Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.
It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.
The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.
According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.
Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.
(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)
Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.
The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)
Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.
Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.
It’s often called the “Forgotten Campaign of the Second World War” — and there’s no secret as to why. The campaign lost out on fanfare mostly because it took place in a far off, remote territory that few Americans lived on or cared about. And it didn’t help that it happened at a time when Marines and soldiers were pushing onto the beaches at the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The truth is, however, that the sporadic fighting and eventual American victory on the frozen, barren islands of Alaska proved instrumental to an Allied victory in the the Pacific.
A bit of a fixer-upper, but nothing that can’t be buffed out.
Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a two-day attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska. On June 3rd and 4th, 1942, their targets were the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Fort Mears on Amaknak Island.
The Japanese attack was an attempt to establish a foothold in the Northern Pacific. From there, the Japanese could continue and advance towards either the Alaskan mainland or move toward the northwestern states of the United States. A few days later, on June 6th and 7th, the Japanese invaded and annexed the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu — along with the western-most Aleutian Islands.
It was a tactical victory for the Japanese but the Americans managed to shoot down a Zero during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, and it happened to land in relatively good condition.
Allied troops would move onto Kiska with over 34,000 troops… Just to find the island completely abandoned two weeks prior.
Meanwhile, Japan was busy moving the bulk of their naval forces toward Midway to aid in recovery from the burgeoning American victory there. Back in North America, the Americans had regrouped and gained the support of the Canadian military.
The bolstered Allied troops moved toward Japanese-occupied territories. They sporadically picked off enemy vessels one by one as they pushed through the island chain. Then, on March 27th, 1943, the American and Japanese fleets squared off at the Battle of Komandorski Islands. The Americans took more damage, but caused enough to make the Japanese abandon their Aleutian garrisons.
On May 11th, U.S. and Canadian soldiers landed on Attu Island to take it back. Japanese dug in and booby-trapped much of the surrounding island. The Americans suffered 3,929 casualties — 580 dead, 1,148 wounded, and over 1,200 cold-weather injuries — but the Japanese were overrun. In a last-ditch effort, the Japanese committed the single largest banzai charge — an attack in which every infantryman first accepted their death before charging charged into battle — in all of the Pacific campaign. The Japanese suffered 2,351 deaths with hundreds of more believed to be lost to the unforgiving weather.
The captured Zero from Dutch Harbor, dubbed the Akutan Zero, was studied and reverse engineered by American technicians. Test pilots were successfully able to determine the weak-points and vulnerabilities of the fighter aircraft, which were quickly relayed to the rest of the Army Air Force. This information proved vital in later battles.
In the end, America would retake the islands and force the Japanese Navy back south to deal with the brunt of the American military. With the Japanese gone, the only route into the continental U.S. was secure again.
To learn more about the Aleutian Campaign, check out the video below!
Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.
Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.
According to the DoD’s press release:
“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:
Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590
Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400
Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200
The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:
“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”
“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”
Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016
The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.
Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.
Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.
Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.
Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.
(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)
Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.
Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.
“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”
In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.
Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.
Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.
It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.
Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.
(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)
Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.
Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”
At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.
The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.
The Navy is making an aggressive push to explore and refine the new combat tactics, offensive weaponry, and networking technologies needed for modern warfare on the open seas as part of a service-wide strategic initiative to prepare the fleet for major ocean combat against increasingly high-tech enemies.
The San Diego-based Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center is moving quickly on new ocean warfare training to help the US Navy “regain sea control in great power competition,” Lt. Cmdr. Seth Powell, program manager, Warfare Tactics Instructor Program, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The 15-to-17 week courses place sailors on surface ships in combat-like scenarios intended to mirror the most advanced current and future enemy threats they are likely to encounter. Course leaders say the training involves a concentrated, in depth focus on weapons systems likely to be used by potential enemies.
“One of the big things we focus on is exactly what tactics we have to take into account, given the capabilities of the enemy,” Powell said.
Adjusting to a fast-evolving threat environment, involving technologically sophisticated adversaries, requires course participants to experiment with new Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures necessary to meet as-of-yet unprecedented kinds of attacks.
“How do we take ready ships and turn them into more lethal ships? We put everything they have learned on the ships and out at sea,” Powell said.
The current courses have in part been put together through Warfighter Tactics Instructor training, preparations aimed at breaking the training down into specific warfare focus areas including integrated air and missile defense, surface warfare and amphibious warfare; the Navy plans to stand up a mine warfare program in 2019.
Lessons learned and findings from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center training are expected to inform the development of Navy doctrine as well as the acquisition priorities needed for future war scenarios, Powell added.
“As we bring advanced systems online, we are thinking about how to utilize them with advanced tactical training,” he said.
Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns and long-range missiles, among other technologies.
Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.
Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”
Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.
Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.
A Phalanx close-in weapons system fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.
Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy, and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.
These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.
Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.
A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.
“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.
The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
PBS’s multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna. The 30th annual broadcast of the concertairs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.
A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists.
The 2019 anniversary edition of the concert will feature Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood — brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert and Joe Mantegna.
Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen — Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) — who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Other features include the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion — featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott and A Gold Star Widow’s Journey — portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz.
For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow — Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) — beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.
The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson; multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley; multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly (additional performers to be announced). The 2019 National Memorial Day Concert will share Lambert’s story of bravery and pay tribute to heroes who sacrificed and died in service to our nation and the world.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.
The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.
“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”
He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.
“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.
He’s only a couple feet away now.
“I took like five steps … “
Major steps down with his right leg.
The enemy pushes the remote control.
The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.
“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”
Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.
Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.
“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”
“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.
“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”
They make it back to base.
“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”
Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.
Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.
“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”
Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.
He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.
He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.
Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.
“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.
“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”
Days turned into weeks, months and years.
His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.
“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”
Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.
“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.
“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”
As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.
“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?
“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”
Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.
The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.
“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”
“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.
He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.
“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.
“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”
He hasn’t stopped since.
“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”
Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.
“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”
“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”
He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.
“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.
“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”
It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.
“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”
Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.
“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The day my husband swore in to the US Marine Corps, his veteran grandfather gave me a book that had belonged to his late wife: “The Marine Corps Wife,” published in 1955.
This marked the first of many sources I came across in my quest to figure out Military Spouse 101; as a new, eager (and, frankly, naive) military wife, I was desperate to *prepare* myself for the life that lay ahead of me.
I was met with (what I believed to be) a veritable charcuterie of articles and forums — but as the years went by, I noticed that there was something missing. The spread was inadequate, repetitive, and at times, toe-curlingly tacky; a little more big box store than French boutique, if you will.
There’s a slew of contemporary literature out there for the prospective military bride, but among the twee messages about “stages of deployment” and care packages and (yawn) PCS season, there are myriad mil-nuances that your average milspouse blogger will omit.
The truth is, there’s a delicate disconnect between the star-spangled blogs and real-life immersion in military culture; the too long/didn’t read version is, quite simply, that military life is not real life.
No one — no musty tome or cheery modern blogger —quite prepared me for this.
Granted, I’ve drunk my fair share of military Kool-Aid (and — yikes — tap water) in the relatively short time my husband and I have been married, but I’m here to tell you about the subtext, the small-print: some of the things you don’t hear about military life.
1. It’s not glamorous.
Imagine: Laundry that smells worse than Lake Bandini, dowsing your true love’s blistered feet in hydrogen peroxide, and the smell of MRE farts. And I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of deployments, I think of cheap wine, popcorn for dinner, and record-breaking Netflix marathons (shout-out to me for slaying six seasons of “Lost” in a month).
Even the movie-montage-worthy highlights are largely unspectacular. I’ll take all the flack that comes my way for admitting this, but farewell ceremonies before deployments are, honestly, rather tedious; imagine a lot of standing around for several irksome hours while bags are loaded and fed-up children cry.
Homecomings happen at relatively short notice, rarely do things go according to plan, and there’s always those awkward hours of families standing around with bedazzled signs, twiddling their thumbs. There’s the heartbreaking sight of junior enlisted troops trudging off to the barracks without anyone to greet them, the readjustment phase that no clipart-laden pamphlet can prepare you for, and work begins as usual within an obscenely short window of time.
It’s worth it — it’s always worth it — but trust me, nothing about military life is glamorous.
2. Your spouse’s job affects your social life.
Ah, the mother of all military spouse debates: does your husband’s rank determine your social life?!
Unpopular opinion: yes. Yes, it does. A military spouse’s life is at least somewhat affected by their significant other’s job. And yes, it’s as asinine and frustrating as it sounds.
By this, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that there are ranks among spouses —even my quaint 1950’s wife manual states as much, for goodness’ sake — and the (perceived) dichotomy between officers’ spouses and enlisted spouses only exists if one allows it to.
Lore of spouse’s “wearing” rank is, more often that not, just that: social myth. That’s not to say that wives who refer to “our” promotion or bluster when they aren’t saluted don’t exist, but these rare prima donnas are best left to stew in their own little worlds.
We military spouses do, however, have to accept that our significant other’s job will have some degree of influence over our social life. Fraternization rules dictate who service-members can and cannot be friends with, and therefore, socializing as a couple can get a little thorny. We learn to accept that it’s at least expected that we’ll make an effort with the spouses of our husband’s chain of command (I consider myself to be enormously blessed in that I ended up making some seriously fabulous friends this way).
We also become accustomed to pasting on a smile and being ultra-nice to the people our partner tells us to be pleasant to, even when we’re cranky and would rather not be a circus monkey, thank you very much.
3. It’s seriously old-fashioned.
Sorry, not sorry, y’all: military life is pretty archaic. The question of how to solve this is a much bigger one than I can give credence to, so, for now, I’ll stick with a few illuminating personal examples.
Recently, I took a vacation by myself because my husband had to work through the weekend. This simple endeavor was met with pure shock in dozens of my peers: to think, a married woman might travel to a new place on her own. Pass the smelling salts!
At the ripe old age of 26, no single group of people has ever been so interested in my reproductive health or family planning methods — not even my grandparents, and trust me, they are thirsty for grand-babies. Turns out, there’s an unspoken timeline in military marriages, and after a certain point — generated by some vague algorithm involving your age and the amount of time you’ve been married — people feel no shame in asking unsolicited questions.
I’ll also never forget how I read a three-page list of guidelines for wives of Marines attending the annual USMC birthday ball; highlights included a friendly reminder to “remember: this is not about you,” and a subsequent series of commandments forbidding everything to include cleavage, talking before one’s servicemember, and being afraid of utensils. Bless this lady’s heart; the piece was punctuated with a reminder to “HAVE FUN!!”
I wish someone had at least forewarned me of this before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed a thing — I like, like like him, guys — but this retrograde aspect of the military is something that I do wish people talked about more openly. Stay tuned for the book to follow.
4. It’s freaking weird.
There are endless quirks to life on a military base; granted, you become accustomed to them fairly quickly, but to an outsider, it’d be pretty easy to see why most people inside the military community refer to it as a “bubble.”
For example, when you live on a military base, gone are the days when you can roll out of your car and into the grocery store in your favorite Spongebob pajamas; there’s a dress code, ma’am, and you’ll be kicked out if you don’t stick to it. You get used to passing gas stations for tanks, helicopters passing overheard stopping your conversation in its tracks, and speed limits that seem more adequately designed for tortoises. You stand to attention (yes, even as a civilian) for colors twice a day. You notice the coded badges pinned to people’s collars, and you understand what they mean.
It’d take a real Scrooge to hate all these strange subtleties, though; it just becomes part of life that, when you’re extracted from it, is simply a little bit kooky.
5. This is a job that your spouse can’t escape from.
Now, when I come home from work, I have the luxury of becoming real-life Amy the moment I clock out. My husband? Not so much.
Servicemembers are paid by rank, not by the total amount of hours worked (which is arguably criminal if you look at the military pay rate, especially for junior enlisted ranks). Thus, they’re never “off the clock.”
This bleeds into everyday life, even when they’re not working. They’re never not a Marine, a soldier, a sailor, or an airman.
If I could only take back the number of hours I’ve lost waiting for my husband to get his weekly haircut, I could probably take a short sabbatical with them. He shaves every morning that he has to go out in public (save for the cheeky vacation scruff of 2017, RIP). He receives work-related phone calls at all hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacations are a precarious endeavor that are dictated by ops temp o, deployments, and leave blocks — not simply a whim and accumulated hours.
Furthermore, the military life whittles at the character of the person you married. In my case, this has been all positive; my husband has truly blossomed since he became an active duty Marine, and I wouldn’t trade any of the lost hours (or facial hair) for this immaculately-sculpted person.
Regardless, cheesy stories aside, no-one ever tells you that the job will mold the human you wed in ways you weren’t anticipating.
6. It does take a specific type of person to be a military spouse.
In the beginning, I naively thought that marriage would be easy (that was my first mistake).
The second, larger mistake was ardently believing that anyone could be successfully married to a service-member if they wanted to. I truly believed that grit and love were the only necessary components of a lasting military marriage.
Now, I look at long-term military spouses with nothing less than awe; to weather decades as a military spouse is a truly incredible feat.
You have to be tolerant. You have to be flexible. You have to be resilient. You have to be extroverted, or at least sociable enough to fool all the pools of new people you’re thrown in with on a regular basis. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to your career — because fulfilling, military-spouse-proof, work-from-home jobs don’t grow on trees (whatever Susan’s pyramid scheme would have you believe). You have to be capable enough to manage a household single-handedly, but humble enough to be sidelined in social situations.
Could I do it? I’m not sure; time will tell.
What I am sure of is that military couples who manage to maintain strong, healthy relationships over long periods of time deserve unadulterated respect.
The bottom line? Military life is a life of sacrifice, however large or small, for servicemembers and their families.
Admitting this is not martyrdom, it’s an admission of truth in a world that encourages marriage without making it known that civilian wellbeing is not a priority.
Ultimately, I think if we talked about this elephant in the room, instead of laughing at it and labeling it a “dependa,” we’d see some real change in military family culture.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Since 2001, Lockheed Martin and US military planners have been putting together the F-35, a new aircraft that promises to revolutionize aerial combat so thoroughly as to leave it unrecognizable to the general public.
Detractors of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have long criticized the program as taking too long and costing too much, though overruns commonly occur when developing massive, first-in-class projects like the F-35.
But perhaps the most damning criticism of the F-35 came from a 2015 assessment that F-16s, first fielded in the 1970s, had handily defeated a group of F-35s in mock dogfight tests.
According to Lt. Col. David “Chip” Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, the public has a lot of learning to do when assessing a jet’s capability in warfare.
“The whole concept of dogfighting is so misunderstood and taken out of context,” Berke said in an interview with Business Insider. “We need to do a better job teaching the public how to assess a jet’s capability in warfare.”
“There is some idea that when we talk about dogfighting it’s one airplane’s ability to get another airplane’s 6 and shoot it with a gun … That hasn’t happened with American planes in maybe 40 years,” Berke said.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years — we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” said Berke, referring to the 1986 film in which US Navy pilots take on Russian-made MiGs.
But planes don’t fight like that anymore, and comparing different planes’ statistics on paper and trying to calculate or simulate which plane can get behind the other is “kind of an arcane way of looking at it,” Berke said.
Unlike older planes immortalized in films, the F-35 doesn’t need to face its adversary to destroy it. The F-35 can fire “off boresight,” virtually eliminating the need to jockey for position behind an enemy.
Berke said dogfighting would teach pilots “great skill sets” but conflict within visual range “doesn’t always mean a turning fight within 100 feet of the other guy maneuvering for each other’s 6 o’clock.” Berke also made an important distinction that conflicts within visual range do not always become dogfights.
Also, “within visual range” is a tricky term.
“You could not see a guy who’s a mile away, or you could see a guy at 15 miles if you got lucky,” Berke said, adding that with today’s all-aspect weapons systems, a plane can “be effective in a visual fight from offensive, defensive, and neutral positions.”
“We need to stop judging a fighter’s ability based on wing loading and Gs,” Berke said of analysts who prize specifications on paper over pilots’ insights.
Furthermore, Berke, who has several thousand flying hours in four different airplanes, both fourth and fifth generation, stressed that pilots train to negate or avoid conflicts within visual range — and he said no plane did that better than the F-35.
“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.
Though it might be news to fans of “Top Gun” and the gritty, “Star Wars”-style air-to-air combat depicted in TV and films, the idea of a “dogfight” long ago faded from relevance in the world of aerial combat.
A newer, less sexy term has risen to take its place: situational awareness. And the F-35 has it in spades.
Large parts of western Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan are recovering from a severe salt storm that has damaged agriculture and livestock herds.
The three-day storm hit Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions, as well as Turkmenistan’s Dashoguz Province, beginning on May 26, 2018.
The salt — lifted from dried-out former parts of the Aral Sea — left a white dust on farmers’ fields and fruit trees that is expected to ruin many crops.
The storm also caused flights at the Urgench airport to be canceled, made driving hazardous, and caused breathing difficulties for many people.
Particularly hard hit by the storm, which reached speeds of more than 20 meters per second, were the Uzbek regions of Khorezm, Navoi, and Bukhara.
Remnants of the storm were also reported as far south as Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Temirbek Bobo, 80, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that it was the first time he had seen such a harsh storm.
“I’ve seen the wind bring sand before, but this was the first time I saw salt. This event can be called a catastrophe,” said Bobo, who lives in the Takhiatash district of Karakalpakstan. “The whole day there was nothing but salt rain [coming down]. The sun was not visible.”
He added: “Nature began to take revenge on us for [what we have done] to the Aral Sea.”
A representative of the Karakalpakstan’s Council of Ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the council had not received any instructions regarding the situation, but suggested that the region’s Agricultural Ministry may have.
RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service was unable to reach Karakalpakstan’s Agricultural Ministry for comment.
Salt storms are common in areas near the Aral Sea, but this one carried salt over a much wider area.
Once one of the four largest seas on Earth, intensive irrigation projects set up by the Soviets in the 1960s led to its desiccation.
The runoff from nearby agricultural fields has polluted the remaining parts of the Aral Sea with pesticides and fertilizers, which have crystallized with the salt.
Inhalation of the salt can cause severe throat and lung problems. The salt also can poison farmers’ produce and cause chemical damage to buildings.
The Olympics we know today began with the first meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Paris in Jun. 1984. The first official games were held in 1896 in Athens. Before that there were a number of Olympic games and festivals hosted by national and international athletic clubs. The National Olympic Association held an Olympic Festival in 1866 that drew 10,000 people and featured a sport most people wouldn’t recognize today: bayonet fencing.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.
For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.
He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.
So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.
It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.
“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”
Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
On July 26, 2018, two stealth aircraft were spotted taking off at the remote Tonopah Test Range in southwest Nevada, with one lingering over the base while the other appeared to head south.
Two stealth aircraft operating out of the secretive Tonopah base isn’t out of the ordinary. In this instance however, the two aircraft in question appeared to be F-117 Nighthawks — planes that were retired more than a decade ago.
The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s, and the first F-117 unit reached initial operating capability in October 1983, becoming the first operational, purpose-built stealth aircraft.
It was designed to attack high-value targets without being detected. It could carry 5,000 pounds of internal payload, and two engines could push it to 684 mph. The plane, which took part in the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War, was renowned for its precision.
An F-117 Nighthawk flies over the Nevada desert.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)
“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” former F-117 maintainer Yancy Mailes said in an Air Force release marking the 10th anniversary of the plane’s retirement, referring to a guided bomb . “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building.”
Nighthawk pilots were nicknamed ” Bandits .” The maintainers, designated material application and repair specialists, were known as MARS, which eventually became ” Martians .”
While the plane was designed to elude detection, one was shot down by Yugoslavian air defenses in March 1999. The pilot bailed out and was rescued within hours, as enemy forces closed in.
After 25 years in service, the Air Force retired the F-117 on April 22, 2008. But the story didn’t end there. An Air Force official told Military.com in September 2017 that the service got permission to retire 52 Nighthawks but wanted to maintain them in case they were called back into service.
Rumors that the plane was still in flight continued for years. In late 2014, The Aviationist published photos showing F-117s in operation at Tonopah. It was suspected that the planes were being used for some kind of testing.
The aircraft were being kept in Type 1000 storage, meaning they were being maintained in case they needed to be recalled to active service. That meant keeping them in their “original, climate-friendly hangars” at Tonopah, rather than building new storage facilities for them elsewhere, the Air Force said at the time.
In accordance with the Type 1000 program, or “flyable storage,” the service added, “some F-117 aircraft are occasionally flown.”
In October 2010, footage emerged that appeared to show the aircraft flying near Groom Lake Air Force Base, which is part of Area 51, and near Tonopah Test Range.
An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter refuels from a 100th Aerial Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, March 27, 1999.
(US Air Force photo)
Four years on, the shadowy Nighthawk is still seen skulking through the sky over the American West.
About six F-117s are kept in flyable condition at any one time, according to The War Zone , which reported that the planes are likely flown by contractors. That may be why there haven’t been official references to the Nighthawk’s activities, which may involve testing of low-observable technology.
Two Nighthawks were spotted flying together over Nevada in July 2016. In November 2017, what appeared to be an F-117 was spotted being hauled under cover on a trailer near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The next day, an F-117 was observed in flight north of Rachel, Nevada, being chased by a two-seat F-16 in what may have been a test of some kind of anti-stealth technology, The Aviationist said at the time.
But the Nighthawk’s time may finally be nigh.
According to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force is to remove four F-117s from service every year, a process known as demilitarizing aircraft, a service official told Military.com in September 2018.
“We had to keep all the F-117s in flyable storage until the fiscal ’17 NDAA gave us permission to dispose of them,” the official said.
It will be some time before the last F-117 leaves the flight line for good, and the expense of keeping them maintained in a museum may be prohibitive, meaning the Air Force could scrap them outright, according to The War Zone. But some vestiges of the Nighthawk may live on.
“It was a unique experience,” retired Col. Jack Forsythe, who first flew a Nighthawk in 1995 and led the final formation flight in 2008, said in early 2018 “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 (Raptor) and F-35 (Lightning II) pilots feel today.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.