her on a John Wick-esque killing spree of all the leaders of Westeros, including her siblings? The possibilities seemed endless, which is why it was such a surprise to see that season 8, episode 6, ‘The Iron Throne’ ended on such an uplifting and optimistic note.
If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention…
Of course, this is Game of Thrones, so obviously, its version of a happy ending is quite different than what you might expect from a rom-com or buddy comedy. Over the course of the final season, several beloved characters died, including Jaime, Cersei, Jorah, Lyanna, and, of course, Dany, who was stabbed by her lover-turned-nephew Jon Snow just as she finally reached the Iron Throne. And beyond characters that we knew, countless soldiers and innocent civilians were slaughtered during Dany’s takeover of King’s Landing. Death was always an essential part of the show’s DNA, so it should come as no surprise that it remained a core component in the final season.
However, once Drogon symbolically roasted the throne and headed off with Dany’s corpse, the show suddenly took a tonal shift that could almost be described as cheerful? Bran is chosen as the King of Six Kingdoms and absolves Tyrion’s treason charges by casually making him his Hand. As a result, Bronn, Brienne, Sam, and Davos are all appointed to the high council, despite some of their questionable qualifications. Whether or not these moments were earned is up for debate but what’s not up for debate is the fact that this is about the happiest ending Westeros could have hoped for.
Moving forward, the Six Kingdoms won’t be ruled by a drunken marauder like Robert Baratheon or a cruel psychopath like Joffrey Lannister; instead, they will get Bran, an emotionless, altruistic being who barely identifies as human but makes up for it by having the ability to see the present and the future. He’s basically a superhero who has no personal desires, making him the ideal ruler to an almost absurd degree. And on his high council sit a ragtag crew of the most beloved characters in the show, who joyfully trade barbs and witticisms as their King heads off to figure out if he can warg into a dragon.
And beyond the kingdom as a whole, the show protected the Starks with a sense of mercy that even Ned would have found excessive. In the early seasons, no family suffered more than the Starks, as each member of the family gets about as close to a happy ending as you could expect for them. Obviously, Bran is King but Sansa gets to remain Queen in the North, as Bran agrees to grant Winterfell independence. Jon might not be sitting on the throne but that’s never what he wanted. And thanks to Greyworm’s laughably bad negotiating skills, Jon’s “punishment” is abdicating his responsibility to join the free folk up north. Meanwhile, Arya ditches Westeros to explore the great unknown, for some reason.
For longtime Game of Thrones fans, the last half of “The Iron Throne” may have felt like a jarring shift of pace because we suddenly went from gritty realism to a conclusion that felt very much in line with Tolkien’s Return of the King, right down to the heartfelt goodbye at the docks. None of this is to say that a happy ending was impossible for Game of Thrones; it’s just the show needed to earn the pivot of hopefulness that feels out of step with so much of what we came to fundamentally understand about the Westeros. Was the answer really just let the Three-Eyed-Raven be king? If so, why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? Seems almost too obvious.
Perhaps in Martin’s books, the story will be told in a way that makes the bitter aspect of this bittersweet ending more clear but for now, it’s a finale that almost feels like it was pulled from a less nuanced fantasy series, where kings are impossibly noble and good men and women get to live the long and happy lives they deserve. We can’t help but wonder with such a happy ending, were creators David Benioff and Daniel Weiss the ones not paying attention?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.
The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.
“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.
Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”
In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.
A B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.
After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.
It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.
“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members, and fostering good relationships with the government in the area surrounding a new base increases the chance of local support for airmen deployed there in an effort to bring stability to the region.
The U.S. Army’s 411th Civil Affairs Battalion are experts in nurturing relationships in host countries. Partnering with local community groups and base groups, civil affairs specialists have donated food, supplies, built classrooms and built solar powered wells in the communities surrounding Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. They also trained technicians on how to maintain the solar panels.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The communist forces of Vietnam were largely successful, and for a lot of reasons. They were willing to undergo extreme discomfort and suffer extreme losses for their cause, they were resourceful, and they became more disciplined and well-trained over time. But there was a nightmare infrastructure that they created that also led to success: Those terrifying tunnels.
The fighting in Vietnam dated back to the 1940s when corrupt democratic officials turned the population largely against it. Communist forces preyed upon this, rallying support from the local population and building a guerrilla army, recruiting heavily from farming villages.
The ruling democratic regime patrolled mostly on the large roads and through cities because their heavy vehicles had trouble penetrating the jungles or making it up mountains.
By the time the U.S. deployed troops to directly intervene, regime forces had been overrun in multiple locations and had a firm foothold across large patches of the jungle, hills, and villages.
Viet Cong Tunnels and Traps – Platoon: The True Story
And while U.S. forces were establishing a foothold and then hunting down Viet Cong elements, the Viet Cong were digging literally hundreds of miles of tunnels that they could use to safely store supplies, move across the battlefield in secret, and even stage ambushes against U.S. troops.
The original Viet Cong tunnels were dug just after World War II as Vietnamese fighters attempted to throw off French colonial authority. But the tunnel digging exploded when the U.S. arrived and implemented a heavy campaign of airstrikes, making underground tunnels a much safer way to travel.
And with the increased size of the tunnel network, new amenities were added. Kitchens, living quarters, even weapon factories and hospitals were moved underground. The Viet Cong now had entire underground cities with hidden entrances. When the infantry came knocking, the tunnels were a defender’s dream.
The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. These things were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.
Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were great at building traps across the battlefield and in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.
This led to the reluctant rise of the “Tunnel Rats,” American warfighters who specialized in the terrible tasks of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. Between the claustrophobia and the physical dangers, this could drive the Tunnel Rats insane.
Once a tunnel was cleared, it could be eliminated with the use of fire or C4. Collapsing a tunnel did eliminate that problem, and it usually stayed closed.
But, again, there were hundreds of miles of tunnels, and most of them were nearly impossible to find. Meanwhile, many tunnel networks had hidden chambers and pathways within them. So, even if you found a tunnel network and began to destroy it, there was always a chance that you missed a branch or two and the insurgents will keep using the rest of it after you leave.
And the tunnels even existed near some major cities. Attacks on Saigon were launched from the Cu Chi Tunnels complex. When U.S. and South Vietnamese troops went to clear them, they faced all the typical traps as well as boxes of poisonous snakes and scorpions.
And the clearance operation wasn’t successful in finding and eliminating the bulk of the tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the ones used as staging points a weapons caches for the Tet Offensive.
A weapons range goes hot on a cold winter morning four years ago in Fort Lewis, Washington. The silent cold air is replaced by the snapping of gun fire as the morning dew is knocked loose off the blades of grass. Soldiers’ breath is visible as they curse in despair, for they are at another range yet again, wet and freezing.
The smell of spent ammunition and wintergreen chewing tobacco is present as raindrops fall and turn into steam on the weapons’ hot barrels.
Like a dense Pacific Northwest fog, the memories dissipate, and Spc. Flavio Mendoza is dragged back to reality and the clacking of fingers on a computer keyboard.
Like many soldiers, Mendoza has surmounted many challenges in his life, from growing up in a tough, urban environment to coping with the heartbreak of losing something he loved.
But through all this, he pushed forward.
The urban jungle
Raised on the northeast side of Los Angeles, Mendoza said he knew he was always destined for more than what surrounded him in his gritty, inner-city upbringing.
But with the odds stacked against him, he had to make a choice from an early age his path in life.
Spc. Flavio Mendoza, assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, poses for a photo on Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 28, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Asa Bingham)
Mendoza’s parents, Flavio Sr. and Veronica Mendoza — both born in Jalisco, Mexico — always tried to give the best life possible for their family of five. They both worked during the day leaving Mendoza and his two sisters with their grandmother.
Twelve family members — both immediate and extended — packed into a two bedroom house made for claustrophobic conditions. To escape from the cramped living situation, Mendoza would play outside.
“I had a lot of friends around my age growing up,” said Mendoza. “Even though the neighborhood wasn’t one for us to be playing in, we still made the best of it.”
Graffiti lined the walls of the street like uncontrollable ivy growing wild. The gunshots from rival gangs trying to kill each other, followed by the police sirens and helicopters circling with their bright lights all just became natural.
He didn’t have to go far from his childhood home to find trouble, he said. Right next door was far enough.
“I remember cops always being at that house for something,” Mendoza said. “It seems like everyone from the gang hung out there. There was always cars filled with nothing but bald heads, and gangsters with guns rolling up, asking where I was from or if I banged.”
The gang life was calling for Mendoza, who was given many opportunities to join. He ignored the beckoning calls unlike some of his friends.
“A couple of kids I grew up playing with and thought were my homies broke into our house one day,” he said. “They stole anything and everything.”
Mendoza’s parents saw what was happening to the neighborhood. They saw what path their kids could go down if they weren’t careful. So in an effort to get away from the trouble they saved up their money and moved to Monterey Park, Los Angeles.
“I didn’t hear any sirens anymore, no more gunshots, and no more constant fear from always having to turn around and watch my back at night,” said Mendoza.
His upbringing gave him a burning desire to do more, to be better then what he saw around him. The noise. The chaos. The crime. It was all motivation to get away.
The great escape
“After graduating high school, I immediately wanted to join the Army,” said then 18-year old Mendoza. “I walked into the recruiter one day and told them that I wanted to join and go fight.”
Mendoza’s parents and family were hesitant about the Army; they wanted him to go to college.
“I tried for a semester or two, but I realized school just wasn’t for me,” he said. His goal was to get away and to serve his country.
Knowing only what he saw from movies and TV shows, Mendoza said he had his heart set on joining up as an infantry soldier, but his recruiter, a combat engineer, persuaded him otherwise.
“He asked me if I wanted to blow things up,” Mendoza said. “After showing me a couple of videos and stories of what a sapper was and did, I was hooked.”
Next thing he knew, Mendoza was hauling his own weight in duffel bags with a drill sergeant in his face yelling at him to get off the bus at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
It was 2014, and his Army journey had just begun.
He spent days that felt like weeks pushing the earth away, counting “One, drill sergeant. Two, drill sergeant,” the never-ending pushups followed by the sprints, road marches, early mornings, yelling and apprehension that any moment a drill sergeant could burst in and make him question his decision to join.
“I would do it all over again,” said Mendoza. “It’s not that (One-Station Unit Training) was tough; it was more mental, like can you deal with the day to day suck and not quit.”
After completing OSUT, not knowing what to expect, Mendoza landed at his first duty station, Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.
“Life as an engineer had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was fun,” said Mendoza. When soldiers aren’t training they’re cleaning. From picking up cigarette butts to sweeping and mopping, this was not what Mendoza thought he would be doing. But when it came time to train and learn engineer tactics and skills, Mendoza thrived.
“I made the best of friends doing the coolest stuff,” he said. From how to calculate demolition charges to identifying improvised explosive devices, Mendoza loved to learn the skills of an engineer.
Mendoza quickly gained the respect of his peers and leadership with his good attitude and even better work ethic.
“Working as an engineer is hard work, but being around good people makes it fun,” said Travis Ramirez, a former engineer who worked with Mendoza. “I could always count on Mendoza to have a good attitude. He was always making everyone laugh, even when the work we were doing was tough.”
His infectious personality brought many of his fellow engineers to his room after work and on weekends to just hang out and have fun. It was in these time that unbreakable bonds were formed and a lasting brotherhood was forged.
His work ethic and positive attitude were evident to his leaders, who gave him the responsibility of operating the Buffalo, a version of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle specifically used in route clearance operations as a mine interrogation asset.
Weighing in at more than 45,000 pounds and measuring a staggering 27 feet long, considerable skill and precision is required to maneuver the armored behemoth.
Mendoza was a perfect fit.
“I feel like I was given a higher level of responsibility driving the Buffalo,” said Mendoza. “The Buff is huge and an essential part to the route clearance mission. I had the best times in Buff 1-1.”
A US Army 759th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team Buffalo MRV.
(DoD photo by Ken Drylie)
On any given day, Mendoza could be found with his platoon conducting 12-mile road marches with upwards of 35-pounds on his back in full combat gear to repetitive field training exercises in the cold. The pace of training seemed endless, and within three years his body started feeling the effects.
“It was just chronic leg pain,” said Mendoza. “I went to go get it checked out and was going through physical therapy, but nothing was working.”
Mendoza was diagnosed with bone spurs in his shins.
He had gained so much from being an engineer — the memories of training exercises, the connections with fellow soldiers he now considers family. He never thought of himself doing anything else, no other job could match the bravado of being an engineer.
After going to physical therapy for close to a year, he received the news he had been dreading. His primary care provider permanently limited his physical abilities. He could no longer run. He couldn’t foot march. He wasn’t even supposed to jump anymore. He was forced to switch jobs and leave the engineer world.
“I felt like I was going to lose a part of me when I was told I had to switch,” said Mendoza, now assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The Army had served as his escape from a life he was sure would have landed him in jail or dead. He was not about to quit, he said.
Mendoza reclassified from combat engineer to human resources specialist.
A completely different world in his eyes
Instead of looking out the driver’s window of a Buffalo, he now stared into a computer screen. He went from patrolling for improvised explosive devices to scanning personnel records. From hearing loud explosions to now hearing the quiet clicks of a computer mouse.
Mendoza didn’t waver. He pushed forward, taking with him the same work ethic and positive attitude that drove him out of the streets of Los Angeles to become the soldier he is today.
“I still carry the engineer crest in my (patrol cap). It lets me know where I came from and that gives me pride,” said Mendoza. “Even though I’m away and in a new career field, I will always be an engineer.”
Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.
For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.
I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.
Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.
I didn’t know that I needed to do that.
I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.
Make your experience count.
Richard Rice 5th Special Forces Group US Army 1966-94 Senior Advisor, GORUCK