Which military branch SHOULD you join? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Which military branch SHOULD you join?

So you’re thinking about joining the military. Good for you, you little patriot! Whether it’s for the experience or the benefits or maybe just the emptiness inside you that makes you want to be a hero call to serve a higher good, the military has a lot to offer.

But not all military experiences are equal. There’s a major difference between being a Marine Scout Sniper and an Air Force Linguist. Both have pros and cons, so let’s talk about some of them, starting with the culture and mission of each branch.

Keep in mind that these are broad generalizations. A Special Operations mission in any branch will differ significantly from, say, a Public Affairs perspective, which will also influence the training requirements and deployment tempos for the individual.


As a note, this article was written based on a compilation of Department of Defense publications, interviews with veterans and my own experience. It cannot cover everyone’s experience, so it’s important to do your own research and talk to veterans (not just the first recruiting officer you meet).

As an additional note, the Boot Camp descriptions here are for enlisted personnel – officers have shorter boot camps because they undergo less academic training during boot camp itself and more during additional officer training. This isn’t the only difference between being an officer and an enlisted member; from the mission to the pay to the benefits, the experiences are extremely varied — once you’ve found a branch you like, make sure you check out our article about commissioning compared to enlisting.

If you want to join the military, it’s wise to reflect on why that is and what you want your life and job to look like. This is a good place to start:

What New Marine Corps Recruits Go Through In Boot Camp

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U.S. MARINE CORPS

Boot Camp:

“What you’re really made of can only be revealed at the brink of exhaustion. Marine Recruit Training will take you there. Only those who possess the never-quit spirit required of every Marine will find the strength they never knew they had, the willpower they never knew they needed and the commitment to find that second wind even when it hurts to breathe to overcome the Marine boot camp requirements.”

Phase One — Weeks 1-4

Recruits transition from civilian to military life with strenuous physical training and martial arts as well as Marine Corps history and classes. They learn Marine Corps culture and values, including how to wear the uniform and handle weapons.

Phase Two — Weeks 5-9

The second phase consists of combat skills and marksmanship training. Recruits undergo gas chamber training and the Crucible.

Phase Three — Weeks 10-13

Recruits undergo specialty training such as combat water survival and defensive driving.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Pull-ups or push-ups (as many as you can; you can only max out on pull-ups — with push-ups you can get a maximum score of 70 points)
  2. Crunches or plank pose (as many crunches as possible in two minutes or holding plank pose for up to four minutes and twenty seconds)
  3. Timed run (three mile run in 28 minutes or less for men, 31 minutes or less for women)

Combat Fitness Test:

  1. Movement to Contact (timed 880-yard sprint)
  2. Ammunition Lift (lift 30-pound ammo can as many times as possible overhead in set amount of time)
  3. Maneuver Under Fire (300-yard course that combines battle-related challenges)

Deployments: The Marines remain at a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio (or 1 year deployed with 2 years at home), which Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Robert Neller referred to as “unsustianable.” The goal is to achieve a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio.

Culture: Marines are trained for combat and they are very good at that mission, which they should be proud of.

Unfortunately, the Marine Corps still struggles with health and care of its service members. A 2018 Annual Suicide Report showed the Marine Corps had the highest rate of active duty suicides, with a rate of 31.4 per 100,000 (compared to the Army with 24.8, Navy with 20.7 and Air Force with 18.5).

The Marine Corps also had the highest reporting rate of sexual assault with 5.7 percent, followed by the Army at 5.5 percent, Navy at 4.8 percent and the Air Force at 4.3 percent.

What Army Recruits Go Through At Boot Camp

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U.S. ARMY

Boot Camp:

Army Basic Combat Training comes in three phases and lasts about ten weeks depending on your military occupational specialty (MOS) — in other words, your job for the Army.

During the Red Phase, you learn the basics about Army life, such as how to wear the uniform and comport yourself. You also get your ass in line with physical readiness training and formation marching. Also, as a treat, you get your introduction to Chemical Radioactive Biological and Nuclear readiness, including getting gassed proper usage of breathing masks.

During the White Phase, you receive weapons and hand-to-hand combat training. You continue your physical readiness training, including obstacle courses and rappelling from the 50-foot Warrior Tower.

During the Blue Phase, you receive advanced weapons training, including machine guns and live grenades. You embark on a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival skills. If you pass all of your challenges, you become a fully qualified Army Soldier. Huzzah.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Two minutes of push-ups
  2. Two minutes of sit-ups
  3. Timed two mile run

Army Combat Fitness Test:

  1. 3 repetition maximum deadlift
  2. Standing Power Throw
  3. Hand release push up arm extension
  4. Sprint-Drag-Carry
  5. Leg Tuck
  6. Two mile run
Deployments: The Army has maintained a high operations tempo when it comes to deployments. Current high deployment thresholds consist of 220 days deployed out of the previous 365 days, or 400 days deployed out of the previous 730 days.

In 2017, the Secretary of Defense’s standard was a 1 to 2 deploy-dwell ratio — or one year deployed with two years at home, for example — with the “red line” at 1 to 1. At the time, that ratio was at about 1 to 1.2 or 1.3, according to Army Times. It isn’t uncommon to expect 12-18 month deployments.

Culture: Like the Marine Corps, the U.S. Army has a proven history on the battlefield. Soldiers are trained to operate under a “suck it up” attitude to endure long deployments and combat as well as physical and mental stress. The Army has the second highest reported incidents of suicide and sexual assault, just behind the Marine Corps. Anyone joining the Army can expect to join a branch with a proud lineage, but it’s wise to evolve your own sense of self-care and to learn how to protect your health and the health of your battle buddies.
US Air Force Recruit BOOT CAMP Documentary

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U.S. AIR FORCE

Basic Military Training:

Air Force BMT consists of eight and a half weeks where recruits are introduced to military life through academics and uniform wear as well as physical fitness and weapons training. Academics and certifications, such as learning the Code of Conduct and becoming CPR certified, remain peppered throughout training.

Air Force recruits will complete a Tactical Assault Course and M9 pistol training, but unlike the Army or the Marine Corps, airmen are not required to qualify on the weapon during BMT. Active duty enlisted personnel and officers will qualify on their weapon only as required by their job or deployment status.

Compared to the Marine Corps and Army and even the Navy or Coast Guard, with firefighting and water survival, the Air Force BMT is probably the least strenuous of the branch boot camps.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed one and a half mile run

Note that this test is less strenuous than the Army/Navy/Marine Corps fitness tests. Soldiers and Marines are more likely to become “boots on the ground” in combat zones.

Deployments: The Air Force maintains an Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) deploy-to-dwell tempo system, depending on career fields: The deployment categories are called tempo bands. Air Force officials have created five tempo bands: A through E. Tempo Band A reflects the original AEF cycle of a 1:4 dwell ration based on 120-day deployments. Bands B through E are based on 179-day deployments. Tempo band B is a 1:4 dwell ratio — or six months deployed 24 months home. Tempo band C is a 1:3 dwell, band D is a 1:2 dwell and band E, reserved for the most stressed career fields, is a 1:1 dwell, or six months out, six months in.

Culture: Other branches like to tease the “Chair Force” due to its reputation for cleaner housing and higher quality chow halls. The average Air Force mission will be less physically strenuous or dangerous than that of the Marine Corps or Army.

You might say the Air Force operates with the motto of “work smarter not harder,” and for better or for worse, this pays off. In recent reports, the Air Force had the lowest number of active duty suicides and sexual assaults. That being said, if you want to join the military to get in the fight and kick down doors in a combat zone, there are few Air Force positions available.

Boot Camp: Behind The Scenes at Recruit Training Command (Full documentary, 2019)

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U.S. NAVY

Boot Camp:

Recruit training or “boot camp” is about seven weeks long for the U.S. Navy. It will include physical fitness and Navy heritage, as well as seamanship and firearms training. The first two weeks are a challenging adjustment period filled with medical screenings and physical training as well as military education, including uniform wear and rank recognition.

The next four weeks include class and hands-on training environments that cover everything from firefighting and shipboard damage control to water survival and weapons training. Navy sailors aboard a ship must know how to respond to ship emergencies including flooding and fires as well as how to survive at sea. Every sailor is a qualified swimmer, able to swim 50 yards and complete a five minute prone float.

The final hurdle for Navy recruits is called Battle Stations, which includes numerous obstacles to test everything learned in the weeks prior.

Physical Readiness Test:

(Note, in 2020, the U.S. Navy will be introducing changes to the PRT)

  1. 1.5 mile run for time
    1. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 500 yard swim for time
    2. Alternate per commander’s discretion: Stationary cycle calorie burn in 12 minutes
    3. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 1.5 mile treadmill; run/walk for time
    4. (2020 alternate per commander’s discretion: 2 kilometer row machine test)
  2. Two minutes of curl-ups
    1. (To be replaced by forearm plank test)
  3. Two minutes of push ups
Deployments: Deployments will depend on what type of ship and mission sailors are assigned to, but they are often around seven months and during that time, sailors might not see land for long periods of time. While at sea, there are no breaks: you stand a 6-12 hour watch, even on Sundays, although there are often “holiday routines” with modified shifts. Ship/shore rotation tends to happen after about three years, depending on the job. Some career fields have longer ship rotations and some have only shore duty stations. It’s important to research ahead of time to try to secure the best job suited for you and your capabilities.

Culture: Navy ships especially continue to operate in historical fashions, so change is slow. Segregation of ranks is still strictly enforced (junior enlisted does not mingle with senior enlisted and fraternization with officers is especially prohibited in such close quarters). While women do serve at all ranks, there is still sexism and harassment in alarming numbers (though statistically less than the Marine Corps and the Army).

What It Takes To Survive Coast Guard Boot Camp

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U.S. COAST GUARD

Boot Camp:

U.S. Coast Guard boot camp consists of eight weeks that begin with military and physical fitness fundamentals and mature to hands-on application of Coast Guard proficiencies. Recruits learn firefighting and marksmanship as well as seamanship and water survival. Recruits must pass a three part swimming test (swim circuit) that includes a six-foot jump followed by a 100 meter swim and treading water for five minutes.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed 1.5 mile run
  4. Swim circuit

Deployments:

The Coast Guard consists of about 40,000 active duty members. As such, it is a very selective branch with missions that involve everything from Search and Rescue to Maritime Protection. Coast Guardsmen “deploy” every day in their duties and units and cutters can be away from port for months at a time. Coast Guard deployments tend to be more frequent, but can be as short as a few days or as long as several months.

Not all Coast Guard assignments are on “the coast” — there are inland assignments protecting inland waterways and lakes. The Coast Guard will also deploy to combat zones to provide additional support to maritime operations or to augment the Navy throughout the world.

Once you’ve researched the differences between each branch, there is still one more major consideration that can affect your military experience: whether to enlist or commission. We go into the benefits and downsides of each right here — check them out!

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These 11 weapons have been in the US military’s inventory a very long time

The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:


1. M2 (1933)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.

2. B52 (1954)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber carries enough up to 70,000 pounds of ordnance on flights up to 9,000 nautical miles. Don’t worry if it needs to go further; it can refuel in the air. There are plans to upgrade the B-52’s carrying capacity to 105,000 pounds as well as computer upgrades to let this plane originally built in 1954 serve until 2040.

3. C-130 (1954)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew

The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.

It has delivered tanks at high speed, dropped paratroopers, and transported supplies to every corner of the globe. An armed version, the AC-130, has supported troops in combat since Vietnam.

4. KC-135 (1956)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman

The first KC-135 took to the air in Aug 1956, and the flying gas station has been serving America’s best jets, helicopters, and prop aircraft ever since. Carrying up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, it has served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. U-2 (1956)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The high-flying U-2, famous for its reconnaissance role during the Cold War, took flight in 1956 and has received repeated upgrades ever since. Today, the U-2S can fly at 70,000 feet and is being eyed for service beyond 2050.

6. M14 (1957)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

The M14 entered service in 1957 and was the standard rifle for U.S. Marines and Soldiers from 1959-1970. While it was replaced by the better known M16 for most missions from Vietnam on, improved versions have continued to see action in American hands, mostly as a weapon for squad marksmen and special operators.

7. UH-1 (1958)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg

The UH-1 first flew with the U.S. Army as the HU-1 in Vietnam in 1958 as an air MEDEVAC platform. It was quickly adapted for troop transport and attack missions. Today, upgraded versions of the UH-1 with a second engine serves in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force as well as in foreign militaries.

8. M72 LAW (1963)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Parkinson

Capable of piercing nearly 8 inches of enemy armor from over 200 yards away with a 66mm rocket, the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon was designed to give U.S. infantry a fighting chance against Russian armor in 1963. Though no longer in production, the U.S. uses stockpiled weapons to knock out light enemy armor and buildings.

9. AH-1 Cobra (1967)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: US Marine Corp Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

Originally introduced to the military in 1967 as a stopgap solution in the Vietnam War while the AH-56 was developed. The AH-56 never materialized and the AH-1 reigned supreme until the adoption of the AH-64 Apache. While the U.S. phased out the AH-1, the Marine Corps still fields an upgraded version, the AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper.

10. CH-47 (1962)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

The CH-47A Chinook entered Army service in 1962 and were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. Today, conventional Army units fly the CH-47F with engine, computer, and avionics upgrades from the CH-47A while the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flies the MH-47G with increased fuel storage and inflight refueling capabilities.

11. A-10 (1975)

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Photo: DARPA

The beloved Warthog. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is famous for its seven-barrel, 30mm gatling gun but has also been firing rockets, missiles, and bombs since 1975. It’s recent retirement plans have been indefinitely canceled.

Because Brrrrrt!

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5 things you should keep after getting out

The day one gets out is one that nobody forgets. I packed my car the night before, did my check out process and said goodbye to gents I’d miss and showed the bird to those I wouldn’t. When I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Camp Lejeune shrink smaller and smaller I thought, ‘It’s over…oh sh*t, its actually over.’ I drove off on a cross-country journey to California onto the next chapter. The great thing about the book of life is you can always look back. Here are 5 things you should keep after getting out.

1. Up-to-date dress uniforms

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
A uniform as sharp as this is one thing you’ll want to keep when you get out.

Servicemembers take a lot of pride in their service but there are others that leave with a bad taste in their mouths because of some injustice. Don’t take it out on your uniforms, update them one last time. The sea bag is not where they belong. When you’re getting out its easy to disregard your dress uniform because you won’t wear it again. One day you may want to show your uniform, with its shiny medals pinned on the chest, to your children or grandchildren and you’ll be glad you gave them one last inspection before retiring them.

2. Your last pair of boots in country

The last pair of boots I wore in theater are squirreled away safely until I am further along in my career. When I’m old and crusty I will place them on a glass display case with a little plaque reading ‘Operation Enduring Freedom, Helmand Province Afghanistan 2011.’ That’s the only war trophy I can tastefully display – or can neither confirm or deny that others exist. Whether you want to have them in your home or office or never on display is your prerogative. It’s your story — keep them for you.

3. Backups of all your pictures

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
A friendly welcoming committee like this one is a memory worth saving. Photo by Lance Cpl. Dangelo Yanez
3rd Marine Division

I hate to admit how many pictures I’ve lost and had to track down of my buddies. Take pictures while you’re in and don’t be embarrassed to be that guy who looks like a tourist. As long as you maintain OPSEC you’re all good. You’ll be glad you’ll have them when taking a trip down memory lane. Candid shots of my friends and I are my favorite, it’s like that emotion in that moment in time was captured forever: white water rafting in Turkey, looking for IEDs in Afghanistan, swimming with sea turtles in Japan. You won’t regret it.

4. Those wacky and tacky gifts

Plaques when leaving a unit are the obvious ones to save. Those gag gifts your troops give you are worth keeping, too. You were thought of and rediscovering them years later brings back those memories of inside jokes. I still have an airsoft gun we used to fire at each other in the barracks. One day my roommate and I were shooting at drawn targets on pizza boxes when we were privates. One of our friends walked in and we all froze. There was an airsoft pistol on the bed directly in front of the intruder.

‘Don’t do it.’

But he did and it was like the elevator scene in smoking aces. Good times.

5. Your first EGA or service insignia

If a Marine tells you they didn’t cry when they got their first Eagle, Globe and Anchor they’re a liar. Yet, it’s easy to misplace something so small over the years. The sentimental value is through the roof and your future self will thank you for keeping it. Your first insignia is how it all started and a memory worth safeguarding.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

Which military branch SHOULD you join?

A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this C-130 pilot get inverted at Farnborough

Video of a remarkable aerobatic display by Lockheed Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts in a new LM-100J Super Hercules variant is lighting up the internet in the last couple of days. Roberts flew an incredible demonstration routine at the Farnborough Air Show in the new civilian variant of the legacy C-130 Hercules. It is almost certainly the most remarkable demonstration flying ever in a C-130 variant. At one point during the display the LM-100J was completely inverted.


As reporter Tyler Rogoway wrote in The War Zone for TheDrive.com, this is the last demonstration tour for Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts, and he is going out with a spectacular routine.

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We’ve seen smaller tactical transports demonstrate some impressive aerobatics, including the Italian Air Force C-27J display at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). But we’ve never seen video of a C-130 variant flying a routine that is this dynamic, including the momentarily completely inverted portion of the display.

The LM-100J is a new version of the highly successful Lockheed C-130 intended for the civilian cargo lift, firefighting and utility market. The original C-130 first flew a remarkable 64 years ago. It is also the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. C-130 variants are used as gunships, bombers, tactical transports, weather reconnaissance, electronic warfare, search and rescue and other special missions with militaries around the world.

The new LM-100J Super Hercules uses the new, more powerful Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 engines. It first flew with these engines on May 25, 2018. The LM-100J Super Hercules is a replacement for the older L-100 version of the Hercules built from 1964 until 1992. There were 115 of the original L-100s built.

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According to Lockheed, the flight test program for the LM-100J should be “done by year end” and the aircraft could receive FAA certification in 2019.

Lockheed pilot Wayne Roberts told the website C-130MRO.com that [the new LM-100J], “It flies as wonderfully as it always has. For 60 years, [the C-130] has operated into some of the shortest runways in the world. It still does that extremely well, but it now has new avionics and engines too.” The writers at C-130MRO.com went on to say that the LM-100J is, “Essentially a tweaked version of the C-130J tactical transport, the civil freighter benefits from the over 20 years and 1.5 million flight hours of the military model.”

Some fascinating features on the new LM-100J not normally seen on civilian oriented transports will eventually include night-vision-goggle and air-drop capability, although these will not be certificated initially. This raises the possibility of the aircraft being used by government contractors and intelligence agencies. The C-130J is offered in both long- and short-fuselage variants, the freighter will only be sold in its longer, 34.37m (112ft 9in) version. In addition to being a cargo transport, Lockheed sees potential for the LM-100J to perform missions including aerial firefighting, search and rescue, and even VIP transport.

Transport aircraft often take a back seat to high performance jets and aerobatic teams at airshow demos. But there is no doubt that with the sensation across the internet over the remarkable flying of pilot Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts in the LM-100J that harkens back to pilots like Bob Hoover in the Rockwell Aero Commander, this last demonstration series by Roberts will be remembered for a long, long time.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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SECDEF Mattis’s official aircraft also happens to be America’s ‘Doomsday’ jet

Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”


So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.”  Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.

Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
Nightwatch refueling over the UK while transiting back to the US (USAF photo)

The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.

Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.

Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
SECDEF James Mattis briefs members of the press aboard an E-4B (USAF photo)

Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.

The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.

That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
SECDEF Mattis arriving at King Salman Air Base, Saudi Arabia (USAF photo)

However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.

It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s special ops supercar will blow your mind

This fully customized Dodge Challenger was built by Galpin Auto Sports of Van N California, and is outfitted with special gullwing doors, a carbon fiber body kit, and a “stealth” exhaust system that, when activated, allows the Vapor to run almost silently. Its features include cutting edge technology used by the , such as a forward looking infrared system for night operation and a high-resolution 360-degree surveillance camera with 1/4 mile range.


Which military branch SHOULD you join?
The Air Force’s customized Vapor Special Ops Supercar on display in the museum’s third building. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In addition, the car’s blacked-out “command center” interior is equipped with aircraft style controls, a passenger side steering wheel, and a windshield head-up display with both night and thermal vision capability, and its advanced computer system allows remote operation from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Which military branch SHOULD you join?
The Air Force’s customized Vapor Special Ops Supercar on display in the museum’s third building. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Vapor Supercar toured the  for more than seven years with the  Recruiting Service, educating the public on opportunities for officers and enlisted airmen by showcasing   ingenuity, state-of the-art technology, and innovation.

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Air Force’s customized Vapor Special Ops Supercar in the museum’s restoration hangar. (U.S. Air Force photo)

According to National Museum of the   Deputy Director and Senior Curator Krista Strider, having the Vapor Supercar on display at the museum will not only allow visitors to appreciate the advanced technology and unique aspects of the car, but could also lead to some extended mileage for its recruiting mission.

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The stealth-black Air Force Challenger ‘Vapor’ features a biometric access to open the vertical doors, a custom stealth body kit with jet enhancements and a carbon fiber exterior trim. Other exterior components include one-off carbon fiber wheels, a custom stealth exhaust mode that allows the vehicle to run in complete silence or the headers can be opened facilitate the aggressive sound of the engine. The vehicle features a shaker hood, radar-absorbing paint, proximity sensors and a 360-degree camera with a quarter-mile range. The Vapor is one of the Air Force’s newest mobile marketing assets and will be touring high schools and a variety of Air Force sponsored events as part of the 2009 Super Car Tour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Reed)

“The special features and innovative technology associated with the Vapor Supercar is really interesting for visitors to see,” said Strider. “A major part of the museum’s mission is to inspire our youth toward an  or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career, and the Vapor Supercar is another asset that we can utilize to help  accomplish that goal.”

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The stealth-black Air Force Challenger ‘Vapor’ interior featuers aircraft style controls, a passenger side steering wheel, GPS tracking, night and thermal vision via a film on the front windshield, and the most technologically-advanced computer system with remote control UAV-type access from anywhere in the world utilizing the Internet. The ‘Vapor’ also comes with two custom flight helmets in line with the Air Force theme of the vehicle. The Vapor is one of the Air Force’s newest mobile marketing assets and will be touring high schools and a variety of Air Force sponsored events as part of the 2009 Super Car Tour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott Reed)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China admits army had no idea what to do with fancy new tanks

China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.

During a mock battle held in 2018, an “elite combined arms brigade” of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army was defeated, despite being armed with superior weapons, specifically China’s new main battle tank, the Type 099A, the Global Times reported Jan. 20, 2019, citing a report last week from China’s state broadcaster CCTV.


China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained in a recent assessment of China’s military power.

“In some areas, it already leads the world,” he added.

While the DIA assessment called attention to China’s advancements in anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons, China appears particularly proud of achievements like the Type 099A battle tank, the J-20 stealth fighter, and the Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, arms which advance the warfighting capabilities of China’s army, air force, and navy respectively.

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The J-20 stealth fighter.

But the Chinese military is apparently still trying to figure out what these developments mean for modern warfare.

In the interview with CCTV, two senior officers reflected on why Chinese troops armed with the new tanks lost in 2018’s simulated battle. “We rushed with the Type 099A too close to the frontline, which did not optimize the use of the tank’s combat capability,” Xu Chengbiao, a battalion commander, explained. “We only studied the capabilities of older tanks, but have not completely understood new ones,” Zhao Jianxin, a second battalion commander, reportedly told CCTV.

A Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that weapons alone cannot win wars.

David Axe, a defense editor at The National Interest, argued that the Chinese media report indicates that China struggles with “inadequate” military doctrine due to the country’s lack of combat experience. The Chinese military has not fought a war since the late 1970s.

China is focusing more on the navy, air force, rocket force, and strategic support force than it is on the army, which his experienced a major reduction in personnel. This shift, according to some analysts, highlights an interest in power projection over home defense.

As the warfighting capabilities of the Chinese military grow, it will presumably need to adapt its military doctrine to emerging technologies to maximize capability, but that process may take some time.

The Chinese military is undergoing a massive modernization overhaul in hopes of achieving Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stated goal of building a world-class military that can fight and win wars by the middle of this century.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The NSA needs teenagers to protect democracy

Remember your first summer job? This author’s was as a door corp member, a host, at his local Waffle House. He was fine at that job and terrible as a waiter on Sunday mornings. But the NSA has a program for teens who want to make a bigger impact: Come to the NSA as an intern before college. And the benefits are better than what this author gets now.


Why The NSA Is Hiring Teenagers Like You

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The Gifted Talented STEM Program seeks high school students with credits for physics, calculus, and either computer science, programming, or engineering. Combine those credits with a 1200 or above on the SAT or 25 or above on the ACT, and those students can get a job at an actual spy agency.

The students work full-time over the summer for between 10 and 12 weeks. Benefits include paid time off, holiday and sick leave, housing assistance, free courses, and travel reimbursement.

If the students are really interested in the NSA for a career, they can then enroll in the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program as well. That has all the same benefits of the GT STEM Program, but they also get up to ,000 in tuition assistance, health and life insurance, and credit toward federal retirement.

In addition to the technical internships, the NSA has a language program for high school seniors with an aptitude for the Chinese, Russian, Korean, Farsi, or Arabic languages. There are also high school work-study programs where students work 20 to 32 hours a week during the school year, earning about -12 an hour.

Now, students with those great academic credentials can make real contributions to national security, but the NSA is pretty open about why they really want students to come to the agency for a few summers in a row.

It helps them poach talent away from Silicon Valley.

The NSA is part of the Department of Defense, and it’s the military’s primary arm for cyber security and defense as well as other espionage activities. It absolutely needs top-tier computer talent to do its job and to protect American service members and enable offensive activities across the globe.

But recruiting that talent is tough, especially since software and computer companies have deeper pockets and are looking for the same people. So the NSA hopes that, by allowing the students to see the meaningful impact of their work early on, those same students will come back to the agency after graduation.

In fact, all students that complete their degree on the Stokes scholarship are required to work at the NSA for 1.5 times their length of study. So, six years for the average bachelor’s degree and nine years for the average master’s program.

Students can apply to the current batch of work-study jobs through October 31, while next summer’s GT and Stokes slots are open for applications through November 15. Remember that next year is 2020, and there’s another election coming up. The NSA is one of the agencies charged with safeguarding those elections, so this year’s interns could be in for an interesting summer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard about to miss first paycheck, but getting it done

A surprise maneuver at the end of December 2018 ensured Coast Guardsmen got their final paychecks of 2018, despite the government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018.

But the shutdown has dragged on, and the income for some 50,000 personnel, including 42,000 deemed essential personnel and required to work during the shutdown, remains in doubt as the first payday of 2019 approaches.


Salaries for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are covered by the Defense Department, which got its full funding the for the fiscal year in the fall of 2018. But while the Coast Guard is a military branch, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which had not been approved by the time the shutdown began.

Coast Guard operations have continued, however.

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Coast Guard personnel prepare a sling that will hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts, May 9, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

On Dec. 23, 2018, Coast Guard crews on training exercises in Hawaii were diverted twice, first to medevac a snorkeler who was having a medical emergency and then to rescue passengers from a capsized vessel. In January 2019, Coast Guard crews in the Pacific have been involved in searches for crew members from two different vessels.

Officials said on Dec. 28, 2018, that the Homeland Security Department had found a way to supply about million needed to cover pay for the Dec. 31, 2018 pay period, but they said they would be unable to repeat it for the Jan. 15, 2019 payday.

There is some money within the Homeland Security Department that has moved around to keep things going, but some activities, like issuing licenses, has been curtailed. Funding for other services, like child-care subsidies, is also running out, further complicating life for service members and their families.

During the first week of January 2019, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate by Republican Sen. John Thune, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Cindy Hyde Smith, and Democratic Sens. Marla Cantwell, Richard Blumenthal, Doug Jones, and Brian Schatz.

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A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, May 29, 2017.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)

The bill would pay active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard personnel despite the shutdown. It would also fund benefits for retired members, death gratuities, and other payouts.

Thune’s measure was first introduced in 2015 but died after being referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After a grassroots effort generated 141,015 letters to congress members asking for its reintroduced, the bill was resubmitted on Jan. 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress.

“All we know so far, is that if this isn’t resolved by the 10th they will not get paid on the 15th,” Coast Guard spouse Stephanie Lisle told ConnectingVets.com. “Hopefully the bill gets passed.”

The bill garnered support from more than a dozen veterans groups, but it would also have to pass the House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats, and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Early January 2019 Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for “months or even years” after he and Democratic leaders again failed to resolve his demand for billions in funding for a border wall.

“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said on Jan. 4, 2019. “I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time to get together for Wreaths Across America

The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.


Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.

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Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.

In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.

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Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.

In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.

Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.

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The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.

Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.

Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)

Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines team up with Philippines and Japan for ‘Warrior of the Sea’

Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.


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Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

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A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

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Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.

“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”

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US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)

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US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)

“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).

“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

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A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)

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US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.

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

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