Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.

“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”

Morgan Lerette, author of Welcome to Blackwater

We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.

WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare? 

I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission. 

They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously. 

There was no check and balance in place. 

No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time. 

Lerette aims a firearm over a humvee

WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?

It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle. 

The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable. 

As a contractor it’s really just you.

Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go. 

WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?

It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for. 

This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war. 

Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’

Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to. 

WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?

Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security. 

Gate guard, tower guard.

Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available. 

Lerette with kids in Iraq
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WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?

Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that. 

So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.

They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.

It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic. 

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community? 

There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published. 

Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater. 

A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented. 

So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help. 

‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon. 

About Onward Press

Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit.  www.usvaa.org

Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.

We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.

All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio.  We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions.  Please see Submission Guidelines.

Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are the most civic-minded group in America for the 3rd year in a row

It should come as a surprise to no one that the men and women who fought for the United States are the ones who care most about how it’s run — and the people who run it. For the third year in a row, American military veterans are shown to volunteer, assist neighbors, join civic groups, vote, and engage public officials at rates higher than non-veterans.

The finding comes as a result of the 2017 Veterans Civic Health Index, a study conducted in cooperation with Got Your 6, a veteran’s empowerment nonprofit designed to encourage and enable veterans to continue serving in their local communities while fostering greater cultural changes in the United States, and the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally-chartered national service project dedicated to strengthening civic life.


Civic health, defined as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, has been shown to positively impact local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, and has other benefits that strengthen communities. By releasing this annual study, Got Your 6 and its partners aim to eliminate common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

The study found that veterans are what it calls “the strongest pillar of civic health” in the United States and calls on the country to adjust the way it frames veteran reintegration. Consistent with Got Your 6’s mission, the study aims to help in changing the perception of veteran transition from one of a series of challenges to the opening of a potential source of leadership and training.

Significant findings from the study include:

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(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Voting

73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections versus 57.2 percent of non-veterans.

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(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Service

Veteran volunteers serve an average of 177 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually. Delivering critical services to a community without regard for wages or reward is a vital service to local areas in the United States.

In this, specifically, the female veteran population goes above and beyond the call of duty.

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(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Civic Involvement

In terms of involvement, 11.5 percent of veterans have attended a public meeting in the last year versus 8.3 percent of non-veterans. The rate at which veterans belong to a local or national civic association was significantly higher as well. These groups can have a large collective impact on American communities.

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(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Community Engagement

Some 10.5 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.7 percent of non-veterans. But engagement goes beyond fixing problems, it’s also about stopping them before they start — something veterans are proactive in doing.

More than that, engaging one’s community forms the bonds that can bring people together in good times and in bad. Veterans who transition from the military tends to miss the closeness and brotherhood aspects of their service, leading them to more often reach out within communities.

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(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

It should also come as no surprise that the youngest generation of veterans (23.4 percent of all veterans are younger than 50) is a diverse one, inclusive of more females (one in six) and ethnic minority groups. The United States, as a whole, is becoming more diverse and the veteran population is a reflection of that diversity.

As a subset of U.S. population (just nine percent of Americans are veterans), vets are more likely to lend a hand to their neighbors and fellow citizens, leading the charge in recovery operations for the multitude of natural disasters that affected the U.S. in 2017.

With these numbers, we can reasonably expect veterans to continue being at the forefront of civic action in American communities. This is the country veterans earned through hard work and, in some cases, sacrifice. The maintenance of the nation understandably means a great deal to this relatively small group of Americans.

If the result of this study predict a trend for the future, the country is in good hands.

For more information, be sure to read the full study.

MIGHTY CULTURE

1917 is a war film crafted with military precision

World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…


Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.

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In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.

The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.

When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.

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Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.

Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dumb military rules I absolutely hate

“KEEP OFF THE COMMANDER’S GRASS.”

But why?

The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.

But there’s always someone who takes it too far.


youtu.be

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If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.

1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”

Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.

But that’s not what this is about.

I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”

The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.

There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.

Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.

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“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”

According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”

That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.

You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.

“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”

It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.

Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!

Besides, if it’s good enough for Chesty Puller AND THESE OTHER HEROES, then it’s good enough for me!

Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.

I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.

Which leads me to… yet another dumb rule.

Related: 21 pictures of U.S. military legends with their hands in their pockets

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The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.

3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”

This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.

You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.

Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.

So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.

Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.

You know why humans wear sunglasses? To protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If we don’t protect our eyes, we can get cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. Those conditions all impair our vision, if you’re not familiar.

The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.

Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?

The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.

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May as well be terrorists.

Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”

Final dumb rule of this rant: While walking in uniform, use of personal electronic media devices, including ear pieces, speaker phones, or text messaging, is limited to emergencies or when official notifications are necessary.

Sigh.

I could see the argument for not walking while holding a phone up to your ear — it gets weird with saluting.

I can definitely see why troops deployed to combat zones shouldn’t walk around using their devices — they need to be vigilant and nimble.

But stateside… walking with a headset… come on.

Come on.

Come on.

What’s the argument there?

Until someone can give me a good one I’m calling it: DUMB.

hauntedbattlefields

Why Okinawa is the most haunted place in the military

The profession of arms deals in death, no matter how we like to think of our daily military lives. No matter what your military speciality is, you’re helping that end. If you’re a cook, you feed warfighters who are out there dealing death. If you work in finance, you’re reimbursing travel vouchers for troops who likely dealt some death. Combat cameramen, you’re documenting the history of dealing death and inspiring others to join in.


I’m not passing moral judgement — I was in the military, too. That’s just the reality of what’s happening.

In that respect, not only does it make sense that some military installations, vehicles, and battlefields would be haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing) – it should actually make us wonder how military installations, vehicles, and battlefields aren’t more haunted.

No where else is that more apparent than Kadena Air Base, Japan.

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Do you like ghost anime? Have I got a story for you…

Building 2283

Rumor has it the house was demolished in 2009, but Building 2283 on Kadena’s base housing was notorious for being the single most haunted house in the entire U.S. military. No one lived there for a long time and the building was reportedly used for storage — because no one could stand to stay there.

It was said that an Air Force officer murdered his entire family there before killing himself some time in the 1970s. The next military family to move in to the house experienced feelings of unrest and paranoia — until the father of the family stabbed everyone. So, it became a storage shed. But that didn’t stop the house from haunting people. Passersby reported hearing sounds of children crying, strange laughter, and, in one instance, a report of a woman washing her hair in the abandoned house’s sink.

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“I don’t have time to wait for CE to come fix the shower, okay?”

You might ask what took the Air Force so long to tear the house down, which is a valid question. Kadena reportedly attempted to tear it down, but workers attempting to destroy the building reported headaches, hallucinations, and suffered from a high rate of on-the-job injuries.

Teachers at the daycare next door (yeah, there was a daycare next door this whole time) complained of children on the playground throwing toys over the fence because “the little kids on the other side ask them to.”

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Kids are creepy.

Other reports have cited ghostly phone rings (despite there being no phone line attached to the house), faucets turning on by themselves, curtains opening, and even a sighting of the house glowing.

If the hallucinations and urges to kill your family weren’t enough to dissuade anyone from living in the house, the worst selling point for moving in might have been the goddamn Samurai warrior that rides his horse through the living room every once in a while, for reasons unknown.

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“I’M HERE TO CATCH THE FINALE OF THE BACHELOR”

That’s not the only sighting of a Samurai warrior. A similar Samurai warrior is said to ride the road to Camp Foster up Stillwell Drive, reportedly headed to base housing.

Spectral gate guards

There’s nothing creepy about Security Forces. Not inherently, anyway. Those guys look sharp. But when you’re pulling up to a gate at 3am and encounter a World War II-era Marine covered in blood and asking for a match, things take a turn for the creepy.

That’s what happened at Camp Hansen’s old Gate 3 — more than once. In a weird way, it’s a good thing the ghostly Marine was hanging out at the gate, defending living American troops because ghosts of World War II Japanese soldiers were reportedly at the same gate all the time.

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Eternally defending Flavor Country from the Japanese.

The haunting happened so often (some say every weekend) that Marine guards began to refuse to stand guard at Gate 3 and the entry control point was eventually closed. Closing the gate seemed a little unnecessary since the soldier would disappear once his cigarette was lit.

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Even if I didn’t know this place was haunted, I would assume it was.

Kadena’s Banyan Tree Golf Course cave

During World War II, the Japanese maintained a field hospital on the site where Kadena’s golf course was built. After U.S. troops took the airfields on Okinawa in 1945, Japanese nurses, terrified of Americans due to Japanese propaganda, committed suicide in a nearby cave.

These days, Okinawans won’t go near the cave because the women are said to still haunt the cave and the nearby land – but it’s part of Kadena’s annual Halloween ghost tour.

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“Listen, bro, I’m telling you…”

Maeda Point’s prophet of doom.

If you’re around Maeda Point on Okinawa and you see an elderly man walking around a tomb near the water, just go ahead and row to shore, go right to Personnel, retire, and fly home. It’s not worth sticking around, because rumor has it that old man is a ghost and every time someone sees him, there’s a body washing ashore on a beach nearby in a just a few days.

The point is apparently the site of many, many suicide jumpers who ended their lives by throwing themselves off the cliff. Not only that, this was also the site of another field hospital used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. If an old man foretelling doom wasn’t enough, scuba divers even report seeing ghosts underwater. Some of these end up jumping off the haunted cliff for the rest of eternity, as ghost jumper reports are as ubiquitous as Taco Rice.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force space plane touches down after 2-year mission

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is back on the ground after completing its latest record-breaking unmanned mission in space.

The experimental, clandestine space plane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 27, 2019, after more than two years in orbit, the service said in a release. This was the X-37B’s fifth space mission. Its last orbit ended in May 2017 after 718 days in space.

“The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between government and industry,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”


This was the second time the X-37B landed has landed at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. It took off for its fifth mission on Sept. 7, 2017.

While its pay loads and most of its activities are classified, the Air Force said at the time that the mission would carry “the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS-II) payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment.”

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The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The space plane “conducted on-orbit experiments for 780 days during its mission, recently breaking its own record by being in orbit for more than two years,” the release said. That brings the total number of days spent on-orbit for the X-37B to 2,865, officials said.

The last two missions have pushed the boundaries for a test vehicle, originally designed to spend up to 270 days circling the Earth.

What the X-37B does is literally a matter of rocket science. According to the service, the X-37B is exploring the practicalities and risks of “reusable space vehicle technologies” while also experimenting with space technology.

Under the purview of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the test vehicle can autonomously reenter the atmosphere and eventually land horizontally on a flight line.

“This program continues to push the envelope as the world’s only reusable space vehicle,” said Randy Walden, director of the Rapid Capabilities Office.

“With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives. This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites,” Walden said Sunday.

In July 2019, the service’s former top civilian gave a glimpse into the space plane’s mission.

Air Force X-37B spaceplane successfully returns to earth after 780-day mission

www.youtube.com

Speaking about space awareness and deterrence at the Aspen Security Forum, Heather Wilson described the vehicle as a “small version of the [NASA space] shuttle.”

It “can do an orbit that looks like an egg and, when it’s close to the Earth, it’s close enough to the atmosphere to turn where it is,” she said at the time.

“Which means our adversaries don’t know — and that happens on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries — where it’s going to come up next. And we know that that drives them nuts. And I’m really glad about that,” she added.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Military.com that Wilson’s comments on its movement may shed light on “a previously secret orbit-related capability,” and explained that the aircraft’s movement likely throws an adversary off, even if just for a short time.

“The dip into the atmosphere causes a change in the timing of when it next comes overhead. So [trackers’] predictions are off, and [they] have to search for it all over again,” McDowell said at the time.

The Air Force is preparing to launch the sixth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2020.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes joint terminal attack controllers so deadly

Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.

Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:


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A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)

JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.

They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.

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U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.

(Operation Resolute Support)

With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.

But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”

But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.

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A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)

So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.

But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.

All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.

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A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)

But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.

For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.

And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.

Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.

As a matter of fact, the Air Force’s JTACs have been so successful that the Marine Corps has actually adopted the term for referring to some of their forward air controllers, and has launched new efforts to recruit the best Marines into the job.

So yeah, don’t mess with the JTACs. Or do. We’re not your parents, and we’re not here to tell you how to lose your life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this generation’s Lance Corporals are different

If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.

Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.


Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”

The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.

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Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”

Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.

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Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”

Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.

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Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”

The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.

“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 unanticipated downsides of cool Army jobs

The Army is cool, as any recruiter will happily tell you while sliding a suspiciously thick stack of paperwork your way across the desk. But even the coolest jobs have downsides. The people who get to do the coolest stuff also often have to deal with the crappiest side bits.

Here are eight awesome jobs that sometimes, unexpectedly, suck:


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Mortar Soldiers with the 77th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, fire a 120mm mortar round to provide indirect, suppressive fire for infantry Soldiers during a squad live-fire exercise November 3, 2016 at Udari Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Angela Lorden)

1. Mortarmen lob bombs but carry insane weight

On the list of cool jobs, “use rifles and armor to find and fix enemy forces, then bomb them with mortar shells that you launch out of hand-held tubes,” ranks pretty highly. But being a mortarman, or “Indirect Fire Infantryman” as it’s known, has some drawbacks. The greatest of which is the sheer weight.

Mortarmen can sometimes get close to their firing points with vehicles, but that’s far from guaranteed. And planners seem to take a perverse interest in making the 60mm mortar crews march as far as possible. Those crews have to carry a mortar that weighs about 20-40 pounds in addition to mortar shells that weigh about 4 pounds each.

The weight only goes up from there with the 81mm mortar system. The 120mm mortar system obviously weighs the most, but the weapon and its ammo is typically moved by vehicle.

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U.S. Army Sgt. John Leslie, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., completes system setup for the Wolfhound intelligence gathering system during the fielding and training class at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, January 25, 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class E. L. Craig)

2. Wolfhound operators can listen in on enemy radio transmissions but are always seen as nerds

There’s a class of soldier that can detect the location of enemy transmissions and then listen in on them, translating them instantly if they’re a linguist or have one nearby. But, unless the carrier is an infantryman who can absolutely destroy on the Expert Infantry Badge course, they’re going to be derided as a nerd.

And that’s because they have to learn some nerdy stuff, especially if they’re an Electronic Warfare Specialist by MOS. Managing the device requires knowing a bit about radio frequencies and electronic devices used by the enemy, but getting a soldier who can relay the enemy’s entire plan to the platoon is worth the occasional Poindexter joke.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie, photojournalist with the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, photographs from the back of a Stryker fighting vehicle during Operation Buffalo Thunder II in Shorabak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 27, 2012.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie)

3. Public affairs troops get to see many angles of the Army, but are always just tourists

Want to patrol with the cavalry one day, hit buildings with infantry the next, and clear obstacles with the engineers on the third? Then public affairs is for you! Unfortunately, you will also be considered a tourist for your efforts.

That’s because public affairs rarely has the chance to really learn their unit’s job on the tactical level since, you know, that’s not their job. But they do get to learn a little about all the forces in their unit or — if they’re in a public affairs detachment or a high-level office — their entire area of operations. Kind of like how a tourist learns a little about a bunch of things in a city or country.

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U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Multinational Battle Group-East’s Forward Command Post clear a building during a training exercise in Gracanica, Kosovo, May 10, 2017.

(U.S. Army Spc. Adeline Witherspoon)

4. Cav scouts are human eyes and ears for units, but are heckled for their efforts

They go forward in small groups, sneaking as best they can around potentially massive enemy forces. They’re outgunned, outnumbered, and using their eyes and ears to call in bigger, badder weapon systems against enemy formations. And they’re also widely made fun of, especially by the infantry.

Cavalry scouts have a reputation for being a bit weird, and that leads to all sorts of comparisons to groups considered odd by the internet, like Bronies and Furries. It’s not fair, obviously, but the scouts seems happy as long as they still get to crawl around in the mud looking for tanks and yelling, “Scouts out!”

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California Army National Guard Soldiers from the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare simulated casualties to be evacuated by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, 40th CAB, at a tactical combat casualty care lane at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, February 23, 2016.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer)

5. Medics are linchpins of combat units, but have to see lots of gross genitals

They’re venerated, valued, and skilled. They’re de facto members of whatever unit they’re part of, even being protected from the “POG” title if they serve with the infantry. Their skills transfer well to the civilian world — they’re actually required to maintain their EMT certification, which makes finding employment easy.

But medics are the primary source of medical advice and care in many of their companies and platoons, meaning that they see all the symptoms of disease or injury in their units first. And that includes STDs and genital trauma, which means that most medics have a mental library of nightmare material. They also have to ask things like, “can you describe the discharge for me?”

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A Soldier for 4th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, ground guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area after his crew qualified during Gunnery Table VI, Fort Carson, Colorado, March 2, 2017.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor)

6. Tank crews roll in thick armor, but draw fire from everything that can kill them

What could be safer than a tank, with its thick, composite armor, massive gun, and multiple machine guns? Well, in force-on-force warfare, a lot of things. That’s because tanks are so powerful that any maneuver force that can take them out needs to do so as quickly as possible. And tanks aren’t invulnerable. Even powerful IEDs have destroyed them.

So, when an enemy force sees a body of Abrams tanks, they concentrate artillery and anti-tank fire on them. Now, luckily, tanks do have great defenses and both armored and standard commanders work hard to protect them. But, if you take a tank into a fight against Russia or China, be prepared for your cramped little tank to get rocked all the time.

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U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Jeramy Bays, a master diver assigned to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, returns from inspecting a seaplane wreck site in the waters of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll on August 16, 2016.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Markus Castaneda)

7. Divers get to swim all day, but have some of the toughest fitness requirements

Who doesn’t love a nice day at the pool, complete with sunshine, warm water, and military salary and benefits? Well, Army divers enjoy all three of those things, but the frequent exposure to chlorine and the constant fitness requirements still make it a tough job.

During training, recruits often spend three hours a day in the pool and have to do tasks like treading water with large weights. Trainees get a few months to build up their skills before graduating, but then they have to maintain or even improve their already-high levels of physical fitness so their bodies can perform and withstand the rigors of living under the water.

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Unmanned aerial systems operators prep a drone for launch. While Air Force pilots famously operate from remote stations, Army pilots are typically near the front.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Ingram)

8. UAS operators are commonly near the front lines despite the whole “remote” part of their job

Want the title of pilot without all the risk of flying over enemy forces? The unmanned aerial systems operator is the job for you (most people refer to them as “drone pilots)! But, before you start shopping for real estate in the American West, you should know that it’s mostly Air Force pilots who can fly drones over the Middle East from the States.

But Army drone pilots are much more likely to be enlisted and to be deployed forward with their birds. Part of their job is actually launching and recovering their aircraft. So, yeah, they’re generally within a few dozen miles of the fighting, potentially within range of enemy artillery, close air support, or even enemy drone attack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Becoming the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” does not happen overnight. It takes decades of dedication by men and women around the United States. From July 19 to July 22, 2019, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan visited the men and women at the 45th Space Wing and attended the 50th anniversary event of NASA’s historic Apollo 11.

Since former President John F. Kennedy’s revered “moon speech,” the race to establish dominance in space has been apparent. When the U.S. first put man on the moon July 20, 1969, the world held its breath.

Now, 50 years later, Donovan – along with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, NASA employees and thousands watching across the world – looked back on this historic moment at the Apollo 11 anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center.


“I was 10 years old, and my mom let me stay up late to watch the landing on television,” Donovan said, recalling the moment he watched the first man walk on the moon. “I remember the previous Christmas, I received and built the Apollo Saturn V model moon rocket. The moon landing captured the imagination of everyone, young and old. It was really an amazing time. It’s hard to believe that was 50 years ago.”

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

(NASA)

Visiting the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” reminded Donovan of how he felt during that time, as he met airmen — both at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — who contribute to the leaps and bounds the Air Force makes each day with its space capabilities.

The airmen of the 45th Space Wing are focused on 100% mission success while delivering assured access to space for the warfighter and the nation. Donovan met with some of these airmen at Space Launch Complex-37 on July 19, 2019, to receive a brief on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket and learn how the airmen play a role in the space mission.

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” Kennedy said during his 1962 speech at Rice University, Houston.

Donovan agrees.

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Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan shakes hands with 45th Operations Group Airman July 19, 2019, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

“These airmen and the space mission are absolutely critical,” Donovan said. “Over the years, whether it be a global positioning system, communications or intelligence and reconnaissance mission; our foothold in space is critical. It’s so critical that our adversaries have noticed that and gone to school on the American way of war. From that, we now look forward to the development of the United States Space Force.”

The role of 45th Space Wing Airmen will change significantly because they’ll be some of the first individuals moved into the new service, Donovan said. I wish I could go back and do it all over again as to be on the ground floor of such a historical event as standing up a sixth service. I think it’s very exciting – the role that our airmen are going to play.

As U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force come to fruition in the years to come, there is much excitement from the airmen of the 45th SW, the Air Force and the United States as a whole.

“One of the things that excites me the most for the future is the synergy that we have between the government and the space launch industry,” Donovan said. “Through different space pioneers, we’re able to lower the cost of space launch and pack more capabilities into a smaller package. Just imagine the possibilities that will come from that. I’m excited to see, in the years to come, our space capabilities taken to the next level for the nation.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 CONUS installations that feel like a vacation

Seeing the world is just one of the many reasons for joining the military. But what if dreamy vacation living was possible within the continental borders? Taking advantage of what is possible within a day’s drive is one way to save thousands on airfare and explore more of what our country has to offer.


Strategize your next PCS choice with these staycation worthy locations. From the beaches to the mountains, and east to west, settling into ‘home’ at any one of these installations is easy to do.

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Mountain Home AFB, Idaho (Air Force)

Nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and within a half day’s drive to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Mountain Home AFB is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s world-class skiing at Sun Valley in the winter with plenty of roadside accessible hot springs along the way. Idaho isn’t on your radar because she’s everyone’s best-kept secret.

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NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (Navy)

Craggy coastlines, tide pools teeming with sea life, and million-dollar views are how to describe this installation just over an hour north of Seattle. The barrier islands of the Puget Sound are home to seductively slow island life, away from traffic, and a ferry away from Olympic National Park or the San Juan Islands. Watch both whales and submarines surface from one of the dozens of state parks by the fire and on the beach.

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Fort Carson, Colorado (Army)

Located just outside the Garden of the Gods, this Army Installation is another ruggedly beautiful spot to call home. The state exudes adventure in all terrain types, like sand dunes, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking arch formations. Colorado experiences all four seasons, providing a little something for every preference. Your PT test is sure to stay on point during the winter season with infamous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Telluride to choose from.

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Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (Air Force and Army)

What we love about JBLE is the easy accessibility to all the major east coast metropolitan cities. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City are all a connected train ride away. National history, monuments and bustling nightlife make life on this coastline more than noteworthy. In addition to city life, Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park and fall foliage, which draws crowds year-round. Tapping into history or the political pulse of the country are all possible here.

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MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (Marines)

Life in the low country is slow and sweet. The tidewater region is situated between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, two historic southern towns rich with seafood and charm. A subtropical climate provides beach access year-round, with plenty of sunshine to boost any mood. Another point to love is the affordability of the region compared to other, more high-cost stations, putting more vacation dollars into your pocket.

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Sector Key West, Florida (Coast Guard)

The southernmost point in the continental U.S. is as beautiful as you can imagine. Dolphins, coral reefs and sailboats are all at your doorstep, which is likely oceanfront. Lesser known, yet completely noteworthy interests like the Hemingway Home and Dry Tortugas National Park are also found here. Key West also boasts several shipwrecks to explore in turquoise waters, making a dive certification a card you need in your wallet.

It’s all about location, and there’s plenty to choose from during your military career. Europe and Hawaii are not the only prime spots to be had, and this list is proof. Experiencing life in varied climates and states provides a perspective unlike any other when the time comes to settle down after service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things we should do in the event of a robot uprising

A war between robots and humans has been the subject of a lot of science fiction, especially in film. And until very recently, the idea that robots could post an autonomous threat to humans was just that: science fiction. Today, advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence have brought us to the point where sentient robots are a very real possibility, which means that a war for humanity’s survival is also a possibility. Which gives us a new a problem: How would the military fight something like a Terminator?

Let’s be real, humans aren’t exactly the best thing for this planet — or for other humans, frankly. So, when we finally build that robot that’s stronger, faster, and several times more intelligent than us fleshy humans, it won’t take long before the robots realize the planet is better off without us. But that doesn’t mean we won’t fight like hell to survive!

So, what could we do at the beginning of the uprising to buy us some time, or even possibly save humanity as a whole?


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It might take a long time, but it could save thousands of lives.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

Wipe all military data from the internet

The military preaches OPSEC, and when it comes to highly classified, sensitive materials, we succeed. But the documentation for tactics and weaponry is widely available across the internet. An A.I. with the ability to learn things in seconds could easily upload and analyze all that information only to use it against us.

The first chance we get, we’ll need to wipe the Internet clean.

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Brig. Gen. John P. Horner powers down the server supporting the Air Force Recruiting Information Support System – Legacy application at Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Get rid of the internet

Of course, that information-gathering robot would need to connect to the internet to find that juicy data so, let’s just get rid of it. We know you’ll miss your cat videos and memes, but this is a necessity that’d save us a good amount of time. In addition to military data, the internet can be used to track human movements, norms, tendencies — in short, it’d make it easier to wipe us out.

Of course, we would also have to destroy any physical documentation that contains the same information to keep that out of the hands of our robot overlords as well.

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Larger caliber weapons may not be the best solution but it won’t hurt to have that extra punch behind each bullet.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Switch to larger caliber weapons

We did all we could to try and prevent robots from gathering the information needed to replicate, but we failed. Now, robots are creating other, better, newer robots at an alarming pace. Now, the next step is to switch to larger caliber weapons. Chances are, the robots are going to build each other out of the strongest materials available to withstand the firearms we currently have — it’s time to up the ante.

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Airman 1st Class Anthony Meyerhoffer inspects and counts 20 mm high-explosive incendiary rounds.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Demetrius Lester)

Switch to incendiary rounds

In addition to larger calibers, we should also use bullets that could set our enemies on fire. Remember: we’re fighting sentient robots for the survival of the human race, so let’s give them everything we’ve got.

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These things will definitely be more useful than they are right now.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva)

Stock up on explosive weapons

High explosives win the day. We should be using every explosive we have available to rip the machines apart. Even if it doesn’t destroy them completely, it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to kill a robot with no arms and legs than it would be to frag one that can still rip you in half.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 31st

Former Secretary of Defense, retired general, and Patron Saint of Chaos James Mattis has announced that he will be publishing an autobiography called Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It’s said to cover him coming to terms with leadership learned throughout his military career starting from his days as a young Marine lieutenant to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m freaking pumped. Yes, I’d love to know the nitty-gritty of commanding a quarter million troops, but I want to know about his lesser-known butter bar years leading a weapons platoon. Because let’s be honest, that’s where the seeds of his leadership style really grew.

He probably made mistakes and got chewed out for it. He slipped up and got mocked by the lower enlisted. He would have had to ask for advice and eventually grow into one of the smartest minds Uncle Sam has seen in a long time. Even the Warrior Monk himself may have been that nosy LT who needed to be whipped into shape by the platoon sergeant, and that’s kind of motivating in its own way. Yeah, you may f*ck up once in a while, but not even Chaos Actual was a born leader. He had to learn it.

Just think. There’s an old salty devil dog out there somewhere who’s responsible for knife-handing the boot-tenant out of Mattis. And he’s the real hero of this story.


While we wait for the one book that will actually get Jarheads to read for fun on June 16th, here’s some memes.

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Not CID)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

Fun fact: The Department of Energy renamed natural gas “freedom gas” in a memo. You know what that means, boys… 

And no. That’s an actual thing and not from The Onion.

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)