Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.

His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.

An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.


Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.

Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?

No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is —and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.

Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.

“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”

Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.

Testing, Diagnosis

Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.

“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.

While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.

“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”

Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.

“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

Military working dogs form strong bonds with their handlers.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Getting Care, Beach Time

Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.

His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.

Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.

The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.

Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.

“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”

The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.

At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.

Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.

After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life — just chilling,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him — but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.

“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.

​Honorable Service

Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.

DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.

“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”
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How legendary battleships could come back, and why they won’t

The battleships of yore maintain a special place in the hearts of Navy enthusiasts — and it’s easy to see why. Imagine the massive broadside salvos from the USS Iowa, each hurling 15 shells against an enemy force, smacking Communists with 18 tons of steel and explosives with each volley from as far as 20 miles away. Every few years, there’s a new call to bring these behemoths back. Today, the Navy could, but they won’t.

Why?


First, let’s look at the role battleships were intended to play in naval warfare. These ships were floating fortresses, equipped with massive, long-barreled naval artillery. The idea was that these ships would form “battle lines” at sea. Battleships would line up, present their broadsides, and overwhelm an enemy force with firepower.

During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, battleships proved this strategy could work. The side that typically won a fight during that war was the one that got their battleships properly lined up against the enemy’s formation first. The best success comes when one fleet can “cross the T,” sailing their line of ships perpendicular to the front of the enemy line so they can fire all broadsides while only a few enemy ships can fire from forward turrets.

Japanese success added fuel to an arms race already playing out across the world’s shipyards. The British launched the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, only a year after construction began. It was the most powerful weapon of war at the time and could fire 4-foot-tall shells at ranges of up to 10 miles.

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HMS Dreadnought underway (US Navy)

It redefined naval warfare. All the powerful nations of the world began building copycats, leading to these ships taking on a huge role in World War I.

Except fights between battleships were actually fairly rare in World War I. This was partially because they cost so much to build that it was considered foolhardy to risk them when victory wasn’t essential. Instead, battleships were often used to support operations on shore or to secure trade and supply lines.

But there were clashes between battleships, the largest of which was the Battle of Jutland in 1916 — by some metrics, the largest naval battle ever fought. Over 250 ships participated, including 50 battleships. The British had more and better ships, but suffered from poor gunnery and debatably poor tactics. Germany won the tactical exchange but Britain was victorious strategically.

It was the golden hour of battleships, still the kings of the ocean. But during World War I, a new weapon was introduced that would change naval warfare: the carrier. It would take decades for bombers to be effective weapons against capital ships, but the change was already underway by the time Germany invaded Poland, and arguably complete by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
After landing a Royal Navy Grumman Martlet of 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm is seen taxiing along the flight deck of HMS Formidable (67) to the forward hangar.

Once naval aviation was capable of delivering repeated torpedo and bomb attacks hundreds of miles from their ship, the battleships’ maximum ranges,, which hovered around 20 miles, made them too vulnerable for front-line fighting. Even super battleships, like the Yamoto, and their support vessels were forced to turn back when they thought they were facing even a single carrier fleet.

In fact, the Yamoto only fired its guns against a surface target in one battle before it was sunk in 1945. It was sunk by… let me check my notes here… carrier-based aircraft. But its sister ship, the Musashi… oh, that also saw minimal fighting before sinking due to damage sustained from carrier-based aircraft.

Instead, battleships took on a role supporting amphibious landings, raining steel on enemy positions as Marines and soldiers pressed ashore.

And that’s the role battleships filled for decades, supporting landings in Korea, Vietnam, and even a fake amphibious attack in Iraq in 1991.

So, what role would a re-commissioned or newly built battleship play today? Not much of one. The Navy could re-commission a battleship, but they require tons of fuel and manpower — often needing over 1,500 crewmembers. And the best conventional naval guns still only shoot about 20 miles.

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The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Electromagnetic Railgun at terminal range located at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (US Navy photo by John F. Williams)

There is one game-changing technology that could resuscitate naval artillery: railguns. They can provide massive firepower at ranges of over 100 miles and speeds of over mach 7, all without conventional explosives that increase the risk of catastrophic damage during a fight.

It’s not too hard to imagine a nuclear battleship with multiple railguns powered by the reactor and massive capacitor banks. But even then, the battleship wouldn’t have the range to hit Chinese shore installations without venturing deep into the defender’s anti-ship missile range.

So, the future is likely to lie in extended range missiles, carrier drones, and aircraft, all still capable of attacking targets hundreds of miles further out than even a battleship with a railgun could.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran is building a massive battle tank fleet

Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozaffarinia says Tehran has plans to manufacture or upgrade 700 to 800 battle tanks.

In remarks quoted on July 18, 2018, by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Mozaffarinia did not specify the type of tanks he was referring to or how many would be newly built compared to how many would be upgraded.


He also did not mention a timeline for the completion of the project.

“Annually, there are 50 to 60 tanks manufactured and a sufficient budget has been allocated because the army and Revolutionary Guards have a great need,” Mozaffarinia said.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

Iran’s “Karrar” tank

The United States and European powers have long sought to curb Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

But Iran’s conventional military forces are thought to be weaker than its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 2.69 percent in 2015, while Saudi Arabia’s was 9.86 percent in 2016.

In a December 2017 report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies predicted that Iran would modernize and rebalance its conventional forces “to reflect lessons learned in Syria.”

Iranian forces have been fighting in Syria since 2012 in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

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

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 11

Oh snap! The first official recruiting ad for the Space Force has finally dropped! Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as hyped as everyone else who joked to their retention NCO that the only way they’d stay in was to reclass as a space shuttle door gunner.

But, like, why do they even need an advertisement at this point? Everyone knows who they are and are already planning on camping out at the recruitment offices when they open. It’s like seeing a commercial for a Ferrari. It’s just a waste of time and money when we’re already sold on the idea.

Whatever. They’re probably going to have a bigger budget than the Air Force – so spend it if you got it, right? Anyway, here are some memes.


1. I don’t care about any of your damn stories from Basic. But you can be damn sure that I’ll play along with whatever BS lie about how badass you are to tell civilians.

2. While we’re in, we all sh*ttalk chief for being OFP. But, he’s literally treating the military like it’s a 9-5 job at that point.

3. North Korean generals got nothing on some of the E-4’s I’ve seen these days…

No photo description available.

4. Anyone know if the vehicles in the motorpool are still fine? No one’s been around to kick their tires in ages!

5. All else fails, pocket sand…

6. One makes things go boom. The other prevents things from going boom. See the problem?

7. Largest amphibious landing in military history and it wasn’t conducted by the branch of the military specifically designed for such a task…

(Yeah, I know. They were in the Pacific and Marine generals assisted in the planning. I thought Marines were at least supposed to understand jokes.)

8. “Ah, I see you’re a man of culture as well.”

9. For the Space Force? In a heartbeat. Then again, I’ve been out for a few years, put on a few pounds, have literally no applicable skills needed in space… But I’d do it.

10. Well. Now I’m going to rewatch Band of Brothers this quarantine… for the 101st time…

11. As long as you don’t have flat feet. (Is flat feet still a thing?)

12. f it looks right, it is right.

13. If you didn’t jump up out of your bunk, but forgot that you’re on the lower one, so you smack your head so damn hard it echoes through the bay, did you even go to basic/boot camp?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a mortar system works

The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.

When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.

This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.


Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec

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A noble bloodline

The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.

COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire

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Where the metal meets the meat

A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.

The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.

The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.

The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.

Steel drizzle vs steel rain

The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.

Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force delays moving forward with E-4B Doomsday plane replacement effort

The U.S. Air Force is delaying the official solicitation for its E-4B Nightwatch replacement, citing a new acquisition strategy approach.

In an update last week, the service said it recently classified its Survivable Airborne Operations Center, or SAOC, Weapon System program — intended to replace the infamous nuclear command-and control aircraft commonly known as the “Doomsday” plane — as an Acquisition Category 1D program.


That category covers major procurements, typically costing billions of dollars. The “D” classification requires a defense acquisition executive, who reports to the defense or deputy defense secretary, to oversee the program.

Because of the change, the request for proposal “originally planned for release in December 2020 is delayed,” according to the presolicitation notice. The service said additional timeline details would be forthcoming.

Last December, Congress authorized .6 million for the SAOC’s research and development.

The Air Force and the Navy — which oversees the E-6B Mercury fleet, a companion aircraft to the E-4B — want to consolidate the two aircraft’s missions.

The E-4B, also known as the National Airborne Operations Center, can be used by the president and defense secretary to execute operations in the event of a nuclear war; the E-6B “looking glass” aircraft serves as an airborne communications relay between the Pentagon’s National Command Authority and U.S. nuclear submarine, bomber and missile forces.

The Navy keeps 16 E-6B aircraft, which are based on a commercial Boeing 707 and began flying in the early 1990s. The Air Force has four E-4Bs, which are modified versions of the Boeing 747 and have been in service since the 1970s.

Traditionally used by defense secretaries for transport around the world, the aging Nightwatch had to ditch that secondary mission because too many E-4Bs required maintenance, according to a report from DefenseOne. The website noted that the E-4B and the two planes used by the president are among the oldest 747-200s still flying.

Small fleets are a drain on the service because they drive up operational costs, according to a 2019 report, “The Air Force of the Future: A Comparison of Alternative Force Structures,” by Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[The problem] that the Air Force has right now, which is making its operating costs so much higher, is because they have so many small fleets,” he said.

The E-4B was built to withstand an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear blast. The Air Force is hoping for the same hardened architecture in its replacement.

“In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the SAOC aircraft will provide a highly survivable command, control and communications platform to direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities,” according to the service’s initial notice, posted last December.

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

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Here is how a Chinook pulled off that amazing rescue on Mt. Hood

A video made the rounds awhile back of a CH-47 Chinook pulling off an amazing rescue on the slopes of Mt. Hood in central Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you may be wondering just how the heck that happened — after all, the Chinook is a very big helo that isn’t known for its maneuverability, like the Apache, or its versatility, like the Blackhawk. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it below.


 

The maneuver used on Mt. Hood, an active volcano that reaches about 11,240 feet high according to the United States Geological Service, is not exactly unusual. This technique is known as a “pinnacle landing” and has been commonly performed by the Chinook in combat theaters, most notably Afghanistan. The concept is simple — execution, however, is not. To carry out this kind of landing, the CH-47 pilot will orient the aircraft so that the aft gear is on the terrain while the front gear remains in midair. Personnel and cargo can then be loaded (or unloaded) in otherwise treacherous terrain.

This same approach works for rooftops as well. This technique allows small units to be delivered to otherwise inaccessible locations, which is an awesome advantage for American and allied troops. According to a release by the Canadian Forces, the maneuver isn’t mechanically difficult, but requires a good deal of crew coordination as the pilots up front are operating blindly.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
A Royal Canadian Air Force CH-147F Chinook, roughly equivalent to a CH-47F used by the United States Army, carries out a pinnacle landing during RIMPAC 2016.
(Sgt Marc-André Gaudreault, Valcartier Imaging Services)

 

“We are very reliant on the Flight Engineers and Loadmasters in the back to help land the aircraft — they are in the best position to pick the exact landing point and then provide us with a constant verbal picture of where the wheels are,” Major Robert Tyler explained in the release.

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A CH-47 deposits troops while carrying out a pinnacle landing during the Battle of Tora Bora.
(Department of Defense)

 

One of the earliest recorded instances of employing this landing technique was in 2002, during the Battle of Tora Bora. That theater, in particular, is known for sheer cliffs and steep crags, making this technique an essential for depositing and extracting troops.

It’s not often that we see this maneuver get caught on video, which is what makes the recent Mt. Hood rescue such a rare affair.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
While it is simple, the key to a successful pinnacle landing is coordination among the crew — practice makes perfect!
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)

 

What’s most impressive about this is that the CH-47 in question was flown by National Guard personnel.

The CH-47, a transport helicopter, isn’t exactly known for its search-and-rescue capabilities, but if it weren’t for some political maneuverings, these types of rescues would be much more common.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US & China both flexing over this strategic waterway

Days after China sent a half-dozen bombers into the Pacific for military exercises, US Air Force B-52 bombers and F-15 fighters linked up with Japanese aircraft for joint drills.

Two B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam joined F-15 Eagles from Kadena Air Force Base for exercises with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force on April 4, 2019, The Japan Times reported, citing a US Air Force spokeswoman.


Aircraft tracking data for the B-52 flights appears to show the aircraft flying through the Miyako Strait as they made their way toward Western Japan.

The Miyako Strait is a strategically valuable waterway between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, providing the Chinese navy its main route into the Pacific Ocean.

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A Chinese H-6 bomber.

The exercises conducted April 4, 2019, like those carried out on March 20, 2019, were reportedly part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which it has done since 2004. Bomber flights and joint drills are conducted regularly to deter aggression.

Allied training “in the vicinity of Western Japan” followed substantial Chinese military activity in the area earlier in the week.

On March 30, 2019, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian H-6K long-range bombers, accompanied by one Tupolev Tu-154MD electronic intelligence aircraft and at least two fighters, flew through the Miyako Strait, The Diplomat reported.

Two days later, two Xian H-6G maritime strike bombers supported by a Shaanxi Y-9JB electronic-warfare and surveillance aircraft flew through the strait. Japan scrambled fighters to intercept the approaching Chinese aircraft, just as it did on March 30, 2019.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

A Chinese H-6 bomber.

These types of flights are becoming increasingly common as China steps up the tempo for bomber flights into the Western Pacific.

China’s People’s Liberation Army “has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the Department of Defense stated in its annual report on Chinese military power.

“The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam,” the report said.

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

Articles

Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


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Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

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1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

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Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

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She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

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This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

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Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?

Exactly. So let’s break it down.

Who’s eligible for BRS?


Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.

First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.

So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.

If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!

If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.

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(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Remind me again what BRS is?

Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.

There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:

Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:

High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%

BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)

Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.

Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.

So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.

AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.

What’s next?

First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)

If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.


If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.

Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.

If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.

So, let’s recap for a hot minute.

While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.

We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The worst single-day loss for the 101st Airborne was a plane crash in Canada

On Dec. 12, 2020, the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division will mark the 35th anniversary of the day it took its worst single-day loss of life in a single event, ever. Arrow Air Lines flight 1285 was carrying 248 members of the unit back home to Fort Campbell from Egypt when it suddenly crashed after a layover in Canada.

There were no survivors from the Screaming Eagles or from the flight crew. The Canadian Aviation Safety Board would also become a casualty of the accident.


And the crash was ruled an accident. The flight was chartered by the U.S. government to take members of the 101st back to their home base of Fort Campbell, Kentucky after a six-month deployment as part of a multinational peacekeeping force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The plane would make two stops before landing in Kentucky, the West German capital of Bonn and Canada’s Gander Airfield in the province of Newfoundland.

It had no issues taking off from both Cairo and Bonn, but shortly after its takeoff at Gander airfield, the plane had trouble getting aloft. The plane began to rapidly descend, hitting trees and breaking up until it smashed into an empty building. Full of jet fuel, the plane exploded.

There were no survivors. It remains the deadliest plane crash in Canadian history and the Army’s single deadliest peacetime crash.

When the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) investigated, they found the pilots had not asked for the plane to be de-iced, even though icy conditions existed and the wings could have been iced over.

“… shortly after lift-off, the aircraft experienced an increase in drag and reduction in lift which resulted in a stall at low altitude from which recovery was not possible. The most probable cause of the stall was determined to be ice contamination on the leading edge and upper surface of the wing.”

At least, that was the majority opinion of the CASB. Four dissenting members of the board announced their own conclusion that there was no evidence of ice on the wings. They also cited witness reports of glowing red and/or exploding pieces of the fuselage during the takeoff attempt. Combined with other evidence they say ice can’t explain, they were apt to believe the cause was a terrorist attack.

To make matters worse, the terror group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the crash as a terror attack that same day. American and Canadian intelligence agencies denied their claim as an attempt to bolster recruiting numbers. At least one member of the CASB maintains it was a terror attack caused by an onboard explosive.

The two opinions of the CASB satisfied no one, especially the government of Canada, who liquidated the agency and replaced it with a new agency, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

In reality, the crash was caused by numerous factors, and terrorists were not one of those factors. The first is that ice could have been present on the plane, but went unnoticed by both pilots and ground crew. This kind of thin but significant ice would later cause another crash in 1989, that of Air Ontario flight 1363. That crash led to a change in Canada’s deicing procedures.

Another cause was human error. The pilots did not check the functionality of the cockpit voice recorder, so not much is known about what was going on in the cockpit prior to the crash, but officials believed the pilots may have misjudged how heavy the plane was, due to the amount of material each soldier carried aboard.

While not the only determining factor, combined with other possibilities, the misjudged weight would be more than enough to keep the plane from achieving proper lift, and thus causing it to crash.

Today there are memorials to the men and women who died in the Gander plane crash, both at the crash site in Newfoundland and on Fort Campbell.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Polynesian tattoos are probably more intense than yours

Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty badass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.

In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.

That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.


Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.

In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).
(Photo by Graham Crumb)

Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.

Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.

This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment
Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.

The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.

The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Austrian Army defeated itself

There has been no friendly fire incident in the history of the world like the 1788 Battle of Karansebes. The Austrian Army had been at war with the Ottoman Turks for more than a year when another contingent of Austrian soldiers stumbled upon another part of their army. What should have been a general misunderstanding turned into a full-on battle with more than ten thousand killed or wounded and the Ottoman capture of Karansebes anyway.


The story starts with a band of gypsies.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

As every good story should.

It’s necessary to know that the Austrians of this time weren’t simply Austrian, they were fighting for the Hapsburg Empire, and their fighting force was comprised of several different languages, with no real common means of communicating between units. Still, units made up of these single language-speakers would regularly patrol by themselves, rather than joining other units to learn multiple languages or having a common tongue.

It was one of these units, a cavalry patrol, that was out looking for any signs of enemy Ottomans around. They didn’t find any Turks, but what they found was a group of Romani Gypsies who were just settling in for the night. The Gypsies offered the Austrians a good time with dancing and drinking, which the grateful cavalrymen eagerly took. Then, more Austrians showed up, but these were a group of infantry, and the cavalrymen refused to share.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

Anyone who’s ever known infantrymen can probably guess what’s about to happen.

This started a fistfight, of course. As the rival groups started fighting over the booze, shots rang out from across the nearby river. All the fighting Hapsburg men stopped fighting and took cover, quickly making it back to their camp to warn the others that Turks were shooting from the other side of the river. The camp exploded in a frenzy of men who thought Turks were overrunning their camp. When the German officers tried to get their fleeing men to calm down and come back, they shouted “halt,” which in a German accent, was mistaken for “Allah.” part of the Ottoman’s battle cry.

All the sides fought one another until the camp commander believed he was being overrun, at which point he ordered the artillery to pound his own men.

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

Imagine this but with cannon fire landing everywhere around them.

When the Turkish Army did arrive to take the town two days later, it was completely deserted by the opposition. They rolled into the city immediately, and the Austrians didn’t talk about Karansebes for another forty years.

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