A barber wears a face covering while cutting hair at the barber shop on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, April 10, 2020.
When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.
“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”
Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”
In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”
Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.
The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.
“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”
I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv
Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.
Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.
The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.
In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.
The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.
“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.
The US Army wants guns, big ones. The service is modernizing for high-intensity combat against top adversaries, and one of the top priorities is long-range precision fires.
The goal of the Long-Range Precision Fires team is to pursue range overmatch against peer and near-peer competitors, Col. John Rafferty, the team’s director of the LRPF who is part of the recently-established Army Futures Command, told reporters Oct. 10, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC.
The Army faces challenges from a variety of Russian weapons systems, such as the artillery, multiple rocket launcher systems, and integrated air defense networks. While the Army is preparing for combat against a wide variety of adversaries, Russia is characterized as a “pacing threat,” one which has, like China, invested heavily in standoff capabilities designed to keep the US military at arms length in a fight.
The US armed forces aim to engage enemy in multi-domain operations, which involves assailing the enemy across the five domains of battle: land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the US desires “a perfect harmony of intense violence.”
Rafferty described LRPF’s efforts as “fundamental to the success of multi-domain operations,” as these efforts get at the “fundamental problem of multi-domain operations, which is one of access.”
“Our purpose is to penetrate and disintegrate enemy anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) systems, which will enable us to maintain freedom of maneuverability as we exploit windows of opportunity,” he added.
Long-range hypersonic weapon and strategic long-range cannon
At the strategic fires level, the Army is developing a long-range hypersonic weapon and a strategic long-range cannon that could conceptually fire on targets over 1,000 miles away.
With these two systems, the Army is “taking a comprehensive approach to the A2/AD problem, one by using the hypersonic system against strategic infrastructure and hardened targets, and then using the cannon to deliver more of a mass effect with cost-effective, more-affordable projectiles … against the other components of the A2/AD complex.”
The strategic long-range cannon is something that “has never been done before.” This weapon is expected to be big, so much so that Army officials describe it as “relocatable,” not mobile. Having apparently learned from the US Navy’s debacle with the Zumwalt-class destroyer whose projectiles are so expensive the Navy can’t pay for them, the Army is sensitive to the cost-to-kill ratio.
The Zumwalt-class destroyer
(U.S. Navy photo)
This cannon is, according to Rafferty, going to be an evolution of existing systems. The Army is “scaling up things that we are already doing.”
Precision Strike Missile
At the operational level, the Precision Strike Missile features a lot more capability than the weapon it will ultimately replace, the aging Army tactical missile system.
“The first capability that really comes to mind is range, so out to 499 km, which is what we are limited to by the INF Treat,” Rafferty explained.” It will also have space in the base missile to integrate additional capabilities down the road, and those capabilities would involve sensors to go cross-domain on different targets or loitering munitions or sensor-fused munitions that would give greater lethality at much longer ranges.”
Extended Range Cannon Artillery
At the tactical level, the Army is pushing ahead on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, “which takes our current efforts to modernize the Paladin and replaces the turret and the cannon tube with a new family of projectiles that will enable us to get out to 70 km,” the colonel told reporters. “We see 70 km as really the first phase of this. We really want to get out to 120 and 130 km.”
And there is the technology out there to get the Army to this range. One of the most promising technologies, Rafferty introduced, is an air-breathing Ramjet projectile, although the Army could also go with a solid rocket motor.
The Army has already doubled its range from the 30 km range of the M777 Howitzer to the 62 miles with the new ERCA system, Gen. John Murray, the first head of Army Futures Command, revealed in October 2018, pointing to the testing being done out at the Yuma proving grounds in Arizona.
“We are charged to achieve overmatch at echelon that will enable us to realize multi-domain operations by knocking down the systems that are designed to create standoff and separate us,” Rafferty said. “Long-range fire is key to reducing the enemy’s capability to separate our formations. It does that from a position of advantage.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Over the years, many researchers and scientists have scoured government documents at the National Archives in search of proof that life exists beyond Earth.
The National Archives and Records Administration is actually home to several collections of documents pertaining to unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or “flying disks.” And over the decades, those resources have been thoroughly probed and scrutinized for even a hint of more information and proof of alien existence.
One set of documents, known as Project Blue Book, includes retired, declassified records from the United States Air Force (USAF), currently in the custody of the National Archives. It relates to the USAF investigations of UFOs from 1947 to 1969.
According to a US Air Force Fact Sheet, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project Blue Book during this time period. Of those, 701 remained “unidentified.” The project — once headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — officially ended in 1969.
The subject of UFOs has long fascinated National Archives staff members as well. In a July 15, 2017, National Archives The Text Message blog post, “See Something, Say Something”: UFO Reporting Requirements, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, Germany, May 1948 archivists Greg Bradsher and Sylvia Naylor share a brief history of Project Blue Book, the project’s alternative names over the course of its existence, and some information on the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, UFO incident.
All of Project Blue Book documentation is available on 94 rolls of microfilm (T1206) with the case files and the administrative records. These records are available for examination in the National Archives Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Motion picture film, sound recordings, and some still pictures are maintained by the Motion Picture Sound Video Branch and the Still Picture Branch. There is even a Project Blue Book webpage so researchers can access online more than 50,000 official U.S. Government documents relating to the UFO phenomenon.
Richard Peuser, chief of textual reference operations at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, said the agency has seen a steady amount of interest in files dealing with UFOs, responding to “a few hundred or so requests” over the years.
“Sometimes the same person would write multiple times hoping for a different answer,” Peuser continued. “Many felt that the records were too benign and that the Government [must be] ‘hiding’ the real stuff. Often there were allegations of coverup, of deliberately hiding or destroying the documents.”
Peuser said, “The National Archives still gets a fair amount of inquiries relating to UFO’s and folks have come in looking for other records in accessioned US Air Force records in particular. So, Roswell, Area 51, Majestic-12, Projects Mogul, Sign, Grudge, and Twinkle continue to fascinate and draw researchers to examine our holdings for aliens.”
The National Archives catalog yielded 37 catalog descriptions, organized under flying saucers, saucers, flying UFO phenomena, UFOlogy, or UFOs.
Over the years, as records have been processed and cataloged at the National Archives, other documents have come to light.
Just a few years ago, as archives technician Michael Rhodes was processing hundreds of boxes of Air Force records, he came across a drawing in the corner of a test flight report document that caught his eye.
The drawing — Rhodes said in the July 8, 2013 National Archives Pieces of History blog post, Flying Saucers, Popular Mechanics, and the National Archives — caught his attention because of its striking resemblance to the flying saucers in popular science fiction films made during that era. Researchers can look through the entire series in person or read the Project 1794 Final Development Summary Report of 1956 online.
The National Archives online catalog includes a series of records from the Federal Aviation Administration that document the sighting of a UFO by the crew of Japan Airlines Flight 1628 while in Alaskan airspace. National Archives records include simulated radar imagery and an article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine on May 24, 1987, about the incident.
Records in this collection also include notes from interviews with the three crew members who spotted the UFO and are available in the online catalog. The records were discovered as part of the Alaskan digitization project, according to Marie Brindo-Vas, a metadata technician at the National Archives in Seattle, Washington.
Another interesting record from National Aeronautics and Space Administration files includes the Air-to-Ground transcripts from Gemini VII. Found in the National Archives online catalog, the records include the transcript of a conversation between Houston control and astronauts who “have a bogey at 10 o’clock high.” Bogey was often the term used to refer to UFOs. The conversation goes on to explain that the astronauts are seeing in a polar orbit “hundreds of little particles going by from the left out about 3 or 4 miles.”
The National Archives also has audiovisual records pertaining to UFOs such as the video of Maj. Gen. John A. Samford’s Statement on “Flying Saucers” from the Pentagon, Washington, DC, on July 31, 1952, in which the military leader discusses the Army’s investigation of flying disks. Another video issued by the Department of Defense highlights USAF Lt. Col. Lawrence J. Tacker and Maj. Hector Quintanilla, Jr., discussing Project Blue Book and the identification of UFOs.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum possesses a document relating to UFOs composed by Ford when he was House Minority Leader and Congressman from Michigan. The original document is located in Box D9, folder “Ford Press Releases – UFO, 1966” of the Ford Congressional Papers: Press Secretary and Speech File at the Ford Library.
In this memorandum, then-Congressman Ford proposed that “Congress investigate the rash of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in Southern Michigan and other parts of the country.” An attached news release to that memorandum goes on to say “Ford is not satisfied with the Air Force explanation of the recent sightings in Michigan and describes the “swamp gas” version given by astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek as flippant.”
In October 1969, the then-Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, saw a UFO over the skies of Leary, Georgia. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library in Atlanta, Georgia, has the full report that he submitted into the International UFO Bureau.
As more documents are searched, processed, and declassified, what evidence might be found of alien and UFO existence at the National Archives? That remains to be seen, but based on past history, it’s clear that researchers and UFO enthusiasts will continue to dig for more information. The widespread fascination with the possibility of the existence of alien life forms and UFOs continues to arouse great passion and controversy all over Earth.
The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.
Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.
Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.
There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.
Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.
Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.
During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”
Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”
In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.
“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.
Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.
“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”
Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.
For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.
Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.
Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.
The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.
They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.
Far from just marching around and being yelled at by sadistic drill sergeants, basic training can be the source of hilarious stories.
Case in point comes from an awesome AskReddit thread. The thread, which originated with Reddit user mctugmutton, asked the military community for “the funniest thing they witnessed while in boot camp.” The answers run from LOL to LMFAO and glimpse at basic training differences between service branches.
Reddit user sneego: The time half my squad decided to clean their training gear naked.
Our last week of basic training, we basically spent days cleaning all of our TA-50 (pretty much all your issued gear- rucksacks, ponchos, etc).
The drill sergeants decided it would be more efficient for us to pile up some of the major items as a platoon and organize cleaning teams. Well, the cleaning team in charge of doing ponchos decided to use the showers to make things go faster and to free up the faucets in the laundry room for others to use. So they begin cleaning and then decide to go one step further: Why be careful about getting wet when you can just get naked and get things done even quicker?
Next thing you know, half of first squad is butt naked chatting like nothing unusual is going on when our drill sergeant walks in. The DS just looks in, makes a David Silvermanesque WTF look, says in his thick Puerto Rican accent, “Jesus LORD privates, what the F–K!” and walks out.
Reddit user allhailzorp: The time my friend got an imaginary bathroom siren.
Not me, but my best friend who recently went through USMC boot camp.
It’s about Week 2. All the recruits are still scared s–tless. Literally, some of their a–holes are clenched so tight they haven’t gone number two since they got there. And by this point, with Marine chow being what it is, there’s quite a backlog building up. My buddy desperately needs to go. He wanted to wait until his individual time that night, but it was too late, he was touching cloth.
So, braving his fear of the DIs, he speaks out. “Sir, this recruit requests a head call, SIR”. Then, he blurts out, “Sir, it’s an emergency, Sir!”
The DI, with his infinite sense of humor:
“Oh really? An emergency huh? Well, you better put on your SIREN.”
My buddy has to wave his hands above his head, and scream “Bee-Boo Bee-Boo” as he ran to the restroom. This continued for the entirety of boot camp, every time he needed the bathroom.
One Reddit user witnessed E.T. phone home during Air Force basic training.
We had a really pasty kid with huge coke bottle glasses with a really high pitched almost robotic voice in our flight that seemed to be a lightning rod for TI abuse.
One morning our TI told the kid that he was on to him and he wasn’t going to allow him to complete his mission. Suffice to say the kid was extremely confused and asked the TI what he was talking about to which he replied “You’re an alien and I know you’re here to gather intelligence about our military.”
At this point, I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer and went to the other side of the barracks as quick as possible before I got dragged into it. Well, I just got to the other side when the kid comes barreling around the corner and stops right in front of his locker and starts screaming into it that the TI was on to him and that the mission was unsuccessful.
I guess the TI told him that he had to report to the mothership through the communicator in his locker that the mission was unsuccessful and he’d been found out.
My Basic Training Battery had twin brothers in it, Chang L , and Chang K . Chang L was in fourth platoon and his brother was in third. One evening, there were combatives happening in the fourth platoon barracks. Chang K had sneaked into our bay to be a part of this unsanctioned event, specifically so that he could wrestle his brother. Everyone was wearing PT uniforms, except for some reason our Chang, who was wearing nothing but his issued brown briefs, and had removed his glasses for the fight. Suddenly, a wild Drill Sergeant appeared! Chang L, in his underwear, was grabbed by someone and stuffed into their wall locker.
His twin brother, Chang K, ran up to the front of the bay to take his brothers place for mail call. It was a disaster waiting to happen. After mail was handed out, the Drill Sergeant decided to hang around for a bit and have a serious heart to heart talk with us about something that had happened recently (an attempted suicide). The Drill Sergeant had gathered us close and was quietly talking about loyalty and brotherhood when all of the sudden, he was interrupted by the metallic squeal of a wall locker opening.
There was a hushed silence as the skinny little Chinese man, blind without his glasses, peeked out around the door and stepped out, in plain view of the Drill Sergeant. Apparently, we had been so quiet, that he thought we had all left.
DS: “WHY IN THE F–K IS THERE A NAKED CHINESE BOY IN YOUR WALL LOCKER?!” Pvt 1:”Drill Sergeant, I put him there, Drill Sergeant!” DS: What the f–k? Pvt 2: “We were wrasslin’, Drill Sergeant.” It was silent for a few seconds as the DS’s face contorted as though he were about to have an epileptic seizure. His eyes were cartoonishly huge.
The DS pointed at the practically nude Chang L and screamed at him to get his f–king ass over to the third platoon barracks. Chang L started to interject, presumably to inform the DS that he had confused him for his brother, but was unable to finish because at this point the DS was knocking things over and screaming his lungs out. Chang ran away, blind and naked, stumbling into furniture as he fled, leaving his terrified twin brother in his place. I don’t believe that we actually got our Chang back until PT the next morning, when they were able to switch back.
Get Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said via Amazon or Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.
Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.
Not yet, anyway.
Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.
That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.
A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)
An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.
Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.
U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)
The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.
Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.
However, if you’re an active duty US military member, AmEx will actually waive the annual fee. As reported by US Navy veteran Richard Kerr for The Points Guy, service members must request the benefit by calling the number on the back of the card — it isn’t applied automatically. AmEx uses an automated program to confirm your service, and refunds the annual fee in the form of a statement credit.
This can be particularly useful for military members who find themselves traveling frequently, either as a part of their service or during leave periods — or for traveling spouses and children, who can be added as authorized users. But the card can be incredibly valuable even for non-service members who have to pay the whole fee. Here are some of the benefits that make that the case.
Airport lounge access
Airport lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three different kinds of lounge.
The first type is AmEx’s own proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the United States — and in Hong Kong — with three more US locations set to open in 2019. These chic venues offer an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring comfortable seating, complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs, respectively, and other amenities. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of the AmEx Platinum or AmEx Centurion cards.
If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast Wi-Fi, and a place to unwind. Some locations also feature showers.
Finally, the Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. With the membership provided by your Platinum card, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more, all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. If you have an international version of the card, instead of the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit. Priority Pass also offers credits at some airport lounges and restaurants.
Membership Rewards points
The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, which are the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program. Points can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through the AmEx Travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).
The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and prepaid hotels reserved through AmEx Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.
The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend ,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. The value of the points depends on how you use them, but by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs, it can be possible to use those welcome points to fly round-trip to Europe, or even one-way in first class.
0 airline fee credit
Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers a 0 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.
Up to 0 in Uber credits
In March, 2017, American Express added this as a new perk to the Platinum Card. The credit works within the US, and is worth up to 0 per year, broken into monthly chunks; each month, you’ll get a credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra for a total of each December.
(Stock Catalog photo)
If you travel on a regular basis or live anywhere near most cities, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.
In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s only available in certain cities, but with Uber VIP, you’ll only be connected to drivers rated 4.8 stars or higher. Uber also says that Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”
This is a brand new benefit that AmEx added to the Platinum Card in July 2018. US card members can enroll to get up to 0 in statement credits each year in store or online at Saks Fifth Avenue. The credit is broken into two parts, with up to available every six months.
Although many things at Saks are quite pricey, there are plenty of items in the -100 range — and lower — that you can find by browsing the website. Sneakers that are on sale, things like Converse shoes, t-shirts, sweaters, or more. You can learn more about the benefit here.
Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels
Elite status at hotels can be incredibly valuable, often including free perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more. Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status, but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.
The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood. If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering how expensive hotel breakfasts can be.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck) are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick. The programs cost -0, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).
AmEx also Platinum card members access to the AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through AmEx Travel (there are nearly 1,000 worldwide), you’ll enjoy valuable perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.
An exclusive concierge service is available to Platinum cardmembers, too. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can come in helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a high annual fee of 0, but the value of the card’s annual benefits more than outweighs the fee. That’s especially true the first year, when you can earn welcome points.
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Early on the morning of Jan. 16, 1966, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber took off from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
The bomber headed toward Europe, where it would patrol near the borders of the Soviet Union with four nuclear weapons, part of Operation Chrome Dome, a Cold War program to provide 24-hour rapid-response capabilities in case of war.
During its return to the U.S. the next day, the B-52 was to rendezvous with a KC-135 tanker for refueling over Spain. Capt. Charles Wendorf, the 29-year-old Air Force pilot at the controls of the bomber, asked his staff pilot, Maj. Larry Messinger, to take over as they approached the refueling point.
Just after 10 a.m. on Jan. 17, the planes began their approach at 31,000ft over eastern Spain. Messinger sensed something was amiss.
“We came in behind the tanker, and we were a little bit fast, and we started to overrun him a little bit,” Messinger recalled, according to American Heritage magazine.
“There is a procedure they have in refueling where, if the boom operator feels that you’re getting too close and it’s a dangerous situation, he will call, ‘ breakaway, breakaway, breakaway,'” Messinger said. “There was no call for a breakaway, so we didn’t see anything dangerous about the situation, but all of a sudden, all hell seemed to break loose.”
The B-52 collided with the tanker. The belly of the KC-135 was torn open, and jet fuel spilled into the tanker and onto the bomber. Explosions ripped through both planes, consuming the tanker and killing all four men aboard. Three men in the tail of the bomber were killed, and the four other crew members ejected.
Capt. Ivens Buchanan, strapped into his ejection seat, was caught in the fireball and burned. He crashed to the ground, but survived. Wendorf’s and Lt. Richard Rooney’s parachutes opened at 14,000 feet, and they drifted out to sea where fishermen rescued them.
Messinger hit his head during ejection. “I opened my parachute. Well, I shouldn’t have done that. I should have freefalled and the parachute would open automatically at 14,000 feet,” he said. “But I opened mine anyway, because of the fact that I got hit in the head, I imagine.” He drifted eight miles out to sea, where he was also picked up by fishermen.
A Spanish fisherman 5 miles offshore at the time reported seeing the explosion and the rain of debris. He then saw five parachutes — three with surviving crew members from the bomber; two others carrying “half a man, with his guts trailing,” and a “dead man.”
Soon after, on the ground in Spain, officers at Air Force bases scrambled to pack the troops they could find — cooks, clerks, and musicians — into buses to head toward Palomares, a coastal farming village in southeast Spain.
“It was just chaos,” John Garman, then a military police officer, told The New York Times in 2016. “Wreckage was all over the village. A big part of the bomber had crashed down in the yard of the school.”
By the evening of Jan. 17, all the airmen had been accounted for and no villagers were hurt. But U.S. personnel continued their search for the four nuclear bombs the B-52 had been carrying.
Days of searching
The bombs — each carrying 1.45 megatons of explosive power, about 100 times as much as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — were not armed, meaning there was no chance of a nuclear detonation.
One was recovered intact, but the high-explosives in two of them, designed to detonate and trigger a nuclear blast, did explode. The blasts left house-size craters on either side of the village, scattering plutonium and contaminating crops and farmland.
“There was no talk about radiation or plutonium or anything else,” Frank B. Thompson, then a 22-year-old trombone player, told The New York Times in 2016.
Thompson and others spent days searching contaminated fields without protective equipment or even a change of clothes. “They told us it was safe, and we were dumb enough, I guess, to believe them,” he said.
The fourth bomb remained missing after days of searching, its absence embarrassing for the U.S. and potentially deadly for people in the area.
The Pentagon called on engineers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, who crunched the available numbers in order to determine where the missing bomb may have landed. The circumstances of the crash and the multitude of variables made such an estimate difficult.
Clues pointed to a sea landing for the fourth bomb, but there was little hard data to indicate where.
An interview with the fisherman who watched five members of the bomber’s crew land at sea yielded a breakthrough.
The “dead man” was, in fact, the bomb attached to its parachute, and the “half man, with his guts trailing” was the empty parachute bag with its packing lines trailing in the air.
That information led the engineers assisting the search to recommend a new search area, bringing the total area being scoured to 27 square miles — with visibility of only 20 feet in some spots.
On Feb. 11, the Navy called in Alvin, a 22-foot-long, 8-foot-wide submersible weighting 13 tons. It had room for a pilot and two observers, carried several cameras and a grappling arm, and could dive to 6,000 feet.
Alvin‘s primitive technology made the search a slog. There was no progress until March 1, when they spotted a track on the seabed.
Two more weeks of searching went by before they spotted the bomb — 2,550 feet below the surface, almost exactly in the spot where the fisherman had seen it enter the water. On March 24, divers in Alvin managed to attach a line to the bomb’s parachute. Just after 8 p.m., a winch on a Navy ship began to reel in the line. About an hour later, the line broke, sending the bomb back to the ocean floor.
They found it again on April 2, resting about 350 feet deeper in the same area. The Navy rigged up another retrieval plan using an unmanned recovery vehicle, but it got caught in the bomb’s parachute. On April 7, the admiral leading the search ordered his crew to lift the whole thing.
The laborious process that followed, assisted by Navy frogmen, lifted the missing nuclear bomb to the surface, bringing the 81-day saga to a close.
Alvin‘s pilots became international heroes, but little else about the incident ended so well.
‘They told us everything was safe’
U.S. soldiers plowed up 600 acres of crops in Palomares, sending it to the Savannah River nuclear complex in South Carolina for disposal.
The U.S. government paid $710,914 to settle 536 Spanish claims. The fisherman, who wanted his claim for finding the bomb, sued for $5 million and eventually won $14,566. Madrid, where protesters had chanted “Yankee assassins!” during the search, asked U.S. Strategic Air Command to stop its flights over Spain. The airborne-alert program of which Operation Chrome Dome was a part was curtailed and then ended for good in 1992.
The U.S. personnel involved in the search and Spaniards in the area have lived with the legacy of the accident in the half-century since it happened.
Despite removing soil in the immediate aftermath, tests in the 1990s revealed high levels of Americium, a product of decaying plutonium, in the village. More tests showed that 50,000 cubic meters of the soil remained radioactive. The U.S. agreed to clean up the contamination remaining in the village in 2015.
Many of the U.S. veterans who assisted the search have said they are dealing with the effects of plutonium poisoning. Linking cancers to a single exposure to radiation is impossible, and there hasn’t been any study to assess whether they have an elevated incidence of illness, but in the years since, some have been ravaged by disease.
Of the 40 veterans involved in the search who were identified by The Times in 2016, 21 had cancer — nine had died from it.
Many of the men have blamed the Air Force, which sent them to clean the scene with little protective gear and later fed troops the contaminated crops that Spaniards refused to eat. One military-police officer was given a plastic bag and told to pick up radioactive fragments by hand.
The Air Force also dismissed tests done at the time showing the men had high levels of plutonium contamination.
“It took me a long time to start to realize this maybe had to do with cleaning up the bombs,” said Arthur Kindler, who was a grocery supply clerk at the time of the incident.
He was so covered in plutonium during the cleanup that the Air Force made him wash off in the ocean and took his clothes. Four years later, he developed testicular cancer and a rare lung infection; he has had cancer in his lymph nodes three times since then.
“You have to understand, they told us everything was safe,” Kindler said. “We were young. We trusted them. Why would they lie?”
The U.S. deployed every type of strategic and nuclear-capable bomber to Guam amid soaring tensions between the Washington and Pyongyang in a move sure to rattle North Korea.
The B-1B Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, and the B-52H — the workhorse bomber that dropped tens of thousands of tons of munitions during the Vietnam War — will be in Guam, the Pentagon has confirmed to Business Insider.
North Korea can’t stand U.S. bomber deployments to Guam, where the U.S. hosts massive military bases in relative proximity to Pyongyang. North Korean media statements usually react strongly and issue threats in response to the U.S. flying B-1 training missions over the Korean Peninsula.
In statements, North Korea refers to the B-1 bomber as a nuclear asset, although the plane has been modified not to carry nuclear weapons as the result of an arms control pact with Russia. The B-2 and B-52 do have nuclear capability, and make up the air-launched component of the U.S.’s nuclear triad.
Unlike in-ground nuclear silos and under-sea secretive submarines, the nuclear-capable bombers in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet enable the U.S. to signal its resolve and intentions during times of high tensions.
While some may interpret the deployment of the nuclear-side of the bomber fleet as an escalation, the deployment is part of a mission called Continuous Bomber Presence, wherein the U.S. has maintained a bomber presence in the Pacific at all times to assure allies, enable readiness, and promote regional stability since 2004.
But it’s still rare to find all three in Guam at once. The three bombers first flew together in Guam in August 2016, and this deployment is the first time since that they’ve all been gathered together in the South Pacific.
Sending all three strategic bombers to Guam sends the strongest message bomber deployments could possibly spell out.
An amphibious assault vehicle with 15 Marines inside burst into flames during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton, California on Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.
Although the vehicle was engulfed in flames, all of the Marines were able to escape.
However, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to talk with reporters, said that at least three Marines were being taken by helicopter to a local hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.
The extent of their injuries is not yet known.
The training involved Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, an infantry unit situated at the northern end of the base at Camp Horno. The unit was carrying out a Combat Readiness Evaluation, the source added.
Camp Pendleton’s media relations office confirmed there was an incident involving an AAV fire on base, but directed questions to 1st Marine Division.
“All Marines are currently being treated for injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines and their families as they receive medical care. Officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident at this time,” 1st Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Paul Gainey said in a statement.
This post will be updated as more details become available.
From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.
Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.
Pain is now a VA disability
For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.
Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.
Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)
Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.
What the ruling means for veterans
The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)
Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.
This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.
Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.
This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.
This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.
How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position
Sign up for HillVets Insider
HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
Get on a job list
Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at email@example.com and ask him to add you to his job lists.
Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
Questions to ask yourself—
What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.
Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!
Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
You Got an Interview!
Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!
You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!
Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.
Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases.
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.