Hundreds of Marines who gathered here in July 2018 were given a risky mission: to challenge their leaders when they’re doing something that doesn’t make sense.
That will be essential as the Marine Corps prepares to take on future adversaries, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told attendees here at the third-annual Innovation Symposium.
“We’ve got to go faster; we’ve got to be more willing to take risks,” he said. “The only thing we can’t accept is not being willing to change. We’ve got to change.”
Being innovative in an organization as steeped in tradition as the Marine Corps, which also lives by its rank structure, doesn’t come easy. Leaders might not like what their junior Marines have to say, Neller warned, but the Corps needs people willing to challenge the status quo.
Marines here spent a week doing just that, presenting their ideas in civilian clothes and without much reference to their ranks. The vibe was more TED Talks than your typical military PowerPoint briefs, and the ideas were briefed up to a team of general officers.
Here are five ways some of those rank-and-file leathernecks think they can shake up the service.
A Marine yells orders to his squad members during an Integrated Training Exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
1. Empowering the disruptors
Sgt. Ryan Reeder says it’s time for the Marine Corps to go through a culture shift. The infantry assaultman is getting ready to leave the service, and it’s not because his military occupational specialty is being phased out.
“No one incentivizes innovators,” said Reeder, an infantry assaultman who’s been studying computer science and will leave the Marine Corps in late 201 “… I can go get a six-figure job anywhere I want to. I want to stay in the Marine Corps, but innovation isn’t recognized.”
Reeder’s been serving with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s noncommissioned officer fellowship program, which allows corporals and sergeants to test concepts and gear before they hit the fleet. NCOs who are willing to speak up offer some vital insight, he said, and leaders should want them to become the next staff NCOs.
“A lot of people don’t like a sergeant coming up here and talking to a star or a colonel like I do,” he said. “But … it’s all about the ideas, not the rank that you wear.”
2. Crowdsourcing ideas
Marines face plenty of problems throughout their careers, and it can be tough to know if a solution already exists. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean Flores, a utilities officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force, helped build Phase Zero, a platform where Marines can share their problems and solutions in real-time.
“Maybe you’re trying to deal with countering [unmanned aerial vehicles]. Somebody else might’ve already solved that problem,” Flores said. “So you source it out, and some subject-matter expert might chime in and say, ‘This is how we dealt with it’ or ‘We’re having the same problem, so let’s work on it together and collaborate.’ “
Phase Zero had its soft opening on the marines.mil website in early 2018. Now, Flores said, they’re looking for Marines willing to help edit, code and moderate the site
Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, duck down for a deception breach during a company attack as part of Integrated Training Exercise 3-18 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, May 10, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonia E. Mercado)
3. “Flattening the battalion”
In order to prepare for the future, Neller said the Corps can’t just take legacy gear and make it a little bit better. “We’ve got to change the force,” he said.
Two officers with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines — 1st Lts. Christopher Mershon and Walker Mills — have ideas about what needs to change. They call it “flattening the battalion,” and they say it will move infantry units from the 20th century into the 21st.
Infantry units are set up in a pyramid structure and built for efficiency, Mershon said. Flattening them out by eliminating non-combat command billets would instead optimize them for adaptability. By integrating logistics and intelligence officers and analysts at the company level and sharing information from across the battlespace, Mershon said, it’ll allow commanders to make decisions faster.
“We’re making the correct relationships in our battalion because those relationships with our friends close our decision-making cycle,” he added.
Mills and Mershon also propose removing Marines performing administrative functions from the battalion, such as the headquarters and service or weapons platoon commanders. Those extra personnel could be moved into a training cadre, which Mills said would help relieve some of the strain on company commanders, and provide higher-quality training across the whole unit.
4. Improving training
Over the next decade, the Marine Corps’ maintenance depots will lose about 1,000 years of experience when officers and staff NCOs assigned to them retire. Those on their way out have come up with ways to get their replacements trained up quickly.
“Is the workforce we’re going to hire going to adhere to paper manuals that stack four feet high?” asked Maj. Dan Whitt with the Marine Corps Logistics Command innovation cell. Instead, depot personnel pitched moving toward animated digital manuals that display on a pair of augmented-reality glasses.
“We have 400 pieces of equipment we work on,” Whitt said. “How great would it be to speed up our training requirements?”
Now, other commands, including Training and Education Command, want to see what they can do with augmented-reality manuals. That’s why it’s important for Marines who have innovative ideas that could revolutionize the Corps to share them so they don’t go unheard, Whitt said.
5. Finding the best approach
When Staff Sgt. Alex Long was a lance corporal, he learned about those risks the commandant mentioned about challenging your leaders. When one of Long’s NCOs asked his Marines what they thought about his plan, Long didn’t hold back when he replied that it was stupid.
“That resulted in some quick and effective counseling,” he said. When Long was asked by his sergeant during one of his counseling sessions to define “tact,” he realized his mistake. His leaders weren’t offended by his ideas, but by his approach. He decided to work on his delivery in order to make his voice heard.
“Data has no rank,” said Long, who would go on to win the Marine Corps’ 2016 Innovation Challenge for a lightweight wearable device that allows Marines to communicate and resupply quickly. “You just have to know how to present it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?
We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?
First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.
On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.
As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.
That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.
For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.
It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.
For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:
The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.
That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.
As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)
In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.
As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.
But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.
Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.
For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,
[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end… I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….
Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.
Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”
This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)
Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.
That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”
Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”
Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.
Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.
In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Air Force leaders have broken their silence following President Trump’s order to create a new military service branch for space.
Leaders issued a message to airmen telling them to stay the course as the process of implementing the president’s guidance moves forward. Trump gave the order on June 18, 2018, during a speech to the National Space Council at the White House.
In a message to all airmen sent June 19, 2018, service brass including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein confirmed that, as rumored, the new “space force” would be established as a military service inside the Air Force.
In the new message, the leaders voiced agreement with Trump’s position that the U.S. military approach to the space domain must become more robust to meet current and future challenges.
“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position — space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”
Trump offered few details about the implementation of a space force in his announcement June 18, 2018, though he did say the Air Force and the proposed new service would be “separate, but equal.”
Air Force leaders told airmen they should not expect any “immediate moves or changes” in the wake of the announcement, saying creation of the new force would take time.
“The work directed by the President will be a thorough, deliberate and inclusive process,” they wrote. ” … Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy.”
Policy experts told Military.com that building a new force could take years and would require major legislation and planning, even if it’s staffed by current service members and takes advantage of existing infrastructure.
The message to airmen concluded on an upbeat note.
“We remain the best in the world in space and our adversaries know it,” it said. “Thank you for standing the watch. We’re proud to serve with you!”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy had some of the most advanced weapons available, like artillery shells with proximity fuses that detonated at set distances from their target. But they also had a secret weakness: Many of their torpedoes would explode too early, would swim under their targets without exploding, or might even circle back around to hit them.
Submarine officers and representatives of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance pose with a Mk. 14 torpedo in 1943.
It wasn’t the only flawed torpedo, but most of the Navy’s torpedo problems centered around the Mk. 14. It was supposed to be the most advanced and deadly anti-ship weapon in the U.S. fleet. They ran on steam and could travel over five miles and hit speeds of almost 53 mph and then detonate under an enemy ship’s hull with up to 643 pounds of high explosives.
In tests and in theory, this would break the keel of an enemy ship, ripping it in half or opening massive holes in the hull, quickly sending it to the deep.
American submarine commanders headed out with their boats filled with Mk. 14s. They were supposed to use their deck guns as much as possible, since they carried a limited number of torpedoes and each cost ,000 (about 1,000 in today’s money). But when the tactical situation called for firing a torpedo from stealth, like when facing a destroyer or launching a surprise attack against a convoy, they were supposed to fire a few torpedoes and watch the show.
The Mk. 14 torpedo began its career as a deeply flawed weapon, but a series of changes in 1943 would get it fit to fight.
But submarine commanders quickly began reporting problems with their weapons after Adm. Harold Rainsford Stark ordered unrestricted submarine warfare. The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance thought the weapons should work 98 percent of the time. Submarine commanders were seeing much different results.
The older Mk. 10 was two for two while the Mk. 14 had failed completely. This wasn’t the Seawolf’s first issue with the Mk. 14, either. It had six previous tours under its belt, all plagued by torpedo issues, including that time it fired eight Mk. 14s, which accounted for seven misses and a dud hit.
The USS Tullibee was destroyed when it fired a torpedo at a Japanese ship in World War II only for it to swim in a circle and hit the submarines instead of the enemy in March, 1944.
Worse, the Mk. 14s had a pesky habit of detonating properly when they circle ran, the worst possible situation. A circle run occurs when a torpedo follows a curved instead of straight path. And uneven drag, propulsion, or warping of a torpedo can cause a circle run and, like the name implies, it sends the torpedo in a circle, back to its starting point.
The Bureau of Ordnance dragged their feet about assessing the problem, and then it took a while to get definitive solutions. So, for two years, submarines went on patrols with faulty weapons that could swim right under the target, pierce it without detonating, or even sink their own submarine.
But the Navy did eventually find the causes of the faults. The circle runs were caused by faulty gyros that failed to straighten the path. The torpedo sometimes swam right under the target because the torpedoes had been tested with faulty depth-measuring equipment and with warheads that didn’t reflect their real buoyancy. The failures to detonate were caused by faulty magnetic and mechanical initiators.
In fact, the mechanical initiator was an especially galling failure as far as submarine commanders were concerned, because they had been told for years that the real problem was them firing from bad angles while a 90-degree hit was most effective. In reality, the mechanical failures were most common at exactly 90 degrees, failing 70 percent of the time in later lab tests.
The Mk. 14 had been in the fleet for nearly 20 years by this point, so it might seem impossible that these faults hadn’t been discovered earlier. But it had been developed during the Great Depression when budget constraints severely constricted the tests and experiments scientists and engineers could do.
Changes were eventually made. The torpedoes were re-calibrated for the proper depth and the magnetic initiators were thrown out entirely. The mechanical ones were faulty thanks to heavy firing pins that couldn’t achieve the right momentum when the torpedo was at full speed, so they were replaced with a lighter metal alloy.
My story begins at Abilene Christian University in Texas, where I began college in the late 1980s. The summer after freshman year, I met my husband Bob who was serving in the Air Force. Engaged within weeks and married following my sophomore year, my plan was to finish college in our new hometown of Austin.
Due to strict state university standards, I was required to enter college as a second-semester freshman instead of a junior. I was angry – so I took one class and quit.
Fast-forward about 10 years to our new home with two little boys in Altus, Oklahoma. I had a couple of friends from church who were preparing to graduate from community college. Those ladies had families with full-time jobs (and active-duty husbands that went TDY often). That “fire inside” finally found a spark again.
I worked hard over the next two years to earn two associate degrees, one in arts and one in science. I had been told that if you had an associate’s degree, universities had to accept it and couldn’t make you take their designated core classes. With one in each track, I thought I was set. It was also during this period that my dad got sick and passed away. I was able to pause my studies and finish up after I returned home. But once again, we found out we were moving. I didn’t have enough time to finish one last class, so the instructor permitted me to take an incomplete and finish it from Alabama – my first “true” tele-course!
I took another break from school after that because our assignment was only for one year. After seven years (and another four PCS moves), we got the surprise of our lives when our family increased to include two more sons. We had two in junior high/high school and two preschoolers. I volunteered when I could, and one of those opportunities turned into a flex-time job in accounting, my dream job.
Then something changed. A situation came up, and I needed to leave that position. I was unwilling to give up that little bit of time at home with our last child. I understand that it’s not the choice for everyone – but this was my decision, and I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity.
But now, with no job, I suddenly had a great deal of time on my hands. It felt like I was a fish out of water, and I couldn’t breathe.
My husband (who had by then RETIRED – and usually that means no more moving…) asked if I had considered going back to school. And that spark? It flickered again. I didn’t have too much time to decide, but I applied at the local university and was told that there were nine credit hours that Texas required before I could truly begin my junior year. That wasn’t too bad – so I earned those at a local junior college and had everything transferred.
At this point of my education “battle,” I was now up to SEVEN colleges. And in my FIRST SEMESTER at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, guess what? Bob got a promotion and another job offer – in San Antonio. Even I couldn’t believe my luck at this point. I took one last class from San Antonio but couldn’t continue because MSU didn’t have many online offerings – especially the upper-level accounting courses that I needed.
So, I quit again. Or so I thought…
In 2015, I read about a new program that Champlain College Online was offering. It provided affordable degree and certificate programs that were 100 percent online. Moving was no longer an excuse to quit!
Speaking of life experiences, my own include three major neck surgeries, 11 moves (including one to Germany, during finals week), eight different colleges, and – as of spring 2017 – one well-deserved bachelor’s degree in accounting! I’m currently serving as the treasurer for our church and looking forward to performing more financial duties next year.
For some, it only takes four years to complete a degree, and for some of us more than 30 years. All that matters is that we as military spouses persist and eventually achieve our goals.
Jane Brumley has been a military spouse for 30 years. Her husband Bob retired from active duty in 2008 and currently serves as a Department of Defense civilian. They have four children, two who are still at home. They are currently stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Jane spends her time volunteering with both schools, serving as Treasurer of her family’s church and at the base tax center, utilizing her Accounting degree. She is thoroughly enjoying her time traveling throughout Europe.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The Russian Army will soon receive the new Chukavin SVCh sniper rifle, according to Popular Mechanics.
The Chukavin fires 7.62x54mmR, .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, Popular Mechanics reported. The rifle also has a maximum range of more 4,200 feet, depending on the round, according to armyrecognition.com, a magazine that covers military technology.
Designed by Kalashnikov Concern, the maker of the AK-47, the Chukavin will replace the Dragunov SVD, which has been in Russian military service since the 1960s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin himself fired the Chukavin five times in September 2018, hitting a target nearly 2,000 feet away with three of those shots, according to Russian state-owned media.
Unveiled at Russia’s Army 2017 forum, the Chukavin is shorter and lighter than the Dragunov without compromising durability, according to Kalashnikov.
Alexey Krivoruchko, the CEO of Kalashnikov, told Russian state-owned media outlet TASS in 2017 that the Russian Defense Ministry as a whole and the Russian National Guard were interested in the rifle, according to thefirearmblog.com.
The Air Force announced the return of several key Tyndall Air Force Base missions, as the base begins its long-term recovery following Hurricane Michael.
“We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Vice President Mike Pence while at the north Florida base Oct. 25, 2018.
A number of important missions will resume at Tyndall AFB in the next few months and others will shift to other locations for the time being. All but approximately 500 airmen will return to the Florida panhandle within 1 to 3 months.
“We are focused on taking care of our airmen and their families and ensuring the resumption of operations. These decisions were important first steps to provide stability and certainty,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “We’re working hard to return their lives to normalcy as quickly as possible.”
Units that will resume operations at Tyndall AFB:
• The 601st Air Force Operations Center will resume operations no later than Jan. 1, 2019. • The 337th Air Control Squadron will resume air battle manager training at a reduced rate by Jan. 1, 2019. A full production rate is expected no later than summer 2019. • Air Force Medical Agency Support team will continue their mission of medical facility oversight. • Air Force Office of Special Investigations will continue their mission from usable facilities. • 53rd Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation Group will remain at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Legal Operations Agency will continue their mission from a usable facility at Tyndall AFB. • Air Force recruiters will continue their mission from local area offices in the Panama City, Florida, area. • The 823rd Red Horse Squadron, Detachment 1, will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Civil Engineer Center will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB.
The courtyard of a student housing complex sits flooded with water and debris following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018.
Units to be located at Eglin AFB, Florida, with reachback to Tyndall AFB:
• The 43rd and 2nd Fighter Squadrons’ F-22 Fighter Training and T-38 Adversary Training Units will relocate operations to Eglin AFB. Academic and simulator facilities at Tyndall AFB will be used to support training requirements, as well as Tyndall AFB’s surviving low observable maintenance facilities. • The 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 4, will relocate with the F-22 Fighter Training Units to Eglin AFB.
Units with insufficient infrastructure to resume operations at Tyndall AFB at this time:
• Personnel and F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron will relocate to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. • The Noncommissioned Officer Academy will temporarily disperse across four locations: McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee; Maxwell AFB – Gunter Annex, Alabama; Keesler AFB, Mississippi; and Sheppard AFB, Texas.
The Air Force is taking great care to ensure airmen and their families are supported when they return to the base. Officials are working to identify specific airmen required to remain at Tyndall AFB for mission needs or to assist with the longer-term recovery of the base.
“By the winter holidays and in many cases well before, we expect all our airmen — military and civilians — to have certainty about their options, so that everyone is either on a path or already settled,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
“The strength of Tyndall (AFB) comes from its airmen and their families. It will take us a while to restore buildings and infrastructure, but returning our airmen and their combat missions to full strength — at Tyndall or somewhere else in the interim — will happen quickly,” he added.
As details are worked out, affected airmen will be contacted by their chain of command or the Air Force Personnel Center. In the meantime, airmen should continue to monitor the Tyndall AFB Facebook page and the Air Force Personnel Center website for additional details as they become available.
In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.
Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.
Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.
Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.
Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)
Arlington National Cemetary.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.
“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.
“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.
Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.
“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.
In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.
“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.
Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.
The Vikings used known points
The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.
They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.
Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.
Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.
Let me sing you the song of my people…
The Polynesians used songs
The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.
The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.
With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!
The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude
Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.
Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.
Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and jailings, calling them “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”
The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15, 2018, delivered its ruling, rejecting an appeal filed by Russia over a previous judgment favoring Navalny.
The court upheld its previous decision that found Navalny’s seven arrests and two instances of pretrial detentions by Russian authorities between 2012-14 violated his rights, “lacked a legitimate aim,” and “had not been necessary in a democratic society.”
He immediately hailed the decision, writing on Twitter, “Won. Fully. The government is crushed…Hooray!”
He also told reporters that the ruling was an example of “genuine justice” and was “very important not just for me but for other people all over Russia who are arrested every day.”
As part of the ruling, the court ordered Russia to pay Navalny about 64,000 euros in compensation, costs, and expenses and said its decision was final and binding.
Moscow did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, attended the hearing, along with his brother Oleg, and posted a photograph of the two of them at the ECHR on Instragram.
Russia’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that officials can ignore judgments by the ECHR if they are found to contravene the Russian Constitution.
Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.
Navalny was originally prevented from boarding a flight out of Moscow on Nov. 13, 2018, to attend the hearing.
The Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP) said he was barred from leaving due to what it said was debt he owed Kirovles, a state timber company at the center of a politically charged criminal case in which he has now been convicted twice.
The FSSP later said the fine was paid and that restrictions on Navalny’s travel abroad had been lifted.
He said he would sue the FSSP over what he called “illegal activities” and demand compensation for the 29,542 rubles (6) in financial losses he said he and his lawyer sustained due to the FSSP’s decision to bar him from leaving.
The ECHR ruling was on an appeal filed by Russia over a court decision in February 2017 that ruled in favor of Navalny, but Russia filed an appeal to challenge the decision.
Navalny, 42, has organized large street protests on several occasions since 2011 and has published a series of reports alleging corruption in Putin’s circle.
He has repeatedly been jailed for periods ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, usually for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.
Navalny had spent nearly 200 days in jail since 2011, including 140 days since the start of his attempt to challenge Putin in the March 2018 presidential election, his spokeswoman has said.
Electoral authorities barred Navalny from the ballot, citing convictions in two financial-crimes cases he and his supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish him for his opposition activity and for the reports alleging corruption.
Navalny was convicted in 2013 of stealing money from Kirovles and was sentenced to five years in prison. But the sentence was later suspended, sparing him from serving time in prison.
In 2016, the ECHR ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions “indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”
The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial.
In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentence.
When astronauts first saw Earth from afar in the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 — the US’s second manned mission to the moon — they described a cognitive shift in awareness after seeing our planet “hanging in the void.”
This state of mental clarity, called the “overview effect,” occurs when you are flung so far away from Earth that you become totally overwhelmed and awed by the fragility and unity of life on our blue globe. It’s the uncanny sense of understanding the “big picture,” and of feeling connected yet bigger than the intricate processes bubbling on Earth.
In a Vimeo video by Planetary Collective called “Overview,” David Beaver, co-founder of the Overview Institute, recounts the sentiments from one of the astronauts on the Apollo mission: “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.”
Seeing cameras turn around in a live feed of Earth for the first time — even for viewers at home — was absolutely life-changing. The iconic “Earthrise” image was snapped by astronaut Bill Anders.
Until that point, no human eyes had ever seen our blue marble from space.
“It was quite a shock, I don’t think any of us had any expectations about how it would give us such a different perspective. I think the focus had been: we’re going to the stars, we’re going to other planets,” author and philosopher David Loy said in the Planetary Collective video. “And suddenly we look back at ourselves and it seems to imply a new kind of self-awareness.”
NASA astronaut Ron Garan explains this incredible feeling in his book, The Orbital Perspective. After clamping into an end of a robotic arm on the International Space Station in 2008, he flew through a “Windshield Wiper” maneuver that flung him in an arc over the space station and back:
As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth — this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space — a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction.
In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn’t help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don’t have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.
Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I’ve come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.
Author Frank White first coined the term, the “overview effect,” when he was flying in an airplane across the country in the 1970s. After looking out the window, he thought, “Anyone living in a space settlement … will always have an overview. They will see things that we know, but that we don’t experience, which is that the Earth is one system,” he says in the Vimeo video. “We’re all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all.”
He later wrote a book about it in 1998.
While this effect is usually relegated to astronauts and cosmonauts, civilians may too be able to experience this effect — that is if space tourism plans ever get off the ground.
A company called World View is slated to start floating people to stratospheric heights in a balloon in 2016. And Virgin Galactic, despite recent road blocks, may eventually zip wealthy customers 62 miles above Earth for a view of a lifetime.
To get more perspective on the overview effect from astronauts and writers, check out the full Vimeo video here:
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.
Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.
The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.
The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.
In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.
The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.
Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.
More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.
China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.
Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.
The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.
Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.
The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.
It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.