Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.

“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.


Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.

“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”

That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.

“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.

“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”

After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.

“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”

With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.

“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.

“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.

“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the German mercenaries who fought against the American Revolution

Everyone knows about the famous crossing of the Delaware, where General Washington surprised the Hessians in the darkness of late Christmas Day. But who were the infamous Hessians that Washington and his men killed and wounded by the score? And what happened to the ones who didn’t get killed by the Continental Army? As it turns out, Hessian mercenaries liked freedom as much as any other colonial immigrant, because many just stuck around.


Which was fine after the war, but during the war they were very unwelcome – because looting people’s homes is a real turn off.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Not the first time Americans would have to put Germans in their place. And not the last.

The Hessians were not technically mercenaries but contract armies fighting for Britain from the German states of Hesse- Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. Though German troops contracted under British control came from other principalities, they were referred to as “Hessians” as a whole by the colonists. Britain used Hessian troops to control large populations, especially in Ireland and the American Colonies. The use of these troops was one of the reasons the Americans would declare their independence from the crown. Though more than capable fighters, the British used them as guards and garrison troops, which is how they found themselves when Washington surprised them that Christmas night.

When Hessians were captured, especially after the Battle of Trenton, they would be paraded through the streets. The colonists’ anger toward their mother country using “foreign mercenaries” to subdue them was infuriating and increased military enlistments for the Continental Army. They would then be used as a source of labor while they were prisoners of war, often working on farms. The Continental Congress also offered each Hessian who would defect to the American cause 50 acres of land for their effort.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

What Hessians see when they aren’t defecting.

Many German troops ended up in Lancaster, Penn. working alongside the Pennsylvania Dutch, who, by nature, treated the Germans very well. In all, German POWs had such a great experience in American farms and fields that they would sometimes join the Continental Army. Some 30,000 men came from German states to fight against the American Revolution. While more than 7,500 of them died in the fighting, the rest did not and when it came time to go home, many didn’t want to go.

So they stayed.

Only an estimated 17,300 of the original 30,000 Hessian soldiers opted to return to their principalities in the German states. The rest decided to make their way in the new United States or head to Canada to try out a new life up there. Life in the armies of German princes was not always so good and the troops were not always well-paid for their efforts. Starting a new life in a country where their future was their own to make was a natural step for many of the well-trained, hardworking Germans.

They could finally celebrate Christmas without worrying about Americans surprising them in their sleep.

MIGHTY CULTURE

American’s favorite snacks invented by the military

Snack time is the best time. At least, that’s how it is around here. From sweet treats to crunchy mid-afternoon nosh sessions, America’s obsession with snacks is as old as America itself. Well, not quite. But many of our favorite snacks did get their start in the military as food for deployed service members.

You might already be familiar with plenty of these snacks if you’ve ever found yourself at ten till nine in the morning in line at the shoppette grabbing breakfast because once again, you’re running a little late. Or maybe your idea of comfort food involves a fresh piece of supermarket, pre-sliced bread to make into a grilled cheese. No matter your go-to snack, we’re sure you’ll find some of your favorite in this list of snacks invented by the military.


Picking up breakfast 

You already know that coffee is the number two beverage among service members (ranked after water and beer, respectively), but did you know that the U.S. military helped herald in the age of instant coffee? During WWI, Big Military saw the need to keep service members caffeinated on the go, so they invested heavily in purchasing lots of powdered instant coffee – to the tune of 37,000 pounds of it by the war’s end. Before instant and pre-ground coffee came to market, folks would have to grind beans by hand and then set them to boil in water. After the inclusion of coffee in the earliest MREs, not only did the military embrace the need for caffeine, but so did the rest of America. By the end of WWII, drip coffee was as ubiquitous to American meals as ever.

Chef Boyardee

Pre-made kinds of pasta got their start as lunch items for the American military. During WWII, Big Military tapped a restaurant in Cleveland to produce their canned food as part of military rations, which helped launch what we now know as Chef Boyardee.

Cheetos

As you’re enjoying your pre-made pasta, why not add some Cheetos and Pringles to round out your snack and make it really decadent? Cheetos, America’s favorite bright orange corn-puffed snack, got their start during WWI when culinary industrialists figured out how to make shelf-stable, dehydrated cheese dust. Kraft Foods then sold the product to the Army, who used it on just about everything – pasta, sandwiches, eggs and yes, even potatoes.

Pringles

The crunchy texture of Cheetos is addictive, for sure, but so too are Pringles. Pringles were born from a project between the Quartermaster Corps and the USDA to develop dehydrated potato flakes. The entire goal of Pringles was to find a way to dehydrate the flakes and then, later on, form them into chips.

Speaking of lunch, what’s a sandwich without sliced bread? Thanks again to a partnership between the Quartermaster Corps and Kansas State, now we no longer have to worry about bakery bread going stale before we can enjoy it. Supermarket bread stays fresh because of bacterial enzymes that tolerate the heat of baking and can live for weeks, helping to keep bread fresh and soft.

Dinners and Sweet Treats

Bomber crews on long overseas flights during WWII needed something to eat, so an Army contractor invented the earliest iteration of what we now know as TV dinners. These nascent iterations were pretty basic and didn’t have much flavor, but they kept the bomber crews from going hungry.

After that TV dinner, why not enjoy a handful of MMs? These candy-coated chocolates were first introduced in WWII, so service members could carry chocolate with them during warmer weather.

These snacks might not be on your go-to meal list for every meal, but it’s still an amazing bit of culinary history to know that many of the snacks we love today got their start as rations for the military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why veterans tapping a drink on the bar is a sign of respect

Going out on the town with a group of veterans is definitely an experience that all civilians should try at least once. Not only will it dispel any preconceived notions that a civilian might have about the troops — we’re not all crazy, loud as*holes — it’s also a crash course in military culture and etiquette.

It’s the best way to learn all of the little details, like where veterans naturally position themselves in a bar (to get a better view of everyone coming in and out) and how they’ll instinctively form a wedge formation as they walk (a secure way of moving from one place to another).

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
Once you notice this one, you can never unsee it. This is how pretty much all vets walk in a group.
(Photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer)

After you’ve settled in and you’re throwing back a few cold ones, one question that’s sure to surface from the civilian tag-along is why veterans solemnly make a toast and tap their drink or shot on the bar before resuming a night of heavy drinking. This tradition actually has roots that extend all the way back to ancient times.


The toast is a piece of international bar culture, but the military takes it to the next level. The first part is standard: Someone raises their glass and either dedicates the drink to group’s collective health or says something silly like,

Life is a waste of time, and time is a waste of life. So let’s get wasted all of the time, and have the time of our life.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffery Allen)

This brief, poignant message is a way for the person making the toast to appreciate everyone with them. If a veteran is giving that toast, they’ll next tap the drink on the table or bar to appreciate everyone not with them — the fallen. Think of this as a less-messy version of pouring one out for the dead. The veteran first shows respect to those around him or her, then to their fallen comrades, and then, finally, to his or herself by knocking one back.

It’s also seen as a sign of respect to the bartender and the house — who are some of the select few people that a veteran never wants to anger. This same tradition was also seen in ancient Irish times as a way to scare off evil spirits.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

So, if you see a veteran do this, by all means, join them. Keep the moment solemn as they are, nod, smile, tap your drink with them, and enjoy your night.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the Lamborghini built for the US military

Lambos aren’t exactly known for the rugged durability required by American military vehicles. So, the reason they specially made the Lamborghini Cheetah for the U.S. military would have to be pretty far out there.


Well, not that far, actually: the company was struggling economically from a global recession and an ongoing oil crisis. They were bleeding money, so they decided to start taking design contracts. One of those contracts was actually a subcontract for the American military.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
In an alternate Fast and Furious timeline, Vin Diesel and Ludacris joined in the military in the 70s.

The Cheetah was born.

It debuted in 1977 and was a failure from the start. The large rear-mounted engine ruined the weight distribution (and thus, the vehicle’s handling). After making three expensive prototypes the  U.S. Army just wasn’t interested in, the damage was done. Lamborghini even went out of business for a while.

 

Besides the handling, there were a number of reasons the Lamborghini and the Army just weren’t going to match. A major reason was that Lamborghini’s design was actually a ripoff they received from an Army subcontractor – but Lamborghini didn’t know that.

When the Cheetah bombed during testing for the military, the contract for the new vehicle went to the Humvee.

Even though the Cheetah’s massive failure caused other contractors to pull their money from Lamborghini, sending the company into a death spiral, it gave them time to lick their wounds and reconvene later. The concept of a Lambo SUV never fully died, either.

Lamborghini engineers revisited the idea later, conceiving a civilian version of the vehicle, the Lamborghini Militaria No.1, or LM001, and its more popular, later iteration, the LMA002.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
The 1982 Lamborghini LMA002.

The latest Lamborghini SUV features a V12 engine (the Cheetah only had a V8), souped-up and superior to its 70s-era ancestor in every possible way.

popular

The MARSOC driving course is not like your typical day at the DMV

MARSOC — or Marine Special Operations Command — is one of our nation’s most elite fighting forces, as its members are ready to respond to any crisis, anywhere.


Their goal is to enhance the overall performance of every operator in any setting they may face. Depending on the mission, a MARSOC team or individual may find himself under attack and must negotiate any obstacle that presents itself.

While these Marines continuously train to keep their skills sharp, they take pride in being the best at all ends of the spectrum — including tactical driving.

Related: This is what ‘Black Friday’ is like for new Marine recruits

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
These MARSOC Marines conduct a vehicle dismount maneuver during their tactical driving and shooting course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Primarily dressed in civilian attire, these badasses train to take the average vehicle to its physical limits depending on the situation and location.

During a high-speed chase, the teams must learn how to drive their vehicles within close counters of one another.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

These advanced drills also focus on the team’s survivability and to teach the passengers how to drive from a passenger seat in the event the driver is severely wounded or killed — giving the term “side-seat driver” a whole new meaning.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
This Marine takes control of the vehicle as the driver pretends to be wounded during this advanced training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

Each Marine who takes this course has already undergone several layers of filtering before joining MARSOC. The exclusive selection focuses on moral caliber and the individual’s ability to handle themselves in a stressful environment.

This aspect causes the MARSOC teams to build a unique brotherhood — a necessary trait for their line of work.

Check out the Marines‘ video below to witness this high-speed training for yourself.

Marines, YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


Articles

That time a fighter pilot ejected into a thunderstorm and rode the lightning

Marine Corps Lt. Col. William H. Rankin had flown combat flight operations in both World War II and the Korean War, but it wasn’t enemy fire that came closest to killing him during his military flying career. It was a summer thunderstorm over the east coast of the United States.


On July 26, 1959 Rankin and his wingman, 1st Lt. Herbert Nolan, were flying a pair of F-8 Crusaders from South Weymouth, Mass back to their home base at Beaufort, S.C. when they encountered a line of severe thunderstorms over North Carolina. Shortly after the fighters climbed up to 47,000 feet to go over the growing cumulonimbus clouds, Rankin heard a loud grinding noise followed by a loss of power from the jet’s only engine. About that time the jet’s fire warning light illuminated.

Rankin tried pulling the auxiliary power handle but it came off in his hand. He tried to restart the engine several times but had no luck. At that point, with the fighter in an uncontrollable dive and going nearly supersonic, he knew he only had one option left. He keyed the radio and matter-of-factly told his wingman he “had to eject” and then pulled the handle.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
An F-8 Crusader on the deck of the USS Midway.

The senior Marine pilot wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, so as soon as he hit the surrounding atmosphere at that altitude his body was put through the ringer. The sudden decompression caused his stomach to swell, his ears, nose and mouth to bleed. The ejection tore his left glove from his hand, leaving it exposed to the brutally cold air. His skin immediately froze, which resulted in numbness and severe frostbite.

But things were about to get worse. In his memoir, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, Rankin describes his free fall like this:

I became conscious of my body tumbling, spinning, and cartwheeling through space. I spun like a pinwheel, my limbs trying to go in every possible direction at once. I spun on the vertical, diagonal and horizontal axis. I felt the enormous pulling, stretching effects of g forces. I was a huge stiff blob of helplessness! I recognized that my body was literally spreadeagled and the force was so great I could not move my hands or legs. Several times I tried to bring my arms in to my body but it was like pulling on a stone wall. The effect of the g forces on my arms and legs must have been to multiply their weight many times.

During his fall Rankin managed to strap his oxygen mask to his face, which was a crucial element if he was going to survive his ordeal. From his training he knew that it would take about three and a half minutes to fall from just under 50,000 feet to 10,000 feet where his parachute was designed to automatically deploy. He looked at his watch and saw that more than four minutes had gone by. He figured his ejection seat automatic chute mechanism had malfunctioned, so he manually deployed it.

But Rankin’s seat hadn’t malfunctioned. His descent had simply been slowed by massive updrafts created by the thunderstorm next to him, and as soon as his chute opened another powerful updraft filled it and rocketed him several thousand feet vertically a velocity of nearly 100 mph. Lightning flashed all around in what he later described as “blue blades several feet thick” and the thunder boomed so loudly he feared it would burst his eardrums. Rain pelted him from all directions. He felt like he was going to drown.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

When he reached the top of the thunderstorm the updraft turned into a downdraft. It was totally dark as he was pulled into the center of the thunder cloud, and he plummeted downward at a rate he was sure would prevent his chute from opening. But his chute did open once he was under the storm, and as it did he caught another updraft that catapulted him back to the top of the cloud. Once at the top he was dragged back into the center of the storm and thrown as if by Thor himself toward the ground again.

Rankin was repeatedly buffeted through this cycle . . . a living hell he feared might never end. In The Man Who Rode the Thunder he describes what was going through his mind at that time:

There were times when I felt I might die of sheer exhaustion because it seemed as if either the storm might never end, or I was going to be swept along with it on its insane journey up the coast for as long as that journey might take—hours, days. This feeling was most intense when I decided to look at my watch and glimpsed the time during a flash of lightning. At first I thought what a wonderful thing it was not to have lost my watch all through ejection, decompression, blasts of air, and now this; and, then, what a silly thing, looking at the time! But when I saw that it was twenty minutes past six, I thought: My God, you should have been on the ground at least ten minutes ago! You are really trapped. You are really in the pattern of the storm and a part of it, a speck of human dust, up-over-and-down, up-over-and-down and that’s the way it’s going to be. But how long? For how long?

Finally the storm dissipated enough that he wasn’t dragged back up after shooting through it, and he was unceremoniously blown into a thicket of brush in the middle of a field near Ahoskie, N.C. He was wet and beat to hell and had to draw on his survival skills to make it through the dark to a dirt road where — after being passed by a number of vehicles that refused to stop — someone was finally kind enough to take him to the nearest hospital.

Colonel Rankin spent about 3 weeks in the hospital recovering from severe decompression shock, welts, bruising, and other superficial wounds. He eventually returned to flight status.

In 2009 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Here’s a video about his harrowing ordeal:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why ancient Romans built statues of their greatest enemy

Imagine the U.S. building a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the middle of New York City. Or one of Nikita Khrushchev in Washington DC. As unlikely as its sounds for a mighty empire to build such a monument to a once-great, potentially vanquished foe, that’s how Ancient Rome used to roll. No matter what your high school history teacher told you, the Romans were not always the preeminent ancient group of ass-kickers history gives them credit for.

Mighty Carthage would field its greatest commander, Hannibal Barca, against Rome. He would turn out to be a leader so great even the Romans would build statues in his honor.


Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

It didn’t end well for Carthage but Rome famously got its ass handed to it a few times.

Don’t get it twisted, Rome in its heyday did kick a lot of barbarian ass from Londinium to Mesopotamia and is worthy of its reputation. But before any of that, the young Roman Empire wasn’t even as big as modern-day Italy. In the Punic Wars, they chose the wrong empire to square off against. Carthage was much more powerful than tiny Rome, and its leadership was much better at fielding armies. One of those was Hannibal Barca, known to history simply as “Hannibal” (when you’re famous on the level of Cher, Madonna, or Jesus only one name is required).

Hannibal fought Rome from the start of the very first Punic War, but it was the Second Punic War where Hannibal was really unleashed. After crushing Roman allies in modern-day Spain, he left on his now-famous crossing of the Alps to hit Rome from behind, a move no one expected, least of all Rome. It was a move that shocked the ancient world and allowed Hannibal to plunder parts of northern Italy for almost a year. The following Spring, he crushed a Roman army at Cannae, killing or capturing some 70,000 men.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

That face when you kill 70,000 Romans on their home turf.

For almost a decade, Hannibal and his army slogged around the Italian Peninsula, defeating the Romans and killing thousands in battles at Tarentum, Capua, Silarus, Herndonia, and Petelia. Tens of thousands of Romans died at the hands of Hannibal and his army, but time was not on his side. The Romans would not give in, and Carthage was losing ground elsewhere. Rome gained new allies and fresh troops, while Hannibal couldn’t take a Roman harbor. It ultimately doomed him. He would be recalled to Africa where he was defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Zama, his invincibility finally shattered.

Rome would never get its hands on its greatest enemy. Hannibal died after escaping from Roman soldiers, circumstances unknown. To this day, no one is sure where he escaped to or where his final resting place was. What they know is that for decades, Romans lived in fear that he might mount an army and return to exact revenge. When Rome was in its full glory days, and the threat of Hannibal’s return was diminished by time, the Romans built statues of the man in the streets, an advertisement that they were able to beat such a worthy adversary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army brigade trains to fight in Europe, right next to Russia

Soldiers and equipment from the US Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood in Texas, are arriving in Europe in late May 2018, for a nine-month rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Operation Atlantic Resolve started in April 2014, in response to Russian interference in Ukraine, and is meant to emphasize US commitment to European defense through “continuous, enhanced multinational training and security cooperation.”


The Ironhorse Brigade’s arrival is the third back-to-back rotation the Army has pursued in order to have an armored brigade in Europe, where the US has been looking to bolster its armored presence.

But the route the brigade is taking to its base points to another capability the US and its NATO partners are trying to boost: The ability to move around Europe on the ground.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
US Army armored and support vehicles from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division arrive in Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)

The unit will primarily be based in Germany and mostly operate in eastern Europe, but the first of three ships carrying its tanks, trucks, and mobile artillery arrived in May 2018, in Antwerp, a Belgian port that hasn’t seen a major US military movement of this kind in the past 10 or 20 years, according to an Army release.

Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, commander of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, which supports US military operations in Europe and Africa, said the vehicles will move across Europe via convoy, line-haul, river barge, and train. The Army has issued notices about planned movements by road and rail in western and eastern Germany.

“Sometimes what is old is new again, and that is coming in here,” Shapiro said. “Antwerp and Rotterdam were major ports when we were operating during the Cold War … We are coming back to Antwerp in a big way.”

The brigade will send about 2,500 pieces of equipment through Antwerp, including 87 M1 Abrams tanks, 138 armored personnel carriers, 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and more than a thousand other vehicles.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
US Army combat vehicles assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team unloaded in Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Case)

“It’s a totally different type of deployment,” said brigade commander Col. Wilson Rutherford IV. “We could have gone into the port of Gdansk, [in Poland], which is much closer, but we wanted to exercise this port, exercise the barge movement, the line haul, and the convoys.”

“This is very different from the 2/1 [ABCT] and 3/4 [ABCT] deployments, but the goal is to learn as much as we can,” he added, referring to previous rotations by the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division and the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 4th Infantry Division — the latter of which is known as the Iron Brigade.

Reversing post-Cold War atrophy

The US military’s presence in Europe has steadily declined since the end of the Cold War. The US Army once had 300,000 soldiers stationed there, but that force dwindled to roughly 30,000. In April 2013, the US’s last 22 Abrams tanks in Europe returned to the US, ending the Army’s 69-year history of stationing main battle tanks there.

That absence was short-lived. In January 2014, 29 Abrams tanks arrived in Germany, joining other armored vehicles there for what were to be short stints in small formations. That approach changed in early 2017, when the Iron Brigade arrived with tanks and armored vehicles for the first nine-month, back-to-back rotation.

But the new emphasis on operations in Europe has encountered logistical hurdles.

A tangle of customs rules and local regulations have hamstrung movements across borders. Infrastructure issues — like bridges or roads not built to carry heavy armored vehicles — have also hindered operations, as have shortages of transports.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
A German man with an US flag greets vehicles from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Germany, April 23, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

These obstacles have created issues for training operations — a convoy of Paladins was halted by German police in January 2018, because the contractors transporting them violated several regulations — and would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort.

These problems led NATO to conclude in an internal report in late 2017, that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

That report recommended setting up two new commands — one to oversee logistics operations in Europe, particularly in central and eastern Europe, and another to manage the shipment of personnel and supplies across the Atlantic.

In March 2018, NATO said the new logistics command would be based in the city of Ulm in southern Germany. (The US has volunteered to host the new Atlantic command in Norfolk, Virginia.) That same month, the European Union said it was working to address the conflicting regulations and infrastructure issues hindering military operations.

“By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise,” EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said at the time.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Canadian military okayed beards and it’s about time the US discussed it

As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.

This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.

With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.


Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.

Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.

While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.

But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)

The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.

On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.

The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.

There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 important rules to remember while handling a detainee

When allied forces man the front lines, it’s fairly common to come in contact with local nationals that live in the area. Although the majority of the people you’ll encounter out there want nothing to do with international politics, those who are fighting against you will find it easy to blend into their surroundings, remaining undetected. Our nation’s enemies don’t wear a standardized uniform, making them incredibly tough to safely identify and detain.

For the most part, all residents are treated as innocent bystanders — until they give troops a reason suspect otherwise. When ground forces encounter a threat among the local population, troops must take every precaution in order to maintain safety for all — the threat of explosive attack is constant.

These are the five critical rules to detaining an enemy that just might save the lives of troops and bystanders alike.


Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Iraqi commandos with the 7th Iraqi Army Division practice detainee handling during a course taught by Reconnaissance Marines with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, Apr. 7, 2009, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

(Photo by Marine Sgt. Eric C. Schwartz)

Search them

For obvious reasons, every detainee needs to be thoroughly searched for any type of weaponry or intelligence they may possess. Finding these items may be tough, as there are plenty of ways and places to hide contraband on a person.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Shhhh!

(Photo by Marine Cpl. Kenneth Jasik)

Silence is key

All detainees should remain quiet until trained personnel can arrive at the scene to carry out questioning. Remaining silent is also essential for the troops who are handling the detainee — you must be careful about divulging any information, even if it seems innocuous, within earshot of the EPW.

A good rule of thumb is to only speak in two sentences when exchanging instructions with fellow troops.

Segregate them

If you have multiple detainees, it’s vital that you separate them before conducting searches. Typically, we divide detainees by rank and gender. If detainees can see or hear each other, they can coordinate escape attempts or further hostile action.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

A detainee is safeguarded in restraints before being escorted by two U.S. troops while at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Safeguard everyone

As proven so many times before, the enemy is often willing to hurt themselves beyond all repair to bring you closer to death. Taking protective measures to ensure a detainee isn’t able to cause any further injury is critical. This also means preventing allied forces from bringing harm to the EPW.

Maintain speed

Once the enemy is under friendly control, it’s up to allied personnel to promptly escort the detainee to a safe place to await processing. Moving quickly lessens the chance of a deadly, secondary encounter with an enemy who is out to kill the both detainee and their captors.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to display ‘Old Glory’ with honor

This week, American flags will be displayed across the nation in celebration of the Independence Day holiday. Following a few guidelines can ensure we are displaying Old Glory properly.

In 1923, the U.S. National Flag Code was created and distributed nationwide. The code became Public Law in 1942 and became the U.S. Flag Code we know today. The U.S. Flag Code lays out the ways to display and respect the flag of the United States.

For example:


• The flag should not be on display outdoors during bad weather.

• The flag should not be used for advertising purposes, or embroidered on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or boxes.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing
Above all

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Fuller)

• The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.

• It should never be displayed upside down unless trying to convey a sign of distress or great danger.

• When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.

Other Do’s and Don’ts:

• Clean and damage-free flags should always be used. Dirty, ripped, wrinkled or frayed flags should not be used. Also, when flags are damaged, they should be destroyed in a dignified manner.

• The U.S. flag should flow freely in the wind or in a lobby with a passing breeze as people walk past. Stretching a flag is a lot like walking around with your arms held out straight. It is not to be held captive by metal arm spreaders as if to say, “Look at me!”

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class George M. Bell)

• Staffs and finials should always be upright and not leaning.

• Clamping a U.S. flag to a vehicle’s antenna is acceptable, or the flagstaff clamped to the right fender, as long as the flag displays in the proper direction.

• Service flags are displayed in order of service precedence, not the host service where they are displayed. The order of precedence is Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

• Army music unit wearing 18th-century style uniforms participates in parade.

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

(National Guard photo)

• When displaying the U.S. flag with other flags, the U.S. flag comes first and is centered in the middle of a flag display. In addition, the U.S. flag must be placed higher than the other flags, unless other national flags are present. In that case the U.S. flag would be the same height.

• Buntings are a good way to display the national colors and decorate for Independence Day without discrediting the U.S. flag.

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