Pilot brings his father's remains home after Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

A pilot with Southwest Airlines flew a particularly meaningful flight on Aug. 8, 2019, when he returned his father’s remains home from Vietnam.

Southwest Capt. Bryan Knight was five years old in 1967 when he last saw his father, Col. Roy Knight. He and his family made a trip to Dallas Love Field Airport from their home in North Texas to see his father off as he left for the Vietnam War. The elder Knight, an A-1E fighter pilot with the US Air Force, was shot down a few months later.

There was a search-and-rescue attempt, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, but Knight could not be found, and the search was called off because of intense hostile fire at the time. He was declared missing and officially presumed dead in 1974.


Earlier this year, human remains were discovered near the crash site. In June 2019, those remains were confirmed to be Knight’s.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(Southwest Airlines)

When the younger Knight learned that his father’s remains had been found, he began the process of repatriating them. They were flown to Honolulu, where they were transferred to a Southwest flight heading to Oakland, California.

From there, Knight successfully coordinated his schedule with the airline to make sure that he could be the one to fly his father home. He was assigned as the pilot in charge of flight WN 1220, from Oakland to Love Field in Dallas.

An honor guard from the Air Force met the plane at Love Field along with Southwest crew members, who took a moment to pay their respects. The plane was also met with a water-cannon salute by the airport’s fire department after it landed.

“Our Southwest Airlines family is honored to support his long-hoped homecoming and join in tribute to Col. Knight,” the airline said in a statement, “as well as every other military hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why self-care is the best gift of 2020

Guess what? In just a few short weeks, you’ll have officially survived 2020. Congratulations! No, really. Congrats. Give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe a bear hug, because just making it through this year in (mostly) one piece is something to be proud of. 

When 2020 commenced, I was fired up. I had big plans. Within months, my plans looked like they had been shoved through a wood chipper. Planning anything at all felt impossible. Who knew what grenade 2020 would throw next? Stuck in my house, I felt incredibly alone. Yet, I wasn’t. There were millions of others in the same boat. 

Now, it’s been a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re all still in the middle of the ocean. Whether you’re adapting to working from home, figuring out distance learning, or struggling with unemployment, 2020 has probably found a way to make your life harder. 

Some of us are in sturdier boats than others, but at the end of the day we’re all just trying to stay afloat. And that’s okay. 

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain depressed is all too common this year. If you’re worried it’s just you, take a look at these sobering statistics. In June, 40% of U.S. adults said they were struggling with mental health or substance use, while 18.1% are coping with an anxiety disorder. 

Mental health in children has worsened as well; 9.7% of U.S. children have been diagnosed with severe major depression. Among those between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Not cancer, not heart disease. Suicide. Veterans are also vulnerable; since 2008, the average number of veteran suicides hasn’t dropped below 17 a day

These ugly numbers send a powerful message: Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s an essential service. 

If you’re one of the millions of people who struggled to stay positive this year, this message is for you. Feeling burnt out isn’t a sign of weakness, and when you are burnt out, it’s OKAY to take a break. 

This holiday season, don’t worry about what other people want. Focus about what you and your family need. 

Seriously. Be kind to yourself. If you put on more holiday pounds than usual, give yourself a break. It’s okay. If you don’t have it in you to plan your annual family photoshoot and send out cards, forget about it. Gather everyone on the couch, hold up your TP and hand sanitizer, and say cheese. If you don’t have time to meticulously wrap presents, shove em’ in a gift bag with some tissue paper. Done. Don’t grind yourself into the ground. 

Expectations from family members can also take a toll. 

Hosting a Christmas party is now a topic of controversy, and families are divided. Some feel it’s irresponsible. Others feel it’s non-negotiable. The solution? Again, do what’s best for you. The people who love you should respect your choice, and if they don’t, they’re not worth your time anyway. This is a live and let live kind of year. 

Self-care comes in many shapes and forms. Do what makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a long walk, taking up a new hobby, or panic baking. If you want to dance like no one is watching, go for it. Literally, no one is watching. 

Click here for more ideas on self-care during this crazy and complicated year, and be patient with yourself and those around you. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t tough it out. 

For mental health support, contact your doctor. For immediate help, call SAMHSA’s hotline or visit the VA’s support page for round the clock phone and chat support. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to participate in Giving Tuesday Military

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is widely known as “Giving Tuesday.” Nonprofits compete for your donations and your social media feeds are filled with fundraisers. But this year, three military spouses are asking you to give only one thing: kindness.


Started by three Armed Forces Insurance Spouses of the Year, the Giving Tuesday Military movement hopes to showcase one million acts of kindness on Dec. 3, 2019. With 56 “Chapter Ambassadors” around the world, the three founders — Army Spouse Maria Reed, National Guard Spouse Samantha Gomolka and Coast Guard Spouse Jessica Manfre — are hoping to change the world through simple acts of kindness.

Here are 5 reasons to participate in this year’s Giving Tuesday Military:

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

Volunteers beautify Fort Carson.

DVIDS

Science says it’s good for everyone — you included

We’re going to give you the super obvious reasons like “it’s the right thing to do” and “kindness is fun!” in a hot minute. First, we’ll start with science. “Studies have proven that not only will you change lives by being kind,” Manfre said, “but that brain scans reveal the person doing the giving is flooded with happy hormones. Moral of the story, kindness lifts you too!”

Don’t believe Manfre? How about Dartmouth? “Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re anxious or shy in a social situation.”

Kindness is the great uniter

Can’t get through a phone call with your mom without getting into it about politics? Ready to light your neighbor’s yard signs on fire? Somehow find yourself debating the 2nd Amendment in line at the Commissary? Here’s one thing we can finally all agree on: Kindness.

Gomolka said, “Kindness breaks down the walls that appear to divide us as a nation. It heals wounds and forges relationships. Kindness does not favor a race, religion, political party or economic status. It is literally a language of love that connects us at the core of everything that is human.”

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

The Single Marine Program at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point encourages service members to volunteer in the surrounding communities.

DVIDS

You set an example

Those little people that seemingly follow you everywhere and are always wanting snacks and typically refer to you as “mom” or “dad” take their cues from you. Teaching them about kindness is one thing. Showing them an act of it, or better yet, involving them is another. Raise a generation of kids who are tolerant and kind, you know, just like their badass parents.

Can you say FOMO?

A million acts is a lot. Which also means you’ll be on the wrong side of history if you don’t participate. Whether you do it for the Facebook post (for real: be sure to tag #GivingTuesdayMilitary) or all the right reasons (serving others, being a role model, because you have a soul, etc.), don’t miss out on the movement.

Reed said, “Many military spouses in remote locations have reached out sharing that this movement is giving them an opportunity to be a part of community and have a sense of belonging. Giving Tuesday works both ways, for the recipient and the giver.”

Be the change!

Not sure that Dr. Seuss knew what he was doing with the whole green eggs and ham thing, but he was definitely right about this: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Never underestimate the power of one small act of kindness. It might change a life… or even save one. We’ll throw another quote at you (thanks, Gandhi): “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

No matter what reason you have for joining the movement, we know you don’t have a good one not to do it. We’ll see you on Giving Tuesday.
MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why infantrymen don’t need full auto weapons

The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.

In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.

Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”

At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.

This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.


They can get trigger happy

For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.

We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.

Negligent discharges can be worse

Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.

We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.

Barrel changes

Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.

Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.

It can lower accuracy

Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.

Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

120 miles Northeast of Los Angeles lies the fictional country of Atropia. That’s the name of the area given to what the commanders at the Fort Irwin National Training Center call ‘The Box,’ a 1,000 square mile area in the Mojave Desert used to train U.S. & allied troops and their commanders in large scale combat and the realities of modern warfare.

I was honored to visit Fort Irwin and witness the lives of some of the 10,000 soldiers and dependents stationed there.


Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

The Department of Defense routinely provides what they call ‘Civic Leader Tours’ to local communities so we might learn and take our experiences back to the rest of the civilian population.

As the closest Army installation to Los Angeles, they hope that their outreach here helps influence creative leaders in Hollywood to provide realistic depictions of military life, instead of the harmful portrayals of dangerous PTSD damaged veterans, or fanciful representations of larger than life superheroes the public can’t relate to.

Two of the most important lessons learned from my visit with the brave men and women stationed at Fort Irwin were quite different from what is commonly portrayed by Hollywood or suggested by our leaders in D.C.

The first is the importance of counterintelligence and public relations in modern warfare. One of the greatest assets the U.S. Military has is in its technological advantages. Comprising of an area larger than Rhode Island, with complete control of the land, airspace, and electronic signals in the area, the commanders of the 11th Armored Cavalry that make up the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) not only have the home field advantage of knowledge of the terrain, but the ability to jam or spoof GPS, track radio transmissions, and operates a closed intranet with its own “Falsebook”, “Tweeter”, and even an “Atropia News Network” for the actors portraying the citizens and insurgents that the visiting units must contend with.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

One past engagement involved the visiting unit accidentally killing some innocent civilians, and exasperated the situation when a young junior officer came off as unsympathetic when approached by role-playing journalists for the ‘Atropia News Network’ that went viral in the simulation. Another involved a helicopter of the visiting unit being ‘shot down’ by the OPFOR, and reached by insurgents before the visiting unit could rescue the crew. The insurgents then were able to strip the helicopter of its valuable electronics and armament, which were then sold on ‘Falsebook’ and provided the OPFOR additional resources to use against the visiting unit.

Commanders and troops must contend not only with the unforgiving desert terrain as they attempt to approach Atropia, but frequently find themselves either without technological advantages they rely on such as the jamming of their GPS guidance systems, or the targeting of their radio transmissions by OPFOR artillery units that require strategic thinking instead of brute force.

The second, and more important lesson learned was through conversations with some of the spouses and dependents of the troops also invited to participate.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

They expressed a desire to see more depictions of the difficulty they face at home as their spouses are deployed. Less than 10% of the American population has ever served or come from a military family, and the difficulties they face from constant relocation, inability to conduct some legal transactions without their spouse, or simply the loneliness and worry faced by a deployed spouse is something often forgotten in our rush to war.

Although Hollywood has had a long and beneficial relationship with the military, depictions of the experience of those most affected by a soldier’s deployment are often overlooked. Recent productions such as NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ or the book ‘Sisters of Valor’ by Rosalie Turner offer an insight into the sacrifices made on the homefront are often glossed over.

As tensions in Korea heat up and the conflict in the Middle East continue with no end in sight, we’ve become used to the sights of soldiers in combat, but thanks to the outreach by Army OCPA-West, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, let’s hope we can continue to be a witness not only to the brave men and women serving our country, but to those left behind as well.

Like their sister services, the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs is the primary contact for processing film and television production requests seeking support from the Army.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you might be able to access military assets or knowledge for your project, give the Department of Defense a call and see if it is something they might be able to support.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

MIGHTY CULTURE

How civilian interest in air and land resources impacts Air Force safety

Air and land are valuable training tools when it comes to Air Force ranges. Both are finite resources that are also utilized by the rest of society. Unfortunately, the demand for air and land in civilian pursuits can have an impact on the Air Force and Total Force training and testing missions.

Wind farms, oil exploration, urban expansion, and commercial air traffic can encroach on range safety buffer zones or create hazards in the limited airspace utilized for testing and training.


Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

A 500-foot windmill becomes a dangerous obstacle for an aircraft that may be flying as low as 100 feet off of the ground.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

Oil and gas infrastructure in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico continue to expand and if the growth were to spread close to the military mission area, it would interfere with new and experimental missile testing, as well as vital operational training, causing an irreplaceable loss of capability for the Department of Defense.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Alfredo Tirado)

With more than 50,000 flights per day, commercial air traffic uses a vast amount of the nation’s airspace. The Air Force, with a little more than 3,500 flights per day in the continental U.S., relies on airspace restrictions and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration for air corridors and other compatible use allowances to conduct training.

Another issue arises in the realm of the radio and electromagnetic spectrum. With rapidly expanding commercial enterprise developing new technologies that occupy an ever-increasing part of the spectrum, Air Force assets can experience diminished mission capabilities which hamper full-spectrum training opportunities.

The Air Force, recognizing the balance that needs to take place outside of its range perimeters, is proactively engaging with local communities, energy providers, and other government agencies to work on compatible land-use initiatives that benefit all parties involved.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

NATO is trying to up its game in the waters around Europe

Shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic has drawn the attention of NATO, Russia, and other countries to the high north, where the promise of more accessible waterways means potential military and commercial competition.

Since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine, however, NATO members have been concerned about Moscow’s actions closer to home, and developments in recent weeks indicate the alliance is focusing on securing waterways around Europe, in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas and the eastern Atlantic — all areas that could be contested in a conflict with Russia.

Below, you can see what NATO is being warned about, and what the alliance is and isn’t doing to address it.


Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

A Russian Ilyushin Il-22 Bizon and a Su-27 Flanker, flying along the Baltic coast, May 14, 2019.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Baltic Sea, bordered by six NATO member countries and with Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, at its eastern end, has always been a busy area.

Encounters between NATO forces and Russian forces at sea in the Baltic and in the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where NATO members carry out air patrols, have been on the rise since 2014. (The air policing mission has actually been going on since 2004.)

That encounters include an incident this summer in which a Russian Su-27 fighter escorting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane turned into a NATO jet, forcing it away.

These tensions have come with military buildup as well.

Starting in 2016, NATO deployed some 4,500 troops in battle groups to the Baltics and Poland. Since the end of 2017, Sweden, which like Finland is not part of NATO, has sent new military forces to Gotland Island, which it had withdrawn from in 2005.

In Kaliningrad, an exclave that is home to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, Moscow has deployed new weaponry, including nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and upgraded facilities, including what appear to be active nuclear-weapon storage bunkers.

Summer 2019, Russia also set up a helicopter base on Gogland, a small island between Finland and Estonia. Estonian officials played down the military significance, but the base is still seen as a Russian move to assert its power in the region and keep its neighbors guessing.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge participates in a photo exercise during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold)

NATO countries along the Baltic have sought a more robust presence, and Germany has taken the lead.

Among NATO members, Germany, which has been criticized for the paucity of its defense spending and the quality of its armed forces, has taken the lead and tried to bring NATO and the EU closer together on Baltic security.

Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, deputy chief of the German navy, said in September 2019 that Russia was the “one main challenge” in the Baltic and that Western partners “must take appropriate measures to cope” and “to prevent the Baltic Sea from being a ‘mare clausum,'” or “closed sea.”

Like its neighbors, Russia has legitimate reasons to be in the Baltic, but the number of actors there, each with their own national and commercial interests, make it a delicate situation, according to Christopher Skaluba, director or the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

“I think [the Russians] know that aggressive actions in the Baltic are likely to get the attention, in a way they probably didn’t want, of the NATO nations and Sweden and Finland.”

“The Baltic is pretty small place. There’s a lot of players. That piece of it gets really ugly really quick,” Skaluba told Business Insider in October 2019. “I think for lots of reasons, there are more incentives to avoid [conflict] than there are to … catalyze it.”

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

An F-35B fighter jet aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Oct. 13, 2019.

(LPhot Kyle Heller/UK Ministry of Defence)

A new battle of the Atlantic.

Russia’s navy is increasingly active in the North Atlantic, and though the level of that activity and the size of Russia’s navy don’t appear to reach that of the Cold War, it has set NATO on edge.

Growing tension between NATO members and Russia in the Atlantic has been called “the fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following World War I and II and the Cold War.

The UK in particular has struggled to keep up, calling on NATO allies to help track Russian subs thought to be lurking in and around British waters.

“In 2010, a Royal Navy ship was called on just once to respond to Russian navy ships approaching UK territorial waters. Last year we had to respond 33 times,” the UK’s then-defense minister, Gavin Williamson, said in May 2018.

The Royal Navy has built new aircraft carriers, equipping them with Britain’s first F-35s, and acquired US-made maritime patrol aircraft after scrapping its Nimrod patrol aircraft in 2010.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans is currently the Nations on call warship for escorting foreign warships.

The UK and its allies in Europe want to keep “a critical choke point” between them open.

While any conflict in the Atlantic today is likely to look much different than previous battles, it’s likely to involve the English Channel and waters around it, especially the North Sea — at least that’s the concern of the five European countries who effectively revived the Cold War-era “Channel Committee” November 2019.

The pact signed on Nov. 7, 2019, by senior navy leaders from Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands pledges to “harmonize” naval purchasing plans, potentially to include common procurement, according to Defense News.

But the countries also want to increase personnel exchanges and joint training and eventually recognize the professional qualifications of service members across the group.

“The Channel area is the front door to Central Europe and an important gate to the Baltic Sea,” the text of the pact says. “It is the critical choke point for the maritime traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.”

The committee is also another military tether between mainland Europe and the UK, whose future relations with the rest of the continent remain in doubt amid the turmoil of Brexit.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

The Mediterranean has also become a venue for what the US and others see as an emerging great-power competition.

NATO members in southern Europe have been focused on immigration from the Middle East and North Africa and the threat of terrorism emanating from those regions.

But Russian naval forces are a constant presence in the Mediterranean, traveling to and from Moscow’s bases in the Black Sea and and its base in Tartus, Syria, which is Russia’s only such facility outside the territory of the former Soviet Union.

With the ongoing civil war in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean has also become a venue for military operations, with Russian subs demonstrating their new ability to strike targets on land with missiles.

The Russian presence around the Mediterranean and Black seas, Iran’s presence in Syria, and antagonistic intra-alliance relations with Turkey all present security challenges for NATO, according to a recent Atlantic Council report.

“As the south becomes more congested and contested, and great-power competition intensifies, NATO defense, deterrence, and containment mission in the south is increasingly urgent and more complex,” the report states.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

US Navy destroyer USS Carney fires it MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun at night while on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea, Sept. 11, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The lack of a strategy in the Mediterranean could have more serious consequences for the alliance as a whole, according to one deputy secretary general.

NATO has made a lot progress improving its defense and deterrence against Russia since 2014, “but it was more talk than action when it came to addressing problems in the south,” Alexander Vershbow, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and coauthor of the report, said during its presentation October 2019.

“This theme figured prominently in my farewell address to the North Atlantic Council three years ago, and unfortunately the situation hasn’t changed all that much since then,” added Vershbow, who was deputy secretary general of NATO and US ambassador to Russia.

According to the report, “many of the conventional defense and deterrence challenges associated with NATO’s east are now reemerging in the south,” including enhanced Russian anti-access/area-denial capabilities, provocative actions in the Black Sea, and hybrid activity on the ground.

Though NATO has taken steps to remedy its shortcomings in the Mediterranean — such as setting up a “hub of the south” at Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy — establishing a maritime-focused enhanced southern presence there could be a way to counter Russia and sharing the burden of doing so among members, Vershbow said.

“Russia is back with a vengeance in the eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea,” which adds a geopolitical dimension to NATO’s need to project stability and bolster defense and deterrence, Vershbow added.

“The lack of an effective southern strategy could put alliance solidarity at risk if the publics in the southern NATO countries see the alliance as failing to address what they consider to be their priority concerns,” Vershbow said. “It could undermine their willingness to share the burdens of collective defense against Russia, and everybody loses in that scenario.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Having a VA disability rating doesn’t prevent you from serving in the military

There are many myths about having a Department of Veterans Affairsdisability rating and serving in the military. The most common is that, if you have a VA disability rating, you can never serve in the military again. Or if you do serve in the military, you have to waive your disability rating or all of your VA disability compensation. None of these statements is completely true.


The truth is, in some cases, it is possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating.

Because you can file a VA disability claim only after leaving active duty, this article is making the assumption that the military member has left active duty and is either transitioning into the Guard or Reserves or trying to return to active duty after a break in service.

Can You Serve in the Military with a Disability Rating?

The answer is maybe. Simply having a VA disability rating does not prevent someone from joining the military. However, the underlying medical condition may prevent someone from medically qualifying to serve again.

For example, you can receive a VA disability rating for knee surgery that you had while on active duty. If your knee has otherwise healed and you can perform your military duties, remain deployable and pass your PT test, then you may be eligible for continued military service.

However, other underlying medical conditions may prevent you from joining the military again. For example, it may be difficult to join again if your VA disability rating stems from a serious medical condition that prevents you from being able to perform your military duties, maintain deployability status or pass your PT test.

If you had a break in service before trying to go back into the military, you may need to process through MEPS again. If you have a VA disability rating or certain other medical conditions, you may need to apply for a medical waiver to join the military.

Can You Serve on Active Duty with a VA Disability Rating?

Provided you have been medically cleared to serve, simply having a VA disability rating isn’t enough to prohibit you from serving on active duty.

However, federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.

So, while you won’t have to waive your actual VA disability rating, you would need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments until after your active-duty service ends. After that, you can contact the VA to resume your payments.

What About Serving in the Guard or Reserves with a Disability Rating?

The same rules apply to members of the Reserve Component as they do for active duty. However, there is one big difference: You don’t have to suspend your VA disability compensation payments unless you are serving in a full-time capacity.

When you receive VA disability compensation, you receive it on a monthly basis.

When you serve in the Reserve Component, you receive military pay only on the days you serve (typically one weekend a month, and two weeks a year). You actually perform four drill periods on your weekend drill and receive pay for four days of work. You will receive only one day of pay for the other days you serve in the Reserve Component (Active Training, TDY, PME, etc.).

The typical Guard or Reserve member receives military pay for only a handful of days per month. They are in an inactive status and are not receiving compensation for the remaining days of the month.

Remember the rule above: “Federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.”

The law requires members of the Reserve Component to waive either their military compensation or VA disability compensation for days in which they received both forms of compensation. Thankfully, it’s easy to decide which pay to waive.

Deciding Which Pay to Waive

Simply compare your monthly VA disability compensation payment to the base military pay for your paygrade and years of service. Waive the lesser of the two (Spoiler: This will almost always be your VA disability compensation).

Keep in mind you have to waive your pay only on the days on which you receive both forms of compensation. In other words, the pay you waive is prorated — you don’t have to waive the full month of either of these payments, only the prorated amount for the days on which you received both.

Both the VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) prorate the payments based on a 30-day month. This means each day of VA compensation is worth 1/30 of your monthly VA disability rate. Likewise, each day of military service is worth 1/30 of your base military pay.

So if you serve the traditional one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you would receive military compensation for 63 days of service (48 weekend drills and 15 AT days).

The VA sends members a copy of VA Form 21-8951 at the end of the year documenting the number of days on which they received military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same period of service.

You use this form to elect to either waive your VA disability compensation or your military pay. This article explains VA Form 21-8951 in more detail.

If you waive your VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold future payments based on the number of days for which you received compensation in the previous year. If you were paid for 63 days of military service, the VA would withhold a little more than two months’ worth of disability compensation from future payments. You can even request that the VA withhold only a portion of your future payments until the full amount is withheld.

If you choose to waive your military compensation, you would need to repay the military in full. This would mean writing a large check to DFAS.

In most cases, you will have earned more military compensation than you received in VA disability compensation, so it would make much more sense to waive your VA compensation.

In Summary

Yes, it may be possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating, provided your underlying medical condition doesn’t prevent you from meeting requirements. If you serve on active duty, in the full-time Guard/Reserves, or you have been activated, you may need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments to comply with federal law. Otherwise, members of the Reserve Component may need to waive either their military compensation or their disability compensation for the number of days on which they received both forms of compensation on the same day.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine kept a 50-year promise to his Vietnam War buddy

At age 83, Marine Corps veteran William Cox stands and walks with the help of a cane. But for one day in November, 2017, he stood for hours without it, wearing his old uniform. It was the last act of a promise he made in 1968 to his best buddy in Vietnam. That buddy, James Hollingsworth, was laid to rest that day.


Cox is a Vietnam War veteran and retired Master Sergeant. It was New Year’s Eve and he and retired First Sergeant Hollingsworth were fortified down in a bunker in the Marble Mountains, just south of Da Nang. From above them, the Viet Cong were raining explosives down on their position. Rockets, mortars, whatever the VC could find. As fiery death pelted their position, they made a promise to each other.

“Charlie was really putting on a fireworks show for us,” Cox told the Greenville News. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Years.”

And they kept the pact they made in that bunker every year for 50 years. Cox, who lives in Piedmont, S.C., visited Hollingsworth at his Anderson County home just under 20 miles away. But it was another promise Cox made to Hollingsworth that was finally fulfilled one day in late November, 2017 — the retired Master Sergeant stood guard at his longtime friend’s funeral as he was laid to rest.

He then delivered his eulogy.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

That was also a promise kept, but not one made in Vietnam. When Cox found out his buddy was terminally ill, he made a visit. That’s when Hollingsworth made the morbid request of his longtime friend. The two had known each other long before spending that explosive New Year’s Eve together in 1968. Their bond as Marines kept their friendship for the rest of their lives.

Hollingsworth, a helicopter mechanic, and Cox, an ordnance chief, served in a helicopter squadron together. At the end of each mission, Cox would deliver Hollingsworth a line he delivered one last time at the end of his best friend’s eulogy.

“Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

How vets can become airline pilots for free

Congratulations! You’ve decided to soar above the earth in your new career as an airline pilot! Being a pilot is a challenging yet rewarding vocation. If you love the thrill of flight, travel and working as a team it’s a great job to pursue. There’s only one thing stopping you.

Money. Let’s first look at what you’re getting for that hard earned cheddar.

You must earn several certifications. Too much time between practice flights can cause you to regress. It’s not just the cost of your training, it’s the cost of time building. In order to obtain your ATP or Airline Transport Pilot license you must have a certain number of hours in several different categories. You must also have a total of 1500 hours of flight time. This can be reduced down to 1250 if you have an approved associate’s degree, 1000 with an approved bachelor’s and 750 if you’re a prior military pilot. I’ll come back to the college aspect soon with info on how that can help you save money.

Next you must decide how to pay for it. You could use savings, take out a loan or go on game show! If that’s not an option (be honest, have you even auditioned for Jeopardy?) read on.

  1. Veteran Readiness and Employment or VR&E

This program was previously called Vocational Rehab and it does what it says. It helps vets with a VA disability prepare for a new job. That job cannot make your current disability worse but pulling out the tray table at 39,000 feet and enjoying a nice lunch isn’t too hard on the old body. You’ll need to fill out lots of paperwork and meet with a counselor to map your career objectives. RTAGers have used this program to obtain everything from initial flight training for enlisted vets to actual type ratings for airliners like the Boeing 737. It all depends on you and your counselor, and this can make the process tricky. Most VR&E counselors are not pilots, so you’ll need to come into your meeting prepared. Again, join the RTAG Nation to learn more. Check out this website for more info.

https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/
  1. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Here’s another sleeper most vets miss entirely, as do their flight schools. WIOA is a federally funded program that helps get Americans into high quality jobs. Your flight school must apply to be an approved partner and you’ll again fill out a mountain of paperwork, take some nongraded skills tests and meet with a counselor. WIOA actually paid for my Commercial Single Engine Land and my Instrument Airplane certifications. It also paid for my checkride fees, gas money and other expenses. The flight schools get paid the money directly so it’s pretty hassle free. Like all things, make sure the check has cleared before you train, or you could end up paying out of pocket. You’ll also have to agree to a year of follow up calls ensuring you’re still employed. A small price to pay and it’s actually a great opportunity for you to extoll the virtues of allowing veterans to use this funding to the assigned counselors. Your spouse is even eligible in some cases. The couple that trains together, stays together.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wioa

  1. Grants and Scholarships

This is the easiest one for motivated pilots but it’s the hardest one for lazy pilots! Scholarships for training exist within local communities and regions, you’ll just have to find them. Check with every aviation and veteran focused organization in your area. For example, many RTAGers are now training through “Campbell Strong” near Fort Campbell, KY. In fact, if you’re a Screaming Eagle or stationed nearby visit this website for more info right now.

You can also find great info about the millions of dollars in flight training scholarships available to you through Aviation Scholarships and their website or social media platforms. They’re an exhaustive source of info and will save you hours of research. Here’s the page to visit.

http://www.flightscholarship.info/
  1. Aviation Workforce Development Grants

This is a new program and the exact details are still forthcoming. The FAA has money to help encourage new pilots, but they can’t provide scholarships or any form of financial assistance directly to individual applicants. However, flight schools and charities that are approved may offer scholarship opportunities as a funded activity. So, tell your flight school to do some research. It could be lucrative for both the school and for you. If you’re interested in direct scholarships, the FAA also has a page to help you. Click on this link to start your research.

https://www.faa.gov/education/grants_and_scholarships/aviation/

5.     COO or Credentialing Opportunities Online

Each military service operates their own credentialing program, and like all things, they vary widely in scope and eligibility requirements. Many Army RTAGers are using this program to pay for $4000 of training annually, while other services can limit the amount further. The best way to learn more is to contact your local transition services office. If your flight school isn’t aware of this, they are losing serious money. Point them in the right direction. If they won’t try to get approved it might be time to factor that into your choice of flight schools. Just search for COOL and your service to find the link!

  1. The Bartering System

Remember that sketchy shop owner in Afghanistan? The one with the Macedonian, British, Soviet and now American merch? Ever cut a deal on something they were selling? You’re already an experienced international trader. Use your skill. Turn wrenches in exchange for flight time. Redesign their website. Get some training for free or cheap. How? What else could you offer a school?

Knowledge. Here’s two programs they probably haven’t heard of.

How about a paid internship? DoD SkillBridge allows you to spend several months training for your new career with an approved business. You can’t be paid, the internship must lead to a possible job and you must get permission from your command. You’ll still draw full pay and benefits from the military, and this is all before you sign out on transition or terminal leave from the service. This is designed to help you find work and avoid ending up on unemployment, as the military would end up paying for those benefits. What would 90 days of free labor mean to your new boss? They’ll be shocked to find out how amazing an opportunity they’ve been missing when they go to this website and find out more.

https://dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov/

How about tax credits? The Work Opportunity Tax Credit can help businesses receive credit for hiring veterans who have disabilities. As the name implies, getting this money involves dealing with taxes and it’s a lot of work, lol! That being said, vets could potentially earn employers up to $9600 in credit by hiring you. That could easily pay for a CFI for a budding E2A RTAGer. Have them visit this page for more deets.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wotc

  1. VA Educational Benefits

Notice that I listed your “GI Bill” last because it should be your last resort. Yes Virginia, you really can use the educational benefits you’ve earned to train for a career as a pilot, however, in most cases, you must obtain your Private Pilot’s License first.

That is unless you are attending an approved degree producing program…

Programs like the one Mercer Community College administers with their flight school partner Infinity Flight Group. In fact, they even have a specialized “Enlisted to Airline” program just for veterans. Non-pilot veterans who were officers are eligible too. Many colleges offer training through flight affiliates and those may not cover the PPL. If you do the work, you could complete your commercial certificate with little to no cost out of pocket, just as many RTAGers E2A have done. So yes, vets can get their PPL for free!

Do your research before you commit to anything. Ask questions on RTAG Nation. Understanding all the different types of flight schools and certification options you have is crucial to your success. More info can be found via this link and the many RTAG Nation social media platforms.

https://www.va.gov/education/about-gi-bill-benefits/how-to-use-benefits/flight-training/

If you’ve been taking notes you now see that you can get the training for free if you work hard at it. With everything paid for you can use the GI Bill for the one thing that really benefits RTAGers.. getting a backup career in case you lose your medical or say, a pandemic crushes the industry. Yeah, like that’s ever gonna happen.. The GI Bill is a great way to finish your course of study on your overnights as that bright eyed, yet underpaid first officer, all while supplementing your abysmal first year airline pay with that sweet online military housing allowance.

But Erik, what about RTPs and First Officer bonuses?  Are they coming back?

You’re better off waiting for Godot (what, right over your head?).

OK, then you’re better of waiting for Han Solo to be rescued at the end of Episode VI. It’s not going to happen for a while but as Han said, “They’ll be another time.” Thanks to RTAG though, you’re much, much better off doing it yourself anyway. If you put forth the same effort in your search as it took me to compile and write this article then I can promise that you will not pay a dime for your training.

Remember that, this is YOUR training. Do not wait for someone else to hold your hand. Get out there and make it happen. Don’t wait for an RTP or First Officer bonus to rematerialize. Airlines go out of business. They don’t pay their bills when they do. You and your school will be stuck holding the bill. Since you’ll be trained guess who’s going to win that fight? Starting over in aviation is already a serious commitment fraught with stress and pitfalls you haven’t even imagined yet. Adding financial debt to the mix is just plain dumb, especially when it will take most of the recovery for you to be trained anyway. Get it done now. Be ready for the eventual recovery. Until then, remember our motto at RTAG…

Go fund yourself!

Sabby

Erik Sabiston is the bestselling author of Dustoff 7-3. Follow him on Instagram.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In a changing world environment, the Air Force learns to adapt

The Air Force is changing.

Air Force senior leaders are aware of the need to not only adapt, but retain the service’s competitive edge over our enemies.

“All of us have to come together to understand the threat and be clear-eyed on the competition that we face,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “A changing world environment, strategic competition and peer competitors are the catalysts that make this change so immediately important.”


Great Power Competition

vimeo.com

Part of this change is the emphasis on Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the internet of the joint warfighter that connects all platforms and people and accelerates the speed of data-sharing and decision-making in all five domains: land, air, sea, cyber and space.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett says JADC2, “more seamlessly integrates the joint team in a battle network that links all sensors to all shooters.”

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett delivers remarks during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. The three-day event is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops with defense industry professionals.

U.S. Air Force // Wayne Clark

With the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force is showing intent to dominate space, allocating .4 billion from the 9 billion budget proposal to ensure superiority in space, provide deterrence and, if deterrence fails, provide combat power.

“Space is essential in today’s American way of life,” Barrett said. “Navigation, communication, information all depend on these aging, vulnerable, though brilliant, GPS satellites.”

The Air Force has already begun replacing these older satellites with new, defendable GPS satellites.

With the budget proposal comes a continued effort to increase the number of squadrons in the Air Force to 386, ensuring the ability to generate combat power and improve readiness.

“This budget moves us forward to recapitalize our two legs of the [nuclear] triad and the critical nuclear command and control that ties it all together,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

Gwynne Shotwell (center), SpaceX Chief Operating Officer, briefs Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (left) and David Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense, on SpaceX capabilities during the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 18, 2019. During this week’s first demonstration of the ABMS, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders. The collection of networked systems and immediately available information is critical to enabling joint service operations across all domains.

U.S. Air Force // Tech. SGT. Joshua J. Garcia

During her speech at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February, Barrett stated, “Our priorities can be summed up simply. We need a modern, smart, connected, strong Air and Space Force to deter and defend against aggression and preserve precious freedom and peace.”

The Air Force is changing, but as Wilson puts it, “The threat has changed; now we’re looking through a lens that is an existential change, and an existential threat out there.”

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Sheep Dipping’ is the worst name for the military’s best job

If you’re a sheep farmer, dipping your sheep means you’re literally dipping sheep in a bath made to kill insects and fungus. It’s a good way to keep your flock healthy. If you’re in the military and about to be sheep dipped, it means your life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. It’s a term intelligence agencies use when they pretend to boot someone out of the military but secretly turn them into a covert operative.

Don’t worry, you still get your military retirement time. You just can’t tell anyone about it.


Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

A reminder that the CIA has an undetectable heart attack gun.

While “sheep dipping” isn’t the official term for moving a troop from military service to the clandestine service, it’s the term the Agency uses to describe the process of taking a career soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine out of their branch of service on the surface. Instead of really removing the subject, the intelligence agency will just pull their official records, leaving behind their official record, the one which says the troop is retired, separated, or otherwise not in the military anymore.

The agency will take care of your real official record from there but there’s still work to be done on the service member’s part. They will be establishing an entirely new identity for themselves, after all. Their job is to make the move plausible, writing to friends and family telling them why they got out, what they’re going to do after leaving the military, and whatnot.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

“And that’s why I decided to leave the Army and pursue my new life of definitely not being in the CIA.”

According to L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief of special operations in the Kennedy Administration, the practice started during the Vietnam War, when the Geneva Accords on the neutrality of Laos in 1962. This agreement prevented foreign combat troops from entering Laos. American troops, engaged in combat in neighboring Vietnam, were forced out of the country. The Nixon Administration, not known for honoring international borders when it came to prosecuting the war in Vietnam, decided they would need military support for intelligence agencies in Laos and opted to use “sheep dipping” as a means to get military members into the country.

If this seems implausible to you, remember we’re talking about the guy who decided to bug the Democratic National Committee and then cover it up, even though he was about to win in the country’s biggest landslide.

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

Smooth.

The North Vietnamese were secretly supporting Laotian Communists in their effort to topple the Lao government, so why shouldn’t the United States do the same thing in order to support the Laotians? Besides, the NVA was still using Laos as a staging point for attacking allied troops in South Vietnam. The United States military decided to sheep dip a number of specially-trained U.S. troops in order to conduct a clandestine war in Laos. Nixon even allowed the Air Force to provide air support for the Secret War in Laos.

The sheep-dipped soldiers of Vietnam were all provided with their full pay and benefits, not to mention regular promotions and their retirement. If a sheep dipped troop were to be killed in the line of fire, that would pose more of a problem. Their family would struggle to get the benefits befitting a widow – but the agency handled each case separately.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how ants wage war

The fog of war and its consumption of life is not unique to the hands of man. Various animal species engage in war or war like hunting patterns; Ants vs termites, bees vs hornets, some prime apes and more. Out of all of Earth’s creatures, no other can compare to humans like the ant. To ensure the continuation of the colony the end justifies the means. Ants stab each other, use chemical weapons, and even enslave other colonies. This is how ants wage war.

Army Ants build borders

The North American Army Ant (Eciton burchellii), will establish an area of operation. The scouts conduct a search, it often leads to colonies discovering each other. As a result, there is a border dispute, and each side will send out a lone ant to stand off in a competition of height that represents the strength of each other’s colonies. The shorter ant will back down and the colony will surrender some of its territory.  If the victorious colony believes it can win all the territory through war, they will launch an all-out invasion. They will use sheer numbers to overwhelm the enemy without the use of scouts. This is total war, no mercy. Men, women, children are all fair game in the name of expansion.

Societies with population explosions, that extend into the millions, are prone to large-scale, intense, tactical warfare. It’s a nature of battle only possible among communities with plenty of excess labor force.

Mark Mofeett, ecologist

Ants are an invasive species by nature. No matter how hard humans try to exterminate them they grown more powerful by the day. Based in every country, every clime and place, like a Marine Corps but with a Napoleonic complex.

Big-headed ants (Pheidole megacephala) are an invasive species from Southern Africa and they use chemical warfare and deception to destroy their North American counter parts. For instance, Big-headed ants engaged in battle they will spray the enemy with pheromones that overpowers the pheromones of the enemy ants. The survivors of the battle will return to their colony and will be misidentified as foreign troops. All survivors are killed by their own brothers in arms.

If you think about the worst invasive species, ants frequently show up on those lists, and big-headed ants are among the most problematic.

Andrew Suarez, University of Illinois entomology professor and animal biology department head

Andew Saurez discovered that the diet given to Big-Headed ant species during larval development will dictate what job they have in the colony. Different foods will cause the ant’s hormone levels to change and that is what decides if they will be equipped with huge incisors and a big head or become a worker, nurse, etc.

Slave-maker Ants (Chalepoxenus) are another notorious species of ant that infiltrate host colonies disguising itself in pheromones, kill the queen and all the adults, then force the newborn ants to care for and defend the slavers and their young.

Among the approximately 15,000 known ant species, slave-making has been recorded in only 50. – Susanne Foitzik of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Experts Czechowski and Godzinska enslaved ants also participate in rebellions.

  • Firstly, Acts of physical aggression directed by slaves to slave-makers
  • Secondly, Attempts of slaves to reproduce within a slave-maker colony
  • Thirdly, Sabotage activities of slaves leading to weakening of the slave-maker colony and population
  • Finally, Slave emancipation partial or complete self-liberation of slaves from slave-maker colonies

It is eerily similar in the way ants wage war and humans. We humans are an invasive species fighting for resources and the expansion of borders. Using deception and chemical warfare to confuse and kill the enemy and, in a way, create false flag operations that make each other kill their own. This is a testament to how humans do not have a monopoly on war.

It is a common sentiment that animals are innocent and incapable of battle. Yet, new discoveries in the animal kingdom contradict popular opinion with facts that warfare is a natural means to an end.

To revolt, to rebel against oppressors, to live free or die trying – liberty is as important to ants as it is as to humans. A cause worth going to war for.