Imagine a summer with no camps, no daycares, no pools, no libraries or open parks to take your kids to enjoy. No play-dates, sleepovers, theme parks or road trips. It’s just you and your kids. All day.
There’s no need to imagine because this is our reality. Summer came early. And it’s doubly intense for spouses who already have little to no relief because their service members are deployed.
On March 13, our country was declared to be in a National Emergency. The spread of the coronavirus has not only dictated our social interactions, but schools and public facilities shutting down as well have left us with no choice but to stay in with our families. But “in” doesn’t have to exactly mean IN the house. So don’t lose hope or think you have no choice but to go stir crazy.
Here are a few ways to get creative with your outdoor activities that don’t involve public places.
Go for a cruise through the city
If you’re newly PCS’d to your area, this is a good chance to get a lay of the land. Load up the kids and take the scenic route around the city. You can turn the music up loud and roll down the windows to feel the breeze. Take turns choosing the songs, so everyone feels involved.
Make chalk drawings or games like hopscotch on your driveway
You may have to dig for it, but reach through all your crafting items to get the old faithful sidewalk chalk. You can have a different theme for your drawings each time or make it a free for all.
Do some gardening/exploring
I have some stubborn weeds, but my kids love picking them with me. If you garden, spruce up the yard as a family. Or you can explore your yards perimeters. Have everyone walk around the edges and count how many steps it takes to complete the trek around your home. Water your plants or dig for worms. Get good and dirty together.
Have a picnic
Picnics seem so vintage right now. Make sandwiches, fruit or whatever you like and eat out on a blanket in the yard. Then lay back and bask in the sun! Don’t forget the SPF.
Neighborhood dance party from your driveways
Make a time with your neighbors close by and come out front. Play some music loud enough for them to enjoy as well, and boogie down. This is also a good icebreaker if you haven’t made friends yet.
Everyone likes to win at something. Make the contest a hulahoop, jump rope, or basketball game, if you have a net. Or even four square. Choose a prize for the winner each day. For example, the winner gets to choose what’s for dinner, or what the family movie will be for that evening.
The key is to get some sun and fresh air. A bonus is to find something your kids enjoy that requires them to use A LOT of energy. This makes for a great nap time. And yes, we’ve reintroduced naps now that they are out of school. It keeps everyone sane!
Congressional decision-makers are working with the Navy to explore massively speeding up construction of its emerging fleet of new amphibious assault ships as part of an urgent push to expand the overall fleet faster and address an enormous deficit of available amphibs.
A July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, titled ” Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” says the currently proposed Navy plan to buy the second LPD-17 Flight II Amphib in 2020 may need to be accelerated to fall within the services’ 2019 budget.
The Navy currently has slightly more than 30 amphibious assault ships the fleet, and plans to reach 38 in coming years; However, the current plan still falls short of meeting the global requirements of combatant commanders, Navy leaders say.
While Navy officials are clear to tell Warrior Maven that the service does not comment on pending legislation related to Congressionally-authorized funding, service leaders have been quite vocal about the Navy and Marine Corps need for more amphibs for many years now.
“Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified that fully meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of amphibious ships would require a force of 50 or more amphibious ships,” the Congressional report states.
The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, formerly called the LXR, is being acquired this year. Speeding up procurement of the second ship of this new class of amphibs helps address the Navy’s shortage of amphibious assault ships and further expedites the Navy’s planned fleet expansion to 355-ships.
LX(R) concept based on the LPD-17 design
The Navy plans new LPD-17 Flight II amphibs to replace its current fleet of Dock Landing Ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as a support ship in an Amphibious Ready Group. This strategic move to replace Dock Landing Ships with an LPD 17-like hull seems to speak to a Navy effort to expand amphibious capability to adjust to a new, fast-changing threat environment.
The demand for amphibs is in part so great, because the versatile ships are needed for combat and a wide range of humanitarian and non-combat missions.
“Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from ship to shore without need for port facilities,” the CRS report writes.
New Navy LPD-17 Flight II — future amphib strategy
The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to a modern threat landscape which will require more dis-aggregated operations and require single Amphibious Ready Groups to perform a much wider range of missions. Modern near peer adversaries increasingly posses long range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require much more operational diversity from ARGs.
The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with fewer ARGs and as fewer amphibs overall. As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.
LCAC-55, a Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard)
The modern threat environment contains a wider range of contingencies to include counterterrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response, and full-scale amphibious combat operations against near-peer adversaries. This requires that the three ships in an ARG have an ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently. The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly explains that modern missions require more split or dis-aggregated operations.
A lead Amphibious Assault Ship, a Dock Landing Ship, or LSD, and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are both integral to an Amphibious Ready Group, which typically draws upon a handful of platforms to ensure expeditionary warfighting technology. The ARG is tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.
The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD, or Dock Landing Ship, also travels around 20 knots however it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.
Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. However, the LPD17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.
The 1980’s-era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life, Navy developers say.
While the mission of the existing Dock Landing Ship (LSD) is primarily, among other things, to support an ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, for amphibious operations, the new LPD-17 Flight II ship will have an expanded mission to include more independent missions. LCACs are ship to shore connector vehicles able to transport Marines and equipment from ship-to-shore beyond the horizon. LCACs can even carry M1 Abrams tanks over the ocean.
An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. An LSD is able to operate four LCACs and the more autonomous LPD 17 can launch two LCACs.
USS Saipan LHA-2 amphibious assault ship
(U.S. Navy photo)
Developers explain that the LPD-17 ship will have a much wider mission set than the fleet of LSD ships it is replacing.
As a result of this wider mission requirement for the LX(R), the ship is being engineered with greater aviation and command and control technologies that the LSD 41 ships it is replacing.
Additional command and control capabilities, such as communications technologies, will allow the ship to reach back to the joint force headquarters they are working for, stay in with the parent ship and control the landing force, Navy and Marine Corps developers added.
Having more amphibs engineered and constructed for independent operations is seen as a strategic advantage in light of the Pacific rebalance and the geographical expanse of the region. The widely dispersed territories in the region may require a greater degree of independent amphibious operations where single amphibs operate separately from a larger ARG.
Corps officials explain that the greater use of amphibious assault ships is likely as the Marine Corps continues to shift toward more sea-based operations from its land-based focus during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the same time, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are quick to acknowledge that there is a massive shortfall of Amphibious Assault Ships across the two services. In recent years, senior service leaders have said that if each requirement or request for amphibs from Combatant Commanders worldwide were met, the Navy would need 50 amphibs.
The Navy currently operates only roughly 30 amphibs and plans to reach 38 by the late 2020s.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is hoping industry can make lightweight .50 caliber ammunition that provides machine-gunners with a 30 percent weight savings over existing linked belts of .50 caliber ammo.
Marine Corps Systems Command recently released a request for information to see if commercial companies have the capability to produce lightweight .50 caliber ammo that “will provide a weight savings when compared to the current M33 .50 cartridge in the DODIC A555 linked configuration,” according to the document released on FedBizOpps.gov.
“A belt of 100 Lightweight .50 Caliber cartridges with 101 links shall have a threshold overall weight of 24.6 lbs. or 15 percent weight savings compared to the legacy A555 configuration,” the document states. “A belt of 100 lightweight cartridges with 101 links shall have an objective overall weight savings of more than 20.3 lbs. or 30 percent compared to the legacy A555 configuration.”
Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.
The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.
The shell casings, made of aluminum-plated nickel alloy, are lighter and stronger that traditional brass casings, Ed Collins, Chesapeake’s director for business development, told Military.com in January 2018.
The company is working toward creating ammunition that’s 50 percent lighter than conventional brass ammo. Currently, the company makes military calibers such as 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO, but it plans to make it in additional calibers in the future.
Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.
Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.
Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.
Companies have until June 1, 2018, to respond to the RFI, the document states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
It’s easy to forget that, even in the midst of World War II, the Army’s administrative requirements marched on. Officers were quickly moved between billets, units were slotted into or pulled out of operational plans, and leaders had to be re-appraised often.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that even men like Lt. Gen. George S. Patton had to take breaks from whooping butt in order to rate other legends like Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley.
Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley poses with actor Marlene Dietrich during a USO tour during World War II.
The September 1943 “Efficiency Report” is remarkably brief. At the time, the Army didn’t have such strict form for evaluation reports. It’s basically a two-page memorandum with only a couple hundred words of text.
But Bradley had helped make 1943 a great year for the Army. He spent much of the year unsticking problems at the front in North Africa. And, after the defeat of II Corps at the Battle of Kasserine Pass, he pushed for an overhaul of the corps and later took command of it from Patton. It was Bradley who led the corps during the invasion of Sicily.
Patton and Eisenhower both wanted Bradley for their own commands, so it’s probably not surprising that he would receive a good rating from Patton.
Lieutenant Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley talk with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944.
And, indeed, when Patton rated Bradley on Sept. 12, 1943, he said that Bradley was “Superior” in manner of performance, physical activity, physical endurance, and knowledge of his profession. Four for four at the time. Bradley was a corps commander and Patton recommended him for command of an army.
But the most impressive endorsement of Patton came in question 10 “Of all general officers of his grade personally known to you, what number would you give him on this list and how many comprise your list?”
Patton responded “Number 1. I know all of them.”
The Army gets fairly small at the top, after all.
Lieutenant Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley talk with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Bastogne, Belgium, in 1944. There are a surprising number of photos of these three together.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the North African Theater of Operations, United States Army, commander at the time, concurred with the report.
Thanks in part to the brief but strong recommendations of Patton and Eisenhower, Bradley received command of the U.S. First Army in time to command it against Utah and Omaha beaches and then the breakout into the rest of France. Despite some mistakes, he would take command of an Army Group and take the first major hits of the Battle of the Bulge.
He was a four-star general before the war ended and would later rise to lead the Veteran’s Administration and serve as Army Chief of Staff. He was the last person to be promoted to General of the Army, an Army five-star rank.
The entire September 1943 assessment of him by Patton and Eisenhower is available below:
If you didn’t pick the U.S. Army that day you walked through your local strip mall mulling over which branch to choose, then you missed out.
Let’s face it. The demonym most people use for troops and service members is soldier. And there’s a damn good reason for that!
#1. We do awesome sh*t constantly.
Can you believe that civilians actually pay to go camping or to the shooting range?
You can forever play the “Oh, you think that is cool? Well I did…” stories in the lunch room at work.
#2. Because James Earl Jones.
The Marines may have Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars films, but we had his grandpa, Darth Vader.
#3. No one ever wanted to dress up as a Marine, Sailor, or Airman as a kid.
Kids running around with toy guns? They’re playing Army.
G.I. Joe? Mostly associated with the Army.
Those little green Army men? You get my point.
#4. We actually get to play with our cool toys.
Show of hands. How many airmen and sailors actually got to fly the planes or steer the ships their branch is known for doing? Now how many soldiers got to use the weapons our branch is known for using? Thought so.
#5. The Army has style.
We have always had the freshest looking uniforms throughout military history. Even when you’ve low crawled in the mud, Army uniforms look better than whatever the hell the Navy calls their blueberry uniforms.
#6. Our boy, Captain America, is one of the most recognizable fictional characters.
Show a picture of Captain America to nearly anyone. I bet you that they can tell you exactly what his name is and his branch of service.
#7. No guts. No glory.
Yeah. Things suck some times. No denying that.
But if you don’t embrace the suck, live the suck, love the suck, and become the suck — you don’t have the privilege of calling yourself a bad ass.
#8. You personally get to deliver 5.56mm of freedom at a max effective range at 500 meters to piece of sh*t terrorists.
Every branch has POGs (Persons Other than Grunt.) Every branch has a version of a grunt. The Army has the highest “Hooah Sh*t” per capita. At least our POGs try to elevate themselves above their “glorified cheerleader” status.
The only down side is knowing that when you get out, you will never be as bad ass as you were when you were doing “Hooah Sh*t.”
#9. Almost every iconic General officer in American history was in the Army.
Crack open a history book. Nearly every great General gained their notoriety in the U.S. Army. You’re in good hands.
Not to discredit the other branches who have given our country the best military tacticians the world has ever seen (because this list is done ‘tongue in cheek’ and at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters on the same team).
Research by scientists at King’s College London found that the role the gut plays in processing and distributing fat could pave the way for the development of personalized treatments for obesity and other chronic diseases within the next decade. The research is published in Nature Genetics.
In the largest study of its kind, scientists analyzed the faecal metabolome (the community of chemicals produced by gut microbes in the faeces) of 500 pairs of twins to build up a picture of how the gut governs these processes and distributes fat. The King’s team also assessed how much of that activity is genetic and how much is determined by environmental factors.
The analysis of stool samples identified biomarkers for the build-up of internal fat around the waist. It’s well known that this visceral fat is strongly associated with the development of conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
By understanding how microbial chemicals lead to the development of fat around the waist in some, but not all the twins, the King’s team hopes to also advance the understanding of the very similar mechanisms that drive the development of obesity.
An analysis of faecal metabolites (chemical molecules in stool produced by microbes) found that less than a fifth (17.9 per cent) of gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors, but 67.7 per cent of gut activity was found to be influenced by environmental factors, mainly a person’s regular diet.
This means that important changes can be made to the way an individual’s gut processes and distributes fat by altering both their diet and microbial interactions in their gut.
On the back of the study researchers have built a gut metabolome bank that can help other scientists engineer bespoke and ideal gut environments that efficiently process and distribute fat. The study has also generated the first comprehensive database of which microbes are associated with which chemical metabolites in the gut. This can help other scientists to understand how bacteria in the gut affect human health.
Lead investigator Dr. Cristina Menni from King’s College London said: ‘This study has really accelerated our understanding of the interplay between what we eat, the way it is processed in the gut and the development of fat in the body, but also immunity and inflammation. By analysing the faecal metabolome, we have been able to get a snapshot of both the health of the body and the complex processes taking place in the gut.’
Head of the King’s College London’s Twin Research Group Professor Tim Spector said: ‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’
Dr. Jonas Zierer, first author of the study added: ‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting, because unlike our genes and our innate risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high fibre diets.’
Since retiring from the US military as a four-star general eight years ago, Stanley McChrystal has reflected on one of his favorite subjects — leadership — and he’s had some significant revelations.
McChrystal had a 34-year military career, taking out al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, and spent a year leading America and its allies in the War in Afghanistan. Since retiring, he’s overseen the leadership consulting firm the McChrystal Group, translating what he’s learned to a business audience.
The Formulaic Myth: If someone follows a checklist of behaviors, they’ll be a great leader
McChrystal said that it’s tempting to believe that if you make a checklist of traits and behaviors collected from leadership books and mentors, and check off every box, you will be a great leader. “But the reality is, when you look at history, there’s a number of people who followed that perfectly and failed, some over and over,” he said.
He’s not disputing the fact that there are certain truths about what’s effective, and that a sterling résumé can prove helpful. But life is messy and taking the best advice or following a well-worn path to success is not sufficient for being an effective leader.
McChrystal pointed to the example of opposing generals in the American Civil War, the Confederacy’s Robert E. Lee and the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant. Up until the war, Lee was seen as the exemplary soldier, with a sterling track record and a way of carrying himself that even his enemies admired; in comparison, Grant’s accomplishments were less exceptional and he was rougher around the edges. But it was Grant, of course, who emerged victorious. It’s why, McChrystal said, that situational context and leaders’ relationship to their followers are more important than a “correct” way to lead.
Ulysses S. Grant did not rise to the head of the Union forces in the Civil War by accident, of course, but by many traditional measures of leadership and background, he did not match up to his opponent, Robert E. Lee. It was Grant, however, who was the victor.
The Attribution Myth: The successes and failures of a team are all the results of its leader
McChrystal retired from the US Army in 2010, after handing in his resignation to President Barack Obama in the wake of a Rolling Stone article that showed McChrystal’s team criticizing the administration. McChrystal soon set to work on his memoirs as a way to analyze his own successes and failures. He recruited a team to help him with research and fact checking.
“I thought that it would be fairly straightforward, because I was there, so I knew what happened,” he said. “And I’d be the star of the show. The spotlight would be on me.”
After doing their research on key decisions in McChrystal’s career, “we found that there’s a myriad of actions that other people are doing, or factors impinging on it, that actually affected the outcome much more than I did.” The “Great Man Theory” of history, which places single people front and center, fell apart for him.
He said that, “leaders matter, just not like we think they do.” The best leaders are able to make the most of their team members’ potential through skilled management and an ability to inspire, but ignoring the complex web of interactions among leaders and every person they interact with, as well as the circumstances out of their control, is something McChrystal considers a toxic approach. Followers should respect great leaders without putting them on a pedestal, he said, and leaders should not place themselves on that pedestal, either.
The Results Myth: Delivering results is all that’s required for positions of power and accolades
Related to the first myth, the third one concerns the common presumption that people in positions of power got there because they delivered results.
“In reality, we don’t actually follow that very well,” McChrystal said. “We promote people, we move them into new jobs, et cetera, who have been failures over and over again. And we have other people who are very successful, but because they don’t quite fill some other need we have, we reject them.”
That’s why it’s a mistake to think that good speaking skills or a magnetic personality are trivial, because they’re as important to leadership as anything else — for better or worse. “You can have one person who’s producing or likely to produce a great outcome, but somebody else who can make us feel good or make us feel scared or make us something that inspires us to action, we often will go that way, much more than we will direct results,” McChrystal said.
Django Reinhardt was a lot of things — most of which the Nazis hated. He was a gypsy, a European Romani, the storied wandering people who were targeted by the Nazis for extermination through forced labor (if they weren’t shot on sight). Reinhardt was also a jazz musician, practicing a form of music Hitler and Goebbels felt was part of a conspiracy to weaken Germany. Jazz was forbidden from the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power.
Yet, during World War II, Reinhardt stayed at his home in France long after the nation fell to the Nazis. In fact, Nazis were some his biggest fans.
At a time when the European Roma were considered racially inferior and German prejudices allowed them to be targeted alongside German Jews and other races for extermination, Reinhardt was able to maintain a quiet life for himself and his family. The reason was his superior musical talent. As gypsies were forced out of cities and into concentration camps by the tens of thousands, he kept his head down and played on.
Despite losing the movement in two fingers during an fire-related accident earlier in his life, Django was an amazing musician. His speed on the strings and frets allowed him to play furiously with just two fingers and a thumb. He picked up his performing skills in small clubs throughout Europe before the war and would perform alongside Jazz legends like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie. He would even perform a jam session with the great Louis Armstrong.
His skill was critical to his survival. He played jazz, but he knew when not to play jazz. He would even branch out musically, writing masses for the plight of his people and even a symphony. Jazz musicians had to follow certain rules under Nazi occupation, at least in occupied Bohemia and Moravia, where these rules come from:
1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands; 2. In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics; 3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated; 4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs); 5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
6. Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches); 7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions; 8. Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden; 9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat); 10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.
And yet, the Nazis still loved jazz.
“The Germans used Paris basically as their rest-and-relaxation center, and when the soldiers came, they wanted wine and women and song,” Reinhardt’s biographer Michael Dregni told NPR. “And to many of them, jazz was the popular music, and Django was the most famous jazz musician in Paris… And it was really a golden age of swing in Paris, with these [Romas] living kind of this grand irony.”
It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.
I can feel the gaze of the maintenance master chief beating down on the back of my neck from a mile away. At that moment, I exist in the paradox of being micromanaged by the front office while working a set schedule, flying sorties, and doing minimal maintenance.
Night check, on the other hand, is a different kind of ass-backwards; catch a couple of late flights in and fix whatever gripes the officers make up, including classics like:
“It smells like burning toast in the back of the aircraft.”
“The rudder sticks when held in position for too long.”
“The seats are uncomfortable.”
VAW-125 E2C sits on a flight line
A flight rolls in. Unphased, I throw up a salute, welcome the aircrew back, and start my inspection.
Every DET has its ups and downs. Sometimes you’re flying exercises at TOPGUN in the middle of Fallon, Nevada, sometimes you’re drinking double-shot margaritas with a parrot on your shoulder in Key West. This time, it was the latter.
I stroll into the hangar for muster a little disoriented and hungover from exploring the town the night before. Another surprising Navy DET tradition is to drink — and to drink heavily. Detachments are the only time fraternization is brushed under the rug; an E1 sailor and an officer can be seen throwing back a couple shots, calling each other by their first names, but find their military bearing by 0600 the next morning.
Naval Air Station Key West: Where magic happens.
I check the flight schedule and don my gear as I see my name scribbled on the board. My supervisor yells for me as I’m running out the door to catch my flight.
“Listen Kim, the sooner we get this sh*t done, the sooner we’re off — and the sooner we’re off, the sooner we’re at Cowboy Bill’s!”
Blurry, much like the memory of the night.
Photo by Sung Kim
On Wednesdays, the neon lights of Cowboy Bill’s is a beautiful sight for any metaphorically shipwrecked sailor, marooned far from home and looking for good times, cheap drinks, and morally flexible women. There, they honor a time-old tradition, one that’s highly recommended by the saltier vets in the squadron: topless mechanical bull riding. And it’s every bit of Christmas your six-year-old heart could ever dream of.
Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” will exist for as long as strip clubs do.
I’m one flight away from having Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” ring in my ears and I’ve already picked up scent of the drunken regret ahead of me when I get the call over the radio: My pilot discovered a hole in one of the stabilizing rudders. Unlike most complaints, this was an actual gripe that downs an aircraft. And if the aircraft is down, pilots can’t get their hours in.
I mourn the loss of the wonderland filled with inebriated bachelorettes slow-grinding on a mechanical bull that I’d built in my foolish imagination.
A quarter-sized divot in the rudder stands between me and my paradise; a quarter-sized problem that’s about to be fixed with a dollar-sized piece of duct tape. I run into the shop, grab a roll of duct tape, patch the hole, and epoxy the sides so that the integrity of the tape stays flush while in flight. My supervisor signs off on it, calls maintenance control, and we’ve got the green light.
Upon pre-flight inspection, my pilot calls me up to the top of the aircraft. “What is that, Kim? Duct tape?” I panic.
“No sir, it’s high-speed aero-tape sir,” I lie, reflexively. What am I doing? Why wouldn’t he know what duct tape looks like?
He’s puzzled because he’s never heard of it, so he summons my supervisor. He hasn’t heard of it because it doesn’t exist, just like my soon-to-be-over naval career.
“High-speed aero-tape?” My supervisor chuckles. “You’re lucky we’re on DET son, as soon as this b*tch comes back, write that sh*t up for day check. We’re going to Cowboy Bill’s.”
I was bailed out. My supervisor had my back like he always did and confirmed that the hardware store duct tape my lieutenant (with an engineering degree) saw, was, in fact, a fictional, quick temporary fix patch substance called, “High-Speed Aero-Tape.”
But hey, if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it can’t be fixed.
Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.
The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.
Check out the final trailer, released today:
“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.
“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.
Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
William “Pits” Pitsenbarger
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Medal of Honor Citation
“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.
On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.
Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.
In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”
He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.
Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.
Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. Everyone knows that they have their own office in the battalion building and troops are generally aware that their door is intentionally left open, figuratively and often literally, but that’s about the extent of most troops’ interactions with them.
While it is true that one of their primary purposes is to provide religious aid to their troops, they offer the troops of their battalion much more.
Chaplains also provide services for the fallen, in whatever faith the troop held in life.
As odd as it may sound for troops who sport religious symbols on their uniforms, chaplains aren’t supposed to prioritize their own faith over any other. Simply put, a chaplain who is of a particular denomination must be well-versed in many religions so they can provide support to those of other faiths. For example, it’s not uncommon for a Christian chaplain to be knowledgeable on how to welcome a Shabbat for troops of Jewish faith.
Chaplains can accommodate the religious needs of troops but they aren’t allowed to proselytize (attempt to convert) any troop. When it comes to getting troops to attend services, they’re not allowed to do much outside of making a service schedule known. These restrictions on converting are essential to maintaining trust between troops and chaplain. A trust that must exist for chaplains to perform their other role: being the battalion’s first stop for mental, emotional, and moral support.
Entirely from personal experience, chaplains (or more likely, their assistants) seem to be the only ones in the unit who know how to make a decent cup of coffee. But if that’s what it takes to get someone who needs to talk in the door, it’s a good thing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Herrick)
Just as with a civilian religious leader, the unit’s chaplain is covered under clergy-penitent privilege. This means that anything that a troop tells the chaplain will be kept in confidence between the two (unless the information exchanged presents a clear and immediate danger). Chaplains are also not allowed to turn anyone away, so a troop could, theoretically, step into a chaplain’s office and rant to their heart’s content — and the chaplain will listen to every word.
Chaplains are there to assist with crises of faith, relationship issues, problems at work, and even things that could be legally held against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. More recently, chaplains have played an essential role in suicide prevention, too.
But if you wanted to talk religion with them, they’ll definitely have some advice for you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert)
No matter how bad things get, the chaplain will always be there. In fact, they aren’t allowed to stop you from talking to them, even if you’re going on for hours. They can offer aid and support for many matters, but they aren’t allowed to openly discuss your issues with anyone — no matter the circumstances. And they can quietly steer the troop toward proper help, if a troop so desires.
They offer this to every troop in the unit, all without a mention of religion.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Thursday, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller revealed that in Syria, “Hurras al-Din — a group made up of several al Qaeda veterans — has suffered successive losses of key leaders and operatives.”
And, the secretive Hellfire AGM-114R9X missile, a US weapon typically referred to as the R9X, reportedly played a role in some of those losses.
On Sept. 14, a US Reaper drone operated by special operations forces killed Sayyaf al-Tunsi, a senior attack planner for al Qaeda and its affiliates, with an R9X, The New York Times reported, citing US military and counterterrorism officials, who said that the hit would disrupt Hurras al-Din operations.
Following an R9X strike in June believed to have killed two Hurras al-Din members, the most recent strike marks at least the second time in three months the weapon has been used.
The R9X, The Times reports, has proven useful for targeting terrorist leaders in urban areas, where they assume the US is more hesistant to engage due to the heightened risk of civilian casualties.
The so-called “Ninja Bomb” or “Flying Ginsu,” a modified Hellfire equipped with a non-explosive warhead that kills enemies with 100 pounds of metal, sheer force, and six blades, first became public knowledge when The Wall Street Journal reported its existence in May 2019.
The weapon’s development began during the Obama administration as an airstrike armament less likely to kill civilians than other battlefield options.
It is suspected to have been used to kill Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, a top al Qaeda leader, in Syria in February 2017 and Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi, the al Qaeda operative who masterminded the deadly October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, in Yemen in January 2019.
There have been several other suspected R9X strikes since then.
The New York Times reports that while explosive Hellfire missiles are preferred for groups of terrorist targets, the non-explosive R9X is the “weapon of choice” for eliminating leaders and other high-value targets who are traveling alone.