Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones

Bitcoin, gaming and dating apps are now officially banned from government-issued Marine Corps phones. The ruling came down in mid-August that Marines are now no longer allowed to use gambling and dating apps, along with cryptocurrency applications or anything that attempts to override and bypass tools or download rules.

One of the reasons for the ban is because, like all things tech-related, the possibility of these phones become targets is very real. Smartphones are part of most Marines’ professional life, which means they’re full of compromising information. In turn, that makes them a very real target.


This order extends beyond unit issued phones to include personal cell phones. Marines are cautioned not to use any apps that the government has already deemed a risk, like TikTok and WeChat, which has already been banned by the Pentagon.

TikTok and WeChat

TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to upload short videos. Pentagon officials worry that the app could be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. The moderators of the platform are censoring content to appease the app’s owners in China.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. There are fears that the company might share user data with the Chinese government, either intentionally through data requests or unintentionally through surveillance software.

Like TikTok, WeChat is a Chinese owned company that’s considered a ‘super-app’ because it combines the functions of financial services, travel, food delivery, ride-sharing, social media, messaging, and more. Its popularity is due in part to the fact that the Chinese government shuts out other foreign tech companies and penalizes people who try to override the laws. WeChat is known to censor and surveil their users on behalf of the government and turn over the government’s information when “sensitive information” is discovered.

This concern over American military members using Chinese-owned apps is nothing new. In fact, concerns about these two applications have been brewing for over a year. Both Microsoft and Twitter are currently in talks to acquire TikTok, but a sale could be far off and incredibly messy. Microsoft wants to buy TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, but so far in the history of social media, no company has ever split up a social network along regional lines.

Mobile apps like WeChat, which have so obviously been created to be the third arm of government surveillance, pose immediate risks to military members. OPSEC becomes harder and harder to control and maintain in the digital world, and users can inadvertently give away too much information.

A Lance Corporal Learns the Ultimate Lesson

Last year, during a mock training exercise in California, a Maine lance corporal took a selfie that gave up his location, which resulted in his entire artillery unit being taken out by the mock enemy force. More than ten thousand Marines were at Twentynine Palms for an air-ground combat training mission, which was the biggest training event of its kind in decades. IN addition to Marines being present, sailors and NATO forces participated in the event.

The selfie allowed the mock enemy to geo-locate the lance corporal and his unit, which resulted in his ‘death’ and the ‘death’ of the rest of his unit. While the lance corporal learned this lesson without loss of life, others might not be so fortunate, which is one of the many reasons military leaders consistently stress the need for digital OPSEC.

The Marine Corps won’t issue numbers that show just how many Marines have tried to put dating apps, games and cryptocurrency apps on their government phones. Now, any app that can be classified into these categories is blocked from the Apple Store and Google Play. The only applications Marines can access are those that the Marine Corps has determined necessary to conduct authorized activities.

As with other branches of the military, the Marine Corps has the final say in which apps can be installed on official mobile devices.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Linguists can get paid $53 an hour to teach High Valyrian from ‘Game of Thrones’

Calling all “Game of Thrones” linguists.

You could be turning your passion into profit by teaching like-minded Thrones fans the language of Essos.

That’s according to leading local services marketplace Bark.com who say that tutors can earn upwards of £40 ($53) per hour teaching High Valyrian, the language spoken by Daenerys Targaryen and Lord Varys.

The tuition service is available for fans across the US and UK, who can either sign up to be a tutor here or to hire tutors here.


Bark.com says those who sign up to be High Valyrian tutor will be required to provide proof of their knowledge of the language.

The role will involve creating a variety of reading, writing and speaking exercises for students, alongside role-playing scenarios to enhance the learning experience.

Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones

Daenerys Targaryen is a High Valyrian speaker.

(HBO)

Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, said: “Game of Thrones is more than another hit show — it’s become a worldwide sensation! And with the highly anticipated final season fast approaching, the show is more popular than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our latest service — High Valyrian tuition.

“At Bark.com, we love giving people different ways to earn and this is the latest service we’ve launched to do that. High Valyrian is a complex language and this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has worked hard to become fluent to share their knowledge — not to mention it would be a fantastic string to any fan’s bow!”

Though the High Valyrian dialect appears occasionally in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels, the author did not develop it beyond a few words and phrases. The actual language, which now comprises of around 2,000 words, was created for the HBO TV adaption by linguist David J. Peterson, who also fleshed out the language of the Dothraki.

Tyrion Speaking Valyrian and Banter with Jorah, Grey Worm

www.youtube.com

The Economist called Peterson’s take on Dothraki and Valyrian “the most convincing fictional tongues since Elvish,” which was created by J.R.R. Tolkien himself for Middle Earth.

New learners of the language will have to deal with verb conjugation and possessives but, fortunately, not a different writing system, which Peterson said might look something like “Egyptian’s system of hieroglyphs — not in style, necessarily, but in their functionality.”

Those wishing to get a head start on the competition can start learning High Valyrian in bite-sized lessons on Duolingo, taking courses which Peterson himself contributed to.

Those taking on the challenge of learning the fictional language will have to try harder than Tyrion Lannister, whose Valyrian was “a bit nostril” by his own admission.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New JFK carrier 50% complete with massive chunk added

The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.

The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.


The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.

Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.

www.youtube.com

Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.

The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.

“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.

Sorry Marines, these apps are banned from your government phones

A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.

(Huntington Ignalls)

Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.

The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedy reached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.

With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.

The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.

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USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.

(US Department of Defense photo)

The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)

The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.

The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.

The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the M113 APC will be around for a long time

To put it bluntly, the M113 armored personnel carrier looks like a big box on tracks. It’s equipped with a primary weapon that’s over 75 years old that isn’t particularly effective against its modern contemporaries. And yet it’s served with the United States Army for nearly sixty years and, even when it’s retired, it’ll stick around for a long time.

When it entered operational service in 1960, it was intended to haul 11 troops into battle. It had a crew of two: A driver and a vehicle commander who handled the vehicle’s primary weapon, the M2 “Ma Deuce” heavy machine gun.


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M113s lead the way for troops in South Vietnam.

(US Army)

The M113 saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War, where it proved very versatile. Some versions were equipped with the M61 Vulcan, a 20mm Gatling gun, and were used as effective anti-aircraft vehicles. Others were outfitted with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile.

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Some M113s were modified to carry mortars, like this one with a M120 120mm mortar.

(U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua E. Powell)

Other variants quickly emerged, including a command vehicle, a smoke generator, an ambulance, and a cargo carrier. Two mortar carriers, the M106 (which carried a 107mm mortar) and the M125 (packing an 81mm mortar) also served, paving the way for the introduction of the M1064 (equipped with a 120mm mortar). The M113 chassis also carried the MIM-72 Chapparal surface-to-air missile and the MGM-72 Lance ballistic missile.

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The M113 could carry 11 troops — two more than the M1126 Stryker.

(US Army)

Versions of this vehicle have served with nations across the world, including Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Italy. Over 80,000 M113s of all variants have been produced, which means it’ll be around for years with one nation or anything long after the U.S. retired it.

Learn more about this senior citizen of armored vehicles in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KZjpOZQabM

www.youtube.com

popular

The reasons why you should shoot with both eyes open, according to a Green Beret

For years, military sharpshooting instructors taught their students to close their non-dominant eye as a fundamental of shooting. The idea behind this practice is to lower the activity of the half of the brain that isn’t technically being used, freeing it from distractions.


Over the years, well-practiced shooters have determined that closing one eye helps you line up your target more easily. So, why keep both eyes open?

Former Army Green Beret Karl Erickson will break down for you.

Related: This MARSOC recruiting video looks like a Hollywood movie

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Green Beret Karl Erickson spent 25 years proudly serving in the military.

When a hectic situation arises, and you need to draw your weapon, you’re going to experience physical and physiological changes. Most noticeably, the gun operator’s adrenaline will kick up, prompting the “fight or flight” response.

During this response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases norepinephrine and adrenaline from the adrenal glands, which are located right above your kidneys, as shown in the picture below.

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Once these naturally produced chemicals surge through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases and your eyes dilate and widen.

These physical changes occur because the human brain is screaming to collect as much information as possible. When these events take place, it becomes much more challenging for the shooter to keep their non-dominant eye closed.

Thoughtfully attempting to keep that non-dominant eye shut can potentially derail the shooter’s concentration, which can result in a missed opportunity for a righteous kill shot.

Also Read: How to kick in a door like a Special Forces operator

So, how do we practice shooting with both eyes open?

When using shooting glasses, spread a coat of chapstick across the lens of the non-dominant eye. This will blur the image and help retrain the brain to focus a single eye on the target, and, over time, will eventually lead to good muscle memory.

Check out Tactical Rifleman’s video below to learn the technique directly from a Green Beret badass.

(Tactical Rifleman | YouTube)
Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Happy New Year’s! We didn’t do anything special. It’s the same basic idea from last year: 13 awesome memes from around the Internet.


1. Gen. Washington believed in proper accountability (via Team Non-Rec).

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No one went anywhere in Valley Forge without their weapon and night vision.

2. When the pilot can’t find the KC-130 and has to stop and ask for directions:

(via Air Force Nation)

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Now he just has to find somewhere to turn around and take off.

SEE ALSO: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s ‘Archer’

3. Dream big, Marines (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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If this were real, Starkiller Base would become the top re-enlistment destination.

4. Because professionalism and talent are completely separate traits:

(via Air Force Nation)

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This saved screen probably got someone in trouble.

5. It’ll be great. A nice, country drive (via Military Memes).

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Just remember to do 5 to 25-meter checks for IEDs at every stop.

6. Diamonds are a soldier’s best friend (via The Most Combat Engineer Man in the World).

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Maybe do legs some days, just to balance it out.

7. It’s probably not a Facebook hoax this time (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Finally, a ship perfect for all those unpatrolled puddles.

8. How combat engineers announce their arrival:

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They probably didn’t bring cookies.

9. That lance corporal life:

(via Military Memes)

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Don’t hate the lance corporal, hate the promotion system and attrition problems that leave you stuck with him.

10. 10 bucks says this was a profile pic within 24 hours (via Humor During Deployment).

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Would’ve gotten more likes if the airmen carried weapons up there.

11. Try to be more specific, photographer (via U.S. Army W.T.F! moments).

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12. Everyone makes fun of the PX Ranger until he’s the only one who gets to duel the Jedi wannabe (via Broken and Unreadable).

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13. Yes, first sergeant hates you (via Marine Corps Memes).

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MIGHTY HISTORY

What Chinese veterans of Korea think about their war

The Korean War is strange anomaly in the history of American wars, especially of the 20th Century. So much consideration is reserved for wars and the people who fought them in today’s culture that it makes the term “the forgotten war” seem like an impossibility. But that’s what we face with Korean War veterans.

Theirs is a very insular generation of veterans. Those who don’t share an experience in World War II or Vietnam because they only fought in Korea, they can only find an ever-dwindling number of fellow Korean War veterans.


Because of this, they have a very detailed memory and analysis of not just their part in the war, but of the entire war itself, so conversations tend to be lively between them. And, if you have a question, you will find a thoughtful answer. They’ve discussed every aspect of the war quite a bit.

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

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Some Korean War veterans, like the “Chosin Few” seen here, form alumni groups of single battles.

So it makes sense that whenever I talk to Korean War veterans, there’s one thing they all say they want to do: talk to veterans who were fighting on the other side of the fiercest battles. Whenever old adversaries get together, the talk generally comes to heal the emotional wounds of both parties, whether it’s between Americans and Germans, Japanese, or Vietnamese counterparts.

“They were fighting under the same orders I had,” Marine Corps veteran Joe Owen said when he told me about North Korean troops just days before his death in 2015. Owen was a lieutenant at the Chosin Reservoir. “They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them… I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

But Korean War veterans will likely never get this experience.

North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. It is extremely difficult to get in as an outsider, especially as a U.S. military veteran. North Korea did not fare well during the Korean War. Despite its early success, the North was pretty much ravaged and bombed away for three years and today’s North Koreans remember the war very differently than the rest of the world. An American Korean War veteran visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang would either have to be extremely diplomatic or agree to a vow of silence as he walked through.

Chinese veterans of the war are a different matter. China is a much more open, and relatively progressive country. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army sent upwards of a million Chinese to North Korea during the war, with many of the surviving veterans still alive, like Zhang Yuzeng. Zhang told Voice of America News that even though the two were allies, North Koreans generally acted independently and the two forces couldn’t understand each other.

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“There were few [North Koreans],” he said. “[They were] badly equipped and were not as good at fighting…”The North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped.”

To the Chinese fighters, they were protecting their country from American Imperialism, a protection they firmly believed was necessary. CNN interviewed a Chinese veteran of Korea at his retirement home in Henan Province. He proudly wears his Chinese Army dress uniform. He told CNN it was necessary to help the Korean people during the war.

“The people of Korea were suffering,” Duan said.”Seeing the people of Korea farming the land and being killed by enemy planes … what were they to do if they could not farm? The planes would just come and bomb them to death. We had to help protect the people of Korea.”

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A United States Marine stands guard over captured North Koreans just after the Inchon Landing.

Now Read: 8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

Zhang Kuiyuan joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army at age 18 and was sent to Korea. He drove a supply truck to the front lines and also mentioned the lack of cooperation. They were not even to speak to or form relationships with the locals.

“We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he said. Duan Keke remarked that North Korean people today probably have no idea what sacrifices were made by the Chinese fighting man on their behalf, since they were not allowed to communicate on a personal level. He laments that the Koreans only know what their government wants them to know.

What the Chinese and American Korean War veterans have in common is that their war, decades old, remains “forgotten” – especially by the youth of their respective countries.

“Young people? Of course they don’t know,” says You Jie Xiang, a former infantry soldier who was assigned to guard American POWs. “These wars took place decades ago. All the young people have no idea.”

Like Joe Owen, the salty former lieutenant who commanded Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, these Chinese veterans harbor no ill will toward their former adversaries. They call Americans a “peaceful people” who “did not want a war in Korea.”

“War is death,” the old Chinese vets agree, nodding to each other.

Articles

The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

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This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

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Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.


It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.

The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.

Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.

Also read: Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.

The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.

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A front view of the Bridgeport Commissary’s produce section. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.

Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.

Related: Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.

Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.

“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”

Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.

“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”

Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.

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Energy efficient ice cream freezers inside of a Commissary. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.

One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.

Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.

Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.

“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.

Also read: House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”

Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.

“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”

In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.

Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.

More: Slump at ‘The Stumps:’ Commissary closes because of rat infestation

“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.

He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.

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Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, commander, Navy Exchange Service Command, greets a local Djiboutian Navy Exchange employee at the Navy Exchange at Camp Lemonier during a visit to the camp to assess the progress of the facilities under his area of responsibility. Camp Lemonier, located in the Horn of Africa, is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle)

“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.

Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.

“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”

Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.

“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Air Force and Army join forces in training

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, supported Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Aug. 18-23, 2019.

BMTW is a joint exercise designed to enhance servicemembers’ abilities by practicing contingency operations in a controlled environment. The exercise incorporated three Air Force C-130J Super Hercules, three Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs and Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The exercise allowed all parties to quickly complete training tasks, such as personnel drops and cargo air drops, to better prepare joint forces to operate during global mobility missions.


“We do these types of exercises quarterly throughout the year,” said Lt. Col. Justin Warner, 437th Operations Support Group director of operations and the BMTW air mission commander. “The goal of the BMTW is to have a joint collaboration between the Air Force and the Army. We want not just C-17s, but also other airframes to take part in the same formations to support the Army in whatever their specific scheme of maneuvers may entail. This is a great training opportunity for airlift loadmasters and pilots to see and understand Army procedures, tactics and how they’re organized.”

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An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airdrops equipment onto a landing zone during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

Starting in 1917, the 82nd Airborne Division’s mission has evolved to strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives in support of U.S. national interests within 18 hours of notification. However, without the help of transport aircraft, the 82nd Airborne wouldn’t be able to execute this mission and get where they need to go. Air Force assets like the C-130J and C-17 allow for soldiers to safely get to their drop points and complete the mission.

While working with the 82nd airborne soldiers, airmen were able to complete training tasks with a focus on joint operations, readiness and interagency operability.

“Any type of repetition to help us stay proficient and current helps aircrew,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Hampton, a 16th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “We could be deployed in a matter of weeks or days so training like this really helps us prepare for anything we might face while in a deployed environment. Coming out to work with Army is great because we get to learn their way of doing things and how to work in a joint environment.”

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Air Force Capt. Peter Callo, a 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron air mobility liaison officer from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., inspects communications equipment during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

BMTW implemented a mixed formation with the C-130Js and C-17s to target small drop zones in a restricted and austere environment, challenging the expertise of the mission planners and those executing the mission. Despite challenges of weather, timelines and effective communication, participants continued to be flexible and resilient to successfully complete BMTW.

“A mission is only as good as the plan that’s been developed for it,” Warner said. “The planners that have worked here to learn both Army and Air Force terminology and understand how both branches communicate have greatly enhanced our ability to get us to that next level of training and execution.”

Exercises like BMTW are held regularly to keep airmen current and up-to-date on current joint tactics. This specific BMTW was to prepare participants for the upcoming Exercise Mobility Guardian 2019, Air Mobility Command’s premier, large-scale mobility exercise. Mobility Guardian, which is scheduled for Sept. 8–28, 2019, provides a realistic training environment for more than 2,500 airmen to hone their skills with joint and international partners and keep a competitive edge in future conflicts.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

How the Chinese used a Badger bomber to send Trump a message

After feeling slighted by President-elect Donald Trump’s accepting a phone call from Taiwanese president Ing-wen Tsai, the Beijing sent a little message of its own.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army sent an H-6 Badger bomber, a plane in the inventories of both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy, on a mission over the South China Sea to assert China’s claims in the maritime hot spot.

The bomber, which can carry nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, is a copy of the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, a medium bomber now out of service in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Around the time the bomber’s flight hit the news, the Daily Caller reported that Trump demanded that the Chinese “play by the rules.”

“They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start,” the president-elect said during an event in Des Moines, Iowa, where he introduced Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his pick to be ambassador to China.

The Chinese Badger flew a path covering the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a demarcation of the country’s claims in the South China Sea. China’s claims were thrown out by a panel from the International Court of Justice, which issued a stinging rebuke.

It should be noted that China boycotted the process.

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Map of the ChiComs’ Nine-Dash Line (Illustration from Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese military has built bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, notably at Scarborough Shoal. From those bases, they have flown J-11 Flankers, a knockoff of the Su-27.

The Chinese have backed up their claims aggressively, resulting in close calls for Navy planes on some occasions.

One incident in May 2016 involved an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane from the United States Navy. In 2014, a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close call with a J-11 that came very close.

The Department of Defense criticized China in the wake of these incidents.

Concern about an accident is very valid – in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3E on a surveillance mission. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the J-8 crashed, killing the pilot, Wang Wei.

The EP-3E crew was detained for ten days by the Chinese until a diplomatic solution was reached.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A special ops veteran and his Marine dad created History’s ‘Six’

It’s a testament to the everlasting mythology of the SEAL Teams when a screenwriter – who also happens to be an Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and his Marine veteran dad team up to write a TV show about them. That’s exactly what happened with History’s show Six, now in its second season.

David Broyles is the son of Hollywood (and Vietnam) veteran William Broyles, writer of some of the best military films and television in recent memory, including China Beach, Apollo 13, Jarhead, and Flags of Our Fathers. Now father and son can add Six to that list.

Related: 6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

Before David joined the military, he watched the Twin Towers fall with his father, who was a lieutenant of Marines in Vietnam. He had just finished his degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Within a week, he was looking at joining the military, judging them by their special operations teams.

Yes, he considered joining the Navy to be a SEAL. What he chose was Air Force Pararescue.

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David Broyles during his Air Force PJ days.
(Courtesy of David Broyles)

“I looked at the SEALs, I looked at the Marine Corps, and I found Pararescue,” says David Broyles, co-creator and one of the main writers on Six. “It seemed really challenging with the high washout rate. But also the job was to save lives, so after watching the towers come down I wanted to help. I want to make a difference. And probably like most of us, I wanted to challenge myself.”

There were 82 would-be pararescue jumpers in Broyles’ initial class. By the time he graduated there were only two (and four more would graduate later). Broyles spent his career in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan. There were good times and there were bad.


“I never felt more alive and never felt more terrified,” Broyles says. “The bonds of brotherhood that I experienced have always stuck with me and the things I saw and did have always powered my writing.”

Broyles always knew he would be a writer. After the military, he attended Columbia Film School in New York City. When the opportunity came to write Six, it was a chance to express in writing what it all meant to him and his friends that went through the war together.

“It was a way to work through that through writing,” he told We Are The Mighty. “A cathartic way to explore it and really honor the guys that were still in there and the guys that didn’t come back.”

With his father William Broyles, the two wrote the pilot for Six, the elder Broyles bringing his experience in Vietnam while the younger Broyles brought his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Six, however, William Broyles was also bringing his experience as a father who watched his son go off to war.

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WIlliam Broyles and his fellow Marines in Vietnam.
(Photo courtesy of David Broyles)

William Broyles went off to Vietnam as a youth and didn’t really think about how his mother or father felt during his time away. his recent experiences with war put him in just that position. While his son was deployed, William Broyles would go to his cabin in the mountains and not answer the phone. It was a trying time for the families back home.

So while Six highlights the military family in the field, it doesn’t forget the family at home that gets left behind.

The father-son duo knew they couldn’t please everyone (they acknowledge how hard it is to please the entirety of the military-veteran community) but were determined to zero-in on the emotional truth of those moments of what it meant to serve and to be part of a brotherhood.

And they succeeded.

David’s friends and colleagues in the special operations community reached out to him to voice their support and admiration for the show and appreciate his message of what it means to be part of that team.

“I think they respect what we’re trying to do,” Broyles says “But, it’s the toughest group to please. There’s no doubt about it. We’re constantly straddling the line between reality and drama. We try to straddle the worlds between the hard authenticity, the tactics, the equipment, the movement. We wanted to make it as real and authentic as possible without putting any of the guys who are actually doing the job at risk.”

The other side of the coin is telling the story to those who have no experience in war and loss, but making them come to understand what is to be part of that bigger picture.

“That is drilling down to the emotional truth of the moment,” he says. “It’s not just about war, it’s about brotherhood and loss and family. I think people respond to those kind of broader, deeper issues regardless of whether or not you have military experience.”

History’s Six airs Wednesday nights at 10pm.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Operation Song spreads Christmas message of love, hope and peace with music

The mission of Operation Song is to promote and support healing for veterans and military families by telling their stories through songwriting. These stories and songs are vitally important for the holiday season, too. 

Bob Regan is the President and original founder of Operation Song. He was a songwriter who was inspired while touring overseas in the early 2000s, seeing the transformative power music could have on America’s troops. As more and more injured service members returned home, he knew music could be a vital tool for healing hurt. The program itself started with weekly sessions at his local VA Medical Center in Tennessee, with the support of a music therapist. 

Since its official founding in 2012, he and other gifted songwriters have written hundreds of songs. Some of the most profound were even written about the holidays, one in particular was written that first year of operating. “A group of maybe five veterans, none with any musical experience, met at the Alvin C York VA when it was getting close to Christmas. The conversation turned to being deployed over the holidays,” Regan shared. That conversation turned into an unforgettable songwriting session later on that created Peace on Earth

The haunting words offer a deep look at what it’s like to be deployed during the holiday season. “This time of year I hear the hymn, ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’. But getting in the spirit is kinda hard; when you are in a tent in Kandahar.” The song goes on to talk about how the servicemember wished they could be home with their family but will keep doing what they have to and pray that one day all wars will end. It’s a stark reminder to those experiencing the quarantines that our troops have spent far more time away from their own families long before COVID-19.

The songwriting session was filled with raw and personal stories. “There were maybe six veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They began sharing stories of what it was like to be deployed over the holidays. Several stories were shared but we based the song around one veteran’s experience in Kandahar, Afghanistan since there were still a large number of troops serving there in 2012,” Regan explained. Less than an hour later, the song was complete. 

Words like “I stand guard on this silent night” continue to bring home the reminder that not everyone can be home for Christmas. Peace on Earth was important for Regan and the team at Operation Song to get out, he said. “To remind people that there are those serving far from home during this and every holiday season. Also that we can always hope, pray, and work for peace on earth, no matter where we are or how remote a possibility it may seem,” he shared. 

operation song

For many veterans, the memories of missed holidays are hard to process. It’s time and moments they can never get back. Operation Song opened the door for these veterans to share their deeply personal feelings about missing home, creating the space for healing. But despite the heartache of being deployed or standing duty during the holidays, it’s something most veterans will never truly regret. 

The mission of Operation Song is to bring veterans back, one song at a time. Through the powerful impact of telling their stories through music the burden and weight of heartache tends to dissipate. This Christmas, remember your veterans and active service members. Some are standing guard right now for your freedoms while others are still remembering things they’d rather not. Never forget.

To learn more about Operation Song and what they do, click here.

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