3 myths about the new military retirement system - We Are The Mighty
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3 myths about the new military retirement system

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Veronica Ballek, wife of Col. Michael Ballek, pins a retirement pin on her husband during his retirement ceremony at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, June 2, 2015. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse


You’ve probably heard that currently serving military members and their families soon will have to choose whether to switch to the new military retirement system or stick with the old one.

But retirement options and savings choices can be confusing. How can troops know which to pick?

Also read: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.

He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.

Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.

That’s false, Hanson said.

Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.

“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘

The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.

But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.

That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.

Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.

And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.

Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.

False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.

“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”

Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.

Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.

“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”

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Army arms Stryker with laser weapon

The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.


Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.

Also read: Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.

“The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world,” Tim Reese, director of strategic planning, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The weapon is capable of destroying Group 1 and Group 2 small and medium-sized drones, Reese added.

The laser, which Reese says could be operational as soon as 11-months from now, will be integrated into the Fire Support Vehicle Stryker variant designed for target tracking and identification.

General Dynamics Land Systems is now working on upgrading the power of the laser from two kilowatts of power to five kilowatts. The laser weapon system uses its own tracking radar to acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat and has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to jam the signal of enemy drones. Boeing is the maker of the fire-control technology integrated into the laser weapon. The laser is also integrated with air-defense and field artillery networks

“The energy of the laser damages, destroys and melts different components of the target,” Reese explained.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
US Army photo

The Army is now in research and test mode, with a clear interest in rapidly deploying this technology. Reese added that GDLS anticipates being able to fire an 18-kilowatt laser from the Stryker by 2018.

One of the challenges with mobile laser weapons is the need to maintain enough exportable power to sustain the weapon while on-the-move, developers have explained.

“As power goes up, the range increases and time to achieve the melt increases. You can achieve less than one-half of the burn time,” he said.

This initiative is of particular relevance given the current tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO. US Army Europe has been amid a large-scale effort to collaborate with allies on multi-lateral exercises, show an ability to rapidly deploy armored forces across the European continent and up-gun combat platforms stationed in Europe such as the Stryker.

Lasers at Forward Operating Bases

The Army is planning to deploy laser weapons able to protect Forward Operating Bases (FOB) by rapidly incinerating and destroying approaching enemy drones, artillery rounds, mortars and cruise missiles, service leaders told ScoutWarrior.

Forward-deployed soldiers in places like Afghanistan are familiar with facing incoming enemy mortar rounds, rockets and gunfire attacks; potential future adversaries could launch drones, cruise missiles, artillery or other types of weapons at FOBs.

Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.

Laser weapons have been in development with the Army for many years, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“We’ve clearly demonstrated you can takeout UAVs pretty effectively. Now we are not only working on how we take out UAVs but also mortars and missiles–and eventually cruise missiles,” she said.

The emerging weapons are being engineered into a program called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023 as part of an integrated system of technologies, sensors and weapons designed to thwart incoming attacks.

At the moment, Army soldiers at Forward Operating Bases use a system called Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar – or C-RAM, to knock down incoming enemy fire such as mortar shells. C-RAM uses sensors alongside a vehicle-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles as a way to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire.

Also, lasers bring the promise of quickly incinerating a wide range of targets while helping to minimize costs, Miller explained.

“The shot per kill (with lasers) is very inexpensive when the alternative is sending out a multi-million dollar missile,” Miller said.

Boeing’s Avenger Laser weapon successfully destroyed a drone in 2008 at White Sands Missile Range. Army weapons developers observed the test.

The Army is also developing a mobile high-energy solid-state laser program called the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD. The weapon mounts a 10 kilowatt laser on top of a tactical truck. HEL MD weapons developers, who rotate the laser 360-degrees on top of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, say the Army plan is to increase the strength of the laser up to 100 Kilowatts, service officials said.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“The supporting thermal and power subsystems will be also upgraded to support the increasingly powerful solid state lasers. These upgrades increase the effective range of the laser or decrease required lase time on target,” an Army statement said

In November of 2013, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used the HEL MD, a vehicle-mounted high energy laser, to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar (Enhanced Multi Mode Radar) supported the engagement by queuing the laser,” an Army statement said.

Miller explained how the Army hopes to build upon this progress to engineer laser weapons able to destroy larger targets at farther ranges. She said the evolution of laser weapons has spanned decades.

“We first determined we could use lasers in the early 60’s. It was not until the 90’s when we determined we could have the additional power needed to hit a target of substance. It took us that long to create a system and we have been working that kind of system ever since,” Miller added.

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Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

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A retired Navy SEAL commander breaks down his morning fitness routine that starts at 4:30

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Retired Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink, left, crouches on a roof during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi in Iraq. | Courtesy of Todd Pitman


Jocko Willink retired from 20 years serving as a US Navy SEAL in 2010, but his morning routine is as intense as ever.

As he said in a recent Facebook Live Q&A at Business Insider’s New York headquarters, “It’s not fun to get out of bed early in the morning. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t sing you a song, it hits you in the head with a baseball bat. So how do you respond to that? Do you crawl underneath your covers and hide? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day?”

Also read: This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Willink is the former commander of Task Unit Bruiser, which became the most decorated special-operations unit in the Iraq War. In his book, “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” cowritten with his former platoon commander and current business partner Leif Babin, Willink writes that one of his guiding principles is “Discipline equals freedom,” and that discipline begins every morning when his alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.

Business Insider asked Willink to break down his mornings for us. Here’s how a typical day begins:

Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Three alarms are set — one electric, one battery-powered, and one windup — but he almost always only needs one. The two others are safeguards.

After a quick cleanup in the bathroom, take a photo of wristwatch to show his Twitter followers what time he’s beginning the day. It’s become both a way to hold himself accountable as well as inspire others to stick to their goals.

Grab his workout clothes, laid out the night before, and head to the gym in his garage for one of the following strength workouts, which lasts around an hour.The exercises can either be lower weight with high reps and little rest or heavy weight with low reps and lots of rest.

  • Day 1: Pull ups, muscle ups, related exercises.
  • Day 2: Overhead lifts, bench press, deadlifts, handstand push-ups, kettle-bell swings.
  • Day 3: Ring dips, regular dips, push-ups.
  • Day 4: Overhead squats, front squats, regular squats.

Spend anywhere from a few minutes (intense bursts) to a half hour (steady) for cardiovascular training. This could include sprints or a jog.

Finish workout around 6:00 a.m. Depending on the day, go out to hit the beach near his home near San Diego, California, to spend time swimming or surfing. If the weather is nice, he may also do his cardio on the beach.

Shower and start working for his leadership consulting firm, Echelon Front, or for his popular podcast, any time after 6:00 a.m. He doesn’t get hungry until around noon, and only has a snack, like a few handfuls of nuts, in the morning.

After work, Willink gets in two hours of jujitsu training and heads to bed around 11:00 pm.

Willink said that he recognizes that everyone is different, and that not everyone would benefit from getting up at 4:00 a.m. for an intense workout. The key is that “you get up and move,” whether that’s jogging, weight lifting, or yoga.

If you need some further motivation:

The discipline comes in in setting a schedule and sticking to it so that your day begins with an energizing accomplishment, not a demoralizing stretch of time where you lie in bed and hit snooze on your alarm a few times. Every morning should start off with a predictable routine.

“And that’s the way that you own it,” he said. “Because once the day starts, well, then other people get to have a vote in what you’re doing.”

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This is how the one-man ‘Zvika Force’ stopped an entire tank corps

The Israel Defense Forces were caught completely off guard in 1973 when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack to take back the land lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. All would have gone according to plan for the Arab states – if only one young lieutenant hadn’t gone home on leave.


3 myths about the new military retirement system

Zvika Greengold was an Israeli farmer raised on a kibbutz founded by Holocaust survivors and partisans who fought against Nazi occupation in Europe. Like most Israelis, he joined the IDF when it came time to serve his country.

He was 21 and home on leave in 1973 when Syrian tanks rolled across the border in a coordinated attack with Egypt, sparking the Yom Kippur War. The young lieutenant saw plumes of smoke in the distance and fighter planes in the sky. He knew a war had begun but was not yet attached to a unit, so he had nowhere to report for combat duty.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Israeli Centurions operating in the Golan Heights in 1973.

Being without a unit wasn’t going to stop this officer from getting into the war. He hitchhiked 78 miles to Nafah Base, the command center for the Golan Heights. Greengold helped with the wounded coming in, but the only offensive weapons available were two damaged Centurion tanks.

And those turned out to be his ticket to defending Israel.

Greengold contacted his command, telling them he had a force ready to fight (which was technically true). He helped repair the two tanks, assembled a skeleton crew, and they drove off into the night toward the Syrian front. His newly-assembled “Zvika Force” soon spotted Syrian tanks advancing unopposed toward the Nafah Base. Heavily outnumbered, he engaged the enemy’s Russian-built T-55s, destroying six of them.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Syrian troops abandoned their T-62 tanks in the middle of the fighting, convinced Zvika Greengold’s tank corps outnumbered and outflanked the Arabs. (IDF photo)

His tank heavily damaged in the fight, Greengold hopped into the other Centurion. Along the same road, he saw the advancing Syrian 452d Tank Battalion. Using darkness for cover, he sped along the column’s flank, dodging enemy shells while fooling the Syrians into believing there was more than one tank out opposing them. He hit the first Syrian tank from only 20 meters away.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Los Angeles city buses are longer than that. No joke.

He notched off ten more enemy tanks before the Syrians withdrew. Even Greengold’s own command had no idea how many men and tanks made up the Zvika Force. Greengold couldn’t report his true strength over the radio for fear of being found out, so he only reported that “the situation isn’t good.” His brigade commander thought he was at least company strength.

For the next 20 hours Lt. Greengold fought, sometimes alone, in skirmishes all across the front lines. When he joined Lt. Col. Uzi Mor’s ten tanks, his luck took a turn for the worse.

Mor lost most of his tanks and was wounded. Greengold lost his tank and his uniform caught fire. He had to switch tanks a half dozen times. That’s when the Syrians sent a sizable force of T-62 tanks to force the Israelis back. Greengold joined 13 other tanks to engage the Syrian armored column of 100 tanks and 40 armored personnel carriers. He managed to hold them until he heard that Nafah Base was under attack.

When the command post came under attack, he joined the defense, moving his tank to critical spots at decisive moments, even in the face of overwhelming odds. During the defense of the base, one Israeli tank commander radioed his HQ that “there’s no one in the camp except a single tank fighting like mad along the fences.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
(IDF photo)

The Jerusalem Post reported “During a lull [in the battle] Zvika Greengold painfully lowered himself from his tank, covered with burns, wounds and soot.  ‘I can’t go on anymore,’ he said to the staff office who had sent him into battle 30 hours before. The officer embraced him and found a vehicle to carry Greengold to the hospital.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Zvika Greengold (left) and Lt. Col. Aryeh Berger, commander of the 74th Armored Battalion, pose at the Armored Corps Memorial at Latrun in 2015. (IDF photo)

He passed out from exhaustion, physically unable to continue fighting. Nafah Base was never captured and the actions Zvika Greengold and the other IDF troops in the Golan Heights gave the IDF enough time to react to the two front invasion and send substantial reinforcements. They pushed the Syrians back to where the border is today.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
The Zvika Force held off the Syrians long enough for Israeli reinforcements to arrive and stem the Syrian advance. Greengold’s effort may have won the Yom Kippur War for Israel in the east. IDF force here are on their way to the Golan Heights in 1973.

Greengold estimates taking out at least 20 tanks, while others credit him with 40 or more. He was awarded the Medal of Valor, Israel’s highest award for heroism.

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This Gatling gun fires up to 6,000 F-Us per minute … and we love it

The Dillon Aero M134D minigun is the world’s ultimate gatling gun, firing upwards of 6,000 rounds per-minute. And the awesome weapon can be carried on everything from small helicopters to fixed wing planes to the backs of infantrymen.


The 7.62mm minigun got its start in Vietnam where the Army adopted it for vehicle and infantry use while the Air Force bought it for its first-generation “Spooky” gunships. The infantry version of the weapon requires a tripod and large batteries and was rarely deployed.

But the vehicle-mounted versions of the weapon were a hit. The AC-47 carried three of the miniguns on its left side and would fly through the skies of Vietnam at night, dropping flares to illuminate enemies attacking U.S. forces and then wasting them with the three miniguns. It was later nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” because of the way its tracers lit up the night.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The Air Force eventually turned to a larger plane and larger guns for aerial gunships, leading to the AC-130 variants still flying today. But the M134 saw expanded deployments as the Navy began mounting them on ships and boats and the Army expanded the weapon onto more helicopters and vehicles.

But the original M134s were prone to jamming, so Dillon Aero went back to the drawing board and eventually rolled out the M134D, a more reliable version of the weapon.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
(GIF: YouTube/Discovery UK)

Today, it continues to be deployed across the world on everything from modified SUVs to helicopters. The M134D has even shown up in recent video of Rangers deployed to Syria. The special operators have Strykers outfitted with the minigun.

The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews rely heavily on the weapon when conducting riverine operations and landing SEALs. The high rate of fire allows them to quickly subdue a riverbank or to suppress an enemy chasing Navy SEALs during a pick up.

See the awesome weapon in action in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqDCCTCYTNI
Video: YouTube/American Heroes Channel
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These Coast Guard special operators fight terrorists and secure American ports

The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.


3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.

During training exercises in 2014 and 2015, the MSRT was tasked with securing a moving ferry with 5,000 passengers, eliminating hostage takers onboard, and disabling a radiological device before it could be detonated. The MSRT has also been called on to provide an evacuation capability for the President of the United States and other dignitaries at the U.N. General Assembly.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.

Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.

“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.

See more photos of them below:

A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Milke Lutz

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Report says troops wouldn’t recommend military service to their own kids

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Spc. Yemima Tarber extended her commitment to the Army during a reenlistment ceremony that was presided over by her mother, Capt. Lisa Campbell at Fort Lee, Va. A new survey by military advocacy group Blue Star Families says most service members with multiple deployments wouldn’t want their kids to go through the same hardship. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class John Brown)


A new report from military family support organization Blue Star Families shows more than half of service members would not recommend military service to their own children. Additionally, slightly less than half of the respondents would not recommend it to other young adults who aren’t related to them.

Blue Star Families has compiled the so called “Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey” reports since 2009, which are widely used by government officials from the White House, Congress, the Department of Defense, and state and local officials to help understand the unique needs and challenges of military families. Data collected from the annual survey often impacts legislation.

This year’s survey respondents consisted of a mixture of 8,390 active duty personnel, military veterans, and military and veteran spouses — a 130 percent increase over last year’s survey.

Of those surveyed, enlisted service members who had been deployed more than three times were the least likely to recommend military service to their own children.

Among officers, those with less than two deployments and an employed spouse were more likely to recommend military service to young people who are not their children, but only if benefits they’d been promised when they commissioned were still in place — and generally only to those who might become officers.

Less than 20 percent of respondents said they would recommend service to anyone if the current trend of cutting benefits continued.

This could be bad news for those who consider military service to be a “family business.”

“The past year has seen new and emerging security threats in numerous regions while Department of Defense budget cuts and personnel downsizing continues,” Blue Star Families said in their summary of this year’s findings. “The resulting operational tempo is very concerning to service members and their families.”

According to the report, almost 60 percent of veterans had at least one parent who served in the military before them, but only 45 percent of currently serving military members had a parent who served prior.

The 2015 report noted that 80 percent of veteran respondents would be “happy” if their children joined the military. While that specific detail about happiness isn’t reported in this year’s survey, when compared to this year’s 67 percent who would not recommend service to their children, it does appear to show a downward pattern of service members who want their children to follow in their footsteps.

“Extended family separations, frequent moves, and outdated expectations that military spouses sublimate their personal, professional, and familial priorities to support their service member’s military service are the most prevalent topics identified as substantially reducing the quality of life and attractiveness of martial service,” Blue Star Families said. “Military families understand that serving may mean making sacrifices in support of service; however, DoD must also examine the military necessity of the burdens it asks military families to bear.”

The survey isn’t all bad news for the family business of military service. Military spouses who are able to maintain a career were 36 percent more likely to recommend it, and a whopping 76 percent of all spouses surveyed who felt that the military had a positive or neutral career impact were likely to recommend service.

There were two surprising findings elsewhere in the report: almost 80 percent of respondents were satisfied with the military lifestyle, and over 80 percent were satisfied with Tricare Standard.

You can view the Executive Summary on Blue Star Family’s website.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Blue Star Families 2016 Military Lifestyle Survey at a glance.

“This year’s survey results show a military community at a point of inflection. It shows the country needs to get smarter about what a healthy All-Volunteer Force really looks like—and what it needs it to look like to ensure future success,” Blue Star Families argued. “The All-Volunteer Force was not designed for our current security environment of protracted low-level conflict, nor was it designed for the modern service member—who is better educated, married with children, and living in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society.”

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This is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor

In their 75 years building, fighting and serving on every continent – even Antarctica – only one Navy Seabee has been bestowed with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.


Marvin G. Shields was a third-class construction mechanic with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 and assigned to a nine-member Seabee team at a small camp near Dong Xoai, Vietnam. The camp housed Army Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group, who were advising a force of Vietnamese soldiers including 400 local Montagnards.

Shields, then 25, who enlisted in 1962, was killed in an intense 1965 battle in Vietnam. His actions under fire led to the posthumous medal, awarded in 1966, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

So far he is the only Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor.

On June 10, 1965, Dong Xoai came under heavy fire from a regimental-sized Viet Cong force, who pummeled the camp with machine guns and heavy weapons. The initial attack wounded Shields but didn’t stop him.

“Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately three hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small-arms fire,” his award citation states. “Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours.”

Still, Shields kept fighting.

“When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission,” reads the citation. “Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound.”

But hostile fire ultimately got Shields, mortally wounding him as he was taking cover.

“His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” the citation states.

The five-day Battle of Dong Xoai also garnered a Medal of Honor for a junior Green Beret officer, 2nd Lt. Charles Q. Williams, who was wounded several times in the battle and survived the war.

Shields’ unit – Seabee Team 1104 – had come together just four months before the attack on their Dong Xoai camp, Frank Peterlin, the team’s officer-in-charge, recalled in a 2015 Navy news article about the Navy’s 50th commemoration of the battle and Shields’ award.

“In the evening, he [Shields] would have his guitar at his side and would love to sing and dance, especially with the Cambodian troops at our first camp,” said Peterlin, who attended the ceremony. “Marvin was always upbeat. At Dong Xoai, he was joking and encouraging his teammates throughout the battle.” Peterlin, a lieutenant junior-grade at the time, was wounded amid the fight and earned the Silver Star medal for his actions leading the men.

Shields, who was survived by his wife and young daughter, has been long remembered by Port Townsend, Washington, his hometown.

At the time of his death, the Port Townsend Leader newspaper wrote of him and his service: “A 1958 graduate of Port Townsend High School, Shields was one of the first employees on the Mineral Basin in Mining Development at Hyder, Alaska, when the locally organized project was initiated there by Walt Moa of Discovery Bay. He worked at Mineral Basin during the summer before graduating from school and returned there as a full time construction worker in 1958. He was called into the Navy early in 1962, and was due to be discharged in January.”

The Navy honored his memory with a frigate in his name (retired in 1992). The official U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, California, has a large display about him its Hall of Heroes. Navy Seabees have never forgotten Shields, who is buried in Gardiner, Washington. Inscribed on his black-granite headstone is this: “He died as he lived, for his friends.”

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These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

Twenty-six of the 44 American Presidents served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Most served in the Army or Navy, and they all looked pretty sharp in uniform.


1. George Washington: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

3 myths about the new military retirement system
You wish you were that stoic.

Washington’s greatness stems from his precedents. He set the standard for civilian control of the military by resigning as General of the Army before becoming President. Photography wasn’t invented during Washington’s lifetime, but you can rest assured that the image of the man was larger than life.

2. James Monroe: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

President Monroe also served during the Revolution and was the last founding father to serve as president. Unfortunately, no photos of him exist, either in uniform or out. The foreign policy laid out by Monroe still bears his name. The Monroe Doctrine states that any effort by European nations to colonize or interfere with affairs in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention.

3. Andrew Jackson: War of 1812, Seminole War (Army)

3 myths about the new military retirement system

This photo may not be of President Jackson in uniform, but is it not amazing that there is a photograph of Andrew Jackson at all? Jackson’s legendary defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans propelled him into the White House.

4. William Henry Harrison: Indian Campaigns, War of 1812 (Army)

The same reason that a photo of President Jackson in uniform doesn’t exist applies to William Henry Harrison, as well as President John Tyler. When they served, photography just wasn’t invented yet. Harrison subdued the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. During the War of 1812, Harrison pushed the British out of Ohio and Indiana, recaptured Detroit and successfully invaded Canada.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

5. John Tyler: War of 1812 (Army)

Amazingly, daguerreotypes (a kind of early photography which used silver and mercury) exist of some early presidents, including Harrison and Tyler. Tyler organized a militia to defend Richmond, Virginia during the War of 1812 if a British attack ever came. It didn’t, but the British were in nearby Hampton, threatening Richmond.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

6. Zachary Taylor: War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War (Army)

Gen. Taylor served the U.S. in a number of wars. It was almost a given that someone who served so masterfully that the press compared him to George Washington and Andrew Jackson would also be President like those generals before him.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

7. Franklin Pierce: Mexican War (Army)

Pierce was a Brigadier General in Winfield Scott’s army fighting in the Mexican-American War. His experience in the Battle of Contreras was less-than-stellar, however. His horse tripped and he was thrown groin-first into his saddle. The horse fell onto Pierce’s knee, giving him a permanent injury.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

8. Abraham Lincoln: Black Hawk War (Indian Wars) (Army)

Unfortunately, the nascent technology of photography couldn’t capture Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois Militia uniform. He was 23 at the time. The first known photo of Lincoln is below. The then-36-year-old was just elected to a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

9. Andrew Johnson: Civil War (Army)

Johnson was made a Brigadier General when President Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee. He did not have full control of the state until 1863. There are very few images of Johnson in uniform, and no photographs exist.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

10. Ulysses S. Grant: Mexican War and Civil War (Army)

Grant was the architect of the Confederacy’s final defeat. Just a year after President Lincoln gave Grant control of all Union Armies, Grant oversaw the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. He gave generous terms to all rebels and began the long Reconstruction of the South.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

11. Rutherford B. Hayes: Civil War (Army)

Hayes joined the Union Army after the shelling of Fort Sumter and was commissioned a Major. One of the Privates under his command was a young William McKinley. He served honorably throughout the war, garnering attention from General Grant, who wrote:

“His conduct on the field was marked by conspicuous gallantry as well as the display of qualities of a higher order than that of mere personal daring.”

3 myths about the new military retirement system

12. James A. Garfield: Civil War (Army)

Garfield had no military training but still received a colonel’s commission and was tasked with raising a regiment of Ohioans to drive the Confederates out of Eastern Kentucky. Garfield was so successful, he was promoted to General and later fought at the Battle of Shiloh.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

13. Chester A. Arthur: Civil War (Army)

Arthur was appointed Quartermaster General of the State of New York. He was in charge of provisioning and housing New York troops.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

14. Benjamin Harrison: Civil War (Army)

Harrison was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in 1862 and rose to Brig. Gen. by 1865. He led armies with Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

15. William McKinley: Civil War (Army)

McKinley, unlike most of the men on this list, started his career as an enlisted Private. He was promoted to Commissary Sergeant before his regiment was sent East. He fought at the Battle of Antietam, where his actions earned him a commission to 2nd Lieutenant.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

16. Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish-American War (Army)

Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York National Guard, quickly becoming his unit’s commanding officer. When war broke out in Cuba, Roosevelt resigned from his civilian job and quickly raised the 1st U.S. Volunteer Regiment. His actions in Cuba earned Roosevelt the Medal of Honor, the only president to receive it.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

17. Harry Truman: World War I (Army)

Truman had poor eyesight and couldn’t get into West Point, so he enlisted in the Missouri National Guard. He memorized the eye chart to pass the vision test. Eventually elected Lieutenant, Truman led men in battle in WWI Europe. During one encounter where his men began to run away, Truman let out a string of profanity so surprising his men stayed to fight.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

18. Dwight Eisenhower: World War I and World War II (Army)

The Supreme Allied Commander and General of the Army never actually saw combat. He was masterful at strategy, planning, and logistics. It was almost a given that Ike would run for President.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

19. John F. Kennedy: World War II (Navy)

After his PT boat was struck by a Japanese destroyer in WWII, he and his crew swam to an island three miles away. Kennedy, with an injured back, carried a wounded crewmember to the island via a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

20. Lyndon B. Johnson: World War II (Navy)

Johnson was on the Staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia in 1942. While there, he was also personally reporting to President Roosevelt on the status of the Pacific Southwest.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
The White House released this photo October 14, 1966, showing Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon Johnson in the headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur near Melbourne, Australia, in June 1942. The young Navy officer is pointing to New Guinea where he received the Silver Star on a bombing mission.

21. Richard Nixon: World War II (Navy)

Nixon was a birthright Quaker and could have been exempted from service and from the draft. Instead, Nixon joined the Navy in 1942. After some time in Iowa, he requested a transfer to the Pacific where he was made Officer in Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and the Solomons.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

22. Gerald Ford: World War II (Navy)

Ford signed up for the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He served aboard aircraft carriers in the third and fifth fleets. He fought at the Philippine Sea, Wake Island, and LeEyte landings, among other places.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

23. Jimmy Carter: Cold War-Era (Navy)

President Carter is also a nuclear physicist who helped develop the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program. He worked on the USS Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine ever built. Carter is the only president to qualify for submarine duty, which is why the Navy deemed it appropriate to name a submarine the USS Jimmy Carter.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

24. Ronald Reagan: World War II (Army Air Corps)

Originally landing in the Army Cavalry, he was transferred to the Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit and sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit called “This Is the Army.” He also managed the Sixth War Loan Drive in 1944.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
No wonder we elected this guy twice.

25. George H.W. Bush: World War II (Navy)

Bush joined the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At age 19, he was the youngest naval aviator to date. Bush was a brave bomber pilot and was shot down after hitting Chichijima. He flew 58 missions over the Philippine Sea and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his ship, the USS San Jacinto.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Lt. George H.W. Bush

26. George W. Bush: Vietnam War era (Texas Air National Guard)

The younger Bush was commissioned in 1968. He flew F-102 Convair Delta Daggers. He was honorably discharged in 1974.

3 myths about the new military retirement system

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Inside the Department of Defense’s Fire School

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online


Staring at the fire blazing in front of him, the airman basic began to sweat — a reaction that could only partly be blamed on nerves and adrenaline. It was an oven inside of the aircraft, and Daniel Brum knew the temperature was only going to rise when the fire hose turned on.  His studies had taught him that water expands to 1,700 times its original volume when it turns to steam, and sure enough, as he shot water at the base of the fire, the air around him turned into an instant sauna.

For a brief moment, Brum freed one hand to wipe at his face shield. It had fogged up with mist. Once he could see again, he redoubled his efforts to calm the intense flames lighting up the cargo hold.

Though the aircraft interior fire was staged – a scenario intended to aid with training – Brum treated it like it was the real thing.  The training was indicative of a possible situation the apprentice firefighter might come across in the future and he needed the experience.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

“There’s a big painting on the wall out there that says, ‘Train as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does,” Brum said.  “So when it’s training, it’s all serious.  You have to learn what you’re doing, so that way … when you’re in a fire situation and someone’s life depends on you, you will be able to help that person out.”

The phrase Brum recited is prominently displayed above one of the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy building’s main entryways.  The words state a responsibility accepted by the men and women who walk those halls.  Within the academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, are firefighters from every branch of the military, as well as those training in hopes of one day joining their ranks.

The academy provides entry-level fire protection instruction for all DOD firefighters, and it’s also a location for advanced training courses within the career field.  Each year, the school accepts nearly 2,500 students, 1,400 of which are initial entry, or apprentice, firefighters, said Lt. Col. Mathew Welling, the 312th Training Squadron commander. The training accomplished here is predicated on standards set by the National Fire Protection Association but is also tailored to fit the military mission.

“We have unique aircraft, munitions, and other special requirements that really (make it necessary for) us to provide a different level of training than your civilian firefighter would be used to,” Welling said, indicating an additional emphasis on airport firefighting applications and a joint effort between all DOD firefighters.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

Students may come from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but in class they are all integrated together. During deployments, military firefighters work as joint service teams, and therefore the academy reinforces that concept throughout their instruction with a lack of service specific courses and a strong emphasis on teamwork.

Tech. Sgt. Jeff Trueman, an emergency medical response course instructor, is able to impart to his students the importance of the joint training via his own experiences. During his first deployment he worked hand in hand with the Navy to provide crash fire rescue for aircraft assigned to a drug interdiction mission.  Trueman has been embedded with the Army as well.

“It’s interesting to be able to combine both of those worlds, and to see the differences and nuances between the services,” he said. “It’s definitely career broadening.  Until you actually have that opportunity to work with other services, I don’t think you fully develop within your profession.

“That’s why I like being here,” Trueman said of the technical school. “We have instructors from so many different services and they bring a lot of different information.”

With a “train as you do” philosophy, the academy students are given an education that sets them up for success in most situations they might face while serving at their home stations and abroad. To ensure apprentice firefighters are prepared to do their jobs upon graduation, the entry-level course is split into three blocks, with each gradually addressing a more advanced set of skills.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

According to Welling, block one introduces the students to firefighting basics, such as ropes, knots and ladders, how to put on personal protective equipment, and how to create ventilation. Block two continues with more in-depth firefighting principles like water supplies, fire hoses, vehicle extraction, fire department communications, interior fires, wildfires, etc. By block three, the students begin EMR certification.

The trainees learn to race into situations others would run from when everything in their bodies is telling them to go in the other direction.

“I think it takes a lot of courage, especially for 18-19 year olds coming out of high school,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. George Preen, a hazmat instructor and supervisor within block three of the training course. “We’re teaching them to do something that’s basically the opposite of their normal instinct, which is (to flee from danger). We’re essentially trying to reprogram them to go in and do the right thing.”

The firefighting instruction begins in-classroom and through hands-on exercises at the academy’s outdoor training pad.  The area resembles a flightline, but instead of expanses of hangars and rows of aircraft lining the concrete strip, there are towers with zip lines and ladders, buildings made to fill up with smoke, and charred aircraft frames simulating possible crash and recovery scenarios.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

The profession is well known for combatting blazes; however, firefighters constantly delve into another area of expertise.

“It’s a big misconception,” Trueman said. “Out there, people think firefighters just put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, when in fact, about 70 percent of our calls as firefighters in the Department of Defense are actually medical.”

Though unusual, Trueman first fell in love with the EMR aspect of the fireman’s job before that of fighting fires. As a child he’d won a coloring contest hosted by his local fire station, and, as a reward, he was given a tour of the fire house.  When a call came in requesting a response to a medical situation, the assistant fire chief let him jump in the car and ride along to the incident.  From that moment on, he was inspired, and now he instructs on the subject that first captured his attention.

Being a firefighter is anything but easy, and after serving 12 years in the career field, Trueman knows that while on call his students will be exposed to many traumatic situations that will test their ability to bounce back.

“The most difficult response that I went on involved an individual who’d attempted suicide,” he said. “It was a young lady, and being a father myself, I put myself in her parent’s shoes, and you know it’s just something that I hadn’t experienced.  I’d trained for it, I had the skills to handle it, but emotionally … it’s one of those things where I had to talk to my mentors to kind of get me over that hump, because it definitely affects you the next day.”

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

Dealing with the emotions and trauma firefighters experience individually can be overwhelming, so that’s why they learn to look to each other for support.

In just about any type of training or military situation teamwork is critical, but Brum believes that his fellow classmates have gone beyond simply helping one another, they’ve become like family.

“All I hear is that when you’re at a base, at a fire station, it’s like a second family to you,” Brum said.

Even though he wasn’t actively working at a fire station yet, the young Airman had already found support through a team of fellow apprentice firefighters. At the academy and faced with stressors ranging from academics to physical fitness requirements, the students learned to lean on each other.

Though it is a strenuous course, the most difficult part for Brums was being away from family for nearly six months during the combination of basic training and technical school. Though he could Skype them or call, the separation sometimes tested his resolve. His teammates, however, were able to make the separation more bearable.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./Airman Online

“If you’re serious all the time you’re just going to go crazy, so we like to have fun with each other, lighten the mood,” Brum said.  “Having my friends in class, (when) I’m having a bad day … they know how to cheer me up to keep me going.

Even with his classmates’ support, Brum says life without his family can be stressful. But with a bit of technology and a dose of imagination and patience, he says he will be able to see it through.

“My wife and daughter, they are the reason I’m here,” he added. “After a hard day of training … my first thought is, ‘Oh, I have to wake up at 3:30 tomorrow morning and start it all over again. But then going to the dorm and being able to sit at a computer to Skype with my family – just seeing them and knowing how proud I’m making them, it gives me the motivation to get up that next morning and give my all.”

Trueman believes that despite the long hours, stress of learning new things and separation from family and friends, his students end up with a set of skills and values they will carry with them throughout their careers. He added that the aspect of his job he values the most is the difference he can make through each new student he teaches.

“Now I’m influencing the future of our career field and I really get to shape it by sending out quality (DOD firefighters),” he added. “The folks we send out there aren’t going to falter the first time they see a real world incident. They’ll be able to fall back on their training, and use that framework to push them over that hump.”

But Trueman made clear that this technical training is really only the beginning. He said a combination of advance courses, on-the-job training and experience in the field will be key to their successful future as firefighters.

“We produce a lot of graduates every year for the entire DOD,” Welling said. “One of the things we try to impress upon them as they graduate is ‘your training’s not done.’ You may be able to wear the firefighter badge, but you need to continue to train and prepare, because you never know what … situation you’re going to be responding to.  When the bell goes off and you’re asked to go do your job, you need to be ready, because someone’s life does depend on it.

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9 Movies Every Airman Needs To Watch

The invention of moving pictures was roughly coincident with the invention of powered flight, and over the years as Hollywood searched for plot lines they found plenty of material around Air Force life.


On the surface the appeal is and always has been obvious: airplanes. Duh. But movie studios understand that machines alone won’t get audiences into theaters (or these days onto Netflix).

Those who’ve served in the Air Force know all too well that life around the Wild Blue Yonder is about more than the hardware. It’s about the people and the things they overcome – like soul-crushing bureaucracies – to get the job done.

But it’s also about the action.

Here’s WATM’s list of nine movies every airman should watch, which is to say movies that every airman should know well enough to riff on among the buds in the lounge in the barracks or at the bar just outside the main gate. (And can you say “fire rearward missiles” in Russian?):

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Plot: Base commander loses it and decides to order the wing’s bombers to attack Russia with nuclear weapons. President of the United States gathers his cabinet and other advisers in the War Room to try and figure out how to avoid Armageddon.

Reason to watch: Stanley Kubrick’s biting satire is hilarious, but more than that it nails the personalities of those at the top of the food chain and the dynamic between them. This one was years ahead of its time. And it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdJS1iatxmY

Iron Eagle (1986)

Plot: Teenage kid’s Air Force pilot dad gets shot down and taken hostage in the Middle East, and the United States government won’t help get dad out because he had trolled into enemy airspace. Kid enlists the help of a retired Air Force pilot (and friend of his father), and the two of them grab some F-16s and proceed to raise hell.

Reason to watch: Any military movie with Lou Gossett, Jr. playing a determined S.O.B. is money. “Iron Eagle” has a lot of cool visuals (never mind technical accuracy) and good action. Plus the lesson it teaches is important: You can get away with anything if punishing you would embarrass those in charge.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3npr0RKBucc

Twelve O’clock High (1949)

Plot: Likable CO of a hard-luck B-17 squadron is relieved after a disastrous mission. New skipper’s hard-ass leadership style threatens to tear the ready room apart. Ultimately both sides chill out and get the job done.

Reason to watch: Great World War II bomber action, and the leadership lessons are definitive in that they show the net effect on a command of a leader being too nice or too much of an asshole. And while this may not be a ringing endorsement, it should be noted that “Twelve O’ clock High” is taught at commands throughout the Department of Defense.

The Hunters (1958)

Plot: Restless officer is tired of being in the rear with the gear and, through happenstance and a series of networking coincidences, finds himself in an F-86 squadron at the height of the air war over Korea.

Reason to watch: Based on James Salter’s beautiful novel, “The Hunters” was Hollywood first attempt to portray Air Force life in the jet age. “The Hunters” has it all: burned out CO, confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.

Fail Safe (1964)

Plot: Bogus threat triggers the launch of six Vindicator supersonic bombers (fictional aircraft portrayed in the movie by B-58 Hustlers). Launch codes are accidently transmitted to the aircraft, which sends them on an attack profile to Moscow. A series of missteps and bad logic prevents either side from calling the whole thing off.

Reason to watch: Plot resembles that of “Dr. Strangelove” but played straight. “Fail Safe” was the first major motion picture to tee up the idea that the system wasn’t perfect and things in the nuke weps world could go a smidge wrong from time to time. Also presents the cold reality that nuclear warfare has pretty serious consequences, something those who’ve signed up to participate in should have a sense of.

A Gathering of Eagles (1963)

Plot: This nuclear-age version of “Twelve O’ clock High” deals with the goings-on around a SAC unit that has just had the CO fired because of a failed inspection. New CO is career-minded and a hard-ass and that rubs the men under his charge the wrong way. Another inspection crisis with huge career implications leads all parties to figure it out in a good way.

Reason to watch: “A Gathering of Eagles” was made with the assistance of General Curtis LeMay to counter the perception created by “Fail Safe” and “Dr. Stangelove” that SAC was hosed up to the degree they could accidentally start a nuclear war. The Air Force in this one has its shit together, for the most part. Plus if you believe the best leadership lessons are discussed among men in towels ( a la “Top Gun”) you’re in for a treat.

Firefox (1982)

Plot: The U.S. and U.K. hatch a plot to steal a new Soviet airplane that can do Mach 6 and is controlled by the pilot’s mind.

Reason to watch: Clint Eastwood at his action-packed best. Plus, what initially came off as campy in terms of technical detail of the film seems viable today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0S7uE7l_oA

Catch-22 (1970)

Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.

Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G41SJUIawVo

Battle of Britain (1969)

Plot: A nation turns to its air force to hold back the Nazi hordes.

Reason to watch: Winston Churchill said it best when referring to the pilots and maintainers of the RAF: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” “Battle of Britain” captures both the action of dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts and the details of life in war-torn England. If you ever need to be reminded why an air force matters in modern times, watch this.

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The Air Force will no longer fire three volley salutes at veteran funerals

When a veteran or member of the armed forces dies, he or she is entitled to a ceremony that includes the presentation of a U.S. flag to a family member and a bugler blowing Taps. Most of the time, there is a three-volley rifle salute if requested by family members. But now, if the deceased served in the Air Force, the three-volley salute is not an option because the Air Force can no longer support riflemen for funeral services for veteran retirees.


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Staff Sgt. Sean Edmondson and other new honor guard members exit the field after the funeral ceremony at the honor guard graduation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Seven member services for retirees included six members to serve as pall-bearers, a six member flag-folding detail, and a three riflemen to fire the salute. Veteran’s funerals now only receive the services of two-member teams, who provide a flag-folding ceremony, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to the next of kin.

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(U.S. Air Force Photo)

“To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial,” veteran Wayne Wakeman told Honolulu’s KHON 2 News. “I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they’re giving, that they had to hit the veterans.”

Wakeman is correct in supposing the cut is due to sequestration, the 2013 automatic federal spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

3 myths about the new military retirement system
The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Rose Richeson, from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Press Desk, told We Are The Mighty the policy of restricting the funeral honor is an Air Force-wide requirement.

“The requirement is consistent with  DoD policy which require a minimum of two personnel,” Richeson said. “Any number of personnel above two that is provided in support of military funeral honors is based on local resources available.”

A three-volley salute is the correct term for what is commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as a 21-gun salute. There are often seven riflemen, totaling 21. The origin of the three-volley funeral honor lies elsewhere, according to the Tom Sherlock, an Arlington National Cemetery Historian. A 21-gun salute is reserved for Presidents of the United States or visiting heads of state.