We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.
For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.
But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)
Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.”
In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.
It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.
The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.
“Out on a hike all day, dear
Part of the army grind
Weary and long the way, dear
But really I don’t mind
I’m getting tired so I can sleep
I want to sleep so I can dream
I want to dream so I can be with you
I’ve got your picture by my bed
‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head
To keep me company the whole night through
For a little while, whatever befalls
I will see your smile till reveille calls
I hope you’re tired enough to sleep
And please sleep long enough to dream
And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”
Click play on the video below and try to sing along.
(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
A dishonorable discharge is, plainly, something nobody serving wants to get. It comes with a lot of adverse consequences that will follow you long into your civilian life and it’ll also will cost you any service-related benefits you may have acquired, including a military funeral, VA loans for a house, and medical care from the VA. If that wasn’t enough, you also lose out on the right to keep and bear arms.
The good news? There’s only one way to get this type of discharge that absolutely, positively, ruins your life. You need to be convicted in a general court-martial of violating any of a number of provisions outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
These include, but are not limited to: Striking a warrant officer (Article 91), failure to obey an order or regulation (Article 92), unlawful detention (Article 97), misbehavior before the enemy (Article 99), falsifying official statements (Article 107), and misbehavior of a sentinel or lookout (Article 113).
So, how often does this sort of thing happen? Well, during the shortest month of this year, Navy courts-martial, as summarized in this release, resulted in four sailors earning themselves dishonorable discharges.
Now, before we get started, know that commissioned officers cannot get discharges of any type. The officer equivalent of a dishonorable discharge is a dismissal from the service. Whether dismissed or dishonorably discharged, that service member forfeits all benefits.
These troops hold their honorable discharges – the complete opposite of a dishonorable discharge.
The Manual for Courts-Martial has a detailed breakdown of what can earn you the dreaded dishonorable discharge. One way to get that life-ruining piece of paper is described on page II-134,
“A dishonorable discharge should be reserved for those who should be separated under conditions of dishonor, after having been convicted of offenses usually recognized in civilian jurisdictions as felonies, or of offenses of a military nature requiring severe punishment.”
Another way, however, is called the “four strike rule.” If you’ve been repeatedly court-martialed and convicted of three offenses, your fourth will net you a dishonorable discharge. Described on page II-136 of the Manual for Courts-Martial,
“If an accused is found guilty of an offense or offenses for none of which a dishonorable discharge is otherwise authorized, proof of three or more previous convictions adjudged by a court-martial during the year next preceding the commission of any offense of which the accused stands convicted shall authorize a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances and, if the confinement otherwise authorized is less than 1 year, confinement for 1 year.”
A third way is to get a death sentence for an offense, according to page II-139 (190 on the PDF). The manual states,
“A sentence of death includes a dishonorable discharge or dismissal as appropriate.”
This is, in a sense, kicking you while you’re down. For all intents and purposes, you’re already dead, and they then stick your corpse with bad paper.
Perhaps the most notorious dishonorable discharge in recent memory is that of Bowe Bergdahl, who left his unit in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. He received a dishonorable discharge for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. As a result, he forfeited any and all benefits he would’ve earned from service.
A dishonorable discharge takes away all of your benefits, including a your right to funeral with military honors.
Often, when someone messes up, they’re more likely to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. This discharge doesn’t require a court-martial — it just takes a commanding officer. That gets you kicked out of the military, but has a much lesser effect than a dishonorable discharge.
According to GIJobs.com, an OTH discharge costs a departing military member a good portion of their post-service benefits, and generally precludes re-enlistment in another branch. To get a bad-conduct discharge, you need to be convicted by a special court-martial — this is a streamlined version of a general court-martial and comes with lesser penalties. You lose out on virtually all your benefits, though.
None of these “bad papers” are good to get. So, before you try something that could get you in trouble, think it through.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)
“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”
Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The creators of “Fortnite” have responded to the pleas of hundreds of players by lowering the firepower of a giant robot that has been terrorizing the game for weeks.
Epic Games added the B.R.U.T.E. mech suit to the game with “Fortnite’s” season 10 update on Aug. 1, 2019. The B.R.U.T.E. is a two-person vehicle that requires one player to pilot while the other player controls a rocket launcher and shotgun. The B.R.U.T.E. can crush players and destroy buildings simply by stomping through them, and its boosters give it tons of mobility compared to players on foot.
The mech has been wreaking havoc in battle royale matches, and some of the most well-known “Fortnite” players started a social media hashtag #RemovetheMech to petition for the B.R.U.T.E. to be removed entirely. Players have specifically complained about their inability to defend themselves against the B.R.U.T.E. during competitive matches.
The game’s developers attempted to defend the B.R.U.T.E.’s strength in an Aug. 15, 2019 blog post, sharing specific stats about how many players were eliminated using the mech in battle royale matches. Epic said the mech was designed to bring “spectacle and entertainment” to the game, and make it easier for players with a lower skill level to win a match.
“The mission of Fortnite is to bring players of all skill levels together to have a fun experience where anyone can win. For example — everyone having a shot at that first elimination or Victory Royale moment and the satisfying feeling that comes with it. Right now, we know there are players out there who have never had that opportunity,” the developers said in the post.
Now, one week later, Epic announced sweeping changes to the B.R.U.T.E., lowering its speed and damage, and making it appear less often overall. The changes are designed to make the mech a defensive tank, rather than an aggressive juggernaut.
Streamers React To The BRUTE Finally Being NERFED & Junk Rifts Being REMOVED!
“We want to reduce a B.R.U.T.E.’s ability to engage and disengage at long distances to encourage a more strategic approach to an encounter,” the detailed patch notes read. “In general we hope to shift B.R.U.T.E.s away from being highly mobile and put more emphasis on their already defensive nature.”
The B.R.U.T.E. will still be around for the foreseeable future, but it seems that players will have now a better chance to fight back. “Fortnite” regularly cycles through weapons and vehicles, so its possible that the mechs will be a distant memory in a few months, or just replaced with something even more powerful.
“Fortnite” is the most popular game in the world with more than 250 million players, and it’s free to play. The game also supports competitive events that give away millions of dollars in prize money.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was the Red Army’s “Iwo Jima” moment, Soviet troops fixing the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the most infamous symbol of Hitler’s rise to power. On May 2, 1945, Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei snapped the now-famous photo of Alyosha Kovalyov and Abdulkhakim Ismailov raising the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag.
But the truth behind the photo, who was in the photo, and who actually raised the Soviet victory banner, was clouded in the fog of war and muddled by the Russian propaganda machine for decades. The first to raise the flag were a Kazakh, Lt. Rakhimzhan Koshkarbaev and Pvt. Georgij Bulatov, a Russian from Sverdlovsk.
At first, the Kremlin announced that Georgia-born Meliton Kantaria and Russian Mikhail Yegorov were the men in the photo. The men were hailed as heroes and lived the rest of their lives in the glory created by Soviet propaganda.
Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the truth come out. Kovalyov and Ismailov were really the ones who hoisted the flag on the building… in the photo. But they weren’t the first to raise one. One story has it that a Sergeant Mikhail Menin, part of a five-man fire team led by Vladimir Makov raised a flag on the building first.
In 2007, the Russian Institute of Military History announced that honor went to Koshkarbaev and Bulatov. The only problem was they hoisted the red banner at 10:30 at night. No one believed these two, however – it was too dark for photos.
A documentary film titled “The Motherland Calls” about Kazakhs in the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet term for WWII), relayed anecdotal evidence from other Red Army veterans that described Koshkarbaev and other men from the 674th regiment moving on the parliament building – including the Soviet filmmaker and combat cameraman Roman Karmen.
Karmen recalled filming “the Kazakh officer” as a Red Army combat cameraman in Berlin.
“You see, we received an order from Moscow: the Victory Banner over the Reichstag should be hoisted by representatives of Georgia and Russia, but it was difficult to stop. I was told to cut the frames [of Koshkarbaev], but they are preserved, in the archives.”
Kovalyov and Ismailov were pressured by the the KGB to stay quiet about their role in the flag raising. Bulatov was found hanged in his apartment in 1955.
Soviet leadership began pressuring their troops to capture the building in preparation for the International Workers Day celebrations for May 1st. The Soviets tried to drape red banners on the building via aircraft, but came up short when the banners were caught on the girders of the roof.
But as of May 30th, Hitler still controlled the Reichstag.
The German parliament building, Hitler’s rubber stamp, was defended by 1,000 German troops, so Soviet leadership ordered nine divisions to attack the building. Red Army troops used mortars fired horizontally to punch through bricked-up doorway throughout the building. They fought room by room until Soviet fire teams could make their way to the stairs and the roof of the building.
By May 2nd, the only Germans left in the building surrendered from the basement. That’s when the photographer Yevgeny Khaldei made his way up to the roof and enlisted Kovalyov and Ismailov to help raise the now-famous red banner. He burned through a whole roll of film taking the image.
Thundering jets above Colorado Springs the morning of May 9 bid a final farewell to a native son who went missing 48 years ago on a mission to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
It was a sound that Capt. Roger Helwig loved. Helwig, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Colorado Springs, was a free spirit known for meticulous honesty oddly melded with a wild streak that drove him to seek adventure in the sky.
“He was a tremendous guy,” said retired Maj. Jack Schnurr, a flight school friend, after an Air Force Academy memorial for the captain.
Helwig loved the F-4 Phantom and new bride Carol in what some joking called equal measures when he flew off for his second tour in Vietnam in 1969.
“He didn’t have to be there,” Schnurr said. “He volunteered to go back.”
On his first tour overseas, Helwig flew in the second seat of the F-4, running the plane’s weapons systems and electronics as a GIB, the military acronym for “guy in back.”
After he came home, Helwig got more flight training and headed back to war as the guy in front.
He was a forward air controller, one of the legendary “fast-FACs” who ranged far and wide over Southeast Asia spotting targets for troops on the ground.
During his final flight, Helwig and Capt. Roger Stearns were 10 miles west of Vietnam on a mission to stop the flow of arms and troops that fueled the Viet Cong insurgency. Flights against targets in neutral Laos, though, were something the Air Force avoided discussing in public.
Records say the two had just bombed a target, and the jet was trailing a mist of fuel before it exploded. Searchers later found shredded parachutes and the remains of a life raft, but they didn’t find Helwig or Stearns.
In 1990, a Defense Department team returned to the crash site and found Stearns’ remains. Helwig stayed missing until last summer.
His widow got a visit from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August. Searchers had found a tiny talisman at the jungle site: Helwig’s dog tag.
“It was surreal when I held that in the palm of my hand,” Carol said May 9. “It was as if I was reliving the past.”
Dozens gathered at the academy May 9 to relive the past with her and tell stories about the 26-year-old pilot.
Lt. Col. Mike Newton, a chaplain, told mourners they need to remember Helwig’s courage.
“I have no idea what it took to fly 100 missions in Vietnam, each one of them harrowing,” Newton said. “But he strapped it on every time.”
Carol remembered the kind but kind of crazy young man she met when he was riding his motorcycle from Arizona to Washington, D.C.
She knew she was competing with a twin-engined jet for Helwig’s affection.
“He loved flying,” she said.
Helwig left no children to mourn him, but a wide array of friends came to the Air Force Academy cemetery to remember.
The academy supplied an honor guard, rifle team, and a bugler to play taps.
The 24 notes of Taps lay heroes to rest. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
Air Combat Command offered up four F-15 Eagle fighters to blaze overhead in the missing man formation.
Carol supplied her own touch. Bells played a last waltz for the man she loved — the theme song of Doctor Zhivago, the first film they had seen together.
And as the bells played, quiet voices whispered the song’s tale of love long lost but reclaimed.
“Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing. Although the snow covers the hope of spring.”
Every generation has a slightly different experience of military service. Here are 13 things that no longer exist but you’ll remember if you served in the US Navy in the 1980s.
1. You could have a beard
Remember when you just couldn’t wait to make E-4 so you could have one of those great big bushy Navy beards? Too bad you couldn’t wear an OBA to breathe in a fire with that big old beard…
2. Beer machines in the barracks
Nothing better than getting off work, coming back to an open barracks room with 75 other guys in it, going into the TV lounge to watch the same show everybody else wants to see and dropping $.75 into a cold drink machine to enjoy a nice lukewarm can of brew.
3. Snail mail that took months to reach you
Getting your Christmas cards for Easter is always fun.
4. Cinderella liberty
Get back to the ship by midnight or you will turn into a pumpkin (or at least pull some extra duty)!
5. Life before urinalysis
Gave new meaning to “The smoking lamp is lit.”
6. Watching the same movie 72 times on deployment because there was no satellite
Reciting the lines by memory added to the fun. For a treat they would show it topside on the side of the superstructure.
7. Enlisted and officers partying together
Nothing better than drinking all night with your division officer and showing up for the next day’s morning muster while he is nowhere to be found.
8. Liberty cards, request chits, and green “memorandum” books
No liberty until the chief handed out the liberty cards; chits filled out in triplicate were required for everything; and you knew you made it when you carried a little green memo book in your pocket (to write stuff down with your Skilcraft pen).
9. Having a “discussion” with the chief in the fan room
A little attitude adjustment never hurt anybody. The next day you were best buds, and you never told a soul where you got that black eye.
10. Getting paid in cash
Nothing better than armed guards standing by for payday on the mess decks and having a pocket full of $20s every 2 weeks.
11. Our only enemy was the Reds
Ivans and Oscars and Bears, Oh My!
12. Communicating with flags
Just what are those guys waving around semaphore flags saying to each other?
13. Navigation before GPS
Quartermaster get a sextant and tell me where we are!
The chief debate among people searching for a cold-weather sleeping bag is the choice between down and synthetic fill. As a rule, down fill is lighter and more compressible than synthetic fill. However, down clumps when it gets wet and loses much of its insulation, while synthetic fill tolerates the dampness better.
I recently tested the Kifaru Slick Bag, which features synthetic Climashield APEX fill. This bag works well even when dam — and that’s an important feature to me since I live in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. This fill also does not need to be kept religiously clean, as down does.
Designed for a wide range of conditions and climates, the Slick Bag is a standout, versatile sleeping bag. It is warm, tough, and light enough to carry.
Kifaru offers this bag rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The 0 degree bag is a solid all-around rating for where I backpack, but users in the Lower 48 may favor the 20 degree bag to save weight.
(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International.)
I’ve yet to test it in temperatures below zero, but the Slick Bag has stood up well to nights in the single digits. Though I tend to sleep cold, the Slick Bag kept me warm, even when wet, mostly thanks to the Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating on the bag’s exterior. The material is Kifaru’s RhinoSkin, a ripstop nylon that’s plenty tough for backcountry use. Kifaru claims it’s tough enough to sleep with boots on in the bag, though I didn’t test that theory.
The 0 degree Slick Bag weighs 3.35 pounds in regular width, making it light but not ultralight. The bag, when compressed, is easy to carry. The 20 degree bag weighs 2.9 pounds, and the negative-20 bag comes in at 4.43 pounds. Kifaru offers all of the bags in wide and long as well, though these features naturally increase the weight and cost.
The bag uses a center zip for ease of access, which has been an issue for heat retention in the past. Kifaru addressed that issue by adding a passive baffle system around the zipper and neck. If any heat bleeds off from the top zipper, it’s unnoticeable. For temperature regulation, users can unzip a lower section of the bag or adjust the hood. The bag has a looser fit than most other mummy-style bags, making movement easy, especially for side sleepers.
Returning to that debate between down and synthetic fill, I have a confession: I generally prefer down. The light weight and low volume when compressed is ideal for a minimalist backpacker or ultralight hiker looking to shave off a couple more ounces from their pack.
But for a hunter, especially someone using vehicular transportation or who may be working out of a base camp where cutting ounces is not critical, a synthetic bag like the Slick Bag is the perfect choice. Not having to worry about water on the sleeping bag provides peace of mind. The bag is also great for anyone who plans on bivouac camping. Without the protection of a tent, the synthetic fill and water-resistant RhinoSkin exterior is a must.
The base price of the Slick Bag is 0 and ranges up to 8 depending on degree rating, length, and width, which is in line with other high-end synthetic bags. Along with tents and rain coats, sleeping bags are an important — albeit often expensive — part of safe camping. It’s worth it to find something that will do what you need it to do. It’s also important to take proper care of your investment — for long term storage, sleeping bags should be hung in a closet and kept dry.
Unlike some gear on the market that looks cool but falls apart quickly, Kifaru’s sleeping bags are built to stand up to hard use for a very long time. The Slick Bag is a well-built sleeping bag that will keep you warm and comfortable in harsh conditions.
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The most powerful missile in the United States nuclear arsenal is about to get a new warhead. A $65 million low-yield nuclear weapon design touted by the Trump Administration since 2018 just went into production in the home of American weapons: Texas.
New designs were tasked by the administration after the 2018 nuclear posture review found that the National Nuclear Security Agency could not update or maintain its stock of nuclear weapons with the budget it had. The $65 million design was appropriated from the Department of Energy, the parent agency of the National Nuclear Security Agency. It will be based on the current design of the Navy’s W76-1 warhead, which is currently on the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and is intended to be fired via submarine.
“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said.
Two factors allow for the warhead’s quick production time: first, it’s based on the current warhead for the Trident II D5 and second, the nuclear weapon is smaller than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which would be today considered a yield nuclear weapon. The two had a yield of 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. By today’s standard, a low-yield nuke could be upwards of 50-100 kilotons.
The result of a “low-yield” nuclear weapon.
The U.S. military has roughly 1,000 low-yield nukes in its 4,400-plus nuclear arsenal. Activists worry that an increase in new, low-yield weapons will only increase the likelihood of one of them being used in a tactical move, as some consider the weapons a “less powerful nuclear option.”
A big issue with having two levels of nuclear force is that the target of the potentially low-yield nuclear strike doesn’t know if the attack is low-yield or high-yield until it’s too late – and will likely just respond in kind. Trident II D5 missiles are the most powerful in the nuclear triad and also the most reliable weapon system ever built. More than that, it can deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which means any Trident launch will likely be seen as an all-out attack on multiple targets, prompting an all-out nuclear response.
Which your mom might be able to teach you to survive.
Uniforms for female personnel started off on the right foot. In the early days of WWII, the WAVES uniforms were designed by a former editor from Vogue who knew the wife of the then-Under-Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal. Mrs. Forrestal had been a fashion editor at Vogue and wanted the ladies to look sharp. And they did. Even the coveralls back then were flattering.
But things went south from there with a low point around the ’70s to the ’90s where confusion reigned and no one was sure if women’s uniforms should make them look like actual women. We ended up in a sea of polyester and high-waist pants that are not kind to any shape or size. Today, the battle rages on with efforts to make everyone look the same (which really means women pay for extra uniform items to look like men), and the average service member is left wondering why we spend so much on uniform changes but can’t seem to afford non-asbestos filled buildings. So, here for your viewing enjoyment is a list of the worst uniforms, and proposed uniforms, for each service branch.
(U.S. Army photo)
Army: “Sea foam” green
What is this uniform and why did they make poor, unsuspecting Army Nurse Corps personnel wear it? In the words of Nancy Kerrigan, “Whyyyyyyy!?” Are you a nurse, a flight attendant? No, you are a soldier… in sea foam green… with gloves. One can only ponder the thought process of whoever signed off on this idea, but we hope they were colorblind because there is just no excuse for this kind of optical assault.
(Naval History and Heritage Command photo)
Navy: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of a decent uniform”
We know the 1970s were all about the big collars, which can be the only reason why the Navy sought to bestow upon its female members the biggest, baddest necktie/neckerchief that ever was. We’re talking Bozo-like proportions here, people. Other notable elements of this ensemble include the shapeless, short sleeved blouse favored by polyester-wearing middle management business men and the beret, which no one really knew how to wear and which only women with bangs liked because it sat further back on the head.
Air Force: “Just cinch it”
The Air Force always gets made fun of, so it’s a head scratcher to think why they thought these new dress jackets would work. To be fair, this was a proposed uniform change in 2008 that was not a priority for the incoming Air Force Chief of Staff; but even so… yikes. The male version looks fine, but that belted style seems to work well on men (see every Marine in dress uniform, ever.) But on females, this uniform is ill-fitting and makes them look like some sort of Goth Dudley Do-Right. Also why is it dark blue? Something tells me the Navy was not pleased.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Coast Guard: Flying the not-so-friendly skies of fashion
Did you know the Coast Guard was an airline in the 1970’s? Wait, it wasn’t? Well what else could one think when looking at this collection of uniforms? The jumper is a nice touch. Nothing says, “I’m a strong, intelligent woman; treat me with respect” like a Catholic school uniform-inspired jumper; and we see the Coast Guard also got on board with the beret craze, though not successfully, we might add. What we can’t figure out is why we never knew that Patty Hearst was once in the Coast Guard…
(U.S. Marine Corps History Division photo)
Marine Corps: Semper Fabulous
You know what’s annoying? All of the female Marine Corps uniforms throughout the ages have been nice. Seriously, Google it. The uniforms are not bad, not even during the 1980s and 1990s when all the other service branches were moving to uniforms that made everyone look like a postal worker. From the beginning, these ladies looked sharp and fit and we can’t find anything wrong with them. Marines, looking spiffy throughout the ages. Oorah!
No love affair ever ended with more animosity than that of Iran and the United States. To this day, the two countries are constantly antagonizing each other.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that led to the holding of 52 American hostages for 444 days, nearly a dozen incidents painted the relationship between the two countries. None was more violent than Operation Praying Mantis, the U.S. response to the USS Samuel B. Roberts striking an Iranian mine.
The Samuel B. Roberts deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, ordered by President Reagan to protect freedom of movement and international shipping in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
When the ship hit the mine, it became the catalyst for one of the largest American surface confrontations since WWII. At 105 km east of Bahrain, it was close to Iran’s maritime boundary but still well outside. The mine blew a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull, injuring ten sailors. Luckily, the crew saved the Samuel B. Roberts, and it was towed to Dubai two days later.
For four years leading up to this event, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned to bring the U.S. into the ongoing Iran-Iraq War – on his side. In 1984, Iraq started attacking Iranian oil tankers and platforms to provoke the Iranians into taking extreme measures to protect its interests.
The Iranians responded as Hussein hoped, attacking Kuwaiti-flagged oil tankers moving Iraqi oil. Kuwait, though officially Iraq’s ally, was also a non-combatant and a key U.S. ally in the region. The Iranians were also illegally mining the Gulf’s international shipping lanes. Laying mines was an extreme measure Hussein hoped the Iranians would take and a move the United States didn’t take lightly.
In April 1988, Iran was caught mining international waters when U.S. Army Night Stalker MH-6 and AH-6 helicopters forced the crew of the minelayer Iran Ajr by to abandon ship. Navy SEALs then captured the Iran Ajr, finding mines and a log book on the ship’s mine placements. The Navy scuttled the ship the next day.
That’s when the Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine. The U.S. response was overwhelming. Aircraft from the USS Enterprise, along with two Surface Action Groups (SAG), moved on the Iranians on April 18, 1988.
The first SAG attacked the Sassan oil platform with two destroyers, an amphibious transport, and multiple helicopter detachments. Cobra helicopters cleared all resistance. Marines captured the platform and destroyed it as they left.
The other SAG, consisting of a guided missile cruiser and two frigates attacked the Sirri oil platform. The plan called for SEALs to capture the platform, but the pre-attack naval bombardment was so intense the SEAL mission wasn’t necessary.
Iran responded by sending speedboats to attack shipping in the region. American A-6E Intruders sank one and chased the rest back into Iranian territory.
One Iranian fast attack ship, Joshan, challenged the entire second SAG by itself. It got one harpoon missile off before the other ships, the USS Wainwright, the USS Bagley and the USS Simpson hit it with four Standard missiles, then finishing it off with their guns. Chaff countermeasures diverted the Iranian harpoon missile. It did no damage.
An Iranian frigate, Sahand, attacked the USS Joseph Strauss and its A-6E overwatch, who all returned fire with missiles of their own. The American missiles started a fire aboard the Sahand, which reached her munitions magazine. The frigate exploded and sank.
Another frigate, the Sabalan, moved to attack A-6Es from the Enterprise. One naval aviator dropped a Mark 82 laser-guided bomb on the Sabalan’s deck, crippling her and leaving her burning. As the Sabalan was towed away, the A-6Es were ordered to cut off the attack in an effort to keep the situation from escalating. The U.S. cut off all attacks in the region and offered Iran a way out of the situation, which it promptly took.
The U.S. retaliation operation, called Praying Mantis, cost the lives of three service members, Marines whose AH-1T Sea Cobra helicopter gunship crashed in the dark during a recon mission.
The top enlisted leader of the U.S. Air Force is making resiliency a top priority for the last year of his tenure, and part of his plan to promote strong and mindful airmen is to revamp how airmen approach the physical fitness assessment, commonly known as the PT test.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright is looking at new ways of approaching the PT test. One possibility under consideration is a no-fail trial PT test, that if passed, would count as the airman’s official score, Wright’s spokesman, Senior Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe, said.
“The intent is to relieve some of the anxiety, and hopefully this is one of the steps that can get [the Air Force] closer to a culture of fitness rather than a culture of fitness testing,” Kibbe told Miliary.com on Aug. 7, 2019. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine.
Kibbe explained that, in the Air Force, an “excellent” composite score is equal to or greater than 90 points with all minimum components met. A satisfactory score is between 75 and 89.99 points. Anything below 75 is a failing score. If an airman scores 90 or above, he or she has a year before the next test. Those within the 75 to 89 category only have six months before they must take the next assessment.
(United States Air Force)
The current Air Force fitness test is gender and age-normed and combines a 1.5-mile run time with maximum pushup and sit-up repetitions within one minute.
“In order to try to relieve some of the anxiety that airmen are having when they’re getting close to their due date, we’re going to allow them to take a ‘diagnostic test,'” he said.
It can be taken anytime in the year-long or six-month window, though not after.
“They’re going to take that diagnostic test and if they pass it, as long as they’re doing it through the official testing system … their clock would reset,” Kibbe said. “If they don’t pass it, but they’re still current, there will not be any punitive actions.”
If an airman fails the pre-test, he or she still has time to work on “what they need to work on” to improve for the next PT assessment, he said.
Kibbe said the Air Force is in the process of developing the policy, but stressed it’s still “months away” from any potential implementation.
A Day in the Life
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamie Pitcher)
There may also be a change to the tape test, Kibbe said. The tape test, which measures body fat based on waist circumference, has drawn criticism over the years as an ineffective way to assess body composition due to differences in body type and musculature.
Officials are “looking at incorporating an equation,” Kibbe said. “To find out your fitness index for the abdominal circumference, they’re looking at adding into an equation your waist measurement, your height and your run time to get an overall cardiovascular fitness index, or a number that more accurately represents how you’re doing.”
The waist maximums remain 39 inches for men and 35.5 inches for women.
There are outliers when it comes to waist measurement, though, including very tall men and women and those with big builds. Kibbe said the Air Force is still weighing what the cutoffs for the proposed equation method would be.
“The science is telling us that we do need to keep a measurement of the waist because [it] is an accurate predictor of health,” he said.
For any changes to PT, Kibbe said Wright is making sure the service “gets it right rather than fast.”
“He’s more than comfortable to handing this off to the next [CMSAF] knowing it has been set up for success,” Kibbe said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.
Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.
Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came tothe site emblazoned with miniature American flags.
But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)
In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used aform to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.
Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.
In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”
To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.
An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.
That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.
In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.
“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.
Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.
The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.
Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.
TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.
It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.
Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.
We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.
The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.
And that “military discount”? All of .
In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.
Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:
The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.
Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.
“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”
We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.
TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.
We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.
We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).
We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.
When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).
On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.
When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .
While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.
On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.
It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”
“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.
Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.