Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:
The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.
2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)
Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?
3. First stage of training
“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.
4. The rest of training
“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.
5. Culmination exercise
Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.
6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)
That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …
7. Pre-deployment leave
Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.
8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)
Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.
Some parts of the world will see the sun turn into a “ring of fire” on Sunday.
The event, known as an annular solar eclipse, occurs when the moon is at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit and passes between our planet and the sun. The moon partially covers the sun, but its small size in the sky means the sun’s outer rim remains visible, making it look like a bright ring.
People in parts of China, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, India, and Pakistan will be able to watch the full annular solar eclipse. The event will begin for those in Central Africa — the first location to see the eclipse — on Sunday, June 21 at 4:47 a.m. local time. It will end for the last areas to see it — parts of China — at 8:32 a.m. local time. (That’s at 12:47 a.m. and 4:32 a.m. ET if you watch remotely from the US.)
A partial annular eclipse will also be visible in southern and eastern Europe and northern Australia.
If you are able to catch the solar eclipse in person, make sure to wear proper eye protection, since staring directly at the sun causes eye damage.
If, however, the eclipse won’t be visible in the sky where you live, you can catch it online. TimeandDate is presenting a livestream on Youtube that can watch below.
The name annular eclipse comes from the Latin word “annulus,” which means ring.
A “ring of fire” eclipse happens once a year. Solar eclipses generally take place about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. One lunar eclipse occurred on June 5, and another will happen on July 5.
During this annular eclipse, it will take the moon several minutes to pass in front of the sun, but the full eclipse will only last for about one second.
At the maximum point of the eclipse, the moon will cover about 99.4% of the sun, according to NASA.
All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.
Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.
Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.
Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.
Here are the unanswered questions.
What happened on the flight?
A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.
We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.
But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.
Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.
A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.
Who was killed?
Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.
Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.
Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”
Was the plane shot down?
Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.
But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.
President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.
CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.
“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.
Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.
According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.
It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.
The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”
The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.
The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.
But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.
Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”
How will the investigations work?
Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.
Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.
But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.
It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”
Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.
But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.
That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.
Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.
But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.
But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.
China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.
Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.
Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.
But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).
Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.
Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.
Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.
The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”
Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.
A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq
(US Army photo)
Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.
But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.
All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.
Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.
Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.
Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.
Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.
The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.
A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit
More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.
From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.
During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.
“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.
The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.
But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.
Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.
The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In defusing tensions between the United States and North Korea in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un returned the remains of 55 allied troops, kept by the North for the previous 65 years or more. Almost 7,700 members of the United States Military remain unidentified from the Korean War, which killed more than 36,000.
North Korea returned the remains in July 2018 after a historic summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. It was a first for a sitting President to meet the reclusive leader of North Korea and a first for the North Korean dictator to meet with a non-Chinese foreign leader outside of the Hermit Kingdom.
Transfer cases, containing the remains of what are believed to be U.S. service members lost in the Korean War, line a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
Unidentified remains were transferred from the United Nations Command in South Korea to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the team that manages the repatriation of American war dead, identifies them, and ensures they are returned to their families for a proper burial. They were received in an “honorable carry” ceremony in Hawaii.
The only personal item returned by North Korea that could identify any of the remains was the dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. It was the first of such returns since President George W. Bush halted the cooperation with North Korea in 2005.
An honor guard detail of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command personnel conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
DPAA’s mission is to search for, find, and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable.
The recently recovered remains have been mostly identified. The lab responsible is still finalizing the process and doing one last quality check before telling the families of the fallen. Master Sgt. McDaniel’s family has already received his dog tags, along with the hope that their long-lost father is among the honored dead on their way home. Only three others have been positively identified thus far.
Trump and Kim are expected to meet again in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2019.
Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.
Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!
For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.
13. Every. Single. Time.
12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”
11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.
10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.
9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.
8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.
7. Perfect, until you drop something…
6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.
5. They’re not mutually exclusive.
4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.
3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.
The US Navy has successfully altered a Raytheon Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) to be able to hit a moving target at sea, USNI News reports.
In a Jan. 27 test off of San Niolas Island, California, the Navy launched a TLAM which was guided into a moving maritime target through directions given by a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet flying overhead. TLAMs are capable of changing their direction mid-course.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranked civilian, praised the successful test of the missile during a keynote speech at the WEST 2015 conference. He said the missiles were part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” an initiative focused on research into new long-range weapons.
“A big part of the Third Offset Strategies is to find new and innovative ways to deploy promising technologies,” Work said. “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”
TLAMs are already used for land attack missions against static targets. By converting TLAMs into missiles capable of penetrating thickly-armored vessels at sea, the Navy plugs a serious gap in its current weapons capabilities. According to USNI News, TLAMs that have been converted into anti-ship missiles that could be used aboard the Navy’s newer guided-missile destroyers, which cannot currently use the service’s antiquated RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
The new converted TLAMs would have a range of almost 1,000 nautical miles, allowing the US to maintain a considerable edge over rival naval powers. One of China’s most threatening new military advancements is its development of its own advanced anti-ship cruise missiles. However, these missiles would only have half the range of a converted TLAM.
If fully adapted, the newest iteration of the TLAM will function as a stop-gap measure until the Navy’s next-generation Long Range Anti-Ship missile is ready for action.
Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.
Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.
“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”
Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.
She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.
“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.
Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.
“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”
Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.
“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.
He was 42 years old.
“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”
Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.
“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”
“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.
She was 19 years old.
“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”
George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”
“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”
“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.
George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.
“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”
Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.
Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.
“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”
The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.
“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”
The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.
Hey, want to make an extra $175,000? Well, if you’re a Navy fighter pilot and you’re willing to spend another five years in the service, that pile of cash can be yours! Now that we have the big-ass headline and the promise of a lot of moolah out of the way, let’s get down to the fine print.
According to a Navy release, the active-duty component is offering big cash in the form of Aviation Department Head Retention Bonuses and Aviation Command Retention Bonuses. The aim here is to keep talented, hardworking pilots on active duty. The Navy, essentially, is looking to avoid ending up in the same dire straits as the Air Force in terms of personnel shortages.
Here’s how the bonuses will work, according to NAVADMIN 065/18. The Aviation Department Head Retention Bonus is open to any aviator selected for promotion to lieutenant commander. Pilots have the option of signing a contract of either three years or five years. Those who sign five-year deals prior to ADHSB selection results going public can get a bonus of up to $35,000. Your best bet for getting the big money is to fly F/A-18C Hornets, F-35 Lightnings, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, or E-2C Hawkeyes. MH-53E Sea Dragon pilots, a minesweeping version of the CH-53E Super Stallion, are also eligible to for big bonuses.
Those who sign up for the Aviation Command Retention Bonus can get $100,000 over three years ($34,000 for the first year, $33,000 for the other two). Eligibility is limited to those officers who hold the rank of commander and who have been screened for becoming the commanding officer of an eligible operational, operational training, or special mission command. They agree to stay on for three years, which will include a tour after their squadron command. The obligation ends at the end of that post-command assignment or 22 years of active service, whichever comes later.
Aviation duty incentive pay (better known as flight pay) is also getting a boost, especially for those who are in administrative milestone billets. That only could net you a cool $1,000 in cash per month!
Take a look at the jerseys for the sports teams of the United States Military Academy at West Point. At first glance, you’d probably assume that their mascot is a golden knight — which is strange, because they’re known as the “Black Knights.” What’s even more strange is that their mascot isn’t a knight at all; it’s a mule.
That’s right. The West Point mascot is the crossbreed between a horse and a donkey — just as it is for the rest of the US Army. It isn’t the best looking animal by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it anywhere close to being the most majestic. But all of the things it represents — strength, wisdom, and stubbornness determination — sum up the Army as a whole.
And the U.S. Army has been using mules ever since.
Shortly after Army and Navy football teams first met on the gridiron in 1890, both sides went to working coming up with a mascot. The Navy was first to field one. The goat named named El Cid made his first appearance in 1893 at the fourth meeting between the two branches. Navy tried out a few mascots over the years, but eventually decided that the goat was their best choice. Since 1904, they’ve been represented by the cleverly named Bill the Goat.
The Army, however, didn’t waiver between selections. They quickly settled on and stuck with the mule, as the animal has a rich history within the military. In fact, the earliest accounts of mules being recognized for their warfare potential date all the way back to the dawn of recorded history in Egypt. Even George Washington was fond of mules, having been the first to raise them in the colonies. He was the driving force behind their use by the Revolutionary Army.
West Point officially adopted the mule as their mascot in 1899, but the life of an animal mascot was a little different back then. Instead of selecting a single animal to enjoy some pampered time in the spotlight, the Army would simply select a random mule from the stables to proudly march about the field. They continued this practice for roughly forty years.
If the Army was playing a home game, they’d borrow one from a nearby handler. If they were playing an away game, they’d try to find one wherever they ended up — typically, a less-than-successful endeavor. In 1939, the Army decided to finally settle on a single, official mascot. A mule named Mr. Jackson became the first Army mule.
While many mules have since taken on this duty, it’s important to note that at least one mule in the stable must always be named Ranger after the elite infantrymen. This is part of a stipulation put in place by Steven Townes, a graduate of West Point from the class of 1975, former mule rider and Army Ranger. Townes would eventually become the CEO and founder of Ranger Aerospace LLC. after his military career concluded.
As his way of giving back to West Point, the Ranger regiment he served in, and the mules he once cared for, he established an endowment to forever fund, house, and maintain the mules at West Point. For his generosity, he has unofficially been granted the title of “mule donor in perpetuity.”