The New Normal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The New Normal

Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2019, the Honorable Dana Deasy is the Department of Defense chief information officer. With more than 38 years of experience leading and delivering large-scale information technology strategies and projects, Deasey serves as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for matters of information management, information technology and information assurance, as well as non-intelligence space systems, critical satellite communications, navigation and timing programs, spectrum and telecommunications.

The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense chief information officer, and Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, as well as, the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. Video // Andrew Breese and Travis Burcham

Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He develops C4 capabilities; conducts analysis and assessments; provides Joint and Combined Force C4 guidance, and evaluates C4 requirements, plans, programs and strategies for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During this interview with Airman magazine, Deasy and Shwedo discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking. They also spoke on the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force.

Airman magazine: The COVID – 19 pandemic has driven the DoD to pivot to maximum telework capacity on short notice. What effect has this had on our ability to support the National Defense Strategy?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think quite frankly, it’s made us more resilient. The first thing that came to my mind when we first got this tasker, is never let a good crisis go to waste. We always knew we needed to do telework, but in a battle for finite resources, we were never able to fund those. And rapidly, this gave us an opportunity to correct a lot of our shortcomings, so that’s why I feel we’re more resilient. We now have a better comms (communications) situation than we had six months ago.

Dana Deasy: I think if you go back to when we first kicked off the teleworking task force, we had some basic principles we wanted to live by. Principle number one was, ensure we could quickly get as many of our employees, service men and women working from home in a safe way. Two, was ensuring that the technical staff could do their jobs in a safe way. Third, we asked ourselves, is what we are going to build or put in place not only going to get us through the pandemic, but how does this also set us up for a better tomorrow when it comes to supporting NDS (National Defense Strategy)? I think that has actually been a very important principle, because every time we thought through a problem we were trying to solve, we looked at the immediacy. Then we always would stop and say, “Okay, but down the road is this sustainable? Are we building this in a way that will help the war fighter over the long run?”

The New Normal
The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, and Air Force Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4)/Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, hold a media briefing on the COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force on Monday, April 13, in the Pentagon Briefing Room. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard

Airman magazine: The Secretary of Defense has defined our current times as “a new normal” that we will have to adapt to for an extended period of time in order to maintain a high degree of readiness. What are we learning about our infrastructure and our ability to communicate, lead during this time?

Dana Deasy: Here again, how we’ve conducted ourselves throughout this has been looking towards the future. People have said, “Will we go back to the way we used to work?” I don’t believe we ever go completely back. I think there is a new norm where we will have certain types of our workforce that will continue to work from home. I don’t think that we should think for a minute that we are out of this crisis and we’re ready to go back to a normal situation.

So, we continue to run our tele-tasking workforce, we continue to meet as if we’re still in the middle of trying to solve this problem. Let’s face it, we are going to have a sustained, new set of assets that we have been building out of COVID here, that are going to be here forever going forward. It’s not like we shut this down, we pack it up and we return it. We are going to keep what we’ve put in place. And so, I think this puts us in a much better position, if that day should come in the future, for whatever the reason might be, where the DOD has to go back to a maximum teleworking situation. We not only have the know-how, but we’ve created the technical assets to make that happen quickly.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: : I was doing a forum with cadets, midshipmen and industry, and  the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy kicked off the whole forum saying, “Now that we’re talking about the new normal and now that we know we can do this, I know every cadet and midshipman will hate what I’m going to say, but we have had the last snow day at the United States Air Force Academy.”

It drives home the point that now we know we can do these things. We’re setting up the infrastructure and it gives you more options and makes you more combat survivable in a myriad of scenarios. There’s no reason to ever want to go back. Quite frankly the landscape, not just within the Department of Defense, but across the world, has changed because of this experience.

The New Normal
Walker Ince, a senior cadet, attends a class remotely on April 6, 2020 from his dorm room in Sijan Hall at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Due to Covid-19, freshman through junior year cadets were sent home to learn remotely while the senior class remained.    U.S. Air Force photo // Trevor Cokley

Airman magazine: Telework has always been viewed as a benefit to employees, but has quickly become a need for readiness and safety. Can you talk to the nature of telework and how this time may shift the mindset and modernize the capability of the DoD?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the thing that directed us and the rule sets that we had associated with telework, no longer exist. So, the limitations of going into your e-mail, for instance, it’s been blown away. On top of that, we were always talking about giving people meaningful work and there was a cut-off where classified was concerned. Well, we’ve figured that out and we’re spending lots of money to enable that capability.

We’re finding that our folks are doing a great job from home or from the office. When you look at the larger strategies, like joint all domain command and control, and the things that we’re affording for our strategies in the National Defense Strategy, all of these things we’re discussing are further enablers to ensure that happens.

I believe we’re not going to turn back. The rules set has been blown away and we’re finding, as with every technology, better ways of doing business every day.

Dana Deasy: Could you imagine either of us standing up in front of the Air Force or even the whole DoD back in January of this year and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a whole new model how you can equip, train, create readiness, do operational reviews. People will be able to do that from home. People will be able to do that in a highly collaborative way and you will learn that you can do things highly effectively. I think we would really struggle trying to get people convinced.

You know, COVID forced us to revisit what we thought were the traditional ways of doing your various training, readiness, et cetera. I think now that people have actually seen that people can still do the training, they can still have conversations about readiness, they can still do their ops reviews is quite telling.

I think services such as the Air Force are going to challenge themselves and say, “Okay, we’ve been working this way, what can we continue to do versus falling back to all of the old ways of working going forward?”

The New Normal
U.S. Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and The Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan hold a round table meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2019. DoD photo // U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Airman magazine: Speaking of the old ways, what was the mindset regarding telework when you were young officers coming up?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think it was probably clouded by the limitation of technology, quite frankly. You can roll in and maybe get your e-mail but OWA (Outlook Web Access; email) wouldn’t let you get in and then would kick you out, it was incredibly frustrating. You had a lack of capability to do any classified work, rapidly. It (telework) had a bad connotation because there was not a lot of what would be portrayed as productive work.

I think all of the things that we set in motion very quickly, and proved that we can do, have blown away all of those false mindsets and all of the naysayers, quite frankly, were proven wrong.

Dana Deasy: I’d say all of the services probably had a preconceived view that the only way you can truly get readiness done, that you can get operational planning done, is you’ve got to have people face to face sitting in a room.

To General Shwedo’s point, about new tools that are available today, 10 years ago, five years ago, to be able to put 500 people in a video conference where they all would have full motion, not choppiness, fully could hear each other.  They could put charts into that presentation. They could mark up things as if they were going to a whiteboard sitting in a command center, is quite telling. I would say that it’s become very clear that the technology is at the right level in capabilities today. But it’s not only the technology, it’s the way that people are getting creative and using that technology. I think is what’s made all of the difference in the world.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just finish up. When you look at all of the things that we’re being asked to do in the National Defense Strategy, joint all domain command-and-control in air, land, sea, space, cyber in a globally-integrated form, everything Mr. Deasy just described, is going to be your foundational base.

We are getting stronger on all of these things. Going back to never let a crisis go to waste, for a lot of these things, per Mr. Deasy’s scenario, if we walked in and tried to make a funding line for that, it probably would fall below the cutoff lines. So, this has been fortuitous, and not just enabling the telework, but also forwarding our defense strategies.

Dana Deasy: In the NDS we talk about allies and partnerships. We’ve clearly been able to demonstrate through teleworking that you can have very, very effective meetings. As a matter of fact, you might almost argue that when you’re talking to your allies and partners, that’s typically someone getting on a plane and going to a different time zone, you’ll lose a day going over, you lose a day coming back at minimum. This is a case where people were able to quickly say, “I need to speak to so-and-so,” whether it’s the U.K., Australia or whatever, and make that happen.

I think even in our relationships with our allies and partners, people are going to be stepping back and going, “Why do we really need to do all of this always face to face?” 

Airman magazine: The DoD has a culture of innovating as a necessity to adversity, are there any analogies you can relate this crisis to from our history?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I struggle with that question. I think there was lots of standard planning processes that we attacked this problem with. So, the first thing you do is study your adversary and you have to protect your forces. So, to negate the adversary’s strength, if you want to superimpose COVID on this, the strength was getting us all together, so we’re going to take that away from them and force telework.

Also, you need to remember that the enemy gets a vote, and in this scenario, there were multiple enemies and we anticipated that when we opened up this attack access, when we brought all of these different people into these different forums, we had to make our folks ready for that realm.

What did we do?  We did lots of education. Mr. Deasy’s shop and the greater task force put lots of products to increase the knowledge base, because they were going to be fighting in this cyber environment. The next piece is we needed to increase their tools and needed to ensure that we were securely operating. And then the last part is we knew they were coming, so increased vigilance. So, across the board we were attacking it as a battle plan and we were doing the organized train-and-equip things that is standard operation when we have an adverse situation.

Dana Deasy: I guess if I had to pick an analogy, and I have no idea how well this analogy works, but I think aspects of it work. I remember back when President Kennedy said, “We’re going to go to the moon.” We didn’t really know how we were going to get there or how we were going to pull that off, but a lot of new things were invented that were used not only for space missions, but were used for consumers. They were used for defense. And I think by us being forced to rethink our paradigm around how we get things done throughout the DOD, we created things, tools, techniques and technologies that we will find other ways to continue to use throughout the DOD.

The New Normal
Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conduct a virtual flight commander sync via video conferencing tools April 3, 2020, near Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Many Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing have teleworking from home since March 13, all in an effort to avoid unnecessary potential exposure to the COVID-19. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: To accommodate the massive shift to telework, the DoD has activated more than 900,000 remote user accounts under the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment (CVR) launched in late March. Can you explain this system and the enhanced collaboration capabilities?

Dana Deasy: You know, it’s interesting, when we knew we were going to have to start putting people at home, everybody was fixated, early on, around e-mail. Everybody thought that was the way that people were going to solve how we were going to communicate.

But what is it about humans? Humans like the visual, they like to hear people’s voices, there’s a stimulus that occurs. We quickly realized it wasn’t about e-mail, it wasn’t about pushing a document from point A to point B, it was about trying to create and mimic if you and I were sitting right in our same office together, or if we were all in a conference room together.

We pivoted to this idea of what people really want is to look and talk to somebody on video. They want to push a button, have a phone call. They want to have chats, they want to move documents back and forth. So, CVR was the culmination of the variety of things that you think about that you do every day, when you’re in the office, that all came together through the concept of delivering a CVR.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that they brought together a team very quickly.  What was impressive was, we’ve watched kind of lethargic pace of whenever we wanted to bring on a new tool or anything else and the fact that this task force had NSA (National Security Agency), CYBERCOM (Cyber Command), DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) and all of the services knew we needed tools very quickly. 

You rapidly found things that they were already working on being brought forward. What was most important was for all of them to look at it quickly and get approval on a secure solution to implement them fast. Had we not had this crisis, I will tell you, the timelines associated with a lot of these initiatives would probably water your eyes.

Dana Deasy: You know, I’ll end by saying, when we set up CVR, we had no idea what the uptake would be. I remember early days, somebody asked me, “What would be an ambitious goal?”  I said, “Boy, if we get up to 100,000 people using this tool, that would be great.”

But, never underestimate the need for humans to want to try to find ways to communicate in styles that work for them. And it clearly became apparent that we were going to blow by that 100,000 and to your point, you know, almost 900,000 accounts later and still growing.

The New Normal
Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wilson, 911th Communications Squadron mission defense team member, checks the connection of wires on a server at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Feb. 4, 2020. One of the primary duties of the mission defense team is to ensure that servers are properly connected. U.S. Air Force photo // Joshua J. Seybert

Airman magazine: How has the coronavirus task force and relief legislation for DoD to support IT procurement and increase agency network bandwidth directly impacted the Air Force?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: If you’re just talking about the Air Force, they got about $47 million. They went from VPN (Virtual Private Network) users of about 9,000 users to 430,000. So, it was very, very quick.

Remember, when I was talking about getting tools on board, they rapidly found secure (classified network access), because that was the main thing we were concerned about; getting secret-level capabilities as fast as we could. So, the ABMS, the Air Battle Management System program, device one, others, they had some things that we rapidly took, experimented and started using those pieces.

Also, for the folks that were able to use that just at the unclassified level, the Bring Your Own Device program, which had been in the process for a long time but rapidly got attention, you’ll find that DISA, Vice Admiral Nancy Norton and her team, did a lot of quick work to acquire products and push them out to the combatant commands and the other places to enable this capability.

Dana Deasy: I’d say the Air Force, not necessarily for teleworking, had been laying a lot of groundwork. If you think about the Joint All Domain, for some time they had been spending a lot of time and effort and money on technology to figure out how to get warfighters to collaborate in a different way, either within the Air Force or across services. I think that mindset and the fact that they were already down that road, when you overlaid COVID on top of that and the need for teleworking, I think they had positioned themselves well to be able to accelerate quickly.

Airman magazine: As we continue to adapt with increased telework, how do we ensure the adoption of cybersecurity strategies are ingrained into our solutions and not an add-on?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we held the first task force and we talked about keeping people safe, embedded in that was the need to keep people safe from in the cyber realm as well.

One of things I was worried about early on, was when people are sitting inside the Pentagon, or wherever they’re sitting around the world, they feel there is this extra layer of protection and when they go home and when they think they have that same layer of protection.

We spent a lot of time in the early days of educating the workforce. “Remember, when you are at home, here’s what’s different versus if you’re sitting inside the Pentagon.”

And I think that early education and coaching really paid dividends in helping to build a more safe, secure environment for us.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the education’s not going to go away. As a matter of fact, I see us continuing because this is a thinking enemy when it comes to this realm.

Also, when we start talking about transitioning from being very narrowly focused on a violent extremist threat to what we’re being directed in a National Defense Strategy, you’ll find that investment, attention and capabilities are herding us in a direction where we’re not going to go back to the way we were doing things.

We, quote, “accepted risks” in this violent extremist fight because the foes we were fighting did not have capability to counter our command-and-control systems, to jam our capabilities. All of these things that we’ve now teased out during this COVID environment are going to be very applicable for the future and the National Defense Strategy.

The New Normal
Lt. Col. James Wall, 436th Airlift Wing inspector general and current battle staff director, teleworks from his house using government equipment April 28, 2020, on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Wall, the battle staff and Team Dover members resorted to teleworking, if possible, after shelter-in-place orders were put into place in mid-March to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. U.S. Air Force photo // Roland Balik

Airman magazine: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 guidance focused on the rapid wide spread transition of telework, can you briefly outline this guidance?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: This is an initiative from the Department of Homeland Security. I think it’s very helpful. The reasons why I say that is, watching hackers for years and years, like water, they go to the least defended place. So, you’ll see them fish around and they’ll hit hard points, and then go down to the lowest level.

What they produced was kind of a government-wide capability. So, the Pentagon can build their castle walls very high, but if our interaction with the rest of the government’s very low, they’ll go to that place and now they’re in the castle.

So that’s the larger conversation. When we start talking about defense for cyber and the defense for the future of telework, we have to have more of a whole of government (outlook). We have to have more of these collaborative documents and instruction as we go forward.

We have regular meetings with DHS and others to start securing the cyber landscape.

Airman magazine: Are we seeing increased cyber-attacks during the pandemic and does teleworking pose a greater threat to our security?

Dana Deasy: You know, every day I come to the Pentagon is a great threat day. We continue to use technology and we make it more and more pervasive. Every day you continue to do that, you are increasing the surface base of risk. Obviously, now that you’re taking a million people and you’re putting them at home, you’re increasing that risk.

One of the things that I think NSA and U.S. Cyber Command and JFHQ-DODIN (Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense information network) did extremely well, was in the very early days of our task force, we started getting them to give us the intel briefs. They were reporting what the adversaries were doing and there wasn’t a single meeting we had where we didn’t stop and say “OK, if we introduce X and we make that part of what we’re going to now provide for teleworking, what do we understand about an adversary’s intent or an adversary’s knowledge as far as how they can exploit that?”

From very early on, everything we architected, we always pivoted to ensure that we were understanding what was the exposure side, how would we monitor for it and how would we correct for it?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I will say with – there is something to the yin and yang. With great challenges comes great opportunity. So, what we found was, yes, we were expanding our attack access, but we also knew they were coming.

When you know they’re coming – and that’s not always the case in lower level conflicts – we got to study them, we got to move and it is a constant cycle. It is a spy versus spy. They are a learning enemy and what we’ve got to do is incorporate that.

And then back to the opportunity point, once you defend, now you have greater opportunities to go in the other direction. So as opposed to taking your football and going home, you look at it in the other direction as a great opportunity to start exploiting the cyber landscape.

The New Normal
Airman First Class Sabrina Zarate (left) and Senior Airman Melvin Williamson (right), 88th Communication Squadron server operations system administrators, perform routine maintenance on a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base computer server bank. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: How do we build a more modern architecture and what does it look like? What will it look like in 10 years?

Dana Deasy: I think what we’ve done with CVR is an absolute example of a modern architecture. If you say today, “what does modern computing look like?” whether it’s in the defense world, whether it’s in other agencies, the consumer world, it starts with an instantaneous ability to reach out, touch somebody, communicate with them, get information from Point A to Point B.

Then there is the whole idea of how machines will help us think more rapidly, help us take more decisions more rapidly in the future? That will be things like artificial intelligence. If we’re going to have those machines help us think more rapidly, take better decisions, then our quality of data is going to have to change dramatically in terms of how we bring it together. The Joint All Domain discussion is a real perfect example, in that, you’ve got to create that instantaneous ability for war fighters to communicate. They’ve got to have the right data and they’re going to want the assistance of machine learning or artificial intelligence.

All of these elements, we were working already. I think this element of how you get people connected at large scale was just accelerated in COVID, but we were already on that journey towards that modern architecture.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: When we talk about with Joint All Domain C2 (Command and Control) you’ll find we are looking 10 years out when we’re thinking, but the bottom line is we want to be able to securely talk anywhere on the planet at any level of classification. We want all of the data that Mr. Deasy’s talking about and, quite frankly, we’ve got to have a tablet or something that’s going to give us the ability to manage it.

I anticipate it’ll be managed by a series of apps that you’ll either turn on or turn off to rapidly overcome whatever event you’re in, the bottom-line is we have an on-ramp and it was actually aided by the COVID crisis.

Airman magazine: As the increasing number of cyber actors makes our systems vulnerable, how do we defend the cyber infrastructure? How do you build retaliation credibility in cyber?

Dana Deasy: Well I’ll speak to the defense side of this. You’re going to have to experiment and try new things, especially where you’re dramatically changing and pivoting your workforce – in this case, you know, pre-COVID we were maybe 90, 95,000 people any given day around the DoD world were teleworking and you’re now sitting over a million.

That right there is going to force you to step back and have a really hard, tough conversation about what defense looks like in that world? And I think there is defense around how you monitor. How do you collect the intel to know about our adversary’s intent? How do you educate the end user on their responsibilities of what they need to do differently when working from home?

Throughout this, we always asked ourselves adversary intent; do we have the tools to be able to monitor what’s going on with the adversary and are we feeling confident that our workforce and the men and women that serve this great country know exactly what’s expected of them?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say the holistic nature of taking on offense and defense and then operating the net is making sure that we’re exploiting our advantages and negating any of their strengths while you go forward.

On the defensive standpoint, you’ll rapidly find that we need to reduce their attack platforms – so cyber hygiene, education, reduce their infrastructure, reduce their tools, their capabilities and you do that from publicly exposing those tools or where you’ve seen us publicly expose their hackers on the defensive side.

On the attack side – on the offensive side – you’ll see opportunities, on-ramps from defense to defense and going back and forth. I love football, but it’s not football, it really is hockey. I like the hockey analogy because it goes a lot faster and it hurts bad if you don’t do it right. The bottom-line is going back and forth along those lines, there’s great opportunities and the whole time you’re trying to ensure that you have access and the capability to communicate where your bad guys do not.

The New Normal
Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md. U.S. Air Force photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.

Airman magazine: How critical is cyber to the future of the U.S. deterrent capability? How do we communicate our capabilities in order to deter adversaries?

Dana Deasy: Well first, you’ve got to buy into the premise that future warfare is going to be about who has superior technology. Then you then go to the next premise – then it’s all going to be about who can take out, disable, disrupt, spoof that technology. That becomes completely paramount.

I firmly believe that we’re looking to a future where everything that we are building, has to start with the mindset of technology’s going to be our superiority and how do we protect that, defend that and how do we use that technology, not only the connect side, but the cyber side to put us in advantageous position at all times?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: We’ve been very clear our strategy is to do Joint All Domain C2 – air, land, sea, space, cyber. Unfortunately, I think some people have been confused. They would probably pick the worst analogy, which is nuclear weapons and superimpose it on cyber and there’s nothing that could be worse, because they’re two completely different worlds.

The capabilities to be able to produce a nuclear weapon or a cyber effect are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The reason why I bring that up is they carry that analogy further and they believe that we will only play this game of responding in kind, like mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons. That is a false premise and could lead people down a very, very wrong road.

In 2011, we made very clear if you have cyber effects that are on the same level as any other weapon, we may come back at you not with cyber, but with some other kinetic strategy. A lot of people who were banking on this in-kind game plan rapidly destroyed all of their war plans, because they thought they could hit us and they could absorb our cyber blow; both are bad premises.

I think when you have the synergistic nature of air, land, sea, space and cyber and not separate them out, then it’s just another tool in your toolbox. You’re not going to put a round peg in a square hole, you are going to use the precise weapon in the precise scenario, for the precise solution.

The New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, modernizing of cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. U.S. Air Force photo illustration // Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron

Airman magazine: Is there anything else you would like to add about or discussions today that we have not asked?

Dana Deasy: I think that the Department of Defense, or maybe just the government in general, sometimes can get a bad rap about its inflexibility; that it doesn’t have agility. It doesn’t know how to think out of the box and doesn’t know how to innovate and it doesn’t have speed.

I mean, you do not take Department of Defense and move it to a million plus people working from home with like capabilities that there were in the office, and collaborating as if they were still sitting in the office, unless you can do that quickly with agility and with real innovation. I think this just demonstrated that we have incredibly talented people and, when set free, to have to do something in a completely tight, compressed time frame, great, great results will come.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just end it with one of the key strengths for the United States. We have friends. 

You know, our adversaries have clients. When we watched during COVID they threatened them. Taking large swathes of their property because they weren’t paying their bills or even the manipulation of their free press.

The compare and contrast model; we start defending forward in cyber is we start sharing information, we learn in both directions, that is our strength, our partnerships, with all of our friends around the world. When you think about a realm of warfare where it is a manipulation of code or tactics, techniques and procedures that can rapidly get into our attack access in the United States, one of the quickest counters is ensuring that you have friends with whom you share intel. Then you push the defense further from your borders and it rapidly provides you an information advantage for yourself and all of your partners.

Airman magazine: I always like to end with asking how proud are you of the men and women that you are working with and is there anything that you would like to say directly to them?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we kicked off the task force, it looked like an insurmountable task. You know, somebody said “Well you can’t get a million plus people working from home?” There were so many challenges. No one ever walked into any of the meetings and had an attitude of “I’m not sure we could do that.” The Department of Defense is at its best when its back’s up against the wall and it truly has to deliver on something that appears to be insurmountable. And I think this was a great example of everybody coming together across services, civilians, contractors, our industry partners and doing truly extraordinary things.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would just say I’m truly humbled. Mr. Deasy hit it right on the head. I love telling a story, especially to our younger airmen, when I’m traveling around, they always have an app for me and it’s always wonderful. One Airman showed me (an app) and I was wowing over this piece and he goes “Sir, do you want to know what I call it?”  I go “sure, what do you call it?” And he goes, “Stonewall.” And I’m like “cool, how did you come up with Stonewall?” And he goes, “because that’s the reception it’s going to get from my boss when I show it to him.”

I buried my head in the sand and I was like, “god dang it” cause generally the very high (ranking) and the very low (ranking) get it, it’s these curmudgeons in between. To Mr. Deasy’s point, what I have found is this has been a learning opportunity where curmudgeons are getting smaller and smaller. We’ve forced them into an uncomfortable space and they’re excelling.

Every day, I am nothing but impressed and very proud to be on this team, because these guys are very adaptable and that is probably why I feel very good about a future fight. I know we’ll outthink them, we’ll outproduce them and we’ll make whatever changes we have to make sure that we have victory at the end.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

2020 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows named

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation named its newest class of fellows who will represent caregivers at a time plagued by the coronavirus.

Thirty military and veteran caregivers representing 23 states join 225 past and present Dole Caregiver Fellows in bringing attention to the plight of 5.5 million “hidden heroes” that provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans every year, according to a foundation press release.


“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veterans, we are grateful for their passion, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”

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Steve Scwab speaks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s “Hidden Heroes Among Us” event in 2019. (Military Families)

Through the program, caregivers receive support, training and a platform to address the most pressing issues facing the community. They also share their stories directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith, and nonprofit sectors.

Mari Linfoot, a 2020 Dole Caregiver Fellow, is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Gary, who was paralyzed during a mechanical helicopter failure in 2008. She says there’s a whole phase of just trying to figure out how to be a caregiver.

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Mari Linfoot and her husband Gary. (Military Families)

“It takes a long time. I kind of wish someone would have sat me down and said, ‘Don’t be hard on yourself because for the next year-to-three-years you’re going to be trying to figure life out, and that’s OK,'” she said. “You just want to fix everything and you just can’t fix some things.”

At the time of the accident, Mari had a successful real estate company. Due the demands for Gary’s care, she has now taken on a round-the-clock role as his caregiver.

“Gary went through a really dark emotional time. He was so good about putting a happy face on and he didn’t complain, but inside he was just dying. He started engaging in speaking at schools and businesses and it helped bring him out of it,” she said.

The pair travels for Gary’s speaking engagements where they discuss patriotism and technology that helps him get around, including an IBOT wheelchair that raises him to eye level and climbs stairs, and an exoskeleton that he used to walk their daughter down the aisle.

Regular travel challenges include rental cars or hotel rooms that are not accessible for Gary, despite multiple confirmations.

“Life is good. I can’t say life isn’t good. It’s just a lot. Everything is so much more detailed. It requires much more work and thought,” she said. “You have to count on other people doing what they’re supposed to do. You have less chance to take things into your own hands.”

In addition to speaking engagements, the couple founded the American Mobility Project to provide equipment and adaptive products after seeing a need within the civilian population. They also help connect veterans and military members with resources.

Anne Way, an Army Reserve spouse, was named to the Dole Fellowship community for her endurance and involvement.

In 2002, her husband, Pete, took shrapnel to the knee. Through multiple episodes of sepsis and flesh-eating bacteria, his knee was found to contain Middle Eastern strains causing infections. After years of complications and dozens of surgeries, Pete, a nurse practitioner, decided to amputate his leg.

“I trusted his opinion. We felt almost a relief. I was worried I was going to lose him multiple times, so I thought if we can just get rid of the leg, we can keep this from happening again,” Anne said.

In years since, he underwent innovative surgery to help his prosthetic, for which he’s still receiving treatment.

“It wasn’t the instant fix we were hoping for, but we’re working on it.”

Anne, who lives in Georgia, retired from her teaching career and now works as a full-time caregiver.

“I’m probably not as nurturing as some wives,” she laughed. “I encourage him to get up and go.”

“The biggest thing is being that support to him and understanding his physical needs.”

To promote healthy movement, even through amputation, the Ways have started a nonprofit biking community. Vets Fight On works with the VA and Forces United to provide hand and recumbent bikes. She said not only is the exercise aspect helpful, but it allows military members to connect socially.

“I’m looking forward to bringing support and awareness to others. I didn’t look for it and that would have been extremely rewarding to have that encouragement,” she said. “Let’s focus on the positive going forward and unite.”

Visit http://hiddenheroes.org for more information on Dole Foundation programs for caregivers.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

How to support the military community without leaving home

COVID-19 has left people facing new levels of stress and feelings of isolation. This may be especially true for members of the military, veterans, and their families. But as the need for support has grown so has a desire to pitch in, particularly among those finding themselves with more time available as get-togethers and social outings are curtailed. 

Enter virtual volunteering: a way to give back to the military community while following social distancing and other healthy practices.

Amy Palmer is president and CEO of Soldiers’ Angels , a national nonprofit organization that has been providing aid, comfort and resources to service members, wounded heroes, veterans of all generations, and military families since 2003. In 2019 alone, some 50,000 volunteers, or “angels,” devoted more than 170,000 hours to the cause, offering support to almost half a million members of the military community. 

“When the COVID-19 crisis began,” Palmer says, “we quickly pivoted, highlighting activities that volunteers could do in their pj’s at home.” 

Here are some of the virtual volunteering opportunities available to angel team members or on your own:

Write letters. Tired of communicating by email or tweet? Writing letters to service members deployed overseas is a low-commitment way to brighten mail call. 

Send a care package of homemade goodies. Pandemic baking, as many of us have learned, may be creatively satisfying, but it’s not all that kind to our waistline. As part of an Angel Bakers Team, you can enjoy the pleasure of whipping up a batch of your celebrated cookies, brownies or scones and then ship the sugary treats to service members who are eager for a taste of home. 

Put your sewing machine to use. There’s an ongoing need for masks at VA hospitals across the country. With just basic sewing skills you can help front-line healthcare workers protect themselves, their co-workers and their patients against the spread of COVID-19.  This video shows how to sew the preferred type of mask that has a pocket for the insertion of a filter.

Make a no-sew blanket. You don’t need a sewing machine, a needle or even thread to make a cozy blanket for injured service members, a military mom who’s snuggling with a newborn, or deployed troops who will welcome warmth from home. The video on this website demonstrates how to make the blanket with only two large pieces of fleece fabric, scissors and tape, and, ideally, a helper. 

Weave paracord bracelets. Tucked into a care package, a paracord bracelet may seem like a small token but it can be a valuable survival tool. Unraveled, the nylon line of cord can be put to use as a fishing line, boot laces, floss or even emergency sutures. Most likely, this won’t be necessary, and the homemade paracord bracelet will remain a treasured item that service members carry on them at all times. Crafting these bracelets can be a fun at-home activity for the whole family or a company-wide volunteer action. 

“The bracelets take about 15 minutes to make,” Palmer said. “Companies like Lockheed Martin have sent us thousands.” (Paracord bracelets for military service members must be made from MIL-SPEC cording in the colors black, olive green, tan, or camo only.) 

Help pamper a deployed female warrior as part of a Ladies of Liberty team. The all-female volunteers send a monthly care package to an “adopted lady” that includes personal care items, treats like body scrubs and facial masks, haircare products and leisure materials like books, magazines and adult coloring books and colored pencils. 

For the holidays

Gather Treats for Troops. Want to put all those packets of candy corn and fun-sized chocolate-peanut bars to better use than keeping your kids up at night from a sugar rush? Donate excess Halloween candy, or if you’re a small-business owner, become a candy collection site, so our heroes can enjoy a sweet reprieve.

Join the Holiday Stockings for Heroes program. Stuff holiday stockings with small gifts like beef jerky, playing cards, puzzle bucks, holiday candy, caps, travel-sized games and a handwritten note and drawings from the kids. 

Adopt a military family for the holidays. Military and veteran families often balance tight budgets, and those budgets might be stretched even more than usual with the pandemic leading to furloughs, job losses or reductions in hours. The Adopt-a-Family program is a way to spread some cheer during the winter holidays. For each family adopted, you’ll be expected to provide a minimum $50 – $100 grocery gift card for a holiday meal and gifts for each child in the family. Can’t adopt a military family on your own? Consider teaming up with another family, or with members of your church, workplace or community group.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 13th

Awh yeah! It’s Army-Navy Game time, folks! You’d think troops would hate the game, but we f*cking love it! Any other day of the year and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single troop who’d actively give a damn about a bunch of academy soon-to-be butter bars who finally show up for some sports PT. But nope! It’s about branch pride this weekend!

Even the Marines full-heartedly accept they’re apart of the Navy for one afternoon. That entirely depends on if they win, of course. Vegas odds put the Midshipmen at a slightly better chance of winning after the Army went on that five-game losing streak, but they’ve come back from worse odds.

If Navy does win, they get the Commander-in-Chief Trophy back at Annapolis. If Army wins, they retain the trophy because the wins are spread out like it’s a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style match-up since Army already lost to Air Force… Wait a second…


That was almost six weeks ago? Huh. Even when the Army is having a sh*tty year, we all kind of forget about the Air Force Academy… Anyways, here are some memes.

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

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(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

For everyone crying out “but what about your pro-mask seals?” I’d like to politely ask you when was the last time you saw anyone actually carry a pro-mask with them out on patrol in an accessible position and not in the bottom of a ruck (or in the vehicle) for any reason other than the TOCroach LT randomly tagging along. 

Exactly.

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(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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(Meme via @CollegeGameDay Twitter)

Go Army, Beat Navy!

It’s technically a photo from last year but since it’s still relevant and I’ve held onto it since then, so it makes it in. Bite me.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ tells the story of a smaller drama that had a large impact on the outcome of WWII

Much has been written about the major set piece dramas of World War 2. D-Day, El Alamein, and Stalingrad are battles that are well known. Their stories grow into legend with each recounting. But one of the things I find most fascinating about WW2 is there were thousands of smaller dramas both during and in between the major battles. Many of these episodes are barely known except for the most dedicated historian but occasionally the consequences had an effect on the course of the war. ‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ by Damien Lewis is a book about one of those important smaller dramas which had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the war.


In 1941-42, the British Bomber Command had a big problem. It’s raids across the English Channel were being intercepted and losses were becoming staggeringly high. The British began to strongly suspect and later gained evidence that the Germans had very advanced radars along the coast. This critical advantage had to be neutralized. To accomplish this goal, the British needed to get their hands on one of these systems. So, they turned to their Airborne forces.

Airborne operations were a new thing and after German successes in France, Belgium, and Norway, the British began to muster their own paratroopers. These specially trained troops were given the mission to conduct a daring nighttime raid on a coastal radar site at a point in the war where the Germans were at the height of their military power. 120 paratroopers dropped in the middle of the night and made their way to the objective: the sophisticated German Wurzburg radar. They disassembled the radar under fire and fought their way onto a beach and into a boat, where they were successfully met by the Royal Navy. The analysis of the radar was instrumental in allowing the British to devise countermeasures which allowed them to significantly reduce their losses.

Damien Lewis’s book is an excellent account of raid’s events but more important is how he tells the story. Rather than a dry recounting of the history of the Paras and the raid, Lewis recognizes tells this story as a human drama of daring and bravery. The personalities of the raiders and the challenges they faced makes this book highly readable and gives it a page-turning quality.

Lewis begins with the story of an earlier raid: Operation Colossus. This was a prior company-sized Airborne raid on an objective in Italy which was regarded as a failure at the time. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that Airborne operations were new, incredibly high-risk, and had their detractors. After Operation Colossus, it wasn’t certain Operation Biting would be approved, and if it had failed, British Airborne operations might not have recovered. But Churchill understood the value of these “ungentlemanly” raids and how pivotal they could be in neutralizing Germany’s advances. Including Operation Colossus frames them as not just operations but as justification for an entire way of fighting the enemy. It’s two amazing Airborne stories in one book.

In summary, Damien Lewis’ book was one of the most readable World War 2 history books I have read in years and it has inspired me to put some of his other titles on by reading list. I strongly suspect if you give this book a chance, you’ll end up doing the same as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pararescuemen stay sharp while training off the coast of Italy

Two boats idled together in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Northern Italy, battered mercilessly by the waves as eight pairs of eyes searched the sky. The silence stretched for long moments, a hint of anticipation on the cool sea breeze before a radio crackled to life.

There would be three jumpers in five minutes, transmitted the radio. The information was passed between the occupants of both boats as they caught first sight of the approaching aircraft.

Members of the 57th Rescue Squadron participated in over-water parachute training. July 9, 2019, with a dozen pararescuemen aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as eight more awaited their descent from below.


First out of the aircraft was a rigged alternate method zodiac, or RAMZ, an inflatable, motorized boat that the jumpers used once they made it to the water. As they worked on setting up their vehicle, the members in the support boats began pulling in the discarded parachutes to be repaired if necessary and reused in the future.

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Pararescueman assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachutes into the ocean during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

The 57th RQS participates in jump training at least once a quarter, over both land and sea, to keep their skills and knowledge sharp in case they are ever needed in an emergency. The training not only benefits the pararescuemen, but requires harmonization with the squadron’s support agencies and even other bases – in this case, the C-130 and its crew.

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Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac vessel during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“Just for us to do this training, it requires so much coordination from our support shops,” said Capt. Jordan, a combat rescue officer with the 57th RQS. “Just on the water we have boat drivers, people pulling in chutes and medical personnel. We are super grateful to have an amazing combat mission support section.”

Jumping on land is far different than jumping into the ocean, and carries different challenges – not only for the jumpers themselves but also for the support personnel down below.

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Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“On land, all you really have to worry about is another aircraft coming into your airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jared, a 57th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician and drop zone control officer. “On water, you have to worry about boats, airplanes and that you’re constantly moving. You have to go where the jumpers go, and then reset, come back to your position and get ready for the next jumpers.”

Through successful support and coordination, the 57th RQS was able to carry out the required training needed in order to remain proficient in their job, providing day or night personnel recovery operations in any condition, during peace or war.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A growing body of research indicates that there are likely billion of Earth-like planets that we haven’t yet discovered.

That’s good news for astronomers seeking alien life. Since Earth is our only example of a life-bearing world, scientists try to pinpoint planets like ours when they search for life elsewhere.

That’s what NASA’s Kepler space telescope set out to do. Kepler scanned the skies from 2009 to 2018, and it found over 4,000 planets outside our solar system. A dozen or so of these planets seem like prime real estate for life.

Kepler’s data has produced a growing body of research that indicates there are likely billions more Earth-like planets that we haven’t discovered.

Here’s why scientists are starting to think planets like Earth might be common.


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Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

When astronomers peer across the cosmos for potential outposts of alien life, they look for planets like Earth.

That means a rocky planet that’s roughly the size of Earth. Scientists haven’t exactly defined this size range, since they don’t yet know how big rocky planets can be.

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The habitable zone, or “Goldilocks zone,” around a star is where a planet is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water.

(NASA)

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This artist’s concept illustrates the idea that rocky worlds like the inner planets in our solar system may be plentiful, and diverse, in the universe.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

A handful of recent discoveries shows that Earths could be common in the universe.

That means alien life could be common, too.

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An illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

(NASA)

Most of what we know about exoplanets comes from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Kepler, which first launched in 2009, retired last year after it ran out of fuel. NASA passed the planet-hunting torch to the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April 2018.

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From the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly took this photo of Earth and the Milky Way. He posted it to Twitter on Aug. 9, 2015.

(NASA/Scott Kelly)

Based on Kepler’s findings, one NASA scientist estimated that our galaxy alone contains 1 billion Earth-like planets.

Astrophysicist Natalie Batalha sent these rough calculations to the Washington Post in 2015. She noted that it was a conservative estimate.

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This artist’s concept of the Milky Way shows the galaxy’s two major arms and two minor arms attached to the ends of a thick central bar.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since then, further research has indicated that the Milky Way could harbor as many as 10 billion Earths.

In a study published in August, researchers estimated that an Earth-like planet orbits one in every four sun-like stars.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet on Feb. 12, 2019.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

Those researchers didn’t want to rely solely on the planets Kepler found. That telescope’s method is better at detecting large planets (like Jupiter) than small planets (like Earth).

That means that Kepler data probably underestimates the number of Earth-like planets in the cosmos.

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In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth. This May 9, 2016 transit lasted seven-and-a-half-hours.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein)

That’s because Kepler used the “transit method.” It watched for tiny dips in a star’s brightness, caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Larger planets obstruct more of their stars’ light, making them easier to detect. Plus, Kepler’s method was biased toward small, dim stars about one third the mass of our sun.

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A multi-frequency all-sky image of the universe’s background radiation.

(ESA/ LFI HFI Consortia)

So Ford’s team built a simulation of a universe like ours and “observed” its stars as Kepler would have.

The simulation gave the scientists a sense of how many exoplanets Kepler would have detected in each hypothetical universe, and which kinds. They then compared that data to what the real Kepler telescope detected in our universe, to estimate the abundance of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

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This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from nearby one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(SO/M. Kornmesser)

The result: up to 10 billion rocky, Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

“There are significant uncertainties in what range of stars you label ‘sun-like,’ what range of orbital distances you consider to be ‘in the habitable zone,’ what range of planet sizes you consider to be ‘Earth-like,'” Eric Ford, a professor of astrophysics and co-author of the study, told Business Insider in August 2019. “Given those uncertainties, both 5 and 10 billion are reasonable estimates.”

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An illustration of the binary star system Sirius. Sirius A (left) is the brightest star in the night sky of Earth, and it has a small blue companion called Sirius B.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon)

Many of those planets could be Earth-like in other ways, too. Last week, a study found that 87% of Earth-like planets in two-star systems should have a stable axis tilt like Earth’s.

“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars,” Gongjie Li, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems.”

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The surface of Mars.

(NASA)

That stable tilt is crucial for life on Earth. The tilt of Mars’s axis changes wildly over tens of thousands of years, creating drastic shifts in global climate that could prevent life from taking hold.

Some scientists think Mars’s changing axial tilt contributed to the disappearance of its atmosphere.

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A star like our sun dies by casting off its outer layers of gas, leaving only the star’s hot core behind.

(NASA/ESA/K. Noll)

In an autopsy of six dead stars, researchers found that the shredded remains of rocky planets contained oxygen and other elements found in rocks on Earth and Mars.

The researchers used telescope data to calculate how much the iron in these rocks had oxidized — the process where iron chemically bonds with oxygen and rusts.

“The fact that we have oceans and all the ingredients necessary for life can be traced back to the planet being oxidized as it is. The rocks control the chemistry,” Edward Young, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “We have just raised the probability that many rocky planets are like the Earth, and there’s a very large number of rocky planets in the universe.”

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An artist’s representation of Venus with land and water.

(NASA)

Earths might even be common in our own solar system. Venus may have had oceans and a climate like Earth’s for billions of years.

In September 2019, researchers presented the results of five different simulations of the climate history of Venus. In all five scenarios, the planet maintained temperatures between 20 and 50 degrees Celsius for up to 3 billion years.

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NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this colorized picture of Venus on Feb. 14, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The researchers think that a mysterious catastrophe about 700 millions years ago transformed Venus into the uninhabitable hothouse it is today.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Michael Way, a NASA scientist and study co-author, said in a press release.

It could have been magma bubbling up from below Venus’s surface, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That would have trapped enough heat to reach the broiling surface temperatures that average 462 degrees Fahrenheit today.

“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today,” Way added.

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On the morning of June 22, 2019, astronauts in the ISS captured the plume of ash and gases rising from the erupting Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.

(NASA)

Even that susceptibility to disaster is, in fact, quite Earth-like.

A supervolcano eruption or asteroid impact could one day make our planet uninhabitable. That could be the end of life on this Earth, but the research shows there may be plenty more Earth-like planets to spare.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Delta finds its best counter-terrorists with this ‘Long Walk’

When aspiring operators are being screened for selection into Delta Force, a collection of the most elite soldiers in the Army, they have to pass a series of rigorous and challenging tests, including a ruck march that they begin with no announced distance, no announced end time, and no encouragement. If they can complete this grueling ruck march, they will face a selection board and possibly join “The Unit.”

If they fall short, they go home.


Delta Force was pitched and built to be an American version of Britain’s Special Air Service by men like Col. Charles A. Beckwith, a Special Forces leader who had previously served as an exchange officer to the 22 SAS. Originally stood up in 1977, Delta was always focused on counter-terrorism.

Unsurprisingly, Beckwith got the nod to lead the unit he had helped pitch. He looked to the SAS itself for methods to winnow out those who might not be resolute at a key moment in battle, and embraced their stress event: a superhuman ruck march.

It wasn’t an insane distance, just 74 kilometers — or 40 miles. That’s certainly further than most soldiers will ever carry a ruck, but not an eye-watering number.

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Col. Charles A. Beckwith, the first commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.

(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

But SAS candidates conducted this training at the end of what were already-grueling weeks of training. And on the day of the final march, they were woken up early to start it.

But the real mind game was not telling the candidates how far they had to go or how far they had already gone. They were just told to ruck march to a set point that could be miles distant. Then, a cadre member at that point would give them a new point, and this would continue until the candidate had marched the full distance.

Beckwith told his superiors that he needed two years to stand up Delta Force, partially because he felt it was necessary to incorporate this and other elements of SAS selection and training into the pipeline, meaning that he would need to recruit hundreds of candidates to get just a few dozen final operators. President Jimmy Carter wanted a new anti-terrorism unit, and senior Army brass were initially loathe to wait two years to give it to him.

According to his book Delta Force: a memoir by the founder of the military’s most secretive special operations, Beckwith had to fight tooth and nail to get enough candidates and time for training, but he still refused to relax the standards. Beckwith successfully argued that, to make a unit as capable or better than the SAS, the Army would have to fill it with men as tough or better.

This couldn’t just be men great at shooting or land navigation or even ruck marching. It had to be those people who would keep pushing, even when it was clearly time to quit.

To make his argument, he pointed to cases where capable men had failed to take appropriate action because, as Beckwith saw it, their resolve had failed. He pointed to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where great German marksmen failed to take out hostage takers early in the terror attack because they simply didn’t pull the trigger.

Beckwith needed guys who could pull the trigger, he knew that the SAS process delivered that, and he didn’t want to risk a change from the SAS mold that might leave Delta with people too reluctant to get the job done during a fight.

And so, the “Long Walk” was born into Army parlance. This is that final ruck march of selection. It’s 40 miles long, it’s conducted on the last day of training when candidates are already physically and mentally completely exhausted, and the rucksacks weigh 70 pounds.

Oh, and there is an unpublished time limit of 20 hours. And candidates can’t march together, each gets their own points and has to walk them alone. And, like in the SAS version, they don’t actually ever know the full course, only their next point.

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Members of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta guard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

(U.S. Army)

Finally, while the first classes conducted the Long Walk at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, later iterations had to conduct the exercise in the mountains of West Virginia, adding to the pain and exhaustion.

Even men like future Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who came to the course after the existence and general distance of the Long Walk were known, talked about how mentally challenging the uncertainty would be. He lost 15 pounds in the tough training that led to the march, and then he struggled on the actual event.

In his book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, Boykin says that he was exhausted by the 8-hour mark. Having started before dawn, he would still have to walk deep into the night with his heavy ruck to be successful, praying that every point was his last.

But the next point wasn’t the last. Nor was the one after that, or the one after that. The cadre assigning the points cannot cheerlead for the candidate, nor can they tell the candidate if they’re doing well or if they’re marching too fast. Either the candidate pushes themself to extreme physical and mental limits and succeeds without help or encouragement, or they don’t.

In Boykin’s class of 109, only about 25 people even made it to the Long Walk, and plenty more washed out during that test. Freezing in the weather and exhausted from the weight, terrain, and distance, Boykin did make it to the end of the course. But, interestingly, even completing the prior training and the Long Walk does not guarantee a slot in Delta. Instead, soldiers still have to pass a selection board, so some people train for months or years, are marched to exhaustion every day for a month during training, have to complete the Long Walk, and then they get turned away by the board, are not admitted, and don’t become capital “O” Operators.

Delta Force has undoubtedly made America more lethal and more flexible when it comes to missions, but there are strict standards that ensure that only the most fit soldiers can compete in this space. And the Long Walk forces everyone but the most tenacious out.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much US troops are paid according to their rank

How much are US troops paid?

The answer to that question depends on their rank, time in service, location of duty station, family members, and job specialty — just to name a few.

Other benefits, like government healthcare and tax-free portions of their pay, help service members stretch their earnings a bit farther than civilian counterparts.


To give you an idea, we broke down their monthly salary, or base pay, for each rank. We estimated their pay rate based on how many years they’ve typically served by the time they reach that rank — many service members spend more time in each rank than we’ve calculated, while some troops spend less time and promote more quickly.

We also didn’t include factors like housing allowance because they vary widely, but these are often a large portion of their compensation. We also didn’t include warrant officers, whose years of service can vary widely.

Each military branch sets rules for promotions and implements an “up or out” policy, which dictates how long a service member can stay in the military without promoting.

The full military pay chart can be found here.

Here is the typical annual base pay for each rank.

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A drill instructor shows Marine recruits proper techniques during martial arts training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. While they are in boot camp, service members are paid minimally — but their paychecks will increase incrementally as they gain experience.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christian Garcia)

E-1: ,172

E-1 is the lowest enlisted rank in the US military: Airman Basic (Air Force), Private (Army/Marine Corps), Seaman Recruit (Navy). Service members usually hold this rank through basic training, and automatically promote to the next rank after six months of service.

Rounded to the nearest dollar, base pay (salary) starts at id=”listicle-2629413157″,554 per month at this rank. After four months of service, pay will increase to id=”listicle-2629413157″,681 per month.

The military can demote troops to this rank as punishment.

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These sailors’ uniforms indicate a seaman apprentice, petty officer 3rd class, and seaman.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio Perez)

E-2: ,608

Service members automatically promote to the E-2 paygrade — Airman (Air Force), Private (Army), Private 1st Class (Marine Corps), Seaman Apprentice (Navy) — after 6 months of service.

Their pay increases to id=”listicle-2629413157″,884 per month.

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A Marine Lance Cpl. strums his guitar on the USS Kearsarge during a deployment.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

E-3: ,772

Promotion to the E-3 occurs automatically after 12 months of service. Airman 1st Class (Air Force), Private 1st Class (Army), Lance Corporal (Marine Corps), Seaman (Navy).

Basic pay is id=”listicle-2629413157″,981 at this rank, adding up to a 7 monthly increase in pay after one year on the job.

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Senior Airmen conduct a flag folding presentation during a retirement ceremony in 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

E-4: ,684

Although time in service requirements vary between each branch, service members who promote to E-4 typically have at least two years of service. Senior Airman (Air Force), Specialist/Corporal (Army), Corporal (Marine Corps), Petty Officer 3rd Class (Navy)

If an E-3 doesn’t advance in paygrade after two years, their pay will still increase to ,195 rounded to the nearest dollar.

For those who do make E-4 with two years, pay will increase to ,307 per month. Some service members will promote to the next rank after just one year at this paygrade — those who remain at the E-4 level will see a pay raise to ,432 per month after spending three years in service.

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E-5: ,136

Promotions are no longer automatic, but troops can advance to E-5 with as little as three years in service. Those ranks are Staff Sergeant (Air Force), Sergeant (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 2nd Class (Navy).

For these troops, their new paychecks will come out to ,678 per month.

Service members will commonly spend at least three years at this paygrade. While they do not advance in rank during that time, their pay will still increase along with their time in service.

Four years after enlistment, an E-5 will make ,804 per month. After six years of service, their pay will increase again — even if they do not promote — to ,001 per month.

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First class petty officers from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower participate in a community relations project. The logo on their t-shirts is an alteration of the Navy’s E-6 insignia, which shows an eagle perched on top of three inverted chevrons and the sailor’s job specialty badge.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco)

E-6: ,048

It is unusual for a service member to achieve the rank of E-6 — Technical Sgt. (Air Force), Staff Sgt. (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 1st Class (Navy) — with fewer than six years of service.

An “E-6 with six” takes home ,254 per month.

After another two years in the service, that will increase to ,543 in monthly salary, equating to approximately ,500 per year.

Achieving the next higher paygrade, E-7, before serving for 10 years is not unheard of but not guaranteed. If an E-6 doesn’t advance by then, they will still receive a pay raise, taking home ,656 a month.

Their next pay raise occurs 12 years after their enlistment date, at which point their monthly pay will amount to ,875.

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The late Marine and actor R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

(YouTube)

E-7: ,340

Achieving the coveted rank of E-7 — Master Sergeant (Air Force), Sgt. 1st Class (Army), Gunnery Sgt. (Marine Corps), Chief Petty Officer (Navy) — with fewer than 10 years of service is not common, but it can be done.

Those who achieve this milestone will be paid ,945 a month, increased to ,072 per month after reaching their 10-year enlistment anniversary.

Some service members retire at this paygrade — if they do, their pay will increase every two years until they become eligible to retire. When they reach 20 years, their pay will amount to ,798 per month — or ,576 yearly.

The military places a cap on how long each service member can spend in each rank. Commonly referred to as “up or out,” this means that if a service member doesn’t advance to the next rank, they will not be able to reenlist. While these vary between branches, in the Navy that cap occurs at 24 years for chief petty officers.

A chief with 24 years of service makes ,069 per month.

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A US Navy senior chief petty officer’s cover, with the emblem of an anchor and its chain, USN, and a silver star.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class James Foehl)

E-8: ,884

Service members may promote to E-8 — Senior Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Air Force), 1st Sgt. or Master Sgt. (Army), Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Marine Corps), Senior Chief Petty Officer (Navy) —with as little as 12 years of service.

At that point, they will receive ,657 per month.

Troops who retire as an E-8 after 20 years of service will take home a monthly salary of ,374 — or ,488 per year.

If they stay in past that point, they will receive raises every two years.

An E-8 with 28 years in the service makes ,076 monthly.

The Army’s up-or-out policy prevents more than 29 years of service for each 1st Sgt. or Sgt. Maj.

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The Chief Master Sergeant insignia is seen on jackets prepared for an induction ceremony. Less than 1% of US Air Force enlisted personnel are promoted to the rank.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randy Burlingame)

E-9: ,960

E-9s have anywhere from 15 to 30 years of experience, although few selected for specific positions may exceed 30 years of service. Their titles are Chief Master Sgt. (Air Force), Sgt. Maj. (Army), Master Gunnery Sgt. or Sgt. Maj. (Marine Corps), Master Chief Petty Officer (Navy).

Service members who achieve this rank with 15 years of experience will be paid ,580 per month.

They’ll receive their next pay raise when they reach 16 years, and take home ,758 monthly.

After 20 years, they will take home ,227 — that’s ,724 yearly when they reach retirement eligibility.

Some branches allow E-9s to stay in the military up to 32 years, at which point they will make ,475 — or ,700 per year.

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Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers celebrate during their 2018 graduation from the US Naval Academy.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Chief Elliott Fabrizio)

O-1: ,256

Compared to enlisted service members with the same amount of experience, military officers make considerably more money.

A freshly commissioned O-1 — 2nd Lt. (Army/Marine Corps/Air Force), Ensign (Navy) — earns ,188 per month in base pay alone.

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A US Marine 1st Lt. takes the oath of office during his promotion ceremony.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

O-2: ,208

Officers are automatically promoted to O-2 after two years of service. This is a highly anticipated promotion, as it marks one of the largest individual pay raises officers will see during their careers. Those ranks are 1st Lt. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. j.g. (Navy).

An O-2 earns ,184 per month, which comes out to ,208 a year.

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A US Army captain waits for a simulated attack during training in Wiesbaden, Germany.

(US Army photo by Paul Hughes)

O-3: ,052

Officers will receive a pay raise after reaching three years in service.

Using the Army’s average promotion schedule, officers will achieve the next rank automatically after four years in the service.

New captains and lieutenants, with four years of service, make ,671 per month. At this rank, officers will receive pay raises every two years.

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A Navy lieutenant commander talks with pilots from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 from the USS Ponce while the ship is deployed to the Arabian Gulf in 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Peter Blair)

O-4: ,832

By the time they reach the rank of O-4, military officers will have spent an average of 10 years in the service. Maj. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. Cmdr. (Navy)

A major or lieutenant commander with a decade of experience takes home ,236 per month, or just under ,832 a year. Officer pay continues to increase with every two years of additional service.

O-4 pay is capped at ,074 a month, so if an officer wants to take home a six-figure salary — additional pay, bonuses and allowances aside — they’ll have to promote to O-5.

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Lt. Col. Goldie, the only US Air Force therapy dog, wears a purple ribbon in support of domestic violence awareness month in October 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

O-5: 5,012

Officers typically spend at least 17 years in the military before promoting to O-5.

They’ll take home ,751 per month until their 18-year commissioning anniversary, at which point they’ll earn ,998 per month. Those ranks are Lt. Col. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Cmdr. (Navy).

After 18 years in the military, officers receive annual compensation of nearly 8,000 a year.

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Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a Marine Corps legend, circa 1950.

(US Marine Corps Archives)

O-6: 0,092

“Full bird” colonels and Navy captains, with an average 22 years of service, are compensated ,841 per month.

Officers who do not promote to become a general or admiral must retire after 30 years of service. At this point, they will be making ,668 a month, or roughly 0,000 per year.

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An Air Force pararescueman unfurls the brigadier general flag for US Air Force Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

O-7: 5,820

Promotion to brigadier general and rear admiral depends on a wide range of variables, including job availability.

Each of these ranks carries its own mandatory requirement; similar to the enlisted “up or out” policies, officers must promote to the next higher rank or retire.

Officers who have spent less than five years at the lowest flag rank must retire after 30 years of service. Their last pay raise increased their monthly salary to ,985.

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Two Rear Admirals and a Captain salute during the national anthem.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich)

O-8: 4,572

Generals and admirals with two stars — Maj. Gen. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Rear Adm. (Navy) — must retire after their 35th year in the military.

At this point, they will be earning ,381 per month, or 4,572 a year.

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US Army Lt. Gen. Martin lays a wreath for President Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday. It takes the corporal in the image roughly half a year to earn the same amount Martin takes home every month.

(US Army photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

O-9: 9,600

Military officer pay is regulated and limited by US Code.

Both three- and four-star admirals and generals who stay in the service long enough will receive the maximum compensation allowed by the code. These ranks are vice admiral for the Navy and lieutenant general for the other branches.

Excluding additional pays, cost of living adjustments, and allowances, these officers make up to ,800 every month.

That’s about 9,600 a year.

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Retired Gen. James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, shares a story with Marines during a visit to a base in Hawaii.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Reece Lodder)

O-10: 9,600

Regardless of continued time in service, once a military officer achieves the four-star rank of general or admiral, they will no longer receive pay raises and are capped at ,800 per month.

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US service members across all branches conduct state funeral services for former President George H. W. Bush.

(US Army photo by Spc. James Harvey/)

Extra pays and allowances help take their salaries a bit further.

Base pay can seem stingy, especially at the lower ranks where enlisted receive around ,000 per year.

But troops receive a number of benefits and may qualify for extra allowances.

TRICARE Prime, the military’s primary healthcare package, is free for active duty troops — saving them the ,896 average annual premium for single payers.

When eligible to live off base, service members receive a basic allowance for housing (BAH), which increases at each paygrade; the exact amount is set based on location and whether the individual has any children. Service members also receive allowances to help cover the cost of food and in expensive duty locations receive a cost of living allowance (COLA). Enlisted personnel also receive a stipend to help them pay for their uniforms.

Any portion of a service member’s salary that is labeled as an “allowance” is not taxed by the government, so service members may only have to pay taxes for roughly two-thirds of their salary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 hilarious memes that actually teach military history

Look, we get it, military history is one of the more exciting histories to learn, but it’s still a bunch of history lessons. All the descriptions of amazing heroics and bold battle plans are watered down by the years of failed diplomacy, post-war reconstructions, and industrial build ups.

Luckily, we found these nine awesome military memes that hit a lot of the high notes:


At the start of World War I, people from all over the world were surprised to learn that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had triggered a series of dominoes that resulted in them needing to cross oceans and fight people they never met for confusing reasons. Extensive treaty networks and colonial relationships dragged country after country into what was originally a single territory’s attempt at revolution.

Yes, troops from New Zealand, Australia, and India were sent to fight for the British Empire against Germany and the other Centrists powers. French colonial forces did the same thing. Some battles were actually fought in those far-flung colonies, resulting in locals in places like Africa and southern Asia being surprised by sudden battles erupting around them.

Napoleon was one of the most capable and revolutionary military leaders in history, so much so that he was able to rise from commoner to first consul to Emperor of France. But then he forgot to win some battles and was exiled from France to the Isle of Elba.

But then he decided to leave Elba and win some battles again. That plan was short-lived because just about every kingdom in Europe agreed that Napoleon should be either dead or somewhere else, so they sent their best forces, generals, and admirals to make him either pretty dead or at least get him off the continent.

Napoleon was defeated again in 1815 and exiled some more, this time to the island of Saint Helena. He died there, partially thanks to arsenic-based home decor.

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(Piximus.net)

In case you don’t remember dates well, June 5, 1944, was the original date for D-Day, but it got postponed to June 6 due to weather, which is what this particular meme is referring to.

Speaking of the weather, the Allies had better weather reports than the Axis, so their top weatherman called for a few good, clear hours of decent seas on the morning of June 6 thanks to a break in a storm. Rommel and the Axis did not know about this break, and so they figured they could screw off and go to birthday parties and stuff.

Yeah, for real, Rommel left the beaches to go celebrate his wife’s birthday. The beach defense didn’t go perfectly for the Germans, and Hitler was facing a two-front war.

(Three, if you count fighting in Italy, which no one does because a bunch of the best forces in Italy were diverted to Operation Dragoon soon after the D-Day landings, so there were insufficient forces around to press the attack north quickly. They did tie up German Army Group C and eventually win, though.)

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(@avalonnicholls95)

But that new front in France was sort of hard to win. While most history classes talk about D-Day and then yada-yada to the Battle of the Bulge, those yada-yadas cover a lot of horrible fighting. The first big troubles came in the hedgerows just past the beaches.

The fields and gardens of Normandy were crisscrossed with hedges that formed thousands of tiny little enclosures, and soldiers had to punch through one right after another. Each enclosure could be defended by snipers, machine gunners, and other forces. The infantrymen and tankers couldn’t know whether an RPG team was waiting for them at every breach.

So, yeah, they took heavy losses.

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(Reddit)

While we love to point out that the British Imperial Army was the largest on Earth during the Revolution, Britain couldn’t afford to actually send many to the colonies to put down the rebellion. But the troops they did send were some of the best trained in the world, and they did have thousands of high-grade mercenaries.

British forces, counting their American Loyalists, did typically outnumber their U.S. counterparts, but thanks to weapons and powder sent from France, America had a fighting chance. Gen. George Washington made plenty of mistakes, but he had a keen military mind and learned from each one.

As his men gained experience, he began to achieve some stunning victories while also avoiding defeat. And, for most insurgencies, avoiding defeats is enough to eventually win. Britain got tired of fighting in what it saw as a backwater and bailed on the conflict. (Something very embarrassing for the men who had to surrender to Washington.)

Yup, Germany sank our ships and killed our civilians. But, in their defense, the U.S. was providing all sorts of materials to Allied combatants in World War I (and later in World War II). So, while the American government and military were “neutral” for most of the war, its industry was very much not neutral.

Germany, understandably, found this objectionable. But their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare just galvanized the American public, especially after the Lusitania was sunk.

So, bit by bit, Germany attacked American industry and people until the government and military did join the war. And then America started pouring 10,000 troops or more a day into Europe to fight Germany.

It went badly for Germany.

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(Piximus.net)

In Britain’s defense, declaring independence didn’t make America independent either. It was mostly the “drunken libertarian farmers and fishermen” thing mentioned before.

We’re not going to go through the whole American Revolution thing again.

Fun fact: China was once the hands-down most powerful nation on Earth. Its population benefited from the simple economics of old-time agriculture. Rice produced more calories per acre than wheat and other grains, and China’s rice lands were super productive. This allowed Chinese people to specialize more and make technological advances.

They invented all sorts of nifty stuff, including gunpowder. But then they focused on arts and culture, and they stopped focusing on technology or military investment. That, compounded with Britain smuggling metric tons of opium into the country, eventually broke China’s back.

Sure, they had advanced past torch-fired rockets long before America built its first F-22, but you get the point.

If you don’t know about White Death, Simo “Simuna” Häyhä, boy are you missing out. The Finnish sniper fought in the Winter War from November 1939 to March 1940. The Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands more troops, better equipment, and the benefit of knowing that no other nations in the area would join the war against them

Thanks to all of this, Russia … Wait, lost? Yeah, Russia took approximately 350,000 losses to Finland’s 70,000. This was partially thanks to Häyhä’s efforts, as the sniper killed more than five Soviets per day for 100 days. He wore a white mask to help him blend in with the snowfields, and he would hold snow in his mouth to prevent his breath fogging where Russian soldiers would see it.

Häyhä took a shot to the face in 1940 that ended his frontline career, but he survived until 2002.

Of course, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Soviet Union re-invaded Finland, capturing more Finnish territory and forcing Finland to pay many of the monetary costs of the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 video games veterans should co-op with their kids

Kids seem to grow up so fast, even faster when we’re deployed. It takes time for every military parent to reconnect with our children after being away for long periods of time. Adults are concerned with the endless cycle of responsibilities in our careers, marriage, and budgeting. Children on the other hand are concerned with missing you.

Phone and video calls may be enough for us but it may not be enough for them. The burdens we carry are worth it when we see their smiles, living in safe homes, and getting a good education. Little ones are immersed in a more digital reality than millennial parents when they were their age.

The bright side is that we can connect with them over games they’re interested in and you’ll be surprised how much you remember about gaming if you aren’t already playing solo. From their perspective, winning with your team is awesome — but winning with your dad is epic.


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Everything the light touches is our kingdom.

Mojang

Minecraft

The easiest way to describe Minecraft is that it’s digital Legos. It was developed by Mojang and has three modes: Survival, Creative, and Adventure. This game can be played on any platform or phone and has online capabilities.

Survival is straight forward where you gather supplies and build things to help you weather the elements or defeat enemies. Creative Mode makes you immune to damage and have access to every block (piece) in the game. In Adventure mode most blocks cannot be destroyed and it has a more roleplaying type of element to it, like Skyrim but with training wheels.

Minecraft has been used to teach kids about programming, coding, and Modding (creating custom characters, buildings, and effects) in schools as well. This game can be as easy or complicated as you want it to be. You’ll be surprised how fast they learn when taught in gamer speak.

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Cuphead and Mugman utilizing the talking guns concept.

StudioMDHR

Cuphead

Cuphead is a sidescroller game developed by StudioMDHR with Disneyesque graphics. The game was completely hand drawn to resemble the iconic animation styles of the 1920’s/1930’s and a complementary soundtrack. It doesn’t support online gameplay but if you’ve ever played Contra or Megaman, you’re going to kick ass at this game.

The levels have two modes: simple and regular. Boss fights and their patterns of attack change with the game difficulty. You can teach your child about strategy, attack pattern recognition, nurture hand-eye coordination, and teamwork. Together, your young protege will be unstoppable in Metroid, Mario, and Castlevania games.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! – Gameplay – Nintendo Treehouse: Live

youtu.be

Pokemon – Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee

Nintendo has the lion’s share on the nostalgia market and it’s console sales spike every time a new Pokemon game releases. If you remember picking your favorite starter in Professor Oak’s lab, you’re going to love going down memory lane with your tiny pokemon-master-in-training.

In the ancient days of Gamboy Pocket/Color, we had to battle and trade over a physical cable that connected our hand-held devices. Nowadays all trading and battling is done over the internet.

The latest game is a remake of Pokemon Yellow so you can still keep it old school with the original 151. There are a ton of differences from the Red and Blue but it will still hit your right in the feels.

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Dad: “Loot the gear.”

Daughter: “There’s someone there.”

*gunshots*

Dad: “Loot the gear.”

Epic Games

Fortnite

Fortnite is an online first/third person shooter in a battle royal arena. It’s like the old school shooters, 007 Golden Eye for example, where you find random weapons on the ground with the added twist that the map gets smaller.

There is a very high chance your child is already playing this game; it’s whats trendy with the younger player base. If you’re unsure if they play this game just turn to them right now and ask if they can do a Fortnite dance for you.

It has several game modes but the most common ones are team or solo battles. Players are able to build impromptu bases out of wood, cement, and metal to give them cover when fighting. This is a game where your old Halo badassery will elevate you to near God status in the eyes of your kids.

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“My dad can out snipe your dad.”

PUBG Corporation

PUBG

Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds (PUBG) is another battle royal game with the same principles as Fortnite, which is also this game’s competitor. The key differences are that you won’t be able to build bases and the graphics are more teen/adult oriented. Call of Duty is out gran’ ol’ man. PUBG is in.

Regardless of the games you choose to play, the important thing is that you have fun and bond with your children. We’re all busy and it’s hard to understand or care about what they think is important because you know what responsibilities really are important.

When you play games with your kids, you’ll know what they’re talking about when they’re excited about something — and they’ll know you give a sh*t. I still remember when I played Super Nintendo with my old man. Give your kids the gift my dad gave me: the precious memories of owning everyone else.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The day golf filmmaker Erik Anders Lang bonded with wounded vets

He’s a golfer, a filmmaker, a podcaster, and he has no problem swearing (which makes him cool in my book). There are worse people to hit 18 holes with.

When he set out to play at Rob Riggle’s InVETational Golf Classic, he was in for a different type of game. This one had a little more meaning as his team consisted of a couple of wounded warriors from Semper Fi Fund, a charity dedicated to supporting critically ill and catastrophically wounded service members and their families.


Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Lang’s teammates included 1st Sgt. Michael Barrett (U.S. Marines) and Sgt. Saul Martinez (U.S. Army Retired) — and they were cracking jokes before the first shot of the day. After the opening ceremony, hosted by U.S. Marine Rob Riggle himself, they were off, meeting up with 4-time long drive champion Frank Miller, sharing some wisdom, and, sadly, not winning a trip to Pebble Beach. But they were not winning in style.

I was there that day, and I have to say, it was refreshing to watch Lang’s experience of the event. I was working for We Are The Mighty, capturing footage, sharing the event on social media, and acting as MC for the awards ceremony in the evening.

In other words, I was working, so I didn’t get to see what it was like for everyone who came out to support Semper Fi Fund.

Lang’s video showed that the InVETational did exactly what we’d hoped it would do: raise money for a great cause, get people out of the house and into their bodies, and cross that military-civilian divide.

 

Lang’s dedication was more proof that Riggle’s tournament was a success: “This video is dedicated to those who have served. Please take a moment to experience the feeling of gratitude towards the men and women that have served in your country, whatever country that may be. No matter our differences, political, societal, or geographical, we all have golf.”

Check out the video to see these vets describe what golf means to them, especially after their injuries, and keep an eye out for the 2019 InVETational because it just keeps getting better.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An A-10 pilot describes what it’s like to protect troops under fire

As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.


There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB

www.youtube.com

Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.

He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.

But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.

The New Normal

Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)

And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.

While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.

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