One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.
It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.
The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.
There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.
In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
The military’s response to logic.
Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!
Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).
Been there, buddy.
I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?
The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.
Sailors have unique ways to get under each other’s skin.
A comment that may seem harmless to an outsider might be a jab to a shipmate. Just add the word “SHIPMATE” to the insult to take it to the next level. Consider yourself warned and use the following sailor insults at your own risk:
140 sailors go down, 70 couples come back.
Submariners hate this one, used by surface sailors to mock submariners going on deployment.
“Unsat” is short for unsatisfactory. This is not derogatory, but sailors hate the term being used to describe their work, something they did, their appearance — anything. When the chief says, “Shipmate, your haircut is unsat,” sailors know they’d better do something about it.
Stands for ‘Barely Useful Body.’ Sometimes used in a derogatory manner, but sometimes used to describe someone who’s been injured or physically unable to perform 100 percent. Either way, it hurts the ego.
The Bulls–t flag
This is an imaginary flag someone raises when they believe that what you’re saying is pure bulls–t. It’s usually phrased, “I am raising the bulls–t flag on that one.”
Otherwise known as a brown-noser or butt snorkeler. This is a person who tries too hard to buddy up with another – usually a superior – to gain favor.
Also known as a “one-way check valve.” This is a term used mostly by submariners and surface ship snipes to describe someone who does things for him or herself but doesn’t reciprocate.
This one has several different derogatory meanings to describe the senior enlisted person aboard a ship: Chief of the Boat, Crabby Old Bastard, and Clueless Overweight Bastard.
It stands for Freeloading Oxygen Breather. This is a term mostly used by submariners to describe someone who is not carrying their share of the load.
“How’s your wife and my kids?”
A phrase used to get under the skin of sailors from opposite crews.
A derogatory term used for a lifer with no life outside the Navy who engages in a lot of buttsharking.
This is the official, unofficial term used to describe a Navy doctor or corpsman. Sailors know better than to address the doc this way before a physical.
By no means is this a complete list, so feel free to add more terms in the comments below.
America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?
Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).
The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.
And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.
The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.
The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.
But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.
Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.
The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.
British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.
It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.
But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.
Photo by Sgt. Christopher Stewart 7th Army Training Command
More than a million service members had an increase in their September mid-month pay because of the payroll tax deferral program set forth by President Trump. The presidential memorandum directs employers to stop withholding payroll tax until the end of the year to “support working Americans during these challenging times.”
While most civilian companies have declined to implement this directive, the federal government has given service members and civilian employees who make less than $4,000 biweekly or less than $104,000 annually no way to opt-out.
So how does this affect you and your family?
Six things military families might want to consider with the new payroll tax deferral
You will see a boost in pay – but there’s a BIG catch.
For those who are eligible, pay will go up 6.2 percent, which is the amount of payroll tax that is normally paid on wages. This raise in pay will continue through December 31, 2020.
The potential pitfall will come in the new year, between January and April 2021, which is when the taxes that are currently being deferred are slated to be paid back, possibly by taking out twice the normal payroll tax amount each pay period.
The payback will come at a particularly bad time, since most families struggle in the first few months of the new year, while holiday spending bills come due and they wait for their tax refunds.
Do you invest in the TSP, an IRA, or a 529? You may get a nasty surprise in January
While I am a big proponent of automatic investing through payroll deduction or bank transfer since it allows you to “set it and forget it,” this is one instance where a good savings habit could potentially trip you up.
But service members (and their bank accounts!) may be in for a shock if they have their “usual” contributions to the TSP and other investments withdrawn from their pay in January and then have the additional payroll tax deducted as well.
The annual pay raise may offset some of the pain, but it’s not confirmed yet
The proposed defense authorization bill would give service members a 3 percent pay increase in 2021, so this could help ease the pain of paying back extra payroll taxes next year. However, the final bill has not yet been passed by Congress.
Adjusting withholding doesn’t help.
There has been some talk on the internet about adjusting withholding taxes to somehow make up for the payroll tax. This is not a great solution, since the two taxes are not the same. If you increase your withholding, that’s going toward your future income tax bill, not payroll taxes, so it won’t offset January’s tax payback.
If you overpay in withholding tax, you will have to wait until you file income taxes to recoup it.
Save the extra, and save yourself some pain next January
The easiest way to make sure that repaying the deferred payroll tax isn’t a painful experience is to set the extra money aside. The DFAS website says that military members can estimate their payroll tax by taking their monthly base pay and multiplying it by .062 and repeating that process for the four months that the tax is deferred, September through December.
This money can then be saved in a separate, yet easily accessible account. Unfortunately, interest rates are currently very low, so you won’t earn very much interest in such a short time, but at least the money will be available early next year, when it’s due to be repaid.
Getting out? You still have to pay it back
Retired pay is not affected, since it is not earned wages. If a service member leaves the military before the taxes are repaid, they are still on the hook for repayment. Failure to repay these taxes in a timely manner may result in penalties and interest fees.
While it’s possible that service members won’t be required to repay the deferred tax, it’s best not to count on that: it would take action by Congress in order to do that. But if you’ve set aside the funds already, and it turns out that the amount is forgiven, then you will be well on your way to establishing an emergency fund or adding to your existing savings.
DFAS has a dedicated page on the Social Security Payroll Tax deferral. If military families have more questions or concerns, they should contact their installation financial readiness personnel or Military OneSource.
Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, made some worrying admissions about China’s growing military capabilities, and the US’ decline in technological advances.
“Our adversaries have taken advantage of what I have referred to as a holiday for the United States,” Griffin said April 18, 2018, referring to the West’s victory over its communist rivals in the Cold War. The Pentagon official was speaking at a hearing for the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
“China has understood fully how to be a superpower,” Griffin said. “We gave them the playbook and they are executing.”
One problem discussed was anti-access/area denial through the use of hypersonic weapons— missiles or glide vehicles that fly at mach 5 or above, making them so fast that they can bypass almost all current missile defense systems.
“China has fielded or can field … hypersonic delivery systems for conventional prompt strike than can reach out thousands of kilometers from the Chinese shore, and hold our carrier battle groups or our forward deployed forces … at risk,” he said.
He also added that the US does not have a weapon that can similarly threaten the Chinese, and that the US has no defenses against China’s hypersonic missiles.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
“We, today, do not have systems which can hold them at risk in a corresponding manner, and we don’t have defenses against those systems,” Griffin said, adding that “should they choose to deploy them we would be, today, at a disadvantage.
The statements echo similar warnings that Griffin told the House Armed Services Committee a day before. In that hearing, Griffin said that hypersonic weapons were “the most significant advance” made by the US’ adversaries.
“We will, with today’s defensive systems, not see these things coming,” he said April 17, 2018.
China has already made huge gains over the US when it comes to hypersonic glide vehicles. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said that Russia successfully tested an “invincible” hypersonic cruise missile.
Months after Putin’s announcement, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin with a $1 billion contract to create what is calls “hypersonic conventional strike weapon.”
Boeing made a hypersonic vehicle similar to a cruise missile called the X-51 Waverider which first flew in 2010. The device flew mach 5.1 for 6 minutes during one test.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There hasn’t been a more shining example of how great the military meme community can be than when its faced with a possible WWIII. The media is reporting every last detail, the civilians are clutching their pearls, and the vets? We’re completely unphased at the prospect of another multi-decade war.
All geopolitics and possible danger aside, at least gearing up for war is a hell of a lot better than just sitting around doing CQ, motor pool Mondays, and online correspondence courses…
Actual war may be benched – but the meme war will continue!
Seriously, you wouldn’t think this would be that hard. But, for some reason, people keep pulling stunts or snitching on members of their own platoon and screwing the unit as a whole. So, here we are, writing a guide to teach everyone how to not Blue Falcon.
For anyone out there who doesn’t know the code, Blue Falcons are “Buddy F**kers,” folks who screw over their peers by being either overly zealous, overly lazy, or just a straight up jerk.
This photo of a dental technician is included because it frightens me — and I find that funny.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks)
This is likely the biggest source of inadvertent Blue Falconing, so let’s go through it. It usually starts with a unit dental screening, resulting in a few Joes and Jills getting the same appointment date — and there’s the rub. When the appointments are done, all of the troops have to decide what to do: Go back immediately or dawdle for a few hours?
Who, exactly, is the Blue Falcon here is conditional. If, and only if, the unit has vital stuff going on, everyone should go back to the unit, and anyone trying to dawdle is screwing the unit, performing Blue Falconry.
But the unit will almost certainly have nothing going on. Then, most of the guys will want to go to the barracks and one “high-speed” will want to go back to the unit and sniff the platoon sergeant’s butt. In this case, he’s the Blue Falcon. Seriously, dude/dudette, if you really have to do Army stuff right now, do some correspondence courses in your barracks while everyone else plays video games. Stop making everyone else show up to sit around the company for no reason.
Personal tents help protect your buddies from your Blue Falconry in the field, but it’s still your job to not be a dick.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
Living in the field
There’re all sorts of ways to screw over your buddies while living in the field. First, while preparing for the field, pack the entire packing list unless:
You’re sure leadership won’t check, and
That neither you nor your unit will need the missing item.
This means that you always bring items like ponchos, which the squad or platoon may need to protect gear from water, even if you don’t think you’ll wear it.
Also, if there’s anything in MREs or hot rats that gives you indigestion, do not eat it before everyone piles into cots or Ranger graves right next to each other. If you smoke, chew, dip, or use snuff, you bring your own. Bring your cleaning kit, bring your own hygiene items, and adjust your sleep schedule to the mission. No one wants to give up their supplies or carry your weight.
Green berets carry their weight. Blue Falcons don’t. Always go green.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Speaking of carrying your own weight: do it on ruck marches, you Blue Falcons. This is especially true on real patrols where the unit is likely carrying more weight than during training marches. If it’s gear that the platoon needs and you can’t carry it, fine; you can work with your buddies to redistribute the weight. But if you have 10 pounds in personal electronics and comfort items, you’re on your own.
This goes double for any support personnel who are sent to maneuver units to provide a service. You do not add to the unit’s weight. Do not bring anything you can’t carry. I mean, sure, if you’re bringing a Wolfhound with you, you might have to share some weight. But if you’re carrying an extra aid bag or a video camera, ruck up. The infantry has enough weight.
Army troops get a safety brief. It’s one of the most sensible and important formations of the week.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Craig Norton)
This one is simple: You go to formations at the assigned time in the assigned uniform with the assigned gear. Otherwise, your entire formation is left waiting around or getting smoked while you try to run and grab it.
And sometimes, there’s an agreed-upon piece of gear you bring even if it’s not assigned. If it’s a cold morning but the word is no pants in formation, you stow those in a car or behind the formation anyway. If first sergeant is feeling cold and offers to wear pants on the run, but you’re the only one without the whole uniform, then you deserve the heckling during the run.
Oh, and if you ask a question during a formation that doesn’t apply to the whole formation, screw you so hard with threaded objects.
Weird that this guy wore his uniform during the police chase. Looks more like a training event than anything. It’s almost like we have to illustrate this with stock photos.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Sousa)
And if you’re in a Saturday at 0300 formation because first sergeant suspects that the 20-ish white male leading the police on a chase with a captured panda bear is a member of your company, you keep your mouth shut or you say that you’re pretty sure Jenkins is at a video game launch party that night (assuming first sergeant doesn’t know that games release on Tuesdays).
You do not mention his panda posters, key chain, and tattoos, or the fact that he had been bragging about a new kind of spice that doesn’t show up on drug tests. If he’s not leading the police on a chase, your unnecessary snitching is screwing him. If he is, the police can catch him without your help. Develop some tactical patience.
This gear is laying out on purpose. Don’t steal his crap.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Charles Thorman)
Look, if you leave gear — personal or government-issued — laying out, you’re taking risks. But, if someone in your platoon or squad leaves stuff out, your job is to secure it and then call them an idiot later. You don’t steal from within the unit. That “gear adrift is a gift” thing is Navy shenanigans. And even then, you shouldn’t do it in your own shop or section.
But, guys, if your buddies keep having to secure your sh*t, then get a handle on your sh*t. It’s not your section’s job to keep track of your stuff. Blue Falcons leave their stuff lying around. Real adults are able to take care of their own lives.
The Trump administration on Aug 6, 2018, announced it would reinstate sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal — and Iran has made no shortage of vitriolic threats about what it may do in response.
Beginning Aug 7, 2018, the US plans to sanction Iran’s central bank, sending a clear message to the US’s European allies: Do business with the US, or do it with Iran, but not both.
The US plans to follow up with another round of sanctions in November targeting Iran’s lifeblood: its oil exports.
“It’s pretty clear the Iranians are suffering a fair degree of anger over the economy,” Dennis Ross, who has worked on Middle East policy in four US administrations, told reporters on a call set up by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Iran’s currency, the rial, has tanked this year, losing about half its value against the dollar. “In the past week, the price of toothpaste has risen three times,” Ross said.
Amid the economic struggles, Iran has seen wave after wave of protests from both rich and poor citizens, protests the government has often suppressed violently. Ross said that it was unusual to have bazaar vendors, truckers, and conservative towns protesting and beaten back by riot police and that the recent protests were “noteworthy.”
Ross said, however, that Trump’s election and a mounting anticipation that sanctions would return had some effect on Iran’s economy but were “not the root cause.”
He instead pointed to corruption, talent mismanagement, years of isolation from international business standards, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ massive role in the economy, and a lack of transparency as proving inhospitable to investment.
At the same time, Trump withdrawing from the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions dealt Iran a huge blow, which will significantly hurt its earning potential and liquidity. Ross said that while China may still buy Iranian oil amid the US sanctions, it could ask for a discount; while India may still buy Iranian oil, it may offer to pay only in rupees.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Iran makes big threats and takes little action
Michael Eisenstadt, an expert on Middle East security and defense, told reporters on the Washington Institute’s call that while Iran had talked a big game, it carefully measured its actions to avoid a strong US response.
“Iran faces a dilemma,” Eisenstadt said. “In the past, Iran’s main response was to redouble efforts in the nuclear domain” as a response to US pressure, but Iran has reduced its nuclear infrastructure as part of the nuclear deal with the US and other countries.
Iran has made threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil exports pass through, but Eisenstadt and other experts dismissed this as bluster.Instead, Iran could send missiles to its Houthi allies in Yemen to target oil shipping from US allies, as it already has. Iran could attack US troops in Syria. It could detain US citizens, wage a cyberattack, or harass US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.
“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!”
A summit with Trump would greatly shame the theocratic rulers of Iran, as they frame their government as a revolutionary act opposing US hegemony and cry “death to America.”
But according to Ross, Iran may have another option: Russia.
“I have a suspicion that even if it doesn’t come directly, I can easily see in six months the Iranians turning to the Russians and letting the Russians be their channel,” to negotiate with Trump, Ross said. “Given the Trump-Putin relationship, we can see Russia coming and offering something, opening up a negotiation.”
By dealing through Putin and not Trump, Iran could save face while dealing with Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and its other economic issues.
Recruiters are well-practiced in convincing young adults that military service is the best option to propel them into a happy, successful future. We’ve all seen the recruiting posters that show off a mighty lookin’ Marine or a tough soldier and we’ve all seen the highly polished ads on TV, but nothing beats the personal touch of a skilled recruiter.
Some recruiters will travel miles to find young prospects and get them interested in military service. However, there’s one place where you’ll find almost always youngsters in nearly any town — the freakin’ mall.
Shopping malls are the ultimate grounds for recruiters to swoop in and scoop up their next contract. Every recruiter is different, but we’re willing to bet that if you enlisted at a mall, you ran into one of these four archetypes:
That’s right, you better stand at modified parade rest.
(Photo by Andrea Stone)
The one who expects you to have some military bearing
Some recruiters are laid back, but others take a more aggressive approach and instruct potential recruits on the proper way to speak as an active service member.
You might think that being stern and strict would turn the younger crowd away, but, to our surprise, that rigid military bearing is exactly what some want.
He’s good at his
The one who is good with parents
Joining the military is a big decision. The fact is that many youngsters aren’t accustomed to making such important choices.
A smart recruiter knows that nothing is more reassuring than a parent’s good word. So, you’ll likely find a recruiter whose best work is done schmoozing with mom and dad.
If you join today, you might get to drive a government car, just like me.
The parking lot patroller
Mall recruiters aren’t just on the hunt for window shoppers. Nope! They’re out searching for you before you even step foot inside the shopping center. They pretend like they’ve met you before to strike up a conversation. It’s all a tactic to get you into their office.
Sure you could join the Air Force, but you won’t look as cool in their uniform.
The reverse psychologist
Recruiters are up against monthly quotas. In order to make their numbers, they need to use every tool in their kit. This means finding a way to beat out the other branches in the event that two are scoping the same potential recruit. Some recruiters will use reverse psychology on you, making sly like, “you probably couldn’t handle the Marines anyway.”
Some will see right through it, but others feel compelled to prove people wrong.
Remember that guy who bought a Harrier? Well, now, Art Nalls is adding reality TV star to his resume as the only civilian owner of a Harrier jump jet.
According to a release by AARP Studios, Nalls is starring in Badass Pilot, which tells the tale of how he acquired a British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 retired by the Fleet Air Arm and made it into a civilian warbird. The series premiered Nov. 14 on the YouTube page of AARP Studios.
“I think the title of this show says it all. Art is, in fact, a badass pilot, and the perfect example or embodiment of how age doesn’t define anything,” AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle said in the release. “Art certainly answers the question ‘How do you become the only civilian to own a Sea Harrier Fighter jet?’ but there’s a lot more to the series than that. Art’s purchase of the plane was just the beginning of the adventure.”
The Sea Harrier entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1978. Four years later, it proved instrumental in winning the Falklands War while flying from the carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes (and, later, from the INS Vikrant). The Royal Air Force, United States Marine Corps, India, Spain, Italy, and Thailand have all flown versions of the Harrier.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sea Harrier has a top speed of 734 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,237 miles, and carries up to 5,000 pounds of ordnance. It’s able to carry various air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Battle of the Atlantic lasted almost the entirety of the Second World War. It started when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 and it didn’t end until Nazi Germany surrendered. Even then, some U-boats refused to give up the fight with their nation — a maritime version of Japanese holdouts.
The Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It’s hard to really comprehend this battle, both due to the length of the campaign (almost six years of fighting) and the massive scope. Forces clashed the world over, from the North Cape to Montevideo. But between these battles, it was sheer drudgery — long moments of boredom, punctuated by a submarine attack or air raid that would never make headlines.
A Vought SB2U flies over a convoy carrying troops and supplies to the front.
(US Navy photo)
Despite the languid pace, the Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance. Without winning the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies could never have pulled off the Normandy invasion, much less force the surrender of Nazi Germany. It was all about securing the lines of communication between the United States and the Allied forces in Europe and the Mediterranean.
A convoy heads towards Casablanca, one of the locations where troops hit the beach during Operation Torch.
(US Navy photo)
Merriam-Webster defines a line of communication as “the net of land, water, and air routes connecting a field of action (as a military front) with its bases of operations and supplies.” In the case of the Battle of the Atlantic, the major focus was on keeping waterways open. This was the only way to transport the many tanks and planes needed to win the war, not to mention the supplies for ground troops. In fact, sea transport still matters today because it’s the most convenient way to move a major force to the front.
If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…
…do not despair.
While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.
What is it? Let me explain…
What is our ultimate goal for our kids?
Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.
My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.
(Photo by Tim Pierce)
Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?
How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?
But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.
As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.
They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…
1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.
I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.
Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.
No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.
Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.
(Photo by Janice Cullivan)
2. Military kids learn early networking skills.
With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.
Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.
In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.
3. Military kids are taught to persevere.
Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.
Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.
When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.
I’ll take vines over roots any day.
While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.
The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.
And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Iran just conducted a massive rapid deployment exercise that consisted of 12,000 coordinated troops – the Islamic Republic was saying to the world that any attackers would face a “crushing blow.” Over two days, Iran’s regular military forces used ground troops, fighter planes, armored vehicles, and drones to practice its methods of repelling invaders over 190 square miles.
The exercises are aimed at Israel and the United States, both of which Iran considers a regional menace. Back in the United States, regardless of Iranian training exercises, a growing portion of the military community is urging against a war with Iran, and the effort is being led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.
Eaton is best known for his command of training Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Led by Eaton, a cadre of former General-grade officers wrote an open letter to Congress, urging against provoking a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian military exercises played no role in the letter, which had been in the works for some time. In the letter, Eaton, the other officers, and the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation remind Congress about the costs of the current wars the United States is still engaged in right now.
“A full-scale military conflict with Iran would be a huge and costly undertaking,” the letter reads. “It’s a lesson we’ve learned before as a nation, at great cost. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us a lot in blood and treasure. We know that war with Iran would require hundreds of thousands of American service members to deploy and could result in even larger numbers of American casualties and injuries―alongside an unknown number of civilian deaths.”
While the United States does not have any kind of motive to attack Iran as of this writing, the letter is urging Congress to pass legislation to keep the White House from using military force without direct Congressional approval. The current authorization for the use of military force used by the Trump Administration to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere is the same one used by his predecessors Obama and Bush, signed into law by President Bush after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The new National Defense Authorization Act could bar the use of force in Iran.
Specifically, the letter endorsed a bi-partisan detail in the 2020 NDAA that would prevent “unauthorized” military force in or against Iran, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna and ardent Trump supporter and Florida Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz. There is no current language in the Senate version of the bill. Before going to the President’s desk, the NDAA would need to be reconciled and passed by both houses. The letter urged the inclusion of the Iran language in the final bill.
U.S. troops are deployed to hundreds of countries – Iran is not one of them.
The group of military officers believes the interests of the United States are better served by focusing on the confrontations with Russia and China, instead of expanding into another Middle East conflict.
“The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum,” the letter reads.