A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

“Right now, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to help us fight back against COVID-19, including those in critical medical specialties. Normally, they lead ordinary civilian lives as neighbors, coworkers, coaches and parents. However, when this crisis struck, they sprang into action as citizen soldiers and airmen, putting their lives on hold — and on the line — for our safety. If you appreciate those who are doing double duty to keep us safe, this is the time to donate!


Until the tide turns and our Guard troops can return to their families full-time, this will continue to be a huge and extremely stressful deployment. The extra comforts and support the USO can provide all of our deployed troops make a world of difference. Help us bring a little home to our heroes while they fight to keep our homes safe.”

They’ve raised ,309 of a 0,000 goal!

Click to donate!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

America’s most expensive warship ever built will undoubtedly change naval warfare

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
An artist’s rendering of a Ford class aircraft carrier. | Public Domain


The U.S. Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class flat-top aircraft carriers are the envy of the world, and yet the Navy has a newer, more powerful, and more advanced carrier in the works: the Ford-class.

Named after U.S. President Gerald Ford, the Navy plans to procure four of these titans of the sea. In the slides below, see how the Fords improve on America’s already imposing fleet of aircraft carriers.

New reactor and an all-electric ship.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
Gerald R. Ford sitting in dry dock during construction. | Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl

The new Ford class carriers will feature an improved nuclear reactor with three times the power-generation capacity as the Nimitz class.

This outsized power-generation capacity provides the Fords an opportunity to grow into new technologies that come up during their service life.

With ample power to draw from, the Fords could one day house directed-energy weapons like the Navy’s upcoming railgun.

Watch an F-35 seamlessly take off using an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS).

The Nimitz class cruisers use an elaborate steam-powered launch system to send F/A-18s and other planes on their way, but the Ford class, drawing on its huge power-generation capacity, will use an electronic system to do the same.

Not only will the EMALS launch heavier planes, but it will also carefully launch planes in order to reduce wear and tear. Additionally, the increased capacity of these launchers to make planes airborne will allow new plane designs in the future.

Example of a steam-powered launch:

New island.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
A Nimitz class aircraft carrier, on the bottom, compared to a Ford class, top.

Improved technology means that the island, or the tower on the deck of the carrier, can be moved further aft (toward the tail end of the craft).

This smaller, more out-of-the-way island means that there will be more room and accessibility for the aircraft on the deck, which will improve maintenance times and turnarounds.

Navy planners estimate that the new design will help carriers generate an additional 33% more sorties.

“When aircraft land, they’ll be able to come back, refuel, rearm, in kind of a pit-stop model … really modeled after NASCAR,” Capt. John F. Meier, the commanding officer of Gerald R. Ford said of the new design.

Dual Band Radar.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
The Dual Band Radar sensors are housed in flat panels along the sides of the island. | U.S. Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Chris Oxley

The Navy’s Dual Band Radar (DBR) operates simultaneously on two frequencies, enabling the radar to effectively classify low-altitude planes and missiles.

The radar works both to track incoming aircraft and missiles and to support outgoing weapons and planes.

Only the first Ford class carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will carry the DBR. Navy planners are currently evaluating candidates to provide an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, which they estimate could save $120 million.

Advanced arresting gear (AAG).

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
An artist’s conception of an installed Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) on a US carrier. | General Atomics Image

Another improvement on the Nimitz design, the AAG on the Ford class will help accommodate a broader range of aircraft and offer a less jarring landing than the Navy’s current Mk-7 Mod 3 and Mk-7 Mod 4 designs.

But like other systems on board, the AAG is facing problems. Recently the Navy said it was considering alternatives for future carriers, but that the USS Gerald R. Ford would still carry the system.

Advanced Weapons Elevators.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing 14, assemble on an aircraft elevator for a wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of the sailors who fought and died at the Battle of Midway. Midway is a great moment in US Navy history and is considered by many to be the turning point in the battle of the Pacific during World War II. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac

It may seem like a simple change, but the new carriers will use electromagnetic fields to raise and lower platforms instead of cabling. This allows a simpler design to compartmentalize the different areas of the ship, which will help reduce maintenance and manning costs over the life of the ship.

Also, new cargo elevators will replace cargo converters, which were labor intensive.

Conclusion.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
H Ingalls

Individually, the changes made between the Ford and Nimitz classes seem isolated and inconsequential. But when taken together, the Ford line of aircraft carriers shows the direction forward as envisioned by the U.S.’s naval planners.

The development of the Ford class carriers has been fraught with cost and time overruns, but this is to be expected with a first-in-class vessel.

The great success of the Ford class will not be defined by any one innovation on board, but by the foresight displayed by the designers who are boldly creating a carrier to launch planes that haven’t even been designed yet, to fire weapons not yet built, and to secure the U.S.’s interests at sea for decades to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US government listed Black Panther’s Wakanda as a free-trade partner

President Donald Trump may be preparing to slap tariffs on Wakanda, the fictional homeland of the Marvel superhero Black Panther.

That’s one explanation for the US Department of Agriculture’s removal of the high-tech African nation from a list of free-trade partners that includes Panama and Peru in addition to other actual countries. In reality, officials uploaded Wakanda and its supposed exports to test a tariff-tracking tool and neglected to remove it.


“Wakanda is listed as a US free trade partner on the USDA website??” tweeted Francis Tseng, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, after he spotted the gaffe while using the agency’s Tariff Tracker tool.

Tseng tweeted a screenshot of the list and another detailing Wakandan exports such as horses, goats, and sheep. The “Heart-Shaped Herb” that gives Black Panther his superhuman strength and agility didn’t make the cut.

“I definitely did a double take,” Tseng told NBC News. “I Googled Wakanda to make sure it was actually fiction, and I wasn’t misremembering. I mean, I couldn’t believe it.”

Wakanda was added to the USDA Tariff Tracker after June 10, NBC reported, and removed Dec. 18, 2019.

“Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Agricultural Service staff who maintain the Tariff Tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” the USDA said in a statement to NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unwritten rules that all soldiers know

The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:


A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.

(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)

The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant

Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.

Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways

Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.

You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.

(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

All timelines get worse with time

The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.

Count on it.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.

(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)

Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in

All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.

Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)

This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.

And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.

Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit

Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)

First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it

This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.

But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.

Articles

Why US battleships should stay right where they are — in mothballs

There’s a mystique to battleships. Whenever inside-the-Beltway dwellers debate how to bulk up the US Navy fleet, odds are sentimentalists will clamor to return the Iowa-class dreadnoughts to service. Nor is the idea of bringing back grizzled World War II veterans as zany as it sounds.


We aren’t talking equipping the 1914-vintage USS Texas with superweapons to blast the Soviet Navy, or resurrecting the sunken Imperial Japanese Navy super-battleship Yamato for duty in outer space, or keeping USS Missouri battleworthy in case aliens menace the Hawaiian Islands. Such proposals are not mere whimsy.

Related video:

Built to duel Japan in World War II, in fact, battleships were recommissioned for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. The last returned to action in 1988. The Iowa class sat in mothballs for about three decades after Korea (except for USS New Jersey, which returned to duty briefly during the Vietnam War). That’s about how long the battlewagons have been in retirement since the Cold War. History thus seems to indicate they could stage yet another comeback. This far removed from their past lives, though, it’s doubtful in the extreme that the operational return on investment would repay the cost, effort, and human capital necessary to bring them back to life.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Numbers deceive. It cost the US Navy $1.7 billion in 1988 dollars to put four battlewagons back in service during the Reagan naval buildup. That comes to about $878 million per hull in 2017 dollars. This figure implies the navy could refurbish two ships bristling with firepower for the price of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. One copy of the latest-model Burke will set the taxpayers back $1.9 billion according to Congressional Budget Office figures. Two for the price of one: a low, low price! Or, better yet, the Navy could get two battlewagons for the price of three littoral combat ships—the modern equivalent of gunboats. Sounds like a good deal all around.

But colossal practical difficulties would work against reactivating the dreadnoughts at low cost, despite these superficially plausible figures. First of all, the vessels no longer belong to the US Navy. They’re museums. New Jersey and Missouri were struck from the Navy list during the 1990s. Engineers preserved Iowa and Wisconsin in “reactivation” status for quite some time, meaning they hypothetically could return to duty, but they, too, were struck from the rolls, in 2006. Sure, the US government could probably get them back during a national emergency, but resolving legal complications would consume time and money in peacetime.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Photo from DoD.

Second, chronological age matters. A standard talking point among battleship enthusiasts holds that the Iowas resemble a little old lady’s car, an aged auto with little mileage on the odometer. A used-car salesman would laud its longevity, assuring would-be buyers they could put lots more miles on it. This, too, makes intuitive sense. My old ship, USS Wisconsin, amassed just fourteen years of steaming time despite deploying for World War II, Korea, and Desert Storm. At a time when the US Navy hopes to wring fifty years of life out of aircraft carriers and forty out of cruisers and destroyers, refitted battleships could seemingly serve for decades to come.

And it is true: stout battleship hulls could doubtless withstand the rigors of sea service. But what about their internals? Mechanical age tells only part of the story. Had the Iowa class remained in continuous service, with regular upkeep and overhauls, they probably could have steamed around for decades. After all, the World War II flattop USS Lexington served until 1991, the same year the Iowas retired. But they didn’t get that treatment during the decades they spent slumbering. As a consequence, battleships were already hard ships to maintain a quarter-century ago. Sailors had to scavenge spares from still older battleships. Machinists, welders, and shipfitters were constantly on the go fabricating replacements for worn-out parts dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

This problem would be still worse another quarter-century on, and a decade-plus after the navy stopped preserving the vessels and their innards. Managing that problem would be far more expensive. An old joke among yachtsmen holds that a boat is a hole in the water into which the owner dumps money. A battleship would represent a far bigger hole in the water, devouring taxpayer dollars in bulk. Even if the US Navy could reactivate the Iowas for a pittance, the cost of operating and maintaining them could prove prohibitive. That’s why they were shut down in the 1990s, and time has done nothing to ease that remorseless logic.

Third, what about the big guns the Iowa class sports—naval rifles able to fling projectiles weighing the same as a VW Bug over twenty miles? These are the battleships’ signature weapon, and there is no counterpart to them in today’s fleet. Massive firepower might seem to justify the expense of recommissioning and maintaining the ships. But gun barrels wear out after being fired enough times. No one has manufactured replacement barrels for 16-inch, 50-caliber guns in decades, and the inventory of spares has evidently been scrapped or donated to museums. That shortage would cap the battleships’ combat usefulness.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Nor, evidently, is there any safe ammunition for battleship big guns to fire. We used 1950s-vintage 16-inch rounds and powder during the 1980s and 1990s. Any such rounds still in existence are now over sixty years old, while the US Navy is apparently looking to demilitarize and dispose of them. Gearing up to produce barrels and ammunition in small batches would represent a non-starter for defense firms. The navy recently canceled the destroyer USS Zumwalt‘s advanced gun rounds because costs spiraled above $800,000 apiece. That was a function of ordering few munitions for what is just a three-ship class. Ammunition was simply mot affordable. Modernized Iowas would find themselves in the same predicament, if not more so.

And lastly, it’s unclear where the US Navy would find the human expertise to operate 16-inch gun turrets or the M-type Babcock & Wilcox boilers that propel and power battleships. No one has trained on these systems since 1991, meaning experts in using and maintaining them have, ahem, aged and grown rusty at their profession. Heck, steam engineers are in short supply, full stop, as the Navy turns to electric drive, gas turbines, and diesel engines to propel its ships. Older amphibious helicopter docks are steam-powered, but even this contingent is getting a gradual divorce from steam as newer LHDs driven by gas turbines join the fleet while their steam-propelled forebears approach decommissioning.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

Steam isn’t dead, then, but it is a technology of the past—just like 16-inch guns. Technicians are few and dwindling in numbers while battleship crews would demand them in large numbers. I rank among the youngest mariners to have operated battleship guns and propulsion-plant machinery in yesteryear, and trust me, folks: you don’t want the US Navy conscripting me to regain my proficiency in engineering and weapons after twenty-six years away from it, let alone training youngsters to operate elderly hardware themselves. In short, it’s as tough to regenerate human capital as it is to rejuvenate the material dimension after a long lapse. The human factor—all by itself—could constitute a showstopper for battleship reactivation.

Battleships still have much to contribute to fleet design, just not as active surface combatants. Alfred Thayer Mahan describes a capital ship—the core of any battle fleet—as a vessel able to dish out and absorb punishment against a peer navy. While surface combatants pack plenty of offensive punch nowadays, the innate capacity to take a punch is something that has been lost in today’s lightly armored warships. Naval architects could do worse than study the battleships’ history and design philosophy, rediscovering what it means to construct a true capital ship. The US Navy would be better off for their inquiry.

Let’s learn what we can from the past—but leave battleship reactivation to science fiction.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American ally is buying $5 billion in arms from Russia

President Vladimir Putin is traveling to India on Oct. 4, 2018, for a two-day visit aimed at deepening Russian ties to the fastest-growing economy in the world.

Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were set to review defense cooperation and discuss regional and global issues at an annual bilateral summit in New Delhi on Oct. 5, 2018, according to India’s Foreign Ministry.

Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, has said that the Russian president’s talks with Modi will focus on “further development of the especially privileged Russian-Indian strategic partnership.”


More than 20 agreements were expected to be signed during Putin’s visit in areas such as defense, space, and economy, Ushakov said, insisting that the “key feature” of the trip will be the signing of a billion deal to supply India with S-400 air-defense systems.

Moscow has been negotiating to sell the long-range surface-to-air missiles to India for months, and the Pentagon warned New Delhi it would run afoul of U.S. sanctions if it purchases the sophisticated weapon systems.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

A Russian S-400 air-defense system.

The U.S. Congress enacted legislation in 2018 allowing the president to waive the sanctions for countries that are developing defense relationships with Washington, but U.S. officials have signaled there was no guarantee India will get an exemption from the sanctions.

Washington and New Delhi have vowed to cooperate more closely on defense matters, but Russia remains India’s main arms supplier, followed by the United States.

During Putin’s visit, the sides were also expected to discuss deals to supply India with four frigates and Ka-226 helicopters, as well as the possible construction of a second Russian-built nuclear power plant in India, reports said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The last US troop to desert to North Korea dies at 77

Charles Jenkins, a U.S Army deserter to North Korea who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release, has died. He was 77.


Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado, northern Japan, Dec. 11 and rushed to a hospital and later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese abductees to North Korea said Dec. 12.

Japan’s NHK national television said he died of a heart failure.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
Charles Jenkins, U.S. Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Jenkins, of Rich Square, North Carolina, disappeared in January 1965 while on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. He later called his desertion a mistake that led to decades of deprivation and hardship in the communist country.

Jenkins met his wife Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped by Pyeongyang in 1978, in North Korea and the couple had two daughters, Mika and Blinda. His wife was allowed to visit Japan in 2002 and stayed. Jenkins and their daughters followed in 2004.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Once in Japan, Jenkins in 2004 was subject to a U.S. court-martial in which he said he deserted because of fear of being sent to fight in Vietnam. He pleaded guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 25 days in a U.S. military jail in Japan.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
Charles Jenkins, the Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image Wikipedia)

Jenkins and his family lived in Soga’s hometown of Sado, where he was a popular worker at a local souvenir shop and could often be seen posing in photos with visiting tourists.

Soga is one of 13 Japanese that Tokyo says were kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s as teachers of Japanese culture and language for agents spying on South Korea. Pyongyang acknowledged the abductions and allowed a Japan visit in 2002 for Soga and four others, who eventually stayed.

Jenkins, in his 2005 autobiographical book To Tell the Truth and in appearances at conferences on North Korean human rights, revealed that he had seen other American deserters living with women abducted from elsewhere, including Thailand and Romania.

After settling in Japan, he visited North Carolina to see his mother and sister, but he said he had no plans to move back to the U.S.

Articles

The US just obliterated this al Shabab base in Somalia

A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.


The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19
The US military confirmed an early June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”

Neither statement mentioned casualties.

There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

In early May an American SEAL was killed in a nighttime raid in Somalia.

It appeared to be the first US military death in combat there since the infamous events of “Black Hawk Down” 24 years ago, when 18 American servicemen died in what is called the Battle of Mogadishu.

US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against al-Shabab commanders and foot soldiers.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

Meanwhile, in the north, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.

Civilians – including women – were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.

Puntland also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country’s quarter-century of chaos.

Last year, al-Shabab became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why most people don’t have what it takes to be a fighter pilot

What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.

If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.


A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)

First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.

Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.

Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.

A message from the USO: How to support the troops keeping us safe during COVID-19

You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)

Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.

Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.

Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.

If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.

To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they’ll be ready for use next month

Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.


“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.

“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”

When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.

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Speaker John Boehner signs H.R. 91, the Veterans Identification Card Act, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-MI). Photo from Speaker John Boehner Flickr.

Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.

The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.

Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pilot shot down by Pakistan returns to India

An Indian pilot captured by Pakistani forces on Feb. 27, 2019, after his warplane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir has returned to India after being freed by Islamabad in a “peace gesture.”

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed into India at the Wagah crossing point on March 1, 2019, hours later than expected and sporting a black eye.

Varthaman’s release came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement in a speech to Pakistan’s parliament on Feb. 28, 2019.


Pakistan’s military said its air force shot down two India Air Force jets in its airspace and captured a pilot on the ground in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Feb. 27, 2019.

Pakistan returns captured Indian pilot

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India confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot. It said it also foiled an attack by Pakistan warplanes over Kashmir and shot down one Pakistani plane.

Islamabad denies any of its aircraft were shot down.

The aerial confrontation came a day after India on Feb. 26, 2019, struck what it said was a militant camp in northeastern Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 41 Indian troops in the India-controlled part of Kashmir

A Pakistan-based group, the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM), claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14, 2019 attack — the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India has accused Pakistan of having a “direct hand” in the attack and providing sanctuary to the militants.

Islamabad denies involvement.

India’s air strikes in Pakistani territory on Feb. 26, 2019, were the first since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China, Russia, and Japan are starting to butt heads in the Pacific

China and Russia are sending aircraft and naval vessels into Japanese territory, and the two countries show no sign of slowing down.


China’s aggressive activity in the South China Sea is well documented. It has disputes with five different countries over a number of islands and waters that they claim to control. Comparatively, the East China Sea — where this conflict with Japan has been unfolding — has been much more calm.

At the center of China and Japan’s feud is the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands under Japanese control, but claimed by China, who call them the Diaoyu Islands.

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, conducts a bilateral mission with a Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Japan Air Self-Defense Force)

Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider that the Chinese “want to enforce their claims” by forcing foreign planes to acknowledge China’s capability to control airspace and the waters of contested territory.

Weitz said Russia is more interested “in monitoring US military activity in the country.” Its conflict with Japan also concerns the Kuril Islands, which were historically part of Japan and were taken by the Soviet Union in the last days of World War II.

For now, there does not appear to be any coordination between China and Russia as they flex their muscles in the Pacific. That could change, Weitz warned, if the US interferes and drives the two powers closer together.

With a resurgent Russia to its north, a nuclear-armed North Korea to its west, and an increasingly capable and powerful China to its Southwest, Japan could become boxed in.

China wants ‘to change the status quo’

A Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 054 frigate and a Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine were used in the operation, distinguishing the incident from prior incursions in two ways.

The frigate was an official PLAN vessel instead of a more commonly used Coast Guard ship. Additionally, China had never sent a submarine into the contested waters before.

Japanese government data that was translated for Business Insider by Dr. Nori Katagiri, an assistant professor of political science at Saint Louis University and the inaugural visiting research fellow for the JASDF Air Staff College, shows that  China has dramatically increased its naval and aviation activity since 2012 —  prior to which there was virtually no activity.

PLAN aircraft were responsible for 51% of JASDF scrambles from April 1 to September 30, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Some of these intercept missions showed an increasing aggression on the part of the Chinese.

In August 2017, China flew H-6K bombers — aircraft that carry nuclear weapons — across the Pacific toward Japan’s Kii Peninsula on Japan’s mainland for the first time. When Japan sends complaints of air violations, the Chinese government responds aggressively, telling Japan to “get used to it.”

The overall rise in Chinese activity may stem from the country’s recent military modernization efforts.

Also Read: China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

“China is much more active about wanting to change the status quo,” Weitz said.

Zack Cooper, a senior fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that two things are preventing China from being more bold — the US-Japan alliance, and the superiority of the JSDF.

The U.S. is obliged to defend Japan if it were ever attacked by a foreign nation. Because of this, China has stopped just short of large provocative actions.

“If the U.S.-Japan alliance did not exist, the Chinese would be pushing much much harder,” Cooper said.

However, Cooper said that “both countries know that given the scale and pace of China’s military modernization, it’s just a matter of time before China is able to outclass Japan in most areas of the military competition.”

Until then, China will likely keep trying to push the boundaries, just short of drawing in the U.S.

“[China’s] current strategy makes a lot of sense,” Weitz said. The Chinese will “keep on building up their capabilities, keep on putting pressure on Japan.”

The goal, he said, is to “slowly, over time, change the underlying situation in their favor.”

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Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distance of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map.

Russia returning to Cold War activities

To the north, Russia is building up its Pacific fleet to be a formidable force in the region. Two of Russia’s three Borei-class submarines, the most advanced ballistic missile submarines in the Russian fleet, are assigned to the Pacific Fleet.

Additionally, Russia plans on sending its newest Yasen-class attack submarine to the Pacific as soon as it is completed and fully integrated. It will be only the second such submarine in the Russia Navy.

In the air, Russia was responsible for 48% of JASDF air scrambles from April 1 to September 30, the second most behind China. They actually increased the number of flights to Japan, sending 87 more flights to the Japanese Islands than 2016, the year before.

Like China, the majority of Russian jets flying near Japanese territory are a combination of bombers like Tu-96/142, and spy planes like the Russian Il-38. A number of Chinese and Russian fighters and interceptors have been seen by the JASDF as well.

Japan is building up its military and may change its constitution

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), S.D. to Andersen AFB, Guam, prepares to take off for a bilateral mission with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, Aug. 15, 2017. These training flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity and resolve we share with our allies to preserve peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)

Most of Japan’s response has been geared towards Japan’s acquisition of more military equipment and systems.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just recently approved the installation of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems by 2023 — a move Russia has already criticised.

Japan also produced its first domestically-built F-35 stealth fighter last June, which could soon play an important role for the country.

Japan’s F-35 is the most advanced aircraft in its inventory and may be used on refitted versions of the country’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier, effectively giving Japan full fledged aircraft carriers- something China has warned against.

The Japanese government also approved a record increase in defense spending — focused primarily on ballistic missile defense.

Japan has a pacifist constitution, however, and is governed by what Katagiri called a “defensive defense doctrine.” Central to this are two paragraphs in Article 9 of Japan’s constitution that renounce war as a means of settling international disputes, and forbids Japan from having war potential.

“Even if Japan has a lot of equipment, there are serious legal issues that make it difficult for the Japanese to use them,” Dr. Katagiri said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.

Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.


Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.

“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.

The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”

Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.

Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.

Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.

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Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.

Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.

Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.

“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.

All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.

Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.

“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.

Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.

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Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.

Visit https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/Combined-Maritime-Forces/ to learn more about Combined Maritime Forces.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.