What it's like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

When Private First Class Ethan T. Ford first thought about joining the military, he immediately had his hopes set on being a combat photographer.

“Joining the military has given me a lot of options and I’ve done a lot of things I would have never had the option to do before. I wouldn’t have traveled to Korea, cover historical events, or be in a movie,” Ford said.

As a 25V Combat documentation/production specialist, Ford is his unit’s official videographer, tasked with shooting and editing footage and capturing every moment of garrison operations.


Like all soldiers, Army photographers get trained on basic combat skills and learn how to operate weapons, expertly engage in hand-to-hand combat and administer basic first-aid.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan Ford practices photography techniques while on assignment in Seoul, South Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

But being an Army photographer requires dedication and resilience. When the rest of the unit goes home or finishes the mission, the Army photographers get to work to upload their photos and videos and create products for the historical record.

When his friends in Oregon ask him what it’s like to be in the Army, he says he gives them the honest truth.

“Being in the Army is not hard, at times it can be mentally draining, but anyone who is physically capable can do it.”

This is not a typical assignment, according to his supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Pedro Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yongsan Visual Information Support Center.

His team is made up of creative types who strive on challenges.

Army photographers have to be able to quickly react to any situation in any environment. You have to make sure you’re ready and that your equipment is in good shape and your batteries are charged.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Dancers perform traditional acts during a community relations event at US Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Between assignments, the soldiers are back in the office learning new skills, teaching each other new tips and critiquing each other.

Other parts of the job include handshake photos and designing PowerPoint slides, which isn’t the most inspiring for the truly passionate photographers like Ford, but meeting expectations is important.

One of the advantages to enlisting as a combat photographer, according to Santos, is that the experience and education you gain is unmatched.

“When it comes to someone who is passionate about something and they want to pursue that in the military as well I sometimes you get lucky and you get someone like Ford who is passionate about it,” Santos said.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford reflects on his various assignments while stationed in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

Santos encourages his team to speak to the customer, usually a senior leader like a first sergeant or commander and find out what their goals are, what type of video or photography they would like and then you have to be creative and find out what kind of angles you are going to take the shot from and how you are going to prepare for it.

Some assignments can take up to one month of preparation and rehearsal.

“One thing you can’t really reach combat photographers is post editing, from my experience, you can take an amazing photo and be done with it, but when someone takes the time to perfect their work, it is impressive and it shows,” Santos said.

“You are in a great area, one of the biggest cities in the world. There is inspiration everywhere.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford captures a nature scene near his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

On weekends, Ford goes out on his own on the weekend and practices different techniques and works on improving his craft. His favorite style of photography is capturing candid moments and doing street photography.

One of the highlights of his tour in South Korea was a special assignment in October 2018 when Ford witnessed history in the making and was the only photographer allowed in a meeting between North Koreans and South Koreans in the blue building at the Joint Security Area. The event was one of the first steps in a negotiation that is expected to result in officially ending the war between the two countries.

Outside of photography, Ford is a movie buff. He loves war movies and his favorite movies include Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Hacksaw Ridge to name a few.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A river photographed near McMinnville, Oregon, the hometown of Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Early 2019, Ford got to skip his normal routine of morning physical training, chow and VISC photography duties and was granted a two-day pass to play a movie extra in a Korean War film set in 1950 with actors Megan Fox and George Eads.

“Playing a movie extra was a lot like being in the military,” Ford said, “It was a hurry up and wait situation. It took several hours to drive there and several more to get dressed.”

One of the best parts of the experience was getting one-on-one acting advice and mentorship from actor George Eads, who plays MacGyver on TV.

Although the Department of Defense does not keep track of the numbers of service members who appear in television and film projects, there are many opportunities to play extras in movies because It is it is incredibly difficult for civilian actors to realistically portray the discipline of the U.S. warfighter without having served, according to Brian Chung, a military advisor to big Korean production studios in Seoul and in Los Angeles.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Private First Class Ethan T. Ford cast as an officer in a movie shot in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

In fact, 90 percent of DOD-supported projects, including documentaries and reality television programs are unscripted, according to Master Sgt. Adora Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Film and TV Entertainment Liaison in Los Angeles.

“All service members have been trained since basic training to stand, walk and talk a certain way on duty,” Chung said.

Chung is a former U.S. Army Captain and was previously stationed in Yongsan as a military police company commander.

He understands how challenging it can be for soldiers stationed in Korea to be working long hours while displaced into a new culture, which is why he reached out to leaders at United States Forces Korea to get approval for the soldiers to be part of the movie.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

“It was personally satisfying as a U.S. Army veteran of Korean decent, to honor the warriors of the Korean War with authentic portrayals that could only have been achieved by their successors serving on the same peninsula that they sacrificed so much to protect. Seeing the look of excitement on the young troops’ faces as they hustled around set from wardrobe, to the make up chair, to an authentic 1950’s set was an amazing icing on the cake,” Chung said.

The movie will be released around the same time that his tour ends in June 2019, when he will report to duty at his new assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland.

“I’m going to miss going out and eating in Itaewon, especially the fried chicken and ramen,” Ford said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You won’t find anything like it in the U.S.”

After his time in the Army, Ford plans on taking more advanced courses and going back to Oregon and becoming a professional photographer.

“The Army is what you make of it. You can make it be miserable or make it be the best time of your life,” Ford said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons the married service member is just as much a “dependa” as the spouse

The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.

Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.


The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.

Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?

While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:

Deployment

When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Even when they are home, they aren’t really home

Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?

The PCS struggle is real

The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.

  • Organizing for the PCS
  • Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
  • Gathering copies of all the medical records
  • Finding new providers for the family
  • School enrollment
  • Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.

U.S. Air Force

Unit support

Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.

Caregiving

More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.

The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.

Articles

The FBI had evidence Hitler might have escaped the Red Army and fled to Argentina

A declassified, heavily redacted FBI field report contains information about Adolf Hitler’s alleged escape to Argentina via submarine, which is noteworthy considering that Hitler was reported to have committed suicide in 1945 before the Red Army captured Berlin.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
You must be this tall to be oppressed.

The FBI report, dated September 21, 1945 tells the story of a man who aided six top Argentinian officials in landing Hitler onto Argentine soil via submarine and hid him in the foothills of the Andes mountains. Unfortunately, the report wasn’t verifiable at the time because something important couldn’t be located.

That’s not a teaser, the item or person in question is redacted.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedacted!

The document relates the story told to the FBI by a reporter of The Los Angeles Examiner. In July 1945, the reporter’s friend “Jack” met with an individual from the Argentine government who wanted to relay a story, but only if he could be guaranteed he wouldn’t be sent back to Argentina, which had just experienced a military coup.

The informant claimed to be one of four men who met Hitler on an Argentine shore about two weeks after the fall of Berlin in 1945, where Hitler and his new wife Eva Braun ostensibly committed suicide. Soviet records claim the bodies of Hitler and Braun were burned and the remains buried and exhumed repeatedly, making verification difficult.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Damn you Russia!

Hitler supposedly came ashore with 50 or so others and went into hiding in the towns of San Antonio, Videma, Neuquen, Muster, Carmena, and Rason, staying with German families. the informant claimed to remember all six officials and the three other men with him on the shore the night the German fugitive arrived, suffering from asthma and ulcers. Hitler also shaved his signature mustache, revealing a distinct “butt” on his upper lip.

A personal letter to J.Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, was also written by the informant. It mentioned specifically that Hitler lived in an underground residence in Argentina 675 miles West of Florianopolis, 430 miles Northwest of Buenos Aires. The former dictator lived with two body doubles in a secret area behind a photosensitive wall that slid back to reveal the bunker entrance.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Hitler and his inner circle made use of a bank account provided by one “Mrs. Eichorn” who ran a large spa hotel in La Falda, Argentina, to the tune of 30,000 Reichsmarks (just over $2 two million dollars in 2015). Eichorn and her family made repeated visits to Nazi Germany where they would stay with Hitler during their visits. The FBI even looked to world news publications, finding photos with famous Argentines, which lends credibility to the idea that high-placed Argentinian officials might help Hitler enter Argentina.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Alleged Hitler (1) with Alleged Mengele (11)

The informant was paid $15,000 (almost $200,000 adjusted for inflation in 2015) for his help, but he said the matter weighed on his mind too much just to let it go, so he approached the Americans. He told the reporter’s friend to go to a hotel in San Antonio, Argentina and meet up with a man who would help locate the location of Hitler’s ranch, which was heavily guarded. The reporter was to put an ad in the local paper and then call “Hempstead 8458” (these were the days before all-number dialing, which meant that Hempstead was the location of the network and the number is the last four digits of the actual phone number) to let the man know to make proper arrangements.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Hitler tried an off-Broadway one-man show, widely panned by theater critics

The informant was unable to shed any more light on the story for the reporter and despite attempts to set up a further meeting, the reporter was unable to contact the informant directly. The FBI watched the diner where the reporter ate his meals to see if “Jack” or the informant ever appeared, to no avail.

Though the informant also alleged Hitler may have entered the United States, no records were found with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for the names of known aliases for Hitler, Jack, or the informant. The FBI deemed the story credible but didn’t have enough information to make a full investigation.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

An FBI memorandum to Hoover remarked that the agent in charge of the investigation believed both Hitler and Braun survived the Fall of Berlin. Both their bodies had not been found or identified at the time. He believed they both disappeared the day before the Russians entered Berlin. He believed Hitler’s normal relationship with Switzerland along with Hitler’s lack of any other language would make Switzerland, not Argentina, the ideal place for the two to escape.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

B-2 stealth bombers just sent unmistakable message to Russia

In a clear message to Russian forces, three US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew an extended sortie over the Arctic Circle for the first time on Sept. 5, 2019, the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing confirmed to Insider.

“This familiarization was the B-2’s first mission this far north in the European theater,” according to a Facebook post from the US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.

Details about the sortie over the Norwegian Sea are scarce, but the aircraft involved completed a night refueling over the Arctic Circle as part of Bomber Task Force Europe. In March, Norway accused Russia of jamming its GPS systems and interfering in encrypted communications systems.


“Training outside the U.S. enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace, and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” US Air Force spokesman Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder told Insider.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The B-2s are part of the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are deployed to Royal Air Force Base Fairford near Gloucestershire, England where last month they flew with non-US F-35s for the first time. RAF Fairford is the forward operating location for US Air Force in Europe’s bombers.

Four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing stationed at RAF Mildenhall joined the B-2s on the mission over the Norwegian Sea.

A spokesperson from the 509th Bomb Wing told Insider that no other NATO aircraft were involved in the mission, and the bombers did not have any ammunition on board.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Last month, the B-2 also made its very first visit to Iceland, establishing the Air Force’s presence in a region Russia considers its dominion. Iceland’s Keflavik Air Base was established during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet Union, and the B-2s’ brief stopoff there demonstrated its ability to operate in cold-weather conditions.

In the past year, US forces have completed several missions from the region to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies, including B-52 training near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia forcibly took in 2014. That aggression kicked off the European Deterrance Initiative to ensure quick reaction to threats and assure NATO allies of the US’s commitment to defense.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Covert action’ is back on the debate stage

Covert action is making its name again. Back on the strategic foreign policy stage, covert action is a way to achieve diplomacy without direct military confrontation. Kinetic operations by way of targeted killing have become a hot (and disputed) topic.

Even though Presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1978, and Reagan in 1981 signed Executive Orders to ban political assassinations, the U.S. has engaged in targeted killings through drone strikes to kill enemy combatants on the battlefield. Signature strikes that target behavior patterns and personal networks often result in increased collateral damage, namely to civilians. Some of these actions are overt while others are covert, or at least clandestine in some nature.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

(USAF)

So, who does these things? Is it the military, CIA, or even both?

The answer to the purview of this comes down to law. More specifically, to the debate between authority in U.S. Title 10 and 50. The debate is widely and often invoked to address when the military is taking over actions or missions within the domain of the intelligence operations of CIA.

Title 10 describes the legal authority for military operations regarding the DoD’s organizational structure.

Meanwhile, Title 50 captures CIA’s authority to conduct its intelligence operations and covert action.

The legal stipulations of military versus CIA legal authority are a little more complex, but the two catchall designations are what matter in the larger scope. And that is how practitioners interpret it.

However, the differentiation in the purview between military and CIA operations is not always clear. As changes to the way we fight become more complex and dynamic with each operation, DoD and CIA officers constantly attempt to find themselves in the correct lane for engaging in their respective operations.

Perhaps the easiest example of this was when CIA found the potential for the Predator drone in aerial surveillance. CIA undoubtedly assumed that the aircraft would fall into its own designation. The debate went on between CIA and DoD. Even though the UAV was classified as an aircraft, CIA contended that it was only a platform to collect imagery intelligence. CIA won.

Once CIA tried to weaponize the UAVs by incorporating Hellfire missiles into their framework, DoD fought CIA again. This time, the Air Force made the argument regarding Title 10 versus Title 50. Already established to be an aircraft, a weaponized UAV would fall under Title 10 as the purview of the military. Being weaponized, the Predator was no longer just an imagery intelligence collection asset but more of a kinetic killing machine. Its job was not just to pick up and track high-value targets as much as it was to send warheads to foreheads. This time, the Air Force and DoD won.

So, the designation for military or CIA control of drone warfare is not black or white. It exists in the grey zone.

That is why drones remain a tricky topic for use regarding both surveillance and kinetic operations. It is still a working and developing decision of who calls the shots and who owns the infrastructure.

When it comes to boots-on-the-ground operations regarding both kinetic and non-kinetic operations, the debate becomes even more contested. Because of its charter, CIA is the only agency responsible for and charged with covert action. Action abroad in this context has always been part of CIA’s history: some of it good, other parts bad.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

However, sometimes the military conducts operations that to the naked eye would appear to be consistent with covert action. The big difference is that these operations that may well be clandestine are not covert or designed to be plausibly deniable.

If a U.S. military operation goes sideways, the U.S. Government is forced to acknowledge it. And contrary to popular belief, that includes higher tier units, such as Delta Force, DEVGRU, and others.

Kinetic covert action protocols on the ground are only deniable if under the sanctions of CIA. Meaning they would have to have been performed in a paramilitary context by the Special Activities Division (SAD), including Ground Branch, Global Response Staff …

The U.S. military cannot and does not perform covert action.

However, that is not the end of the discussion. Within the bounds of Title 10, the DoD has found a way to get close to covert action without crossing the line.

The closest the U.S. military gets to covert action is called the Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE). OPE consists of clandestine intelligence collection that may have a more distant relation to military action. Because OPE exists in a pseudo-covert action context, DoD has won legal jurisdiction of it by arguing that a theoretical, distant military operation might one day exist as a result of its being.

It goes beyond traditional military operations but doesn’t legally cross the line into covert action by CIA. It does, however, get close.

Everyone from DoD, CIA, and even ODNI knows that the delineation is not clear. They argue, they fight, and they come up with some sort of consensus. But while there might not be a distinct line in the ground differentiating CIA and DoD authority, there is a grey line or a buffer zone at the very least.

However, this grey line possesses ambiguity that can have very adverse implications for the national security community. Such ambiguity makes it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence officers to conduct intelligence operations in their field of work if the collection of such intelligence is proscribed.

If the military continues to conduct clandestine intelligence in the form of OPE, leaders at both DoD and CIA will need to prescribe more delineated instructions for how and by who such intelligence will be collected. This goes beyond mere turf wars that happen all of the time within the intelligence community. It gives instructions as to who can operate in this capacity when covert action is not conducted but is on the borderline of being touched.

The DoD argument for OPE that such intelligence may need to be collected via clandestine means for the potential exploitation in a future, theoretical military operation will not suffice. It only provides legitimacy to the military in conducting such operations but does not provide a way for it to complement or work along CIA.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Gina Haspel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Many of the covert operations undertaken by CIA are not very different from military OPE. The functions hold many of the same premises. The only difference is that DoD has made the argument for OPE’s potential value as to why it should be considered a military operation in accordance with Title 10 and not the covert action provisions of Title 50.

Accordingly, the functions of both DoD and CIA should complement one another as opposed to working against each other in the case of further jurisdiction debate. Leaders need to delineate the roles the processes should play in each agency while also proscribing intelligence requirements that can be satisfied according to each service.

There is no reason the DoD should not be able to conduct OPE. It is not covert action and does not fall exclusively into CIA’s charter. But it does border it.

That means there needs to be much more synchronization between DoD and CIA to facilitate intelligence collection on adversarial capabilities and intentions to fulfill intelligence requirements that are desperately needed.

However, the issue does not stop only with senior leadership. It has ramifications for operations officers at CIA and military officers, equally as well. While both cohorts know their jobs and the functions that are to be executed fairly well, operations such as that of OPE provide particular challenges that are still not widely understood. That is particularly the case because it is not firmly established in doctrine or proscribed to the legality of one agency or the other.

An operations officer at CIA who is tasked with clandestine human intelligence collection may be blindsided by OPE operations undertaken by the military that may disrupt or interfere with general Agency operations. Military intelligence collection may confuse Agency personnel as to their requirements as to whose prerogative or official duties the intelligence collection may involve. Further, intelligence collection of this sort in the same area of operations may interfere with CIA sources and asset networks that may inadvertently become shared with that of the military. Sources can quickly become compromised if they are not handled correctly, and too many asset handlers without adequate synchronization will do precisely that.

Likewise, many military officers are unaware of OPE and what it entails. It is not widely discussed, taught, or even presented to military officers in a way to educate them on what is encompassed by the military’s clandestine intelligence collection. Further, it is a discipline that is shared with a select few military personnel and officers who are not acquainted with it may also interfere with its operation. Conventional military hierarchies have become somewhat risk-adverse to date (for good reasons and bad) that their executive judgment (based on collective ambiguity relating to intelligence collection of this sort) may either interfere with or disrupt OPE collection efforts. The absence of clear guidance as to clandestine intelligence functions within the military can cripple the intelligence apparatus and needs to be further described in doctrine to allow for its potential and avoid interference of it inadvertently.

Summarily, the role of covert action between the DoD and CIA is rather clear. The Title 10 versus 50 debate has been exhaustively discussed in the literature and among practitioners. But where the line becomes grey has not. This is a problem for both DoD and CIA. Both agencies need to comprehensively describe the role of clandestine intelligence collection in both agencies. This is particularly true with OPE where the line is not delineated, education efforts are virtually nonexistent, and jurisdiction boundaries are more or less ambiguous. To facilitate the most successful and operationally safeguarded operations of this nature, DoD and CIA need to find a more delineated and prescribed approach to clandestine intelligence collection to fulfill the intelligence requirements that they need to satisfy.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out this spooky ‘No Time to Die’ trailer teaser

The first full trailer for the next James Bond film, No Time To Die, will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. But for now, the official 007 Twitter account has teased the very first footage from Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. And, honestly, the movie looks a little spooky. But, it also confirms a huge reference to the Sean Connery years.

Featuring Bond walking in the shadows, and a mysterious monster-ish face behind glass, No Time To Die is keeping its thriller secrets close to its finely-tailored vest right now. The style and ominous tone of the trailer will also probably remind everyone a little bit that the new Bond film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the same guy who directed the thrilling first season of True Detective. Here’s the brief tease:


Obviously, there’s a lot to love about this trailer. Perhaps the best thing is the fact that Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is, once again, sporting some guns. And, this appears to be, for the most part, exactly the same spot where Sean Connery’s secret guns were hidden in his Aston Martin; right behind the headlights.

It should be noted, however, that so far, there are at least two separate classic cars confirmed for No Time To Die: the Aston Martin DB-5, but also, the Aston Martin V8, last driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights

Expect a ton more Bond references in the new trailer in a few days. We’ll update this space with all the new info as our spies report back.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

A Marine is getting closer to becoming the first female infantry officer

A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.


According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
A student with Infantry Officer Course speaks to role-players at Range 220, the Combat Center’s largest military operations on urbanized terrain facility, Sept. 22, 2016, as part of Exercise Talon Reach. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Eric Clayton/Released)

“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.

The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.

The last woman to attend the course was dropped after 12 days for failing to complete two conditioning hikes. The Washington Post reported 29 women had tried and failed to complete the very difficult course.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
2nd Lt. Anthony Pandolfi, student, Infantry Officers Course 2-15, posts security after entering Range 220 during exercise Talon Reach V aboard the Combat Center, March 25, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.

That lead to a dust-up with Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.

Articles

Debate rages over what the US military should look like in the next 10 years

Five of the top national security think tanks exchanged widely varying proposals on the force structure and funding the U.S. armed services would need to confront the global security environment 10 years from now.


What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) piloted by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert “Champ” Guyette II, a test pilot from the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship, joined the fleet Oct. 15. The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. The U.S. Navy anticipates declaring the F-35C combat-ready in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

The proposals ranged from the minimalist, mind-your-own-business plan from the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, which would cut defense funding $1.1 trillion below the Obama administration’s long-term budget projects over 10 years, to the aggressive, act-like-a-global-power concept from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which would add $1.3 trillion — with any force reductions or increases tracking to the funding levels.

The other think tanks — the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies — fell in between those two extremes on both funding and force levels.

In the conference held in the Newseum’s Knight Studio Oct. 18, AEI’s Tom Donnelly said “we bought almost everything” the president has asked for, but still don’t have the military America needs.

“That tells you how much cutting has been done over the last generation,” he said.

Donnelly based his big increases in spending and force structure on a view that “the world is going to hell in a hand basket,” that from a global view of security “the trend lines are all negative,” and “the old post-Cold War world doesn’t exist any more. We need to build something new.”

Cato’s Benjamin Friedman, however, said his budget and force structure plans were based on “a strategy of restraint,” which “differs from the current prevailing view in Washington.”

“Given our geography, wealth and strategic prowess, we would be secure in the US regardless of how much we buy. This is about how much insurance we need,” Friedman said.

The three others, Paul Scharre of CNAS, Mark Gunzinger of CSBA, and Todd Harrison of CSIS, all agreed that the growing threats required additional spending, but generally favored selective modernization rather than the major force structure growth that Donnelly proposed.

The Navy would fare reasonably well in nearly all the projections, even getting smaller reductions within Cato’s heavy cuts. The submarine force was generally favored by all, with two proposing a new class of guided missile subs to replace the four converted ballistic missile SSGN boats. Cato and CSIS would cut four of the 11 aircraft carriers but CSBA and CNAS called for more carriers.

The Navy would get the biggest boost from CNAS, which called for an increase from the current battle force fleet of 272 to 345. The Navy’s goal is to reach 308 ships by 2020.

CSBA noted that the carriers’ ability to project power is threatened by the proliferation of long-range precision defense weapons and suggested off-setting that by fielding an unmanned carrier-based strike aircraft. The Navy currently plans to follow up its experimental X-47B carrier-capable UAV with the pilotless MQ-25, primarily used as an air refueling aircraft with some ISR capabilities.

The Marine Corps got widely varying support from the five organizations, with Cato proposing to cut it by one-third, CNAS eliminating four infantry battalions and CSIS cutting 6,000 Marines and one air group. Analysts at CSBA proposed an increase to 187,000 Marines from the current plan for 182,000. The Corps probably would gain under AEI’s funding boost.

The Army generally would be increased in size or strengthened by all of the think tanks, except of course Cato, with Donnelly advocating a major boost in armored brigades, which would be used to bolster NATO against Russia.

The Air Force also generally would be strengthened although not substantially increased by the other think tanks, while Cato called for cutting it by one-third. CSIS, CSBA and CNAS all proposed giving the Air Force a low-cost, light-attack aircraft in addition to the F-35A.

Other than Cato, which wants to cancel the entire program, the F-35 was favored along with other stealthy aircraft, including the Air Force’s existing F-22 Raptors and its still-on-paper B-21 long-range strategic strike bomber, now under development. Donnelly urged the Navy to buy the F-35B jump jet version the Marines are getting so it could put them on its aircraft carriers but off-load them in the forward theater to bolster ground forces.

While Cato would chop the nuclear deterrent triad to just the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, the others all appeared to favor current plans to modernize the Air Force’s nuclear capable bombers and Minuteman III missiles, as well as buying the replacement subs for the Ohio-class SSBNs.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

28 free virtual field trips and activities for families in quarantine

While the world is sorting out the new normal of social distancing, parents everywhere are also trying to do it with full-time jobs, and in many cases, no child care. For the first time in most of our lifetimes, schools have been shut down for extended periods, and no one really knows when it will end. Moms and dads are suddenly finding themselves wearing far too many hats: parent, employee, caregiver and teacher are just naming a few.


Stuck at home with canceled spring break plans, and summer vacations next on the chopping block, things might be looking pretty grim right now. No doubt, parents find themselves constantly looking for ways to entertain their kids 24/7, and with the quarantine well underway, many are at a loss for resources.

With everyone doing their part to curb the spread of Coronavirus, the usual haunts for children’s entertainment are now closed to the public. In their attempt to comply with social distancing directives, museums, zoos and amusement parks the world over have announced temporary closures; when they will reopen is anyone’s guess.

While these places have physically closed their doors, many have realized that the need for children’s entertainment is at an all-time high, and many have stepped up to offer just that. Parents can also find a wealth of resources for educational entertainment through Google Arts Culture, some of which are linked below as well.

While these resources are being shared all over the internet, finding the time to make heads or tails of them is another story.

We know parents, we know. Help is on the way.

Here’s a comprehensive list of some great virtual tours, zoo cams, and STEM activities (and we even threw in some doodling and celebrity readings), and it’s all free!

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Science & Exploration

NASA is offering a slew of STEM activities for grades K- 4. Activities range from building foam rockets to solving space station emoji puzzles. Parents can also download coloring sheets and books for younger kids.

https://www.nasa.gov/stem-at-home-for-students-k-4.html

Discovery Education offers free virtual field trips complete with companion guides and hands-on learning activities. For example, kids can explore Polar Bears And The Tundra or take a look behind the scenes of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

https://www.discoveryeducation.com/learn/tundra-connections/

Take a trip to Mars. Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover. The site is in the middle of an update, but the 360 mode offers a great digital view.

https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/

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Zoo Cams

Cincinnati Zoo Botanical Garden Every weekday at 3 PM EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo will host a Home Safari Facebook Live that features a different animal each day. For those who don’t have social media, the zoo will post the safaris on both their website and YouTube.

https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/

Panda Cam Zoo Atlanta Pandas are always fun to watch, quarantine or not, and Zoo Atlanta offers this live stream of the only panda twins in the United States, Ya Lun and Xi Lun.

https://zooatlanta.org/panda-cam/

Monterey Bay Aquarium offers ten live cams where viewers can sneak a peek at the sharks, do a little birdwatching in the aviary, and they can even check the goings-on in the open sea.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-exhibits/live-web-cams

The San Diego Zoo has ten live cams to choose from, including penguins, tigers, koalas and giraffes. The zoo also has a website exclusively for kids that’s loaded with videos, stories, activities and games.

https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams

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Historical Sites & Museums

The Smithsonian Museum offers virtual tours of their current and permanent exhibits, and viewers can even take a look at a few of the past exhibits. Users can easily navigate between adjoining rooms of the museum and click on the camera icons for a closer look.

https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour

Virtual tours of other world-famous museums:

The Great Wall Of China This virtual tour offers a breathtaking view of the Great Wall Of China, and visitors can even read up a little on its history.

https://www.thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china

Virtual tours of other historical sites:

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Storytime & Doodling

Josh Gad is even doing his part to help parents deal with life in quarantine. Every night on Twitter, Josh Gad is doing ten-minute storytime. Josh has already read a few children’s classics like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein and Hooray for Diffendoofer Da by Dr. Seuss. And it looks like he plans to do so for the foreseeable future. This one is not to miss, as he puts a little Josh Gad into it with voices and everything!

https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vOxwoPrnYgxBhttps://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1vOxwoPrnYgxB

How About a Lunch Doodle? Mo Willems, beloved author of Waiting Is Not Easy! and The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! is hosting a Livestream Lunch Doodle. Every day at 1 PM EST, new episodes will be posted on the Mo Willems page on the Kennedy Center’s Website. Additionally, Willem is encouraging kids to send him questions at LUNCHDOODLES@kennedy-center.org, and he will attempt to answer those questions in his videos.

https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/

Pete The Cat creator James Dean presents virtual storytime every day at 12 PM on Instagram Live.

https://www.instagram.com/petethecatofficial/

We all have to do our part to stem the outbreak of Coronavirus, but life in quarantine doesn’t have to be that bad. Every day, new resources are popping up to help us get through it. These virtual tours and online resources have a little something for kids of all ages. What a great opportunity to see the world from the comfort of your own couch!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private doctors are now a longer wait than for VA care

The Veterans Choice Program for private health care is in such bad shape that the bill backed by President Donald Trump to fix it will be difficult to implement even if done right, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

The Choice program was aimed at reducing wait times through increased access to private health care, but the GAO’s performance audit conducted from April 2016 through May 2018 found that, in many cases, veterans would have been better off making appointments at VA facilities.


“Timeliness of appointments is an essential component of quality health care,” the report released June 4, 2018, said, but poor management and bookkeeping under the Choice program can result in veterans waiting up to 70 days to see a private doctor.

In 2016, the average wait for a private appointment was 51 days, the GAO said, although the VA eligibility rules made private care an option when the veteran had to wait 30 days to see a VA doctor.

“Delays in care have been shown to negatively affect patients’ morbidity, mortality, and quality of life,” the report said, and the “VA lacks assurance that veterans are receiving care from community providers in a timely manner.”

At a White House ceremony June 6, 2018, Trump is expected to sign the VA Mission Act, which provides $4.2 billion to overhaul and expand the Choice program for private care while consolidating its seven existing care options into one.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The GAO report warned that staff shortages, bureaucratic roadblocks and poor communication between the VA and private doctors under the existing Choice program make a quick fix unlikely.

“To the extent that these factors persist under the consolidated community care program that VA plans to establish, they will continue to adversely affect veterans’ access to care,” the GAO said.

Citing the problems with Choice detailed in the report, the GAO said, “Ignoring these lessons learned and the challenges that have arisen under the Choice Program as [VA officials] design the future consolidated program would only increase VA’s risk for not being able to ensure that all veterans will receive timely access to care in the community.”

VA pledges action to correct problems

The blizzard of acronyms used by the GAO in its report, and by the VA in its response, illustrates the difficulty the individual veteran has in navigating the system.

The GAO called for better coordination among the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA medical centers (VACMs), the VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC), third-party administrators (TPAs), the Computerized Patient Record Systems (CPRS), the Community Care Network (CCN) and private doctors themselves, who often complain of late payments.

In its response to the GAO report, the VA concurred with four of the five recommendations for improving the transition from the Choice program to the VA Mission Act but disagreed with the GAO on urgent care.

The GAO found that “VAMCs and TPAs do not always categorize Choice Program referrals and authorizations in accordance with the contractual definition for urgent care.”

The GAO said that a referral to private care is to be marked “urgent” when a VHA doctor determined that it was essential and “if delayed would likely result in unacceptable morbidity or pain.” However, the GAO found that some referrals originally marked as routine were changed to urgent to speed up the slow appointment process.

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Even that conclusion was difficult to reach because of the VA’s lack of reliable records and data, the GAO said. “Without complete, reliable data, VHA cannot determine whether the Choice Program has helped to achieve the goal of alleviating veterans’ wait times for care,” the GAO said.

In its response to the report, the VA said that the GAO’s recommendation on urgent care “is no longer needed because VHA has resolved the issue with the new CCN (Community Care Network) contract.”

Under the new contract, VHA staff will have responsibility for scheduling community care appointments with providers, as opposed to the old system in which administrators routed referrals to the TPAs (third-party administrators), the VA said.

In the transition from Choice to the VA Mission Act, the VA will also set up a new referral and authorizations system that will be called “Health Share Referral Manager (HSRM).”

The VA said that HSRM will “measure the time it takes to review and accept consults, prepare referrals and schedule veterans community appointments.”

The VA in flux

The VA Mission Act has been estimated to cost as much as $55 billion over five years. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has said that funding sources have yet to be identified, but he was confident they would be found.

When Trump signs the bill June 6, 2018, as one of the major achievements of his administration, he will not have a VA secretary looking over his shoulder.

Robert Wilkie, who had been the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was named acting secretary after Trump ousted former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(United States Department of Veterans Affairs photo)

However, Wilkie stepped down as acting secretary to get around a law that made it questionable whether an acting secretary could succeed to the permanent post.

Trump has said that he intends to nominate Wilkie to the permanent job, but the Senate has yet to set a date for his confirmation hearing. In the meantime, Peter O’Rourke, who had been the VA chief of staff, has become acting secretary temporarily.

Its major proponents have acknowledged that the VA Mission Act and the overhaul of Choice will be difficult to implement.

At a panel discussion last month sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America, which lobbied hard for the expansion of private care, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that putting the VA Mission Act into effect will sorely test the VA.

“Let me tell you, it is a painful thing to do,” Roe said. “This is a massive undertaking. It could be very disruptive to the VA. It’s humongous.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

13 photos from ‘Keen Sword,’ the Pacific exercises NATO drowned out

While most of the world was watching Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games where 31 countries sent 50,000 participants and Russia responded with missiles and other provocations, the U.S. was participating in more war games on the other side of the world.

The U.S. and Japan sent a record number of troops to Keen Sword, Pacific war games to which Canada also sent ships and sailors.


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The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, center left, and the Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga, center right, sail in formation with 16 other ships from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fly overhead in formation during Keen Sword 2019 in the Philippine Sea, November 8, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Keen Sword is focused on ensuring that Japan can defend its territory, and the U.S. and other allies take part to improve their ability to operate with the Japanese Self-Defense Force. Over the past few years, China’s aggression in the region has increasingly shaped the narrative — but China is far from the only threat Japan faces.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

An E-2D Hawkeye lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

Japan is deeply within range of North Korea’s missiles and has an ongoing dispute with Russia over islands dating back to World War II.

Therefore, its annual hosting of Keen Sword is crucial. Japan sent 47,000 troops, about a fifth of its active military, and America sent 9,500 more. Canada sent two ships to the exercise.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

U.S. Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 fast rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter onto the USS Ronald Reagan during Keen Sword 19 in the Philippine Sea, November 1, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)

The Japanese forces carry a lot of American hardware, everything from F-35s to Apache helicopters to Aegis missile defense systems. But Japan has still felt the need to further expand their military capabilities, standing up amphibious assault forces and increasing their ability to rapidly deploy with forces such as paratroopers.

The forces practiced these marine and airborne operations as well as submarine hunting, combat search and rescue, and other operations. See more photos from the exercise below:

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade jumps from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force solider assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade performs personnel accountability on a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade waits to jump from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of Task Force 70, departs an E-2D Hawkeye on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

U.S. Air Force pararescue specialists assigned to the 31st Rescue Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, charge land during a combat search and rescue training near Misawa Air Base, Japan, October 31, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Sailors perform preflight checks on an E/A-18G Growler on the flight deck of the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 1, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 ready themselves for training during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

U.S. Airmen stand in front of an E-3 Sentry during Exercise Keen Sword 2019, at Kadena Air Base, Japan, October 29, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participates in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff. For the submarine force, the exercise was an opportunity to demonstrate how both countries’ submariners would detect, locate, track and engage enemy assets.

(U.S. Navy Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

U.S. and Japanese ships maneuver during a photo event at the end of Keen Sword 19 on November 8, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Intel

Navy plane captains get jets flying to the danger zone

If you’ve watched Top Gun, you probably enjoyed the dogfight scenes. Meanwhile, the ladies in the audience fiercely debated over who was more handsome, Maverick or Iceman (though the mustache fans out there might opt for a dark-horse candidate in Goose). But Top Gun, like many military aviation films, left out a crucial person who’s response for getting those jets ready to fly into the danger zone and blast MiGs out of the sky.


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Lance Cpl. Nicholas Levins, an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 and an Issaquah, Wash., native, poses inside of an intake of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

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One of the jobs a plane captain has is making sure the canopy is absolutely spotless.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dave Hites)

That person is the plane captain. According to a United States Navy release, he or she is responsible for making sure that a plane is fit to fly. This includes performing daily checks on all aircraft and additional checks made before and after each flight. Some of the things a plane captain looks for include cracks on the plane, missing fasteners (which could allow foreign objects to damage an engine), emergency oxygen levels, and canopy cleanliness.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

Plane captains assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 carry intake screens on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)

Here’s the kicker: The people responsible for this are some of the newest, youngest personnel in the unit. We’re talking men and women who are anywhere from 19 to 21 years of age. They spend up to six months learning everything necessary to be responsible for a high-performance fighter. A Marine Corps release notes that these people spend as much as 14 hours per day keeping a jet ready. Oh, and they don’t get any overtime pay or comp time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s16W5Fg0dk

www.youtube.com

The real challenge is to keep from becoming complacent. After all, one mishap could cost the United States a multi-million dollar jet and the life of the pilot (or the crew). But the plane captains, like the pilots, get their name on the jet.

Learn more about what plane captains do in this Korean War-era film from the United States Navy.

Articles

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.


Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Gen. Robert Abrams. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.

Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
US Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.

The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.

The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.

Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.

The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Emmons)

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.

Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.

In some cases, the personal touch can help.

Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now
Photo courtesy of US Army

“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”

Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.

But the clock is ticking.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Evans said.

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