Get ready for a new A-10 budget fight. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to fund new initiatives in connectivity, space, combat power projection, and logistics starting in 2021 – to the tune of $30 billion on top of what it is already using. One way to do that, says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is to retire $30 billion worth of legacy aircraft.
That is, get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.
While getting rid of these aircraft isn’t the only way to make room for the new initiatives and save $30 billion, it is the fastest route to get there, and many of the retirements make sense. Some of the planes’ missions are obsolete, some of the airframes are currently being updated with newer models, and at least one can’t even fly its primary mission due to treaty obligations.
The B-1B is already scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, but retiring the program early could save up to .8 billion. At 32 years old, the Lancers are already struggling with a 50 percent mission-capable rate. It can’t even complete the missions for which it was designed as a nuclear deterrent. The Air Force’s fastest bomber, the one that carries the biggest bomb loads, can’t carry nuclear weapons under the terms of the 1994 START I agreement with Russia.
Also scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, the B-2 Spirit has a mission-capable rate of 61 percent and is scheduled to be replaced by the new B-21 Bomber in the late 2020s. Retiring the B-2 early could save as much as .9 billion.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Air Force’s 281 A-10s are mission capable 73 percent of the time and are its primary close-air support craft. The average A-10 is 38 years old, and even though the bulk of the A-10 fleet has just been scheduled to get new wings, canceling the re-winging and retiring the Warthog could save as much as .7 billion.
Retiring the 59 heavy tankers in the U.S. Air Force fleet would save the service billion if they do it before 2024 – when they’re scheduled for retirement anyway. This may create a tanker shortage because the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker isn’t quite ready for prime time.
RC-135V/W Rivet Joint
This signals intelligence and optical and electronic reconnaissance aircraft is more than 56 years old but still kicking around the Air Force waiting for a yet-undeveloped Advanced Battle Management System to replace its old tech. While retiring it before 2023 would save .5 billion, it would create a gap in electronic and signals intelligence capacity.
E-3 Sentry AWACS
These 39-year-old planes are mission-ready just 66 percent of the time and are undergoing modernization upgrades. If the Air Force scraps its modernization along with the rest of the airframe before 2023, it could save billion.
U-2 Dragon Lady
Getting rid of the 37-year-old U-2 would save some billion for the Air Force. The Air Force could then rely on the much more efficient RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for ISR.
Also waiting for the unknown advanced battle management system, the 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar aircraft in the Air Force are already scheduled for retirement. But actually retiring the aircraft would save the USAF .7 billion.
The Hurt Locker is a classic American war film, an Academy Award winner, and an entertaining tour de force that wowed civilian audiences when it hit theaters in 2008.
Keyword: civilian audiences. For many military viewers, the film was rife with glaring technical errors. From just about every angle — dialogue, storylines, and uniforms — the problems with the movie made it very hard for soldiers to watch without cringing nearly every minute. Of course, it’s Hollywood, and they can’t get everything right.
But it’s still fun to look back and see just how many things were wrong. We watched it and compiled a massive listing of everything (with some extra help from some real-live Army EOD techs we talked to). Maybe this could be a fun drinking game. Or, as you’ll see by how many problems there are, a very dangerous drinking game. On second thought, let’s put the beer down.
Here we go (with timestamps):
The movie starts off by introducing us to soldiers of Delta Co., with no further specifics on the exact unit. Army EOD companies aren’t called by phonetic names like “Alpha,” “Charlie,” and “Delta.” They are numbered, usually with a number in the 700s.
:30 U.S. Army soldiers are wearing the digital ACU (Army Combat Uniform) that wasn’t used until at least Feb. 2005. The setting is Baghdad in 2004. Thirty seconds in and already a really big one. Great start.
1:00 Multiple soldiers are seen with sleeves rolled up over their elbows. This is totally against Army regs, but soldiers are seen throughout the film like this.
4:20 The wagon carrying the explosives to blow the IED in place breaks down. Instead of using the claw on the robot to pick up the charges, Staff Sgt. Thompson suits up and goes to hand carry it. Not even the dumbest EOD tech would do this.
5:39 No reticle pattern is seen when Sgt. Sanborn looks through his scope, which is a Trijicon ACOG sight.
6:30 An Iraqi man gets extremely close to a soldier standing security. Moments before this, the street was bustling with onlookers and there were other soldiers and Iraqi security forces around. Now it’s totally empty, which begs the question: Why are only three soldiers left guarding this bomb?
10:28 Sgt. Sanborn seen with cuffed sleeves.
10:45 Sgt. Sanborn’s collar is popped. That’s not the style around here, man.
11:05 Sgt. 1st Class James’ dog tags are hanging out of his shirt. He’s supposed to be a staff non-commissioned officer, not a private just disregarding the regulations.
12:00 This is Baghdad 2004, when the insurgency is really starting to get rough, and we have a single Humvee rolling through Baghdad all alone. Seems a bit far-fetched, although an EOD tech did tell us it’s possible.
13:40 Sgt. 1st Class James is wearing an old green Battle Dress Uniform camouflage helmet and body armor. Every other soldier wears the matching ACU gear (although this is still incorrect for the time period). He also has both his sleeves rolled up past his elbows.
13:45 Sgt. Sanborn is wearing silver designer sunglasses. Glasses are required to be brown or black, and non-reflective.
14:40 A bunch of soldiers just abandon their Humvee in the middle of Baghdad? And it’s still running? What the hell?
15:28 James greets other soldiers with “morning, boys” to which one responds “Sir.” Soldiers only say “sir” or “ma’am” to officers, not enlisted ranks. There’s also a soldier seen wearing shoulder armor, which wasn’t introduced until 2007/2008.
15:45 A soldier asks James if he wants to talk to an informant who apparently knows the location of the IED and more details about it. But he doesn’t care to talk to him. Why would an EOD tech ignore having more information about what he’s dealing with?
18:15 James pops a smoke grenade to “create a diversion.” Smoke grenades are to cover movement, not to create a diversion. If no one was looking at you before, they are certainly looking at you now.
18:22 I know he’s supposed to be a “rebel” but when fellow soldiers are screaming frantically over the radio and asking you what is going on, you should probably answer.
18:38 He finally responds over the radio.
18:55 Seven to eight soldiers are all standing around this Humvee in the middle of the street, not providing any security or looking for potential threats.
18:56 A soldier in the turret is not even covering his sector of fire and doesn’t even have the .50 caliber pointed down the main alleyway.
19:05 Another soldier is seen wearing designer sunglasses.
19:06 An Iraqi-driven car just drives right through a bunch of soldiers who don’t attempt to stop it, fire warning shots, or do anything other than jump out of the way.
19:19 The car doesn’t stop for seven soldiers pointing M-16 rifles at him, but it does stop because James points his pistol at him. Makes sense.
20:30 James fires shots around the car, hits and destroys the windshield, then points his gun at the Iraqi’s head and tells him to get back. You would think he would want to search this guy or his car before sending him right back into seven soldiers who could be potentially blown up by a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED).
24:40 Yes, ok. Let’s just pull up on the big red wires holding together six bombs (and does this even make sense from an enemy perspective? Why would you daisy-chain all these huge bombs to potentially kill one guy? One bomb is gonna do it).
27:14 Spc. Eldridge is seen playing “Gears of War” on an Xbox 360. The Xbox didn’t come out until 2005, and “Gears of War” didn’t come out until 2006. But the setting is supposed to be Baghdad in 2004.
29:02 A soldier is seen walking by with sleeves rolled up over his elbows and with a white or silver watch. Very tactical.
29:59 Oh, of course! Another soldier with rolled-up sleeves.
31:39 Five soldiers just stand out in the middle of street and open fire on an enemy sniper. Instead of, you know, getting behind some cover first.
32:31 James uses a single fire extinguisher to put out a car that is fully engulfed in flames. He’s like Rambo with unlimited ammo here. And why are you sticking around a car that is probably rigged with explosives that is on fire?!!?!
34:50 James puts on a headset that is supposedly a radio. It doesn’t have a microphone or is even connected in any way to a radio. It’s basically a big set of ear muffs (and no, it’s not connected to a throat mic). Also, he’s defusing bombs that could be set off by, well, radios. Most EOD techs won’t even wear radios while they are working on bombs.
36:26 Another scope view, but with no reticle pattern.
40:05 Scope view, no reticle pattern.
40:11 Sanborn waves at Iraqis with his left hand. This is a sign of disrespect in the Arab world, since the left hand is associated with dirtiness.
42:59 Sanborn punches James in the face. He would be court-martialed or at least receive an Article 15 for this. Or, maybe, James could react in some way, shape, or form?
43:30 A full-bird colonel is walking around Baghdad with his eye protection dangling off his body armor, instead of on his face. If anyone is going to be wearing eyepro (and setting an example for junior troops), it’s this guy.
43:45 A colonel praising a sergeant first class for being a “wild man” and operating like he did is highly unlikely. Instead, a colonel would probably be jumping on him for not only his insane behavior, but his out-of-regs appearance, to include sleeves, not wearing a helmet, and not having eye-pro.
44:55 As James smokes a cigarette on the forward operating base, “left, right, left, right” cadence can be heard in the background. Who the hell is calling marching cadence on a FOB in Iraq?
46:55 Oh, now there’s a colonel with rolled-up sleeves.
48:25 The team does a controlled detonation. James is exposed, as is Sanborn. None of them wear earplugs or even plug their ears with their fingers. James is actually wearing iPod headphones. Just to let you know: The big boom is freaking loud.
49:00 James drives away from the team. They aren’t on the FOB, so where the hell are their weapons?
49:45 The two soldiers discuss “accidentally” blowing up James as he goes close to the controlled det site and how all that would be left would be his helmet. Luckily, James isn’t wearing his helmet. Because really, why would he?
50:43 Again, you’re in the middle of Iraq, and rolling in just one Humvee.
51:20 They see armed men so they pull over and then Sanborn and James both get out from behind cover and start walking forward yelling for them to put their guns down. Wouldn’t you want them to do that part before you expose yourself?
55:48 The Brit contractor gets handed the Barrett to try and find the enemy sniper. On this ledge, with the kickback from the gun, he would be guaranteed to be pushed back and fall right on his back after firing.
57:54 The Brit gets shot while manning the Barrett. The enemy sniper uses a Dragunov, which has a maximum effective range of 800m. He’s shooting from more than 850 meters away (according to James, who calls the range later in this scene).
57:55 After the Brit is shot while manning the Barrett, Sanborn and James go up and get in the exact same spot. That seems like a bright idea. Further, why are two soldiers who would be unfamiliar with this weapon jumping on it, instead of another contractor?
58:15 How does an EOD guy just get up and get behind a complicated sniper rifle anyway? It’s not a video game.
1:01:00 An insurgent takes up a laying down on the side firing position with zero cover. LOL/WTF?
1:02:00 Sanborn hits this same insurgent after he starts running away. Not only does he hit a moving target, but he hits him in the head. At 850 meters. It’s quite obvious that Sanborn got his sniper training uploaded directly to his brain via The Matrix.
1:07:40 Eldridge takes out an enemy insurgent by firing half of his magazine in rapid succession. What happened to well-aimed shots?
1:08 The team gets drunk together in their room and fights each other. This is a big fraternization no-no? Also, U.S. troops are not allowed to drink or have alcohol in Iraq or Afghanistan, and one alcohol-related incident could mean an EOD tech loses their badge (and gets kicked completely out of the job).
1:14:37 The team stumbles around the FOB drunk. That’s not abnormal or anything, and an officer, senior enlisted leader, or even fellow soldiers wouldn’t find that weird or get them in trouble. Nothing to see here, move along.
1:16:50 The team heads outside the wire again. Why is Eldridge basically the only soldier ever wearing his eye protection?
1:17:00 An EOD team is clearing buildings now?
1:29:45 James asks a Pfc. about a merchant. The Pfc. addresses a Sgt. 1st Class as “man.”
1:31:33 James dons a hoodie, carries only a pistol, and hijacks the merchant’s truck, telling him to drive outside the base. This is quite possibly the biggest WTF of the entire movie. At this point, every soldier watching this movie is face-palming.
1:32:25 Did I mention that James has now jumped over an Iraqi compound wall, all alone in the middle of Baghdad? With just a pistol.
1:34:53 James starts running through a busy Iraqi neighborhood. He puts on his hoodie to be less conspicuous. As if his camouflage pants don’t give it away.
1:35:00 After a tense exchange at the front gate to the FOB, James is searched and then the soldiers guarding the gate just let him back in. He’s shown at his room a short time later, so I guess he’s not getting in trouble for going outside the wire without authorization.
1:41:00 The team decides to leave the blast site and go search for the bomber in the dark. They have night-vision goggle mounts on their helmets, but they don’t use NVG’s. Their natural night vision must be superhuman.
1:50:06 If the guy has a bomb on him, it would probably be a good idea for the seven soldiers standing out in the middle of the road to take cover behind something.
Author’s note: If you haven’t seen “The Mandalorian” yet, go watch it and come back — spoilers ahead. For the rest of you: this is the way.
The internet has been buzzing about “The Mandalorian,” the “Star Wars” series that follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter (of the same tribe and iconic armor as Boba Fett) who finds a young, force-sensitive creature who looks like a baby Yoda. The series hasn’t just produced a slew of new memes, it’s crushed the ratings on several platforms — IMDB has it at an 8.9, and Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 94 percent on the Tomatometer (with an audience score of 93 percent).
It has all the familiar, nostalgic elements of “Star Wars” — spectacular scenes in space, fun action-adventure, weird creatures, the conflict of good and evil, and, of course, the force. However, “The Mandalorian” also includes a host of cowboy movie tropes, which adds a freshness to the story. It’s not like any old Western we’ve seen — after all, it’s set in space with little alien wizards. It’s also not a repeat of other “Star Wars” stories because it’s basically an old Western set in a fantasy universe.
We can’t publish an article on “The Mandalorian” without showing “the child” at least once.
(Photo courtesy of Disney+)
In order to understand old Western films, we need to understand where they came from. Many of the old Western tropes are American, but some are borrowed from older Japanese cinema. The obvious connection is the Japanese classic “Seven Samurai” being remade into the American cowboy classic “The Magnificent Seven.” While this is the most famous connection between the two genres, it’s not the only one. The music, the stories, the filmmaking techniques — watch any film by Akira Kurosawa and you’ll see elements of the Western left and right.
“The Mandalorian” borrows from both.
It makes sense to begin with the Mandalorian’s religion — his weapons. Our protagonist carries around his handheld blaster and a disintegration rifle (known as a modified Amban Rifle). These are clearly the equivalent of a revolver and a rifle, the cowboy’s typical loadout in most Westerns. Mando generally draws and fires his blaster from the hip, just like the classic Wild West draw. Any bigger weapons brought onto the battlefield are typically large, mounted weapons — the equivalent of the evil antagonist breaking out a Gatling gun mounted to a train or on a tripod. The lasso is another quintessential tool for the cowboy of old Westerns — depicted in “The Mandalorian” by his grappling line. Mando wraps a few enemies up in his “lasso” throughout the story, hog-tying his targets.
Several specific moments also call directly back to the films of the Wild West. For example, the classic “horse whisperer” scene where Mando tames and breaks a blurrg. He is bucked and thrown as the wise, old man watches from the edge of the corral. Finally, our hero mounts the beast and they ride into a few sunsets together.
We mentioned that the Japanese film “Seven Samurai” was the direct inspiration for “The Magnificent Seven” — both films feature bandits who are hell bent on raiding a village, forcing the townspeople to enlist the help of some elite warriors to train them and defend them against the next onslaught. Sound familiar? This same story played out in a chapter of “The Mandalorian” with some unique, sci-fi twists — we don’t remember an AT-ST in “Seven Samurai.”
The comparisons are obvious.
(Photo courtesy of Disney+.)
On top of congruent storylines, one of the most significant ways that Japanese cinema inspired old Westerns was with its music; “Star Wars” also features some of the most iconic music in film history. Ludwig Goransson’s score of “The Mandalorian” fuses the two by combining elements from old Westerns (and perhaps old Japanese films) like the heavy beating of drums with “primitive” sounding percussion, bizarre flutes, and interesting stringed instruments. The hollow melody of the main title would be just as at home if it was played over a lone gunslinger in the Wild West, riding off to save a small town from nefarious bandits. The score cloaks the Mandalorian himself in a shroud of mystery.
Start with some old Japanese film score elements, mix in a bit of Ennio Morricone, then top it off with heavy sprinkles of classic “Star Wars” sweeping scores — and you’ve got yourself a soundtrack fit for the halls of Mandalore.
“The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” (left), and “The Mandalorian.”
(Photos courtesy of United Artists and Disney+.)
The setting and wardrobe also highlight the connection of this magical, dystopian science-fiction narrative to the Wild West. Most of the events in “The Mandalorian” are set in barren places — not on the lavish planet of Naboo or the bustling cities of Coruscant, but out in the lawless desert where guns and criminals abound. And Pedro Pascal (the Mandalorian) sports a cape eerily similar to how Clint Eastwood wears his poncho in classics like “A Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Instead of high-tech visors, many of the inhabitants of these barren locations wear old-school goggles, and they wear their blasters low on their hip just like the cowboys we know from the Old West. The Mandalorian even keeps rounds strung across his chest — one wouldn’t expect the need for that in a science-fiction universe, but it all falls in line with the classic Western aesthetic.
A lot of old Westerns are films about rugged individualism. They follow rough characters who have to navigate their way through an even rougher world. The protagonist then finds at least one redeeming aspect about the unforgiving, desolate landscape on which they fight — something precious among the thorns. Upon that discovery, the cowboy or lawman or mercenary finds that their ability to fight, to be strong, to kill — it all suddenly has meaning — it suddenly turns into the ability to protect a village, a woman, a friend… or a child.
Jon Favreau has taken a beloved franchise and breathed new life into it by fusing it with these classic elements from old Western films, and it’s been a wild success. Audiences around the world have expressed how thrilled they are at this new installment of “Star Wars,” and I, for one, can’t wait for the second season.
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
In the tradition of Ukraine’s Lyudmila Pavilchenko and Kazakhstan’s Aliya Moldagulova and Nina Lobkovskaya, an Afghan teen girl has just taken up arms against the invaders who killed her family. Sixteen-year-old Qamar Gul decided it was time to fight back when the Taliban raided her family’s home in Geriveh, in central Ghor province.
Moldagulova and Lobkovskaya were the ninth and 10th deadliest female snipers in World War II. Pavilchenko was the deadliest female sniper ever, earning the nickname “Lady Death” for her 309 kills.
The journey of Afghanistan’s Qamar Gul is just beginning.
At 1:00 a.m. local time on Jul. 17, 2020, Taliban insurgents took to the streets of Geriveh and began to pull locals out of their homes at gunpoint. When they arrived at the doorstep of Gul’s parents, they refused to open. Eventually, the gunmen forced their way in, anyway.
The insurgents suspected Gul’s father – the village chief – of supporting the local government and of being an informant. The Taliban killed her parents and moved to kill her 12-year-old brother Habibullah. But she got to the family’s AK-47 first.
Qamar killed the two men who shot her parents and then lit up the other men who had raided her home. The Taliban tried to regroup on the street and several made an attempt to retake the house, but the 16 year old fought them all off. Her brother stayed behind her throughout the hour-long gunfight.
Soon, other villagers and pro-government militia arrived to push the Taliban out of their village. In total, it’s estimated Qamar killed up to five Taliban insurgents and more were injured by the local militia. Taliban fighters routinely raid villages to attack those who are suspected of sympathizing with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
A photograph of Qamar Gul wearing a headscarf and holding a machine gun across her lap has even gone viral on social media.
“We know parents are irreplaceable, but your revenge will give you relative peace,” a Facebook user wrote in a comment on the photo.
Though the young girl is scarred at the loss of her parents, she is now taking care of her younger brother and has been invited to Afghanistan’s presidential palace by Ghani himself. After leaving the palace, she will not return to the village but will instead go to a safe house in the provincial capital of Chaghcharan.
Okay, you’re relieving some stress by playing some video games and you just downed an enemy plane.
The pilot bails out.
You’ve got him in your sights — one less bad guy to deal with later, right?
According to the law of war, it is a crime to gun down a pilot who’s bailed out of his plane. While the video game world might give some allowances on this, in the real world it’s a major no-no.
Field Manual 27-10, “The Law Of Land Warfare,” says that a pilot who has bailed out of his plane is a non-combatant. That’s different from a paratrooper who’s notionally armed on his way down and is technically engaged in combat while under canopy.
Here is the exact quote: “The law of war does not prohibit firing upon paratroops or other persons who are or appear to be bound upon hostile missions while such persons are descending by parachute. Persons other than those mentioned in the preceding sentence who are descending by parachute from disabled aircraft may not be fired upon.”
But even before all that legalese was codified in the Geneva Conventions, some militaries had already adopted a similar code of conduct. During World War II, the Nazis — whose crimes against humanity were legion — generally forbade its pilots from shooting downed enemy airmen.
On the American side, General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued orders that shooting at enemy aircrew who had bailed out as forbidden.
Pilots on the Japanese side had no such hesitation, partially stemming from a code that viewed surrender as dishonorable. Many Allied airmen in the Pacific found that bailing out from a crippled plane was sometimes like going from the frying pan into the fire.
One airman, though, was able to shoot a Japanese pilot trying to machine gun him with his M1911!
In short, if you’re even playing a video game and you’re tempted to shoot at the folks who bailed out, don’t do it.
It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:
Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?
We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.
We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?
But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.
Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.
But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.
What to expect if your service member is killed:
Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.
These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.
You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.
The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)
You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.
If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.
What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.
What if your service member is wounded?
The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:
You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.
If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.
You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.
What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?
Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?
That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)
Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:
The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.
You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:
Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,
On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.
On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.
Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.
The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.
You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.
Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.
Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight
The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.
The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.
This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.
The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.
Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.
So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.
So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)
With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.
And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.
Spend any amount of time on or around an Army or Air Force post and you’ll be sure to find a number of beret-wearing service members around you.
Hell, you’re going to be greeted by a blue beret each and every time you get to an Air Force gate (SecFo HUA!) and, if you were on any Army post between 2001 and 2011, you saw black berets everywhere you went, as they were a part of standard Army uniform.
Got it — but what about the less commonly seen berets? The green, the tan, and the maroon?
This is what berets of all colors mean in the Army and Air Force.
Black — U.S. Army
A black beret is worn by all soldiers in service dress unless they are otherwise authorized to wear a different, distinctive beret.
Black — U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party
A black beret is the official headgear of the Air Force TACP. They’re about as operator as you get in the Air Force without becoming pararescue or combat control.
Blue — U.S. Air Force Security Forces
The most common beret across all branches of service as of writing. Security Forces (the Air Force’s version of Military Police) wear the blue beret with every uniform whenever not deployed or in certain training.
Green — U.S. Army Special Forces
This is the cream of the crop of the U.S. Army. The green beret is the single most recognizable sign of a badass.
Grey — U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape
These guys teach most of the other badasses on this list how to survive in the worst conditions. That definitely qualifies them for their own beret.
Maroon — U.S. Army Airborne
Aside from the Army’s green beret, the maroon beret of Army airborne is one of the easiest to recognize.
These guys drop into any situation with complete operational capability.
Maroon — U.S. Air Force Pararescue
In the Air Force, the maroon beret means something completely different. While being Army Airborne is an amazing distinction, the Air Force Pararescuemen are truly elite.
The introductory course has one of the highest failure rates of all military schools and the ones that do complete it go on to become the kind of guy that you do not want to fight in a bar.
Pewter Grey — U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather
These guys do weather in the most undesirable conditions. I know that may not sound very operator, but just take a quick look at the training they endure and the types of operations they conduct and you won’t ever question their beret again.
Tan — U.S. Army Rangers
The Army Rangers began wearing tan berets in 2001 when the Army made the black beret the standard headgear for the entire Army.
Prior to that, they owned the black beret.
Scarlet — U.S. Air Force Combat Control
The scarlet beret is the headgear of the U.S. Combat Controller. Their beret is one you’ll rarely see because they’re always on the go, doing what they were trained to do… which is classified.
As a child, birthdays are a big event. Every year is celebrated like it’s the biggest day of the year. Then there are milestone birthdays: They’ll hit the sweet 16 and get their license, turn 18 and join the military, turn 21 and they legally drink…and then that’s about it. Unless they’re looking for a sarcastic “congratu-f***ing-lations,” it’s just another day in the military.
Even though some members of the chain of command have good intentions, it’s best not to test the waters by letting everyone know it’s your birthday. Here’s why:
Don’t think you can just take in the singing. You’ll be in the front leaning rest position through it all.
(photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Your gift is embarrassment
Think of the moment when you go to a chain sit-down restaurant and one of your buddies mentions it’s your birthday to the staff and they come out to sing “happy birthday” with almost no excitement in their voice.
Imagine that except it’s the rest of your company singing, they all know you, and they’re slightly agitated because they have to take ten seconds out of their day to sing to you.
The intention is to make you awkward. And it works almost every single time.
And yet for some reason, they always add the “And one more for the Corps. One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!” Like the “one per year” thing didn’t apply. How old do they think you are?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery)
Push-ups for every year
If troops let it slip that they’ve successfully made another orbit around the sun, it’s not like there will be a surprise party secretly waiting in the training room. The poor unfortunate souls are often given the most re-gifted present in the military: push-ups.
There’s no spite in this. And despite how civilians feel about push-ups, they really aren’t that bad. But the troop owes Uncle Sam one push-up for every year they’ve been on this Earth. It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.
Happy birthday, ya poor b******.
(Meme via Terminal Lance)
There (usually) won’t be cake
Cakes are actually a lot harder to find on military installations than you’d think. If the kindhearted soul who does want to do right for the party, they’ll need to go off-post.
For everyone else (and those troops in the field or deployed) they’ll often just get a doughnut or the pound cake that comes in the MRE. Candles are optional but they’re occasionally cigarettes.
“Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”
(U.S. Army Photo)
It’s still a regular work day
In between the awkwardness, the pranks, and mediocre reception, the Army goes rolling along. It’s still just a regular old day.
Some chains of command may give single troops a day off (usually as a consolation prize because they give married troops their anniversary off.) Some don’t. The work still needs to get done and it’ll feel like it’s just any of the other 364 days in a year.
You know your squad has your back if they carry your home from the bar.
(U.S. Army Photo)
But the squad (usually) does care
The squad is your new family. Just like your siblings went out of their way to make sure your birthday was special, so do your squad-mates.
Just like the push-ups, the squad will usually get together and buy shot for every year you’ve been on this Earth and share them with you.
Nothing beats the lazy Fridays of a four-day weekend – like today! Everyone probably did something patriotic for Independence Day. Whether it was seeing the fireworks with the family or getting roaring drunk in the barracks with the guys, we all did something extravagant yesterday.
And now today’s a day where nothing really happens after a big holiday. Now it’s time to just recoup and recover from the hangover by sitting on our collective asses with video games, movies, or whatever on a regular weekday… Only to do it all over again the moment your buddy calls you up or knocks on your barracks’ room door.
So here’s to sitting on our collective asses! Enjoy some memes. You earned it!
The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:
1. M2 (1933)
This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.
The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.
Leaving the sights and sounds of modern day Saigon, we began our journey to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. As we left the city that I had come to feel comfortable in and approached the outlying rural areas, I felt a heightened sense of awareness.
Even though I knew this was 2017 and the war was far behind, my head was on a swivel and my eyes were constantly searching for threats. Intellectually, I understood that the jungles and hills of Vietnam held no threats, but my emotional side equally felt the need to be aware.
The pungent smells of the countryside – logs and vegetation burning to clear land, outdoor cooking alongside the road, and unrestricted vehicle exhaust were the same smells I had encountered years before and brought back a familiar feeling and sense of nostalgia. The remembered rubber plantations from my previous years in Vietnam have given way to rolling fields of coffee, but the same farmers living at the edges of the fields are the same people, just doing what needs to be done to provide for their families.
The brown soil of the areas around Saigon turned to red clay as we moved into the plateaus of the Central Highlands and the lowland farmers begin to turn in to descendants of the Montagnard tribes that I had worked with years ago.
Passing through Gia Nghia I think of an old friend, Martha Raye – comedienne, nurse, Army Reserve Officer and teammate of many Green Berets.
Stopping at a truck stop for a lunch of Pho, Jason’s favorite dish, I can look west across a valley and in the distance can see what I’m pretty sure is Cambodia. I spent a lot of time there and it feels surreal to see it in such a serene setting.
Driving into the lowering night and through a heavy rain storm, I feel my gut tightening as we approach the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It’s almost a physical action to push down the emotions that are starting to well up inside me as we get closer and closer to the city.
If you love military movies, then it’s safe to say you’d recognize Max Martini. While his film career doesn’t only include military-centric roles, he’s built a reputation among the military community as both a proud supporter of service members and one of the most badass actors ever to portray them on screen.
I first remember recognizing Max Martini as a mil-actor way back during his days filming “The Unit,” a popular CBS TV series about elite special operators assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D), commonly known by those of us outside their elite fraternity as Delta Force. Since then, Max has played war fighters of all sorts in fan favorite movies like Saving Private Ryan,13 Hours, Spectral, Captain Phillips, and one of my favorite sci-fi movies, Pacific Rim.
Max Martini in “Pacific Rim”
His most recent foray into the military genre was Sgt. Will Gardner. The film depicts a Marine veteran who has struggled since separating from service and is now trying to reestablish a relationship with his young son. The movie was a passion project for Max, who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in the titular role.
Importantly, however, making the movie wasn’t just about telling a powerful story about service and redemption, it was also about helping veterans in the real world. He’s pledged 30% of the film’s profits to veteran charities.
Sgt. Will Gardner
(Mona Vista Productions)
I was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Max (digitally) during this coronavirus quarantine, and ask him some questions about his career, his work on behalf of the military and veteran communities, and just what it takes to play some of the most badass characters ever put on screen.
Max has played both real and fictional special operators, and has made a name for himself among veterans for it. I asked Max what keeps him coming back to these sorts of challenging roles.
“My dad was an artist living in New York City, so I sorta grew up in the Arts. But that said, my mother was a cop. I grew up in the arts, went to art school, got my degree in fine arts and came out owing, ya know, a hundred and fifty gazillion dollars without a way to pay it off,” Max explained.
Max Martini in “Saving Private Ryan”
“I got asked to audition for a movie because I’d dabbled in acting, and then the second movie I got was Saving Private Ryan. That was transformational for me. I had just just graduated from art school and I didn’t have much of a sense of politics or appreciation for the military. Then I did this movie, and I really started to understand more about our service members, and I really loved the community because there was obviously a lot of former military involved in making that movie.”
It wasn’t just that he developed an appreciation for service through filming Saving Private Ryan, he also quickly established himself as a solid actor capable of playing military roles.
“I don’t know, it’s like Steven Spielberg gives you this stamp of approval that says, ‘okay, he makes a good soldier,’ and everybody jumps on board,” Max joked.
Of course, because Max has played a member of Delta Force before, I felt the need to speak to one of my friends that actually served in that elite unit to see what he’d be interested to learn about acting in such a role. So I gave legendary Delta Force operator George E. Hand IV a call–and he wanted to know how actors like Max go about playing military roles in a realistic way on screen.
“Well, I think it’s a combination of things. Like, for instance, when I did Captain Phillips, we had a technical advisor from the Navy but it wasn’t somebody showing you how to soldier, it was somebody showing you the functionality of the ship,” he recalled. “But the guys around me were all former [special operations] team guys and they’d be like, ‘Dude, you should say this.’ One of the guys was about to relieve the team that was on the ship that took the shot, so he was familiar with the operation.”
He went on to talk about his time specifically playing a Delta Force operator in The Unit.
“The Unit was adapted from a book that Eric Haney wrote. He was one of the original Delta guys. So Eric was a producer on the show and he put us through a lot of training, and then he was there every day to watch over us technically.”
Max Martini on “The Unit”
Max points out that his resume isn’t all that helps him win military roles. Now, he’s close friends with a number of veterans and does a lot of firearm training on his own. He might do it because it’s fun, but the technical capability he develops by shooting with special operations veterans tend to translate into his realistic handling of weapons on screen.
“I think that’s also a consideration when people hire me. People go, ‘we’re not going to have to do much with him to get him ready for the show.’
Max’s appreciation for service members isn’t just born out of his real life friendships with veterans. He’s also made a number of trips overseas to visit deployed service members. Max’s decision to donate 30% of the profits from Sgt. Will Gardner speaks to his passion for supporting the military, which is something he says is a responsibility American’s share.
“I feel very strongly that if somebody enlists in the military, that we as Americans share a responsibility to ensure that when they return from combat, they have red carpet healthcare treatment and every resource available to them that’s need to reintegrate properly back into civilian life.”
Max Martini’s latest movie, Sgt. Will Gardner, is now streaming on a number of platforms, but Max points out that paying to see the movie on Amazon Prime helps support not only his endeavor to make more movies in that vein, but also supports the three veteran charities he’s splitting the profits with.