Are there any military spouse retirement benefits? - We Are The Mighty
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Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?

Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?
Mrs. Hyun Crites, wife of Chief Master Sgt. James Crites, 9th Operations Group superintendent (right), is presented the Military Spouse Medal during her husband’s retirement ceremony. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings


Military retirement often marks the end of a long road.

As a military spouse, you’ve put in months of waiting on your service member to come home from long trainings or deployment, all while holding down your home and taking care of your family. You’ve battled career challenges for yourself, planning disasters, cross-country moves and everything Murphy’s Law could throw at you.

But other than the long-sought break from the challenges of military life, what’s in military retirement for you? Although your service member is who put on the uniform every day, military retirement isn’t without perks for military spouses or ways that you can still benefit from the community.

And while all of the benefits available to you are by virtue of your spouse’s service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of them.

Military spouse retirement benefits

Health and dental care. After military retirement, you are eligible to continue using Tricare, the military’s health care system. If you are near a base, you may even still be able to be seen in the military treatment facility or hospital if that is your wish. You can also sign-up for a dental plan for military retirees.

Commissary and shopping privileges. Now that you’re not a part of the active-duty military anymore, you might find that your living expenses go up. But as the spouse of a military retiree, you still have access to the military commissary and exchange systems. Although just how much you save at those stores over civilian markets is an often-debated topic, everyone agrees there is some benefit to shopping at them.

Military lodging and recreation. As a military retiree, you still have access to the military lodging and recreation systems. Although there are some rules restricting who can stay in military lodges overseas, most allow military retirees. Maybe now is the time to take that girls’ or guys’ vacation you’ve been dreaming about for the last 10 years.

GI Bill and education benefits. If your service member transferred the Post-9/11 GI Bill to you while he or she was still on active duty, you can use it to go back to school. Through it, you will receive a monthly housing allowance, an annual books stipend and, depending on where you are going to school, all of your tuition costs and fees covered. The GI Bill must be transferred while the service member is on active duty for this to be available.

If you don’t have the GI Bill and your service member has died, you might be eligible for Survivor and Dependents Educational Assistance.

Survivor Benefit Plan. If your service member chooses to set up the Survivor Benefit Plan, an insurance policy, at the time of his retirement, you will have access to that money after he or she dies. That plan can be complicated and confusing, so go here for the full explanation.

VA benefits after your service member’s death. Although a service member’s pension checks end with his or her death, you may have access to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and the Veteran’s Death Pension.

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This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

From World War II to today, Boeing products have been the backbone of America’s strategic bomber force. That long tradition got started, though, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which was best known for flying the daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany in World War II.


The ultimate form of the B-17 was the B-17G version, which had 13 .50-caliber machine guns, including a twin Bendex turret under the nose, twin turrets on the top, belly, and tail of the bomber, as well as five single machine guns, including two in the wait, two in the cheeks of the plane, and one for the radio operator.

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A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (U.S. Air Force photo)

With all that firepower and ammo, there was still enough room to carry a large bombload (up to 9,600 pounds). The B-17 also had a lot of reach, with a maximum range of 3,750 miles. With four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 engines, it could hit 287 miles per hour when running flat-out.

The Flying Fortress saw action from the start of the war — B-17s flying in to Hickam Field on Dec, 7, 1941 came under attack from the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. After that day, B-17 production was ramped up until 12,726 of all types were produced until May, 1945.

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Hickam Field, Hawaii, under attack Dec. 7, 1941. An Army B-17 Fortress is in the foreground. (Photo credit: National Archives)

Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the B-17 cost $238,329 in 1943 and 1944 – when they B-17G was being mass-produced. Today, that would be about $3 million per plane – meaning that for the $94.6 million price of one F-35A, the Air Force could buy 31 B-17s!

Today, only 12 of the thousands of B-17s that were built are still airworthy – with another 27 either in museums or being restored. Among those being restored is the only surviving B-17D, “The Swoose,” as well as the famous “Memphis Belle.”

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Top military doc is open to changing obesity standards

The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.


But are they really?

According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.

Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.

“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”

According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.

A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.

Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.

And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.

“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”

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This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

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He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

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He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

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The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

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Chinese Navy may outnumber US Navy by 2020

Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?
China’s carrier Liaoning | PLAN photo


Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.

Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.

The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.

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The Marines are looking for a few good Tigers

The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.


According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”

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A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.

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Northrop F-5E (Tail No. 11419). (U.S. Air Force photo)

One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.

So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.

SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.

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A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-5S armed with AGM-65S Mavericks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano.  If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.

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13 top American CEOs with military experience

There are plenty of differences between America’s biggest companies but for some there is a common bond: CEOs with military backgrounds.


While it’s not a requirement that a company leader have time in uniform, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed it certainly doesn’t hurt. CEOs with military backgrounds are fairly conservative with company financials and often outperform peers during stressful times, the paper found.

Unfortunately, the number of corporate CEOs with backgrounds in the military is shrinking, but here are 13 of the biggest names, along with what they did in the military.

1. Alex Gorsky

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Photo: Johnson Johnson

Currently: CEO of Johnson Johnson

Military experience: Graduated from West Point, then served six years in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. Ranger and Airborne qualified with service in Europe and Panama.

2. Lowell McAdam

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Currently: CEO of Verizon

Military experience: Spent six years in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and attended Cornell on a Naval ROTC scholarship.

3. Bob Parsons

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Currently: Founder and CEO of YAM Worldwide, Inc., and board member at GoDaddy, which he founded. He previously served as CEO of GoDaddy.

Military experience: Served as a U.S. Marine rifleman in Vietnam, where he was wounded by enemy fire while on patrol. He received the Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

4. Fred Smith

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Currently: Chairman, president, and CEO of FedEx Corporation

Military experience: Came up with the business model for Fedex will an undergrad at Yale, but took a break from school to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served two tours in Vietnam before he founded what would become FedEx in 1971.

5. Robert S. Morrison

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Currently: Serves in board positions at Aon plc, 3M, and Illinois Tool Works Inc, among others. He previously served as the Vice Chairman at Pepsico, Inc., and the CEO of The Quaker Oats Company.

Military experience: Served as a Marine during the Vietnam war, where he received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for combat wounds. He left the Corps at the rank of captain.

6. Daniel Akerson

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Currently: Special advisor at the Carlyle Group. Akerson previously served as the chairman and CEO of General Motors from 2010 to 2014.

Military experience: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1970 and served on the destroyer USS Dupont.

7. Robert McDonald

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Currently: The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He previously served as the CEO of Procter Gamble.

Military experience: A West Point graduate, McDonald served in the 82nd Airborne division and attained the rank of captain.

8. Scott Wine

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Photo: Polaris

Currently: Chairman and CEO of Polaris

Military experience: Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989 and served in the Navy Supply Corps.

9. Stuart Parker

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Currently: CEO of USAA

Military experience: Served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly ten years, flying combat missions during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

10. James Mulva

CurrentlySits on the board of directors at GE. He previously served as the president and CEO of ConocoPhillips.

Military experience: Graduated from Navy ROTC from The University of Texas in 1969 and served as a Navy officer until 1973.

11. Robert Stevens

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Photo: Lockheed

Currently: Retired. Served as chairman, president, and CEO of Lockheed Martin, and later as Executive Chairman.

Military experience: Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970, serving three years in III Marine Amphibious Force.

12. Jim Skinner

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Photo: McDonalds

Currently: Chairman of Walgreens. Previously, he was the vice chairman and CEO of McDonalds.

Military experience: Over nearly ten years of service, completed two tours in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War with the U.S. Navy.

13. Robert Myers

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Currently: Chairman and CEO of Casey’s General Stores, Inc.

Military experience: Enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966, and served for 22 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He served in Germany, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, according to Fortune.

SEE ALSO: 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War  

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Iraqi security forces move in to liberate West Mosul

Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.


The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.

Five Villages Liberated

Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.

The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.

“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.

Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from ISIS. | DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Proven as Capable

“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.

The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.

While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.

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Tyler Perry just bought this old Army base

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Photo: Courtesy Fort McPherson


Georgia’s Fort McPherson, the historic Army base that operated in suburban Atlanta from 1885–2011, has been sold to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who plans to redevelop the facility as movie studio.

Perry will control 330 of the facility’s 448 acres and has plans to build up to 16 soundstages. His $30 million purchase includes the post’s former golf course, key office buildings and the fort’s historic parade grounds and officers’ quarters.

A civilian agency has been tasked with redeveloping 144 acres of land not included in Perry’s purchase. Those plans could include rehabbing the fort’s historic village in the northeast quadrant of the post and turning it into neighborhood retail and restaurants.

Tyler Perry has become a major player in Georgia’s growing film industry and the new studio will house his company’s 350 employees.

Before its establishment as an Army base in 1885, the land was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War and later as a post for Federal troops occupying Atlanta during Reconstruction.

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Today in military history: Alexander the Great dies

On what would be June 13 in the year 323 BC, Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and conqueror of nations, died at the age of 33.

Alexander the Great grew as a student of the tutelage of the famous philosopher Aristotle, and learned military tactics from his father, King Philip of Macedonia. He succeeded to the throne at the age of 16 after his father’s assassination. Two years later, he invaded the Persian Empire, and began a ten year campaign of conquest. His empire soon stretched from the eastern Mediterranean to India.

Alexander spent two years pacifying the Balkans and stabilizing his rule before turning eastward. In 334 he and his army crossed the Hellespont, the straits connecting Europe and Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He then conquered, in just four years, the Persian Empire which had controlled all the land between the Levant coast and the Iranian Plateau for centuries. Alexander chased the Persian king Darius III – one of the most powerful men in the world – through the empire until Darius was captured and executed by one of his own nobles. Throughout his conquests Alexander established many cities, all of them named Alexandria.

On June 13, Alexander died after battling a severe illness that kept him bedridden for 12 days. It’s believed that after a night of binge drinking while entertaining a visiting Admiral, he gradually lost the ability to use his arms and legs and soon after his capacity to speak. After his death, his empire was divided up between his four loyal generals.

Alexander the Great changed the course of Western civilization. His conquests established an empire from the Balkan Peninsula to the Indus River. Greek became the language of the upper class from Macedon to Persia, creating a new path for social advancement. After his death, Alexander’s empire was divided up between his generals, whose successor-states came to be known as the Hellenistic (or “Greek-ish”) kingdoms. In the coming centuries, those states would be swallowed up by the Romans and the Arabs, who were inspired by the greatness of Greek culture. It was Alexander whose conquests created the Greek-speaking world that would provide the foundation for the civilizations to come.

Featured Image: Alexander on a mosaic from Pompeii, an alleged imitation of a Philoxenus of Eretria or Apelles’ painting, 4th century BC.

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Russia is about to launch this massive military exercise as tensions with west simmer

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.


Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.

The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.

The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.

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Putin meets with Chief of the General Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces and First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov and Belarusian Defence Minister Yury Zhadobin, 2013. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.

NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.

A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”

The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.

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Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, US Army Europe, is awarded the German Federal Armed Forces Golden Cross of Honor by German Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer, the chief of staff of the German Army. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”

The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.

Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.

Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.

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Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.

Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”

He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.

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Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.

Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.

NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.

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Zapad 13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”

During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.

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This is General Nicholson’s vow to annihilate ISIS in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s security forces, with the help of US and NATO ground and air support, will annihilate the Islamic State group affiliate in the country and crush remnants of al-Qaeda, General John Nicholson, the top US general in Afghanistan, vowed August 24.


Nicholson also had a message for the Taliban: “Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms and join Afghan society. Help build a better future for this country and your own children.”

Nicholson and Hugo Llorens, the US Embassy’s Special Chargé d’Affaires, told reporters in the capital Kabul that President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, announced August 21, was a promise to Afghans that together they would defeat terrorism and prevent terrorist groups from establishing safe havens.

“We will not fail in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said. “Our national security depends on it, as well as Afghanistan’s security, and our allies and partners.”

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Incoming Resolute Support Commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., addresses the audience during the change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016.

But Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was defiant in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: “We are not giving our guns to any one and our Taliban are fighting until the last US soldier is no longer here in Afghanistan.”

Senior US officials have said that Trump may send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately. Nicholson did not offer a timeframe for deployment, however, saying only that “in the coming months, US Forces Afghanistan and NATO will increase its train, advise, and assist efforts in Afghanistan. And we will increase our air support to Afghan security forces.”

Nicholson had particular praise for Afghanistan’s commandos and special forces known as Ktah Khas, saying they had yet to lose a battle and plans were being made to double their size.

“The Taliban have never won against the commandos and Ktah Khas,” he said. “They never will.”

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Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

Nicholson told reporters that the losses among Taliban foot soldiers have exceeded those of the Afghan National Security Forces, though he didn’t offer figures.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in its latest report released July 31 said 2,531 Afghan service members were killed in action in just the first five months of this year and another 4,238 were wounded.

Nicholson said efforts were being made to tackle corruption within the Afghan security force, an issue that was flagged in the same July Inspector General report that identified more than 12,000 Afghan Ministry of Defense personnel that were “unaccounted for,” fearing some could be so-called “ghosts” who exist only on paper.

Trump too addressed the need for reforms by the Afghan government in his August 21 speech.

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Photo by Michael Vadon

“The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited,” Trump said. “We will keep our eyes wide open.”

Reporters questioned both Nicholson and Llorens about how the US would force Pakistan to close Taliban sanctuaries in its territory. Trump was uncompromising in his demand that Pakistan close the safe havens that the US and Afghanistan have repeatedly accused them of allowing on their soil.

“For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror,” he said. “That will have to change, and that will change immediately.”

Nicholson said discussions with Pakistan would be held in private, adding “it has already started” without offering more details.

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Where were the US fighters on 9/11?

As had been the case since the earliest days of the Cold War, the Pentagon had air assets on alert the morning of 9/11. But for all of the time and money invested in protecting the homeland from airborne threats, none of the American fighters were able to intercept the airliners that had been hijacked by terrorists on that terrible day.


This exclusive WATM video explores the chain of events, how information was passed between commands, and how jets wound up in the wrong pieces of sky only to arrive over the WTC and Pentagon too late to prevent the attacks or effect the outcomes in any way.

Watch the video:


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