MIGHTY MONEY

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.


I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.

I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Holden Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate paralegal, assists Senior Airman Terrence Eaton, logistics readiness squadron vehicle maintenance journeymen, in filling out a form at the Langley Air Force Base, Va., tax center Feb. 5, 2013. Joint Base Langley-Eustis tax centers are set to open Feb. 2 for the 2015 income tax season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White/ Released)

I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.

And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.

Adulting is hard AF, amiright?

Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.

There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.

Army Spc. Coltin Jenkins, tax preparer, works with customers of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Consolidated Tax center in Building 205 on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base March 17, 2015. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Rachel Larue)

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.

2. Military OneSource

This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.

3. IRS Free File

Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.

4. TurboTax

Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.

5. TaxSlayer.com

This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.

6. H&R Block

These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”

Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.

Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.

Articles

The US foiled an alleged plot to illegally send missile technology to Russia

Three men — a US citizen and two Russian nationals — were arrested on Thursday and charged with attempting to send sensitive technology used for military devices to Russia, according to a released from the Department of Justice.


On Thursday, Alexey Barysheff of Brooklyn, New York, a naturalized US citizen, was arrested on federal charges of illegally exporting controlled technology from the US to end-users in Russia.

Dmitrii Aleksandrovich Karpenko and Alexey Krutilin, both Russian citizens, were arrested in Denver, Colorado, on charges of conspiring with Barysheff and others in the plot, the DOJ said.

Authorities said Barysheff, Krutilin, and Karpenko, among others, used two Brooklyn-based front companies, BKLN Spectra, Inc. and UIP Techno Corp., to buy and unlawfully export sensitive electronics without a mandatory federal license. US officials also said the three men falsified records to conceal where they were shipping the electronics, routing them through Finland, according to the Associated Press.

The electronics in question were restricted for “anti-terrorism and national security reasons,” the DOJ said.

According to complaints unsealed in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday, Krutilin and Karpenko arrived in Colorado from Russia on October 1 and tried to access Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs but were prevented from doing so.

Wikimedia

“The microelectronics shipped to Russia included, among other products, digital-to-analog converters and integrated circuits, which are frequently used in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, missile guidance systems and satellites,” the DOJ said in a release.

Exporting such technology requires a license from the Department of Commerce, which places restrictions on items it believes “could make a significant contribution to the military potential and weapons proliferation of other nations and that could be detrimental to the foreign policy and national security of the United States.”

The three men were held without bail, according to the New York Daily News. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Southwest Asia Service Medal.

An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims this new evidence proves it didn’t down plane

Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Sept. 17, 2018, it had new evidence that the missile that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014 was fired by Ukrainian forces.

The Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down by a soviet-made missile over the rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 27 Australians, were killed.

Remnants of the Boeing 777 aircraft that crashed outside the city of Donetsk in Ukraine have been analyzed extensively, and investigators are still trying to determine with certainty where the missile emanated from.


In May 2018, international investigators concluded that a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile supplied by Russian separatists in Kursk were responsible for the downing of MH17.

“The Buk that was used came from the Russian army, the 53rd brigade,” Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Reuters. “We know that was used, but the people in charge of this Buk, we don’t know.”

The investigating team has referenced images and video showing a white Volvo truck with markings unique to the 53rd brigade carrying the missile from Russia to the Ukraine. The Netherlands and Australia have directly blamed Russia for the attack, and have called on Moscow to admit responsibility and cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.

Russia’s Defense Ministry purported to show a “logbook” indicating that the Buk missile had been delivered to a unit in the Ukraine in 1986.

(Russian Defense Ministry / Youtube)

But Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement, and has instead shifted blame towards Ukraine with information investigators have deemed “factually inaccurate on several points.

On Sept. 17, 2018, Russia’s defense ministry claimed it had “newly discovered evidence” which potentially pins the attack on Ukraine.

According to the Defense Ministry, the serial number found on debris from the Buk missile was cross-referenced with a log book purporting to show it was produced in 1986. The missile was then delivered by rail to a military unit in Western Ukraine and to their knowledge had since not left Ukraine.

The ministry also claimed some of the video provided to investigators showing the Buk system being transported from Russia were manipulated. The ministry cast doubt on its authenticity.

The ministry also claimed to have audio recordings of Ukrainian airspace officials discussing shooting down aircrafts which flew over its restricted airspace, specifically calling out the targeting of Malaysian Boeings.

Russia also claimed that video provided to investigators used doctored footage of the Buk missile being transported on a white truck.

(Russian Defense Ministry / Youtube)

In response, the joint investigative team said they would “meticulously study” the new information as soon as the documents were made available, noting that previous information provided from Russia had been misleading on several fronts.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak on Sept. 17, 2018, dismissed Russia’s claims as an “absolute lie” and “another fake story.” Also on Sept. 17, 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree ending a bilateral friendship treaty with Russia amid deteriorating ties.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 5 veteran influencers you need to check out this Veterans Day

The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.

But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.


This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!

Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek

Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.

Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.

On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:

“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.

And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.

And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.

Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.

And be alive.”

It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.

Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse

Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.

If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.

The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.

The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!

Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville

Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.

We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.

He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.

If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.

Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13

Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.

With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.

With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!

Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas

Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.

You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.

But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.

If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!

Articles

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.


Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.

Veteran military journalist Paul Watts Jr. mentors a student editor, an active duty combat photojournalist.

They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.

One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.

When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.

Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.

When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.

Andrew Breese, award-winning producer from Airman mentors a team on site for the Shoot Off competition portion.

It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.

“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”

One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.

Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.

Military cameramen train incognito on The Mall in Washington, DC.

“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.

The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.

Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.

Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.

Producers from the Washington Post and NFL Films were among previous judges.

Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.

The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.

The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.

“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”


While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.

Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.

The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk
(Photo by JD Lasica)

“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”

In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.

The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.

The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.

“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.

He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.

(NASA)

The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.

The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.

SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.

Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.

NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.

While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.

He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.

A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”

The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants 30 percent more tankers for China fight

The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.

“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.


“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.

The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.

In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(NATO photo)

Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.

In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.

Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”

While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.

The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.

China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.

Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US forces in Africa have accused Chinese troops of harassing pilots

Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.

Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.

Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.


She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”

U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)

The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.

China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”

The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”

The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.

A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”

Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.

The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘having guts’ actually meant being an able U.S. troop

These days, having the guts to do something just means someone is brave enough to take on what seems to be an overwhelming undertaking. Any herculean task could require guts: quitting a job, suing city hall, or voting third party could all require a gut check by today’s standards. In days past, however, a gut check was only required by the soldiers who were about to fight in combat.


For the record, it still is.

Armies in the days of yore – before the 20th Century – faced very different problems than the ones deployed American troops face today. Where we have been known to wince every time we see a runner missing his reflective belt or wonder why I always get the goddamned vegetarian MRE, the Army of the pre-World War I days was more worried about things like clean drinking water, cholera, and dysentery.

It’s amazing how they can smile even when the stupid chow hall is out of Diet Coke *again*

In days gone by, if someone asked a soldier if they had the guts to fight the coming day or the next day, it wasn’t just an affirmation of macho willpower, it was a real question of a soldier’s ability to maintain his position and discipline in the ranks instead of running off to the latrine every ten minutes to evacuate his bowels.

The asker’s “gut check” was real – and literal – checking to see if his comrade in arms was suffering from diarrhea or a similar illness of the bowels that would keep him from performing at the front lines. Maintaining the integrity of certain infantry formations used to be integral to the survival of the whole unit.

“Jesus, what is that smell, Kenneth?”

At the time of the U.S. Civil War, microbes were only just being accepted as cause for disease. In that war, 620,000 men were killed, but disease actually killed two-thirds of those men. A single illness such as measles could wipe out entire units. Battlefield sanitation was the order of the day, but if Civil War troops chose to ignore an order, that would be the one. Latrines were dug near camps, wells, and rivers as horse and mule entrails and manure permeated their camps.

As a result, dysentery was the single greatest killer of Civil War soldiers. Having the guts to fight only meant you were one of very few troops not suffering from the trots.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this medic tell how his squad leader saved his life in combat

In this video Army medic William Glazier shares a story about his squad leader, Staff Sergeant Kevin Pape, who looked out for him on his first day in combat.


On the inside of his right arm Glazier’s single tattoo simply reads “Rangers,” done in a later World War II version used by the elite military group.

“Opening communication between veterans and civilians is an important thing to do,” Glazier said. “And that communication is hard.”

Glazer’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft
MIGHTY CULTURE

This canine prisoner of war is still held by Taliban captors

In February, 2014, Taliban insurgents released a video with what they claimed was a U.S. prisoner of war that they had captured the previous year. They called him “colonel” as they led him around by a leash and described taking him during a night raid in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. He was a Belgian Malinois working dog – and he was about to put his captors to work.


“Colonel” was actually a dog working for the British forces under ISAF command in the country, according to BBC reporters. The dog was apparently captured in the middle of an intense firefight with coalition forces trying to drive the Taliban out of the Alingar Valley. They were tipped off about a British SAS raid on Dec. 23.

It was the first time a working dog was taken prisoner in Afghanistan.

Colonel, or dagarwal in Pashto, was a valuable asset, no matter how the Taliban chose to see him. Not only was the dog not killed, injured, or otherwise mistreated, he was an asset. They would never get a trained working dog like Colonel. They sure couldn’t train one. Even as a prisoner of war to be ransomed, he was priceless.

It’s always possible that we could use the dog, since it has been trained,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement. “If someone offers a trade for it then we can think about that.”

A casual viewer might never know it, as videos with the Malinois show him surrounded by as many as five Taliban fighters, all heavily armed with rifles and grenades, but the dog is much more than a mutt found on the street. Colonel had needs, and he liked things a certain way. Whereas other dogs were kicked out into the streets and fed scraps, Colonel had a team of Taliban waiting on him.

It is not like the local dogs which will eat anything and sleep anywhere,” Mujahid added. “We have to prepare him proper food and make sure he has somewhere to sleep properly.”

This means Colonel has a few Taliban fighters who were attached to him. They provided him with blankets and made human-level food for him from chicken and kebab meat. Dogs are not considered pets in Afghan culture, are widely seen as “unclean,” and the Coalition’s use of dogs has irked the Afghan President and people at times.

The Taliban also showed off weapons seized during a raid on one of their hideouts.

Sadly, it’s hard to know if Colonel was ever rescued. British special operations forces from the Who Dares Wins Regiment volunteered to go find the dog and rescue him, but the British Defence Ministry called the mission “unlikely.”

Colonel has since been nominated for the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army officer is in hot water for anti-war protests on Twitter

Brittany DeBarros is waging the kind of vehement public protest via Twitter against the Defense Department and US government that’s commonplace in the Trump-era — except that DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve assigned to the Army’s Psychological Operations Command.


According to DeBarros’ Twitter account, she has been called up on two-week assignment since July 14, 2018, but each day since then DeBarros has posted tweets criticizing “the horror being carried out by our war machine for profit,” with the Army moving to investigate the officer’s remarks.

The “Dept. of ‘Defense’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide,” DeBarros notes in one tweet. “The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.”

“Defense corporations made contributions to 496 of 525 Congress members in 2018,” DeBarros said in her most recent tweet, posted on July 20, 2018, the seventh day of her assignment. Defense contractors are prolific political donors, though many of their contributions come from their political-action committees, owners, employees, or employees’ immediate families.

DeBarros, however, has stopped short of directly criticizing President Trump during her July 2018 protest; using “contemptuous words” against the president is a violation of military law.

DeBarros detailed her criticism of US foreign policy and its impact at home in a June 23, 2018 speech in Washington, DC, at a Poor People’s Campaign rally.

During the speech, DeBarros said she was a combat veteran who identified as a woman, Latina, white, black, and queer, and that as a person “existing at the intersection of these identities, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.”

“For decades, we have been lulled into complacency and inattention as our drones have obliterated weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, ordinary homes, and ordinary people,” DeBarros said.

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“We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly 0 billion annually we spend on defense. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponized,” DeBarros added. “From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percent of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace, is it any wonder that our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones, and our neighbors treated like combatants?”

DeBarros’ protest has gained the attention of the Army, which confirmed her assignment to Army Times and said it was looking into her statements.

Officials at US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command “are aware of the situation surrounding Cpt. Brittany DeBarros,” Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Crofoot told Army Times. “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are permitted to make political statements in public while they have civilian status but doing so is not allowed while they are on active orders. DeBarros did not reply to Facebook messages sent by Army Times, nor did she respond to a Twitter message sent by Business Insider on July 23, 2018.

DeBarros’ June 2018 speech came just a few days after the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone.

Rapone — an Afghanistan combat veteran and a 2016 West Point graduate — posted pictures of himself at his West Point graduation in a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face and with a sign reading, “Communism will win,” inside his hat.

Rapone, who says he retains an honorable discharge from his enlisted service, posted the photos in September 2017, telling the Associated Press he did so in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

The photos provoked backlash, including a call for an investigation by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, which prompted West Point to say Rapone’s actions “in no way reflect the values” of West Point or the Army.

Rapone enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a Ranger in Afghanistan but became disillusioned with the military soon after joining, he said in June 2018 on an episode of What a Hell of a Way to Die, a left-wing podcast hosted by two combat veterans.

“By the time I deployed, I encountered most people who had no real interest in why we were fighting and [were] more so interested in just the next time they could go out and kill brown people and just [terrorize] the Afghan population,” Rapone said.

“To this day, we had this nebulous idea of going after the Haqqani network, and I’m sure they’re not great dudes, but it’s like, are they really threatening the United States of America?” Rapone said. “And isn’t it the United States that caused Afghanistan to turn into [a] hellscape?”

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