Transitioning to a civilian career doesn’t have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):
1. Wilderness guides
Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn’t required. Avg. Salary: $42,000
Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000
Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000
4. Law enforcement
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team
There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork. Both wear uniforms. Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000
It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first — an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies. Avg. Salary: $61,000
6. Helicopter lineman
Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000
7. Videographer or photographer
Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000
A Marine Expeditionary Unit, also known as an MEU, is affectionately called a booze-cruise in the Marine Corps. The purpose is to provide safety and security to our interest abroad by rapid response to any situation. Missions vary and can become intense, however, most of the time that is not the case. For the Marine deployed this way it means gym time, movies and exploring exotic countries when the fleet hits port. They call it a booze-cruise for a reason.
1. You get to see the world
When a Marine Expeditionary Units patrols the world’s oceans, it is an asset to the president and essential to the security of our nation. Those fleets need to refit and refuel from time-to-time and for the crew, it means liberty. After the resupplying a ship, the idle Marine and sailor may be granted permission to have a mini-vacation in another country while the ship refuels. I’ve been to countries like Turkey, Bahrain, U.A.E., Spain, Djibouti, Cuba, Haiti, and others that I would not have had the chance of visiting. I almost died whitewater rafting in Turkey – no regrets. Port can be a lot of fun in between long periods at sea.
2. Walk a mile in another branch’s shoes
The Navy and Marine Corps when placed in close quarters will butt heads. Anyone would whether it is a tent or a ship. Long periods of isolation will do that. However, when Marines conduct amphibious operations and training in foreign countries and the physical challenges, that entails inspires respect. When Marines see sailors and what they have to do to keep the ship from hitting the bottom of the ocean, it inspires the same. If the sailors would stop ransacking our MRE stores maybe we would share the gym.
3. You appreciate what makes your branch different
The relationship between officers and enlisted in the Marine Corps is more palpable than in the Navy. Marine officers are approachable with regard to the mission and do not believe they are better or less than their enlisted. The Marine Corps will attempt to treat everyone equally if they are able to. Of course, rank has its privileges but there is a mutual respect. Aboard a Navy ship, Marines are often shocked that this is not the case. It’s the little things. For example, at the chow hall, Navy officers are served made-to-order eggs or omelets while the enlisted get powdered eggs. It’s the Navy, they have the funding, there is no reason why that is a thing. If the Marine Corps, a branch that is willing to fight naked with sticks if need be, can afford eggs, then the Navy should damn well be able to. It’s 2021. That’s just bad leadership. Before anyone says anything about space and manpower, I was on a two-month working party on a ship helping rearrange the food stores – there’s room. Things like that make Marines appreciate the Corps. We thought our food was bad.
4. Unique moments at sea
This one time the captain said over the intercom that if anyone one was interested in whale watching, there was a pod swimming next to us on the starboard bow. What. You don’t see that every day. Another cool event is watching dolphins. The sailors in charge of recreation put the Titanic on every TV on the ship when we crossed the Atlantic for the first time. ‘Har, har, I’ll change the channel.’ It’s on all of them.
5. You’re literally the tip of the spear
While every branch considers itself the tip of the spear, Marines and sailors on a MEU are actually the tip of the spear. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 it was the 24th MEU who first responded to the situation. No cameras, no CNN, no Red Cross, it was the Marines and sailors who landed and provided aid. When everyone else showed up, other nations and branches over a period of two weeks, we handed the situation over and continued our mission elsewhere. Marines walk the walk. We’re always first.
6. The fleet may end up fighting pirates
They’re not the Pirates of the Caribbean variety by any means. Somalian pirates routinely attack merchant ships and ransom the crew. The Navy is tasked with protecting American and allied vessels at sea in conjunction with its other missions. While on the 24th MEU, my platoon was awoken by our company Gunner Sergeant after he kicked down our berthing door and yelled, “Everyone get to the armory! We’ve got pirates!” We weren’t sure if he was joking. The following, “Get the f**k up!” confirmed that he, in fact, was not joking. The U.S.S. Ashland was attacked by a tiny pirate boat that mistook the war vessel for a cargo liner. When merchant vessels call for aid, the U.S. military answers the call.
What would happen if the U.S. found itself facing off against the rest of the world? Not just its traditional rivals, but what if it had to fight off its allies like the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea as well?
In short, America would stomp them. Especially if it pulled back to the continental U.S. and made its stand there.
First, the U.S. has the world’s largest Navy, by a lot. With ships displacing 3,415,893 tons, the mass of the U.S. Navy is larger than the next 8 largest navies combined. And the American ships, as a whole, are more technologically advanced than those of other countries. For instance, only America and France field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. France has just one while America has 10 with an 11th on the way.*
And that’s before the U.S. Coast Guard gets into the mix. While the Coast Guard isn’t an expeditionary force, it could use its C-130s and other sensor platforms to give the Navy more eyes across the battlespace. It’s counterterrorism operators could protect government leaders and secure American ports.
Second, America’s air power is the strongest in the world. Currently, it has approximately 14,000 planes and helicopters spread across the five services. That’s more aircraft than the next 7 countries combined.
The world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter, the F-22, would conduct constant air patrols across the land borders of the U.S. to prevent any incursion by enemy bombers. The Army’s Patriot missile launchers would help stop enemy jets or missiles and Stinger/Avenger missile crews would shoot down any low-flying planes or helicopters.
The Army and Marine Corps’ almost 9,000 tanks would team up with thousands of Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile vehicles, Apache and Cobra helicopters, and anti-tank missile teams carrying Javelins and TOW missiles to annihilate enemy armor.
The world’s most advanced tanks, like the Leopard or the Merkava, would be tough nuts to crack. Artillery, aircraft, and anti-tank infantry would have to work together to bring these down. But most tanks worldwide are older U.S. and Soviet tanks like the Patton or the T-72 that would fall quickly to missile teams or Abrams firing from behind cover.
The other combat troops trying to make their way through the shattered remains of their air support and the burning hulks that were once their tanks would find themselves facing the most technologically advanced troops in the world.
American soldiers are getting weapon sights that let them pick out enemies obscured by dust and smoke. Their armor and other protective gear are top notch and getting better.
Chances are, even infantry from France, Britain, or Russia would have trouble pushing through the lines in these conditions. But even if they did, the Marines and 101st Airborne Division would be able to swoop in on helicopters and Ospreys while the 82nd Airborne Division could drop thousands of reinforcements from planes to close any openings.
And all of this is before America becomes desperate enough to launch any nuclear weapons. If the enemy actually did make it through, they’d face nuclear strikes every time they massed outside of a city. And their forces still trying to reach the border would be easy pickings.
Minuteman III missiles are designed to strike targets far from American shores but they could annihilate an advancing army moving from Houston to Dallas just as easily. Navy Trident missiles could be fired from submarines in the Gulf of Mexico to destroy units waiting for their turn to attack at the border. Northern Mexico and southern Canada would become irradiated zones.
So don’t worry America, you are already behind one hell of an impenetrable wall.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that only America field nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, is also nuclear-powered. WATM regrets this error.
Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded US troops during the 2007-2008 surge in the Iraq war, believes Iran-backed Shia militias are a bigger threat to Iraq than the Islamic State militants they are fighting.
“The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran,” Petraeus told Liz Sly of The Washington Post.
Iran’s military mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, has played pivotal roles in the deployment of Iranian assets against the Islamic State (aka Islamic State, ISIL, Daesh) in Iraq. Suleimani was present during the successful siege of Amerli in August, and he is on the frontlines of the battle against ISIS in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.
“Yes, ‘Hajji Qassem,’ our old friend,” Petraus said to Sly. “I have several thoughts when I see the pictures of him, but most of those thoughts probably aren’t suitable for publication in a family newspaper like yours.”
Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and especially during the time Petraeus-led the surge, Suleimani directed “a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.
“Iran and its Iraqi proxies have been carving out a zone of influence in eastern Iraq for well over a decade,” Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute, wrote recently. “And this zone,” as Knights said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey recently noted, “is expanding.”
To assist in the siege of Tikrit and further military operations against ISIS, Iran has moved advanced rockets and artillery systems into Iraq, The New York Times reported this week.
These systems are introducing a new level of sophistication into the Iraqi warzone and could further inflame sectarian tensions as the artillery is often imprecise and has the potential to cause collateral damage.
“The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East,” Petraeus said. “It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State.”
Last month, Suleimani gloated: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”
Ali Khedery, who served as a special assistant to five US ambassadors and a senior adviser to three heads of US Central Command between 2003 and 2009, noted that the “fundamental identity” of the Shia militias was “built around a sectarian narrative rather than loyalty to the state.”
Author Phil Klay became the first Iraq war veteran to win the prestigious National Book Award for fiction Wednesday with his book “Redeployment.”
Klay produced a gripping collection of short stories on a wide range of topics, from modern combat, the boredom of deployment, to the homecoming and stressful transition to civilian life. For its part, “Redeployment” was previously described by The New Yorker as “the best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars.”
Starting with the very first page, the reader quickly learns that “Redeployment” is not a typical war memoir.
“The first sentence I wrote was ‘we shot dogs,'” Klay told Business Insider in August. “I knew a Marine who had talked about the experience of shooting dogs. I’m a dog lover myself, so it seemed like something that crystallized the weirdness of some of the things people experience and try to make sense of, and that difference between the things that you do overseas and what constitutes normal life for everybody back home.”
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Klay served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from Jan. 2007 to Feb. 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps. When he left the service, he went to Hunter College and received a Masters in Fine Arts.
The New York Times has more:
In an emotional acceptance speech, Mr. Klay described returning from the war and being treated as if he were unstable, and being asked by children if he had killed anyone.
“I came back not knowing what to think,” he said. “What do you do when you’re trying to explain in words, to the father of a fallen Marine, exactly what that Marine meant to you?”
His book is very much worth reading. You can check out a longer review of it at Business Insider, or pick it up at Amazon.
There has probably never been a more symbiotic relationship than the one between a war-fighter and their alcohol. Roman Centurions and wine. Vikings and mead. Samurai and sake. American troops and whatever is cheapest on non-first and fifteenth weekends.
We have a storied history with our booze.
I like to think that I put my liver through its rounds, but looking through military history — damn. If I went drink for drink with some of the best, I’d get drunk under the table by the greatest minds the world has ever known.
This beer goes out to the badasses who have awesome stories to talk about over one — and who would still probably carry my ass back to the taxi.
5. William the Conqueror
As the last ruler to successfully conquer England in almost a thousand years, William I lived up to the viking heritage of the Normans. For an over-simplification of what William did, think of Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones.
The story goes, as King of England, William I threw lavish parties for his guests. Because he left his viking lifestyle and worries about consolidating power behind him, he became fat as f*ck.
To the point that his horse would be in great pain.
This diet, surprisingly enough, didn’t lead to his death — unless you attribute him falling face first off his horse because it bucked his rotund rear off it. Then maybe.
4. Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoléon visiting the cellars Moët Chandon in 1807. (Painting via Chateau Loisel)
The man most credited with why we open bottles of Champagne with a sword, Napoleon and his Hussars were famous for drinking the bubbly.
“Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it” was Napoleon’s famous toast.
Napoleon and his men would frequent the hotel of Madame Clicquot, a beautiful business woman who was widowed young. The Emperor of France’s men would always try to woo her but she would just keep making money off their drunk asses.
3. Ulysses S. Grant
The stories of the 18th President of the United States and his drinking were historic when he was still a young officer. As a Captain, his drinking from the night before lead to a forced resignation by then Colonel Robert Buchanan. The two had mutual animosity for many years before then.
“I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals,” remarked Abraham Lincoln on Grant’s alcoholism.
The outbreak of the American Civil War brought him back into the fold where he would then rise to General of the Army with Major General Buchanan underneath him. At the age of 46, Grant won the 1868 election in a landslide and urged for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and the proper treatment of Native Americans.
2. George S. Patton
The Father of American Armor himself shared his love with his armored divisions with a mixed drink he called “Armored Diesel.” He said it would build camaraderie within the division and pride.
The drink was made with many different bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches, however, the Patton Museum officially lists his drink as being: bourbon, shaved ice, sugar, and lemon juice.
“You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.” — Patton on swearing.
Patton was also very close with another great WWII leader and alcohol enthusiast, Winston Churchill.
Which brings us to…
1. Winston Churchill
There may be no military leader with a more celebrated and documented history with alcohol than Winston Churchill. Professor Warren Kimball of Rutgers authored several biographies on him saying, “Churchill was not an alcoholic because no alcoholic could drink that much!” He was amused when people said he had a “bottomless capacity” for alcohol.
“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” —Churchill on drinking in moderation.
He would drink heavily during every meal, including breakfast. In pure amazement, the King of Saudi Arabia said that “his absolute rule of life requires drinking before, during, and after every meal.”
Who would you grab a beer with? Let us know in the comment section.
The Taliban has reportedly rejected an offer by the Afghan government for a cease-fire, with militant commanders vowing to carry on their attacks after Taliban fighters in the north seized nearly 200 hostages from a convoy of passenger buses.
A Taliban spokesman said Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada on Aug. 20, 2018, rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s offer a day earlier of a “conditional” cease-fire with the Taliban to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The cease-fire was meant to begin on Aug. 20, 2018, and run for three months, conditioned upon Taliban participation.
But the Taliban spokesman told Reuters by telephone on Aug. 20 that Akhunzada had rejected the new offer on grounds that it would only help the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
“Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a cease-fire now,” the Taliban spokesman said, declining to be identified.
Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada
An official in Ghani’s office said the Afghan government would continue its military operations against the Taliban if the militants did not respect the cease-fire.
Afghan officials say government security forces on Aug. 20, 2018, freed 149 people who had been taken hostage by the Taliban several hours earlier in the northern province of Kunduz.
Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL that the militants continued to hold 21 others hostage on Aug. 20, 2018, after they ambushed a convoy of passenger buses traveling to Kabul for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
He said fighting in the area had halted while Afghan authorities used local elders as intermediaries in negotiations with the Taliban for the release of the remaining hostages.
The buses were stopped in the province’s Khan Abad district, an area under Taliban control — prompting a battle against government forces deployed in a rescue operation.
Rahimi said the rescue operation had killed at least seven Taliban fighters before the militants fled the scene. He said the Taliban had left behind the 149 freed hostages because the militants were unable to transport all of the group due to the rescue operation.
Rahimi said the remaining 21 hostages were taken by the Taliban to an undisclosed location. He said none of them were government employees or members of Afghanistan’s security forces.
However, a Taliban spokesman said the militants were conducting their own investigations to determine if any of the remaining hostages work for the Afghan government or security forces.
Sayed Assadullah Sadat, a Kunduz provincial council member, said earlier on Aug. 20, 2018, that the buses “were packed with people and maybe there were army soldiers and police” among those taken hostage.
Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, the head of the Kunduz provincial council, said he thinks the Taliban were looking for government employees or members of the security forces.
Abdul Rahman Aqtash, the police chief in neighboring Takhar province, says the passengers were from Badakhshan and Takhar provinces.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
Military spouses get a bad rap. One need only mention that he or she is a military spouse and the dependa accusations start to flow, especially on social media. But that oft-maligned stereotype is far from the full picture. For every walking caricature, there are hundreds of hard-working, goal getters – pushing past those PCSes, deployments, and solo parenting struggles to blaze their own trails and grab those brass rings. Here are five butt-kicking milspouses who make us all proud.
Brianna Keilar is a CNN anchor, a senior political analyst … and the wife of Army LTC Fernando Lujan. They met when Lujan was working on the National Security Council at the White House and Keilar was CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent. Though Keilar is better known, by far, for her very public day job, she’s hardly a closeted milspouse. She hosted events for Blue Star Families in 2018 and 2019 and wrote this essay about covering the news with a husband deployed.
Cadets in SS394: Financial Statements Analysis learned from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CEO Sandy Cochran and Dollar General Chairman of the Board Mike Calbert.
(Image via West Point SOSH Facebook page)
2. The CEO
Sandy Cochran is pretty much who we all want to be when we grow up. The former Army brat doesn’t know how to fail. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the tennis team, captain of the cheerleading squad, and president of her class at Stuttgart American High School. She went to college on an ROTC scholarship and was honor grad of her Ordnance Officer Basic Course. She qualified as a paratrooper and served in the 9th Infantry Division first as a Missile Maintenance Officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, and then on the Division Staff, while attending night school to earn her MBA.
Cochran left the Army in 1985 (but not the Army lifestyle) and began working her way up the corporate ladder, while married to Donald Cochran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and in Army Special Forces as a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute team leader. Fast forward through a couple of decades’ worth of both of the Cochrans’ amazing accomplishments (Seriously. They. Have. Done. So. Much.) and in 2009, Sandy was hired as the CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Two years later, she moved into the CEO job, where she has spent nearly a decade successfully leading the company and its 73,000 employees.
It’s a tale as old as time…Pattie Millett already had an impressive legal career when she met and fell in love with a sailor. Like so many other military spouses, Pattie decided to figure out a way to make it work. She and her husband Bob got married, had two children, and when he deployed, Pattie did the job of two parents raising their children … while also managing her heavy caseload as a lawyer in the United States Solicitor General’s office.
And this is where her story is a tad different.
She argued a case before the Supreme Court and briefed five more while her husband was deployed. Then, in August 2013, Pattie became Judge Millett when she was confirmed by Congress to serve as a United States Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge (ahem, now Justice) John Roberts, who was elevated to the United States Supreme Court — where our Pattie had already argued 32 cases. In fact, Pattie’s name even made it on the shortlist for a SCOTUS nomination — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she gets considered for that auspicious position again.
Oh, and did we mention that Pattie also has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? She earned it during all her free time.
(Image via Facebook)
4. The Olympian
When she’s all dressed up for her organization’s annual gala, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Sally Roberts for a fairy tale princess. But looks can be deceiving. Sally is hardly the type to sit around waiting to be rescued.
Not only is she a two-time Olympic Bronze Medal-winning wrestler and three-time National Women’s Wrestling Champion, she’s the founder and executive director of Wrestle Like a Girl, a national non-profit organization that is largely responsible for making girls’ wrestling a sanctioned high school sport in a growing number of states, bringing women’s wrestling into the NCAA, and for girls’ wrestling currently being the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Sally, an Army Special Operations veteran and the wife of a recently retired Army Special Forces soldier, started the organization not only to introduce more girls to the sport, but also to show girls that they can do anything.
We can’t imagine a better example of that than Sally.
Anna Chlumsky’s character Amy Brookheimer on the television series “Veep” is unflappable, the kind of woman who can handle absolutely anything. The actor, however, admits that being a military spouse can make her a little … flappable.
Anna and her husband, Shaun So, met when they were both college students at the University of Chicago. He enlisted in the Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan while they were dating. Anna wrote about her experiences for Glamour magazine, saying, “Being a family member … of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience. Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they’re going through.”
She said her friends were supportive, but they didn’t always understand. “The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world,” Chlumsky wrote. “Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Christopher Fiffie, a reconnaissance Marine from Edgard, La. assigned to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, drinks cobra blood during jungle survival training Feb. 19, 2018, in Sattahip, Chonburi province, Thailand. The training was conducted as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2018. In a survival scenario snake blood can be consumed to keep an individual hydrated while the meat can be used as a source of nutrition. The annual exercise is conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony).
This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.
Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.
The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house.
Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking.
PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries.
The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games.
It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016.
But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”
PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues.
Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.
“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”
On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony
Robert Swan Mueller III is perhaps best known as the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is now responsible for the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
But before he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the position of FBI Director, Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War. As the Washington Post attested, Mueller’s service was brief but remarkable. He studied politics at Princeton University, where he met lacrosse teammate, David Spencer Hackett, who would be killed by enemy fire in Quang Tri Province on April 30, 1967.
“But many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be, even before his death. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of Princeton. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of battle as well. And a number of his friends and teammates joined the Marine Corps because of him, as did I.”
Mueller applied for Officer Candidate School and would train at Parris Island, Army Ranger School, and Army Airborne School. As a Marine, Mueller’s attendance in elite Army training was a testament to his proficiency — the positions were highly competitive and reserved for the best.
Mueller deployed to Vietnam with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, a unit that was decorated for two particularly intense battles. In December 1968, Mueller, then a 2nd lieutenant, would receive the Bronze Star Medal with the “V Device” for his valor during combat.
According to his citation, Mueller was the lead element in a patrol that fell under attack when he “skillfully supervised the evacuation of casualties from the hazardous area and… personally led a fire team across the fire-swept terrain to recover a mortally wounded Marine who had fallen.”
In April 1969, Mueller was shot in the thigh during an ambush, but maintained his position and ensured fire superiority over the enemy and defeated the hostile forces. For his actions that day, he received the Purple Heart and a Navy Commendation Medal for valor. He remained in Vietnam despite his wounds, however, and continued to serve after his recovery.
Mueller separated as a captain in 1970, and would be inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2004, where he was credited with leading the FBI “through the dramatic transformation required in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.”
“I do consider myself fortunate to have survived my tour in Vietnam. There were many – men such as David Hackett – who did not. And perhaps because of that, I have always felt compelled to try to give back in some way,” Mueller said in his 2013 commencement speech. “The lessons I learned as a Marine have stayed with me for more than 40 years. The value of teamwork, sacrifice, and discipline – life lessons I could not have learned in quite the same way elsewhere.”
The Army is accelerating plans to build early prototype components for its futuristic Next-Generation Combat Vehicle for the 2030s and beyond – a lighter weight, deployable high-tech armored vehicle platform to control nearby robots, fire new weapons, and outmatch future Russian and Chinese tanks.
While the particular configuration and technology woven into the new combat vehicle is in the early phases of conceptual exploration, there is widespread consensus that the future armored platforms will be able to sense and destroy enemy vehicles and drones at much further ranges, make use of active protection systems, leverage emerging artificial intelligence and command and control systems, use more automation and – perhaps of greatest significance – fire lasers and the most advanced precision weaponry available.
Senior Army leaders tell Warrior Maven that the NGCV program – is being massively sped up. The acceleration of NGCV prototyping is strongly supported in the new 2019 budget request which seeks $119 million for the program.
The revved-up effort is likely to evolve into a family of vehicles to fight alongside or succeed the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Stryker among other armored platforms.
Development of the new armored vehicles is being pursued in alignment with the Army’s shifting modernization strategy, an effort which places a higher premium on more rapidly prototyping and testing platforms, weapons, and technologies; the idea is to access the best of the “realm of the possible” when it comes to weapons and technology and circumvent some of the bureaucratic challenges known to encumber traditional Army acquisition approaches.
“In the past, we would have spent many years and hours toiling away trying to write down requirements for the system and then fight over the fine points of that system. Then we pour a lot of money in shaping those requirements and then you become bound by them,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ferarri explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts, technologies and early possibilities for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies, integrate weapons and build in flexibility.
“We are taking time to hone in on what is possible by building prototypes, not the final system. You start tweaking the variables in the near term rather than waiting,” Ferarri said.
Engineering methods now being explored for the vehicle reflect a growing recognition that rapid development, while still measured and intended to ensure the highest quality, is necessary to keep pace with rapid global technological change. More specifically, adaptation of new technologies as they become available is increasingly taking on new urgency in light of current Russian and Chinese armored vehicle modernization efforts.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including antitank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
In essence, early exploratory efforts seek to engineer a technical foundation sufficient to accommodate future technologies – and maximize weapons, sensors, and computers likely to be available for combat in the 2030s. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, a range of C4ISR technology and a special emphasis on computer processing, automation, and AI.
“We are taking a different approach, much more like silicon valley. We will start with assumptions, then we will prototype and experiment to validate and test the assumption or hypothesis,” Ferarri explained.
This rapid-prototyping Army approach exemplifies the strategic epicenter of the now emerging Army Futures Command.
“We are trying to have a command focused upon what the future might hold and driving technology and concepts. We are having sessions with outside experts and inside leadership,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Ferarri specified that some of the early NGCV prototyping will look at ways to adapt or improve upon existing upgraded armored vehicle platforms. In fact, Army developers have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley or even elements of a Stryker vehicle.
The Army’s “Far-Term” strategic emphasis, aimed at the 2031 to 2046 timeframe according to Army strategy papers, heavily depends upon an Armored Brigade Combat Team’s “ability to ability to deploy rapidly while improving the formation’s mobility, protection, and lethality. As the ABCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers and mortar indirect fire platforms.”
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to both allow for each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term life-cycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles.
Army developers also explained that the service is doing some early developmental work assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Weight, speed and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Abrams robotic wingmen
Army senior developers also tell Warrior Maven that it is conceivable future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, teleoperation and manned-unmanned teaming.
Accordingly, future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wingman” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed, and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation.
GPS enabled way-point technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is by all means far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible – you are talking about a terrain that is shifting all the time,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Weapons for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The Army canceled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, however, some of its innovations, technologies, and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for application in future armored vehicles. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute and uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Greater automation, when it comes to sensor data organization, ammunition loading, and even some weapons functions, can reduce the hardware footprint, lower weight, and improve crew survivability.
The new vehicles will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.’
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
Another possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-canceled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System (MCS), was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
There is a certain irony built into what was the Future Combat Systems effort because, while it was canceled in part for not being survivable enough, many of its concepts and technologies continue to both inform and integrate with modern Army platforms.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special, new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
A new poll from the University of Maryland indicates that the majority of Americans favor of cutting funding from the U.S. defense budget in five out of seven major areas.
Specifically, they favor defunding one of the U.S.’ 11 aircraft carriers, and the F-35 Lightning II, DefenseNews.com reports.
“Given all the talk about increasing the defense budget, we were surprised to find how much Americans are not sold on increases, including a majority of Republicans nationwide,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.
Indeed the survey, which polled more than 7,000 U.S. voters across the nation, shows that a majority of Republicans would prefer to keep defense spending where it is, a majority of Independents favor reducing the defense budget by $20 billion, and Democrats favor slashing the budget by $36 billion.
The survey presented 2015 figures on spending and offered alternatives. For example, when informed that cutting funding to the F-35 program would save $6 billion this year, and $97 billion through 2037, 54 percent of citizens polled supported cutting the program.
Though the desire to save money and be fiscally responsible is admirable and understandable, top brass in nearly all U.S. military services have expressed concern that nations like Russia and China threaten the U.S.’ foreign interests, and some have even gone as far as to call them existential threats.
On Tuesday, top Air Force acquisitions personnel took to Congress and re-asserted the need for the U.S.’ fifth generation fighter planes. “We’ve seen both Russia and China develop airplanes faster than was anticipated,” said Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, according to the Air Force Times.
The survey suggested that Americans supported cutting the number of U.S. aircraft carriers to 10 from 11.
Surprisingly, nationally, the majority of Americans did not support shrinking the submarine fleet from 12 to eight, nor did they want to cut funding to development of a new long range strike bomber.
As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.
There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB
Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.
He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.
But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.
Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)
And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.
While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.