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Parents tend to teach their kids that kindness is one of the greatest traits a human can exhibit. When those kids eventually join the military, they’ll learn that they need to drop the niceties before too long.
Troops should show a general politeness toward their peers — after all, the military wouldn’t function if everyone was truly spiteful toward one another. We’d never recommend that you treat others like dirt, but every service member must obtain a certain level of saltiness in order to get through their career.
In a way, military life is the reversal of civilian norms. In the military, kindness is negatively received; being assertive and salty is the only way to get what you want. We’re not saying this is bad or good — it’s just the weird life that troops live.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others out.
(Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)
Your kindness will be perceived as weakness
Before any of this gets twisted, kindness isn’t a weakness and showing genuine empathy toward your fellow troop isn’t going to kill you. In fact, showing your brothers- and sisters-in-arms compassion will take you far and may save a life some day.
However, the harsh reality is that there are no brakes on the military train. Slowing down for others and offering a helping hand isn’t always smiled upon. When you pause to help someone who’s stalled, in the eyes of many, there are now two impediments.
It’s not an pleasant circumstance, but that’s how life in the military goes.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom)
Your kindness will get pushed to the limits
There’s another side to the compassion coin. Offer your help too readily and others will take advantage. One favor leads to three. “Hey, can you get me…” quickly turns into, “you don’t mind, do you?”
In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any toxic leadership in the military. Everyone would take unit morale into consideration, do their part, and ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Unfortunately, when people find it easier to get someone else to their job, they’ll take that road.
But they’re not mutually exclusive in combat situations.
(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
Your saltiness will get things done
Aggression and anger are not essential traits of great leaders. A first sergeant who never yells still commands the same respect as a first sergeant who barks at everyone. It is entirely possible to be assertive and state your intentions to others without shouting.
…but most people won’t see it that way. The moment you raise your voice, people listen. If you’re of a lower rank, people will assume you’re ready for a leadership position — in actuality, yelling and true leadership skills are apples and oranges.
Troops will rarely give an honest answer if their first sergeant asks them how are they doing, even if it’s meant sincerely.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Your saltiness won’t ever get questioned
Being nice will cause everyone to question your motives. Other troops will think you’re up to something, trying to work them over. Conversely, there’re almost no repercussions for being a dick to everyone.
The higher your rank, the less people will wonder why you’re grouchy. Everyone just accepts it as normal, everyday life. Niceties at that rank set off alarms in the lower ranks or just confuse everyone.
Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamagua on 19 September 1863. Never heard of it? The most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the battle resulted in the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone in Miller’s unit assumed he was one of them.
The Union soldier ended up living for another 54 years. His survival was nothing short of miraculous. Why’s that? Because he had a giant bullet hole in his forehead. Left for dead on the battle field, Miller regained consciousness hours later. His firsthand account of the battle was published by The JolietDaily News in 1911. It’s a riveting read.
When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).
The wound never really healed, but it’s pretty safe to assume it saved his life. What happened next?
I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.
Let that sink in for a moment. Miller walked around with a bullet in his forehead for 31 years. Was he bitter? Hardly.
Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving. I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.
Notice how he’s wearing a Medal of Honor? It has nothing to do with the hole in his head. Miller was awarded the medal in recognition of his gallantry in the charge of a “volunteer storming party” on 22 May 1863. Pretty inspiring stuff.
Sometimes you want to give up. Why does everything have to be so, so hard? Other times, you wish someone would just give you a manual for dealing with the whole thing. Surely there’s a way to know how to handle this disease?
Like the rest of marriage, loving someone who suffers from PTSD or who is trying to work through the ghosts of combat doesn’t come with a guidebook. And although the whole thing can feel very isolating (everyone else seems fine! Is my marriage the only one in trouble?) that doesn’t mean you’re alone.
Therapists who specialize in PTSD know that while some couples may put on a good show for the outside world, dealing with trauma is hard work and, no, everything is not perfect.
If you’re dealing with PTSD at home, you are not alone.
Husband and wife team Marc and Sonja Raciti are working to help military couples work through how PTSD can impact their marriages. Marc, a veteran, has written a book on the subject, “I Just Want To See Trees: A Journey Through PTSD.” Sonja is a licensed professional counselor.
The Racitis said there are five things that a spouse dealing with PTSD in marriage should know.
1. It’s normal for PTSD to impact the whole family.
If you feel like your life has changed since PTSD came to your home, you’re probably right. The habits that might help your spouse get through the day, like avoiding crowded spaces, may become your habits too.
“PTSD is a disease of avoidance — so you avoid those triggers that the person with PTSD has — but as the partner you begin to do the same thing,” Sonja Raciti said.
Remember that marriage is a team sport, and it’s OK to tackle together the things that impact it.
2. Get professional help
. The avoidance that comes with PTSD doesn’t just mean avoiding certain activities — it can also mean avoiding dealing with the trauma head on. But trying to handle PTSD alone is a mistake, the Racitis said.
“We both are really big into seeking treatment, getting a professional to really help you and see what treatment you’re going to benefit from,” Sonja said. “Finding a clinician who you meet with, and click with and really specializes in PTSD is so, so important.”
3. No, you’re not the one with PTSD. But you may have symptoms anyway.
The Racitis said it is very common for the spouses of those dealing with PTSD to have trouble sleeping or battle depression, just like their service member. That’s why it’s important for everyone in the family to be on the same page tackling the disease — because it impacts them too.
4. Be there.
As with so many issues in marriage, communication is key, the Racitis said. But also important is being supportive and adapting to whatever life built around living with PTSD looks like for you.
“You have to adapt — the original man you married has changed. The experience has changed him and that’s part of life,” Sonja says. “He has gone through something that has been horrific, and life altering and life changing, and together you’re going to adapt to that and you’re going to help support each other in that.”
5. Don’t give up.
It can seem very tempting to just give up and walk away, they said. After all, the person you married may have changed dramatically. And while splitting may ultimately be the right answer for you, it doesn’t have to be only solution on the table.
“Don’t give up,” Marc said. “It’s so easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance. But people who engage, people who actively engage — these are the marriages that survive.”
We get it. No one likes to do manual labor. Unfortunately, you’re one of a handful of people assigned to a crappy detail and you realize that, for some reason, a certain someone else is “too busy” to help out. You work your ass off and they take it easy. If they’re the same rank as you (and same time in service), they’ll get the exact same amount of money from Uncle Sam as you — and worked half as hard for it.
So, you want to take the easy route, too? Alright. Gotcha. We can’t stop you — but we suggest you read the following points before you try to wiggle your way out of the working party.
F*cking your buddies is one of the only sins that can get you banished from the E-4 Mafia.
1. You could be blue falconing your guys
First and foremost, things need to get done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bullsh*t detail made up to keep you guys busy until close-out formation. If the task came from up higher, someone will have to do it before everyone can go home.
If it’s something stupid that everyone — including the chain of command — agrees is exclusively for the purpose of killing time, alright. But if it’s something that obviously needs to be taken care of, like police calling the smoke pit, someone else will have to cover down for your laziness.
Yep. You’re totally “helping” with that clipboard in your hand.
(U.S. Air Force)
2. You’re being watched by everyone
The military may be big, but your unit isn’t. Word gets around. If you sham out of something, people will know that you weren’t there. If you show up and just do the bare minimum amount of work so you can still claim “you were helping,” people will know you really weren’t.
Things like this get remembered down the road. When you need a favor, people will bring up that time you screwed them that one time on a working party.
Dental is always a good excuse, but they give you appointment slips and your NCOs know this.
3. Your excuse may not be that valid
There’s a huge difference between having a reason and having an excuse. A reason can be backed up with physical proof; an excuse is made up on the spot. If you’re going to try to use an excuse, at least have something to back it up.
If you’re going to try to pretend that you’re going to be “at dental” at 1600 right before a four-day weekend, you’d do well to actually look up when the dental office is open that day. You’ll look like a complete idiot when someone looks at the printed-out schedule and points out that it closed at 1300.
Then again, being commo opens up a whole new world of skating. You’re not often lying when you say you have “S-6 business to handle.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. You shouldn’t ever skate out of what is your job
There’s a general consensus that police calls, cleaning connexes, and mopping the rain off the sidewalk are all menial tasks that anyone could do. But units are only assigned so many people of your specific MOS or rating. If they came to you for a task and that is literally what you told Uncle Sam you’d do, you’re going to get in trouble under the UCMJ for not doing it.
Side note: if you really want a perfect way to get out of a detail, be a master at your job. If you’re a commo guy, be the best damn commo guy the military has ever seen. There may not be any computer or radio problems right when you’d otherwise be filling sandbags, but if you’re so valuable, they won’t even risk sending you out.
You do you, man — but never blue falcon your guys.
5. If you do it too often, you’ll lose all trust
Taking it easy everyone once in a while is fine. It’s the military, sure, but everyone is human. Skate out of something once in a blue moon, no one may even notice. If you bolt for the door every time the first sergeant says, “I need three bodies,” your career could be dead in the water.
Outside of the obvious UCMJ action that could easily be dropped on you, no one in your chain of command will believe you’re ready for the next rank. Your name will never be brought up when a school slot comes up. Even your peers will give you the cold shoulder — after all, it’s them you’re really f*cking, not the chain of command.
The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.
According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.
The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.
This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.
The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.
The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.
This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.
Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.
With 2019 upon us, a look back at 2018’s most memorable moments might give us some good perspective when facing the new year’s challenges. A lot happened in 2018 in the military-veteran community and each event serves to remind us that the things that affect us most can affect the world around us just as much.
It’s a testament to how important the work of the U.S. military really is.
Air Force gets OCPs, Army gets Pinks and Greens
The Air Force finally ditched the ill-conceived Airman Battle Uniform and adopted the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern to the resounding joy of airmen everywhere. Just like with the old BDU, the only difference will be the color of the lettering on the velcro patches — the Air Force lettering is brown while the Army sports black.
The Army also adopted its World War-II throwback jersey to be the official uniform of everyday wear by 2028 to pay homage to the U.S.’ “Greatest Generation.”
The Army’s new weapons
The Army also moved to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine with weapons that use a more powerful round than the NATO 5.56mm. The service will adopt a 6.8mm round in line with the results of a 2017 small arms ammunition study.
This came after the Army sought to find out why some M4 and M4A1 variants were firing unexpectedly. The problem turned out to be a glitch in the weapon’s selector switch, which got caught between the semi- and automatic settings. Some 3,000 weapons failed their inspections.
The U.S. military’s “Sky Penis”
“Stop drawing d*cks everywhere” became the order of the year in the U.S. military after two West Coast Marines drew a phallic object in the sky during aerial maneuvers. After the the initial incident, a rash of attempted copycats followed until a B-52 squadron commander based out of North Dakota was relieved of duty for explicit ground-based drawings.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been begging for a new icebreaker for years. Tears of joy were heard from Cape May to the Arctic Circle when 0 million was finally earmarked for that purpose. Unfortunately for the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security moved that money to fund the southern border wall in November.
Defense Secretary Mattis’ lethality initiative began Jan. 1, 2018.
The military gets more lethal
In January, Secretary of Defense James Mattis unveiled his new national defense strategy aimed at making the U.S. military more deadly and agile. This means a change in preparation for small, low-level conflicts to great power competition, ending a period of “strategic atrophy.”
President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Army medic Ronald Shurer II in October, 2018.
Medals of Honor
President Trump awarded five Medals of Honor this year to combat veterans living and dead to those involved in a history of conflicts, from World War II to Afghanistan. Those recognized for valor in 2018 were Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, Army 1st Lt. Murl Conner, Army Medic Ronald Shurer II, Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley, and U.S. Navy Special Operator Britt Slabinski.
Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of three killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan in November 2018.
Military members lost in 2018
Thirty servicemembers were killed supporting U.S. military operations worldwide in 2018, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 2, 2018.
Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary • Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin • Sgt. 1st Class Eric Edmond • Capt. Andrew Ross • Sgt. Leandro Jasso • Maj. Brent Taylor • Sgt. James Slape • Staff Sgt. Diobanjo Sanaugustin • Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard • CWO3 Taylor Galvin • Sgt. 1st Class Reymund R. Transfiguracion • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz • Staff Sgt. James Grotjan • Cpl. Joseph Maciel • Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Holzemer • Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad • Staff Sgt. Conrad Robbinson • Spc. Gary Conde • Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar • Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs • Staff Sgt. Carl Enis •Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe • Master Sgt. William Posch •Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso • Capt. Mark Weber • Capt. Christopher Zanetis • Sgt. 1st Class Maitland D. Wilson • Sgt. Christina Schoenecker • Spc. Javion Sullivan • Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin
President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Jun. 12, 2018.
All’s quiet on the Korean front
With improved relations between the U.S. and North Korea, President Trump ordered a stop to the joint American-South Korean military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. In Trump’s words, it was “inappropriate” to continue the war games while asking North Korea to disarm itself of its nuclear weapons. Trump’s orders were not met with universal acclaim among retired military leaders.
President Trump signed an order creating the U.S. Space Force in June 2018.
The Space Force
The U.S, military got its sixth branch of service in 2018, even if it was in name only. With funding sources as of yet unknown, the President ordered the creation of the Space Force to ensure American dominance of Space in June 2018.
President Trump announces withdrawal from Afghanistan
It came as a shock to the defense community when the President announced he would order a large withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. The fallout of the decision included the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Every 80 seconds, an American woman dies of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than every type of cancer combined. We live in a society that has put a great amount of emphasis on educating the masses to identify a heart attack in men, but women present differently. Often the symptoms are misdiagnosed as panic attacks.
The documentary Ms. Diagnosed, sheds light on the problem that women’s symptoms are often not recognized because diagnostic testing has been developed to detect how the disease manifests in men. The documentary highlights a large health disparity between men and women in terms of the care they receive in the United States. Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes, M.D. stresses the importance of women advocating for themselves because, unfortunately, no one else is. This disparity of care translates into even further divisions in professions, like the military, whose statistics are male-dominated.
For one female veteran featured in the documentary, Kelsey Gumm, it took ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses to discover her heart condition. Her first fainting spell occurred in boot camp. Prior to that, she had been a healthy, active teenager involved in dance and athletics throughout high school. At the age of 17, when medical professionals told her she was experiencing anxiety and dehydration, she defaulted to trust. After all, she was in the middle of boot camp, anxiety and dehydration came with the territory. It would take ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses before she was sent to a cardiologist.
At the age of 27 Gumm’s military career, the only path she had ever wanted, was over. She was fitted with a defibrillator and pacemaker and began her new civilian life feeling defeated, angry, and scared. All of this could have been avoided. Had Gumm received an EKG prior to enlisting the heart defect would have been discovered, and she would never have gone into cardiac arrest. True, she also wouldn’t have been allowed into the Navy, but she would have been equipped with the knowledge to pursue a healthy life with the heart she had. Knowledge and prevention make for good bedfellows. Today she is living a strong healthier life equipped with a viable plan forward based on facts, a passion for bike riding, and a desire for heart advocacy.
The military does not give the proper test for detecting heart disease when potential cadets go through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Physical deformities are screened but not the heart. A simple EKG takes only a few minutes. Those few minutes could save countless lives of men and women.
Gumm’s story is one of survival. Kelsey Nobles of Mobile, Alabama, did not have the same good fortune. In 2019, at the age of 18, she died of cardiac arrest during boot camp. Her’s is not the only story. There are other names, other lives cut short. In 2006 a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology found that between 1977 and 2001, the sudden deaths of women recruits, within 25 days of arriving for training, 81% were due to “reasons that may have been cardiac in origin.”
When Gumm was asked why military hearts matter she responded by saying, “Our heroes, our warriors, people serving our country deserve the best health care provided to them. They deserve to have their hearts checked. We are in a stressful job and stress is a leading factor in heart disease. In the military stress is so increased yet we default to thinking these men and women are young and healthy so they can’t be at risk. It simply isn’t true. Anyone can experience this. For something that is so easily tested it is inexcusable for heart health to not be provided for all military—for those in processing, for those serving, and for all veterans.”
The solution is simple. MEPS and yearly physicals should include EKGs.
Airbus, Siemens, and Rolls-Royce are teaming up to develop a hybrid passenger plane that would use a single electric turbofan along with three conventional jet engines running on aviation fuel.
The plane is an effort to develop and demonstrate technology that, in the future, could help limit emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
The three companies said Nov. 28 they aim to build a flying version of the E-Fan X technology demonstrator plane by 2020.
The aircraft would be based on the existing BAe 146 four-engine regional jet. The hybrid version would generate electric power through a turbine within the plane. That power would be used to turn the fan blades of the single electric turbofan engine.
If the system works, a second electric motor could be added, the companies said.
The companies said European plane maker Airbus SE would be responsible for building the aircraft’s systems into a working whole, control systems, and flight controls. Britain-based Rolls-Royce plc would make the generator and the turbo-shaft engine, while German engineering company Siemens AG would deliver the two-megawatt electric motor to power the engine. Rolls-Royce the aircraft engine maker is distinct from the luxury car brand owned by BMW AG.
The companies said they were looking ahead to the European Union’s long-term goals of reducing CO2 emissions from aviation by 60 percent, as well as meeting noise and pollution limits that they said “cannot be achieved with technologies existing today.” CO2 — carbon dioxide — is a greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to global warming.
Other projects for hybrid or electric planes are in the works. Kirkland, Washington-based Zunum Aero says it is working on a 12-seat hybrid-electric commuter jet. The company’s website lists its partners as Boeing, jetBlue Technology Ventures, and the Department of Commerce Clean Energy Fund.
Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.
“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”
Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”
The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”
According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.
Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.
“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.
“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.
“Yes,” the second person said.
“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.
“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.
Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.
The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.
“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.
He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 1961, the United States military was ordered to try to make a single airframe serve the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. That project was called the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project. It later became the General Dynamics F-111, known affectionately as the Aardvark.
As just about any military aviation buff can tell you, the results were not what the then-Secretary of Defense had been hoping for. The F-111 made an excellent all-weather attack plane, capable of delivering 31,500 pounds of ordnance onto a target. If anything, had there been another round of modernization in the early-to-mid 1990s, allowing the Vark to use GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off Weapons or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, it might still be carrying out that mission today.
The efforts to fill the needs of the other services didn’t go so well. The close-air support versions for the Marines and Army never happened. The Navy’s F-111B, intended as a fleet air-defense plane, just didn’t work, prompting Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly to tell a Senator, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!” The results of Connolly’s career-ending honesty included the Navy developing the F-14 Tomcat, which proved to be very effective as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.
But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all ended up using a common airframe from the 1960s to the 1980s. It just wasn’t the airframe many would have picked to be a joint strike fighter before there was ever a thought of having a Joint Strike Fighter.
The iconic McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom started out as an all-weather interceptor for the Navy. Equipped with four AIM-7 Sparrows and four AIM-9 Sidewinders, this Mach 2 plane had a combat radius of almost 370 miles, and was also capable of carrying almost 19,000 pounds of bombs. The Marines also bought the plane as well.
The Air Force, looking for a new fighter-bomber, tried out the F-4. Very quickly, the Air Force realized that the Phantom was working out very well, and soon they, too were buying hundreds of F-4s. The Air Force was even able to add an internal M61 cannon to the plane – something the Navy never really got around to.
The Phantom saw service in the Vietnam War – and it was the plane flown by America’s aces in that conflict: Randy Cunningham, Willie Driscoll, Steve Richie, Charles DeBellevue, and Jeffrey Feinstein. The Phantom shot down 147 enemy planes in the Vietnam War. It also saw service with numerous American allies: including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Iran, Egypt, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. It still remains in service, now as a fighter-bomber.
The F-35 seems to have taken a few pages out of the F-111’s playbook; notably, the three versions have similar missions – even though one is intended for use from normal air bases, the other is V/STOL, and the third is carrier-capable. But the F-35 program is now pushing 15 years since Lockheed won the Joint Strike Fighter competition) — twice as long as the F-111’s.
The F-35 also shares something in common with the F-4: The Air Force version is the only one with an internal cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps versions (as well as the one used by the RAF) don’t. And whether the F-35 can become a classic like the Phantom is something that only time will tell.
Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.
Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.
The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.
But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.
Behenna after his 2014 parole.
It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.
After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.
The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.
But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.
The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.