Canceled plans? Been there, done that. Holidays alone? Nothing new. Making friends as an adult? A daily norm. Learning to live with everything in your house broken? It’s a non-issue. These and so many others are daily norms for military spouses — AKA milspos. And what better way than to celebrate in these most loved (or most hated) moments than with a good collection of memes?
Take a look at some of these all-too-real memes that describe perfectly the life of a military spouse.
The stages of deployment in terms of personal hygiene
Don’t act like you’re shaving your legs while they’re gone.
When you see your Facebook friends complaining about solo parenting for a day
Cry. Me. A. River.
When friends and family asks how you are and this is your response
Milspo’s best friend.
When someone says you “knew what you got yourself into” but it’s not how you remember your vows.
Not that we’d change it, but can’t we still be surprised about the craziness?!
When most of your milspo friends joined an MLM at some point or another.
Hey, it’s a job that travels!
When the universe aligns and you meet a new bestie.
The stars don’t always work in your favor, but when they do, it’s magical.
Life just moves quicker in the military
Whether or not this was you, it’s funny.
When everyone is freaking about COVID and you’re just like ???
Different day, same lack of control.
When moves never get easier, you just lower your expectations
What was said on moving day (week, month) doesn’t count.
Civilians, new military girlfriends, still full of logic and hope
It’s always so sad before their expectations are crushed.
No doubt that 2020 has brought on some of these memes and brought them to life for real — not just as a once funny joke. Luckily the military has given us the tools to deal with quickly changing plans … even if we aren’t happy about it.
As the United States continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government has passed legislation that will send stimulus checks to most tax paying Americans, including military families.
These stimulus checks are a part of a massive $2 trillion effort to not only assist Americans who are financially struggling amidst this time of layoffs, furloughs, and social isolation, but also to inject funding directly into businesses around America that are continuing to employ people throughout this chaotic time.
The payments heading directly to American families in the coming weeks are projected to reach nine out of 10 households in the country, which means military families can count on receiving these payments despite the military itself not suffering the same sorts of layoffs and reduced employment found elsewhere in the nation. This money can be used to help offset lost spouse income, the cost of buying essential cleaning materials, and the cost of being stuck in your homes on base or elsewhere.
Service members that are suffering financial hardship as a result of being caught between duty stations while executing orders at the time of the Pentagon’s stop-movement order are eligible for other financial assistance provided through the Defense Department. Those payment have nothing to do with the coronavirus stimulus checks the Treasury Department will soon be sending.
So who, exactly, is eligible for a stimulus payment and how much can they expect to receive? We break it all down below.
How much will I receive in my coronavirus stimulus check?
Stimulus payments are based on the recipient’s adjusted gross income, so the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to Americans that are most in need. It’s important to note that basic entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) are not included in your family’s adjusted gross income. Only taxable income (basic pay) is taken into account for tax purposes.
You can find up to date info on the IRS webpage here.
Coronavirus stimulus payments include:
A maximum id=”listicle-2645620124″,200 per adult
Up to ,400 for couples who make up to ,000
An additional 0 per each child that is 16 or younger
However, at a certain income level, the payments begin to reduce until a certain point, in which they stop completely.
Those who make over ,000 per year individually will see payments reduced by for each 0 in their Adjusted Gross Income over the ,000 cap.
Individuals who make over ,000 per year will not receive a payment
Couples filing jointly who make more than 8,00 per year will not receive a payment
Those who file as “head of household” will not receive a payment if their income is about 2,500 per year
Dependent adults are not eligible for a payment, including college aged children and adults with disabilities
How does the government know how much money I make or how many kids I have?
The Treasury Department will be using 2018 tax returns to assess income level and dependents, as well as the direct deposit information for those who have it in order to deposit the stimulus checks.
What if my income was above ,000 in 2018, but has since dropped?
These payments are really just an advanced tax credit, so even if you don’t receive a payment because your 2018 taxes showed you as ineligible, you can still receive it as part of your tax return when you file your 2020 taxes.
Do I have to sign up or fill out forms to receive my stimulus payment?
As long as the IRS already has your bank account information from your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, all you have to do is sit and wait for the check to hit your account. However, if you have not yet filed your 2018 taxes, the IRS encourages you to do so as soon as you can, otherwise your payment may be delayed.
The IRS said that they will be building a portal to change direct deposit information in the coming weeks.
As long as you meet the income requirements and have a social security number, you will still receive the payment regardless of where you are stationed.
Will I have to pay taxes on the stimulus payment?
No, these payments are technically considered a tax credit.
What if I don’t have direct deposit established for my taxes?
Your payment will come to you the same way a tax refund would, so if you don’t have a direct deposit account established with the IRS, the check will be mailed to you at the address listed on your tax return.
The Royal Marines piled into helicopters and boats and inserted into Estonian territory, hitting positions on the mainland and on an isolated island, doing their best to inflict maximum casualties on the Estonian Volunteer Defence Force during an exercise designed to see whether that countries tiny military can adequately defend itself against a top-tier foe.
And make no mistake about it, the Royal Marines are true commandos and are top-tier. But the local forces defending the island of Saaremaa included many members who had grown up on the island, and they fought the British to what referees called an Estonian victory. The Royal Marines called it a draw, according to an article in the British publication Plymouth Herald.
Also, in the Royal Marines’ defense, the Estonians were backed up by British Apaches and likely would have lost their key position, and maybe the whole ball game, without that crucial air support.
The Marines successfully landed reconnaissance teams unseen, and those teams were able to operate for 24 hours undetected. Then, dummy raids on one side of the island drew off defenders before the Royal Marines launched their main assault on the opposite side, allowing them to reach their main objective with little contact.
So each side did well. The Royal Marines were able to hit their objective almost undetected, and the Estonians were able to defend it anyway, and that’s good for both sides because, realistically, Estonia and Britain would more than likely fight on the same side in a war.
And the people Britain would liberate Saaremaa from would not be Estonian locals, they would be Russian commandos.
Under the surface of all European war games of the last few years sits the certainty that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine only faded because it became too costly. If former Soviet Bloc countries who want to remain democratic and free are to do so, they have to be ready to fend off a Russian “grey-zone” attack at any time.
Grey Zone describes hostilities across cyberspace and physical terrain that fall just short of war. The successful Russian seizure of Crimea and the attacks into the Donbas region were both grey-zone operations.
Russian intelligence agents appear to have corrupted another Western military officer. The latest incident came at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Italy where French officials accused one of France’s senior military officials there of passing sensitive documents to the Russians.
A French lieutenant colonel was arrested during a vacation in his native country.
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told European news agencies. The minister also said that French military forces have taken the necessary precautions in the wake of the information leak.
The alliance has been on high alert since Russian troops intervened in Ukraine in 2014, reports Deutsche Welle.
Tensions between east and west have flared since 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Ukraine had been part of the Soviet Union until its fall in 1991 and had been trying to join NATO and the European Union (a process that is ongoing). Russia, not wanting to lose its influence in Ukraine, annexed the Russian-speaking Crimea and supported an insurgency in the Russian speaking eastern part of Ukraine.
Since then, NATO and the EU have slapped Russia with sanctions. Until the Russian intervention in Syria, Ukraine was the main focal point for NATO-Russian tensions.
NATO was formed in 1949, following the end of the Second World War as a check on the growing power and influence of the Soviet Union in Europe and elsewhere around the world. It was a means for the Western powers – the United States, Canada and much of Western Europe – to ensure the freedoms of their democratic societies.
A few years later, in 1955, the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries formed their own alliance, under the Warsaw Pact. For the duration of the Cold War, the two alliances fought each other in clandestine and diplomatic struggles. Outside of Europe, each side undermined the other in conflicts around the world.
In the years following the fall of the USSR, membership in the western treaty organization grew from its original 11 members to include more countries, many of which were once dominated by the Soviet Union and were members of the Warsaw Pact, including Albania, Romania and Poland.
It isn’t apparent what information was leaked by the French officer to Russian officials, but other Russian-NATO hotspots include encounters between allied naval forces and the Russians in the Black Sea, the alleged bounties paid to Taliban fighters for killing Americans in Afghanistan, and the ongoing series of “dangerous aircraft intercepts” along Russian and American airspace.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a sweet moment for everyone in the military. Stateside troops have come home for momma’s cooking and haven’t worn out their welcome yet and even deployed troops shift down into first gear.
But then there’re the troops still on the installation who, for whatever reason, are saving their leave days will enjoy what is, essentially, a free week off. As with everything in the military, your personal experiences may differ, but these are the six joys we’ve experienced of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave.
6. There isn’t much to do
The military never fully stops, but when there’s not much to do, well… Troops don’t end up doing much of the burdensome busywork they’re used to doing. You can’t get into the motor pool because everyone with the key is gone. You can’t go to the field or do some training exercise because no one is around to lead it. You’ll probably just lounge around the company area until CoB.
As long as there’re no incidents, troops will probably be cut loose early.
Hate the lines getting on- and off-post? Hate the lines getting whatever’s discounted at the Exchange? Can’t stand that one prick in your unit? Not this week! This week, it’s basically just you and a handful of others!
Of course, you’ll be given something to do. For example, you’ll probably sweep and mop the barracks, but unlike every other time you clean it and the unit comes back from the field or someone throws a raging barracks party, it stays clean. Chances are, the last person who walked it was you, when you cleaned it.
What waiting for everyone to come back feels like… (Image via GIPHY)
4. Sure, staff duty…
Holiday staff duty ranks up there with watching that prick you hate in your unit get promoted higher than you, getting your nearly-immaculate rifle kicked back for the seventh time by the armorer, and taking a Combatives class with that roided-out monster of a Staff Sergeant who’s ready to knock you out.
This week, though, it’s nothing. There’s no paperwork to file. Rarely do you need to call “Attention/At Ease” for a ranking officer/NCO because they probably won’t even come by. The duty officer probably won’t care if you bring a TV or computer to play video games — ask them before assuming you can, obviously.
This could be you at hour 16 of staff duty. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Your superiors become more ‘human’
51 weeks out of the year, your superior is — and should be — on your ass. Nothing personal, it just comes with the territory.
If they stay behind for block leave as well, you’ll see an entirely different side of them. They become human again. There’s just no need to keep up the “hard-ass” act constantly. Even they need to relax and enjoy the holidays doing nothing.
If you’re a cook, that is. Your work schedule probably hasn’t changed, except now you can practice all of the fun recipes you’ve been meaning to whip up.
If you’re not a cook, eating their awesome, new recipes prepared alongside the higher-quality holiday chow without the long lines keeping you from eating more than two pieces of bacon… Chow halls really do become the morale-boosting, five-star restaurants the cooks think they are.
Eat up. Chances are you’re also not doing unit PT. (Image via GIPHY)
1. Still get holiday four days
But what if you want to just relax and do nothing? Well, the back-to-back, four-day weekends got you covered. Sham for three days; four days off. Sham for another three days; another four days off. If you’re so inclined to go home for momma’s home-cooked meal, just fly home for the weekend and come back to post before Wednesday.
Save the 14 days of leave for two weeks when your unit is busy doing things.
Seriously. Don’t waste your leave days. (Image via GIPHY)
Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.
The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.
The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).
Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).
Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.
Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).
The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.
Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”
The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.
Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.
Being a first responder can suck. In fact, it often does suck… Yes, there are some clear benefits to being a part of the first responder family, but it’s grueling work that never stops. You’ve gotta be a special kind of person to put yourself on the line like that, day in, day out.
But there’s a silver lining to first responder life. One of the most underrated benefits of being a first responder is the special holiday treatment. It’s hard to describe and really has to be experienced to be appreciated, but you’re here already, so we’ll do our best.
The holiday season is the one time when being a first responder might be the best job to have.
This is what the average Security Forces gate shack looks like by noon, Christmas Day.
(The Japan Times)
This one is actually specifically for my Security Forces/Master of Arms/Military Police family. Our firefighter brothers and our siblings in the ambulances don’t typically face the same struggles in getting a simple lunch. Day in and day out, the constant nature of our work makes a daily lunch uncertain (to say the least).
Having that experience really makes the flood of holiday food that much easier to appreciate. It’s almost as if the other 11 months of being overworked and under-appreciated are a fair price to pay for all the love we get during this wonderful time of the year.
Something about having the higher-ups serve you gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
People are actually nice to you
It may seem like respect is always on the menu when dealing with first responders — and that’s true, to a degree. But we’re also often treated as though we’re invisible. First responders deal with the outside world in the worst of times. If you’ve dialed 911 and had responders show up at your location, chances are you were having at least a marginally bad day. So, it’s easy to see us first responders as inanimate objects — as tools of rescue. Save for a few occasions, we might as well be made of glass.
During the holidays, all of that changes. People understand that having to work on those days is a particular kind of suck that somehow stands out from the rest. This is the one time of the year when everyone sees you. Everyone tries to make you feel better, or, at the very least, expresses genuine care for your well-being.
Believe it or not, the schedule
There’s no denying that having to work on these special days is tough. No matter how great you’re treated or fed, it isn’t an easy undertaking. It messes with you, at least those first few times.
Conversely, working on those days often means some form of holiday schedule. This means about a week straight of work, either followed or preceded by a week of time off. Many of us use that time in conjunction with some leave and end up with a solid lump of time either to ourselves or with our loved ones.
Your work family will be going through the suck alongside you.
(Department of Defense)
Brotherhood is a standing and well-recognized benefit of being a first responder. During the holidays, first responders have a way of coming together and really being a family.
There are few better bonding moments than sharing some holiday goodies with your work-family over a 12-hour shift.
In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.
The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?
How much is it really costing us?
Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.
This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.
According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.
At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:
DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).
Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?
Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.
Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.
Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.
Their mental well-being
The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.
Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.
With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.
The way forward
Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.
Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.
Having a cough has never been more nerve wracking than during the current pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a cough. Needing to go to the doctor for any reason can send a quick thought of panic, due to current protocols. Needing something as simple as a prescription refill suddenly got complicated.
But fear not, military families! There is an easier way. Thanks to ongoing efforts to increase the logistics of telemedicine and over-the-phone appointments, Tricare beneficiaries can video chat with their doctors to receive a quick fix to many questions or prescription needs.
This includes video calls, but will not include phone calls or texts.
If you or a family member is in need of a non-urgent appointment, you can call your normal doctor’s number and ask what their options are for telehealth appointments.
If you or a family member has an upcoming appointment scheduled, you’re likely to be contacted about rescheduling or moving the appointment to your phone. Services covered include:
Mental health services (individual psychotherapy, psychiatric diagnosis interviews/exams, and medication management)
In addition, from March 31 through May 31, Tricare has announced they will also cover telehealth services for “applied behavior analysis (ABA) parent or caregiver guidance services under the Autism Care Demonstration.”
Don’t skimp on important healthcare appointments just because you can’t be seen in person. These distancing appointments allow Tricare patients to get the care they need, without risking germs. Additional distancing measures have been put into place on military bases, such as drive-through pharmacies, or in-vehicle triage.
Talk to your healthcare team to see if telehealth is available at your base.
Seven Navy SEALs were warned that reporting the alleged war crimes of their teammates and calling for a formal investigation could jeopardize their careers, a Navy criminal investigation report revealed.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher has been accused of killing an unarmed ISIS fighter with a hunting knife and firing on civilians with a sniper rifle while deployed in Iraq, as well as obstructing justice by attempting to intimidate his fellow SEALs. He allegedly threatened to kill teammates that spoke to authorities about his alleged actions.
Gallagher was arrested in September 2018 following allegations of intimidating witnesses and obstruction of justice, and he was detained at San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar. He was officially charged in January 2019 with premeditated murder, among other crimes.
In late March 2019, after a tweet by President Trump, Gallagher was moved from the brig at Miramar to a facility at Balboa Naval Medical Center, where he is presently awaiting trial.
His direct superior, Lt. Jacob Portier, is accused of failing to report Gallagher’s alleged crimes and burying/destroying evidence. Portier has pleaded not guilty.
Gallagher, a decorated SEAL who earned a Bronze Star for valor, has pleaded not guilty, and his defense is denying all charges.
When his teammates, members of SEAL Team 7’s Alpha Platoon, met privately with their troop commander at Naval Base Coronado in March 2018 to discuss Gallagher’s alleged crimes, they were encouraged to keep quiet. The message was “stop talking about it,” one SEAL told investigators, according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the 439-page report.
Their commander, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, reportedly told the SEALs that the Navy “will pull your birds,” a reference to the eagle-and-trident badges the SEALs wear to represent their hard-earned status as elite warfighters.
Navy SEAL insignia.
His aide, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, told them that the “frag radius” or the area of impact for an investigation into alleged war crimes could be particularly large and damaging to a number of SEALs, The New York Times reported.
The accusers ignored the warning and came forward with their concerns. Now, Gallagher is facing a court-martial trial, which is currently scheduled for May 28, 2019.
Gallagher’s defense attorney Tim Parlatore told The New York Times that the Navy’s investigation report is incomplete, arguing that there are hundreds of additional pages that are sealed. He insists that these documents include testimony stating that Gallagher did not commit the crimes of which he is charged.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.
The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.
Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.
Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.
Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.
But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.
“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.
The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.
Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.
China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.
Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.
“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.
Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.
9/11 changed them.
In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.
Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.
On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.
The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.
But he didn’t stop.
Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.
He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.
In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.
On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.
On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.
Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.