The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?

Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.


Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.

Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.

The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Staff Sgt. Christian King-Lincoln tries on a headset that is providing neurostimulation from a wireless transmitter behind him. The stimulation is not going through his ear pads, but instead through an array of small flexible inducers along the adjustable headband.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)


Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:

— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.

— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.

— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.

— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.

“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.

“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”

Creating high performers

Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.

The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.

“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.

Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.

The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Dr. Aaron Gardony, cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, points out the type of headset that is normally used for neurostimulation research.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)

Innovative partnership

The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.

The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.

About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.

The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.

The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.

Special ops interest

The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.

Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.

In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.

Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.

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

Articles

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.

The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
The INS Vikramaditya has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability.

INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.

For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Friendship in Death: The Nimitz Plot at Golden Gate National Cemetery

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the World War II Commander of the Pacific Fleet, delivered remarks at Golden Gate National Cemetery on the 10th Anniversary of V-J Day, August 14, 1955. The remains of many men who died under his command had been repatriated and rested before him. Nimitz took the loss of life made by his decisions personally and carried the burden with him throughout his life. He spoke directly to his fallen men on this occasion and promised them that the survivors of the war would honor their memory by maintaining military strength to deter future calamity.

Over the next decade, Admiral Nimitz decided that, in death, he wanted to join his men at Golden Gate with a standard military funeral and regulation headstone. He took steps to assure that the shipmates closest to him during World War II could join him as well.


Admiral Nimitz was a humble and no-frills type of man; still, his funerary and burial decisions surprised some. He was the third of four admirals promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. All were entitled to a state funeral and three accepted.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s family standing outside of Golden Gate National Cemetery’s chapel, February 24, 1966. Mrs. Nimitz is seated in front of her son and daughters. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115073, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

When the Kennedy administration approached Nimitz—the last of the surviving Fleet Admirals—about planning his own state funeral and burial in Arlington, Nimitz balked. He told his wife Catherine that “He did not love Washington, he loved it out here, and all of his men from the Pacific were out here.”

Instead, Nimitz had only one special request: that the five stars of his Fleet Admiral insignia be placed in the space reserved for an emblem of belief on his headstone. His biographer, E.B. Potter, speculated that Nimitz, a religious man outside of denominations, made the decision to show that “He had done his best in life.”

There were spaces for six graves in Nimitz’s designated burial plot at Golden Gate. When asked if he had preference for who went into the other four graves, Nimitz said, “I’d like to have Spruance and Lockwood.”

Admirals Raymond Spruance and Charles Lockwood were two of Nimitz’s closest friends during the war and after. Their competency as warfighters and leaders contributed greatly to victory in the Pacific. Spruance delivered key victories, such as Midway, the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Lockwood commanded the successful U.S. submarine operations in the Pacific.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) gives a dinner party in Hawaii for First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on September 22, 1943. (L-R): Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. (NH 58521, Naval History and Heritage Command, WNYD)

As a bonus, another close friend and architect of all major Pacific amphibious landings, Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner already occupied a grave very close to the Nimitz plot. When Nimitz posed the idea to Spruance, he “took to the thing like a duck to water,” as Mrs. Nimitz recalled. Lockwood agreed with the plan as well.

A friend in death

Nimitz died February 20, 1966, with his wife Catherine at his side. He was laid to rest on the cold and blustery afternoon of February 24 (his 81st birthday). Admiral Spruance, recovering from the flu, respectfully stood at attention in his uniform throughout. Mrs. Nimitz found some humor in the day when an uninvited sailor who had served in the Pacific Fleet arrived at the grave dressed in his best cowboy boots and hat. He refused to leave because “This was his commander, [and] he was going to be there come hell or high water.”

While this circumstance would likely have annoyed many, this type of admiration from those who served under him embodied the leadership style of Nimitz. Two nineteen-gun salutes, a 70-plane flyover, and the playing of “Taps” concluded the service.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Funeral of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Procession about to begin journey from the chapel to the gravesite at Golden Gate National Cemetery, February 24, 1966. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115072-B, NARA II, College Park, Md.)

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


MIGHTY SPORTS

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.

In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.


For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Maybe you don’t know who their coach is.

That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.

They shouldn’t.

Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…

Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.

Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.

The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.

For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.

If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.

The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.

Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.

Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.

As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.

One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.

Articles

The Marine Corps’ last Mounted Color Guard enters 50 years of service

The Marine Corps’ last Mounted Color Guard, housed at the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, launches into the year 2017 and its 50th year of service.


“In 1966, Lt. Col. Robert Lindsley came to MCLB Barstow (after serving in) Vietnam,” explained Sgt. Terry Barker, MCG stableman.

“At that time a lot of the dependent children from base would take horses from the stables and ride them out in town in parades. Rather than the kids riding in the parades, Lindsley decided that we needed to have the Marines riding with the horses, so in 1967 he stood up the official Marine Mounted Color Guard here.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
The Marine Corps’ Mounted Color Guard pose for a portrait at the stables. Left to right: Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, Sgt. Moses Machuca, Sgt. Terry Barker and Sgt. Jacob Cummins. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Carlos Guerra)

The stables were renamed to honor Lindsley as the founder of the MMCG during a ceremony held on base in April of 2010.

Lindsley, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born into a military family then joined the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine in December 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1950, he was commissioned and after several assignments, he was stationed at MCLB Barstow where he was assigned to the Center Stables Committee, which later became the Mounted Color Guard.

Though there were multiple MCGs initially, MCLB Barstow is now home to the last remaining MCG throughout the Marine Corps. They travel far and wide to participate in events from coast to coast.

“Depending on budget and scheduling, we might be in events from California to Louisiana, Florida to D.C., Tennessee to Oregon,” Barker said.

“We cover the four corners of this country.”

There are some events that they never miss, such as the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif. every January. In that event, the MMCG always leads the parade and is the only unit to hold the American Flag. As a recruiting tool, the MCG reaches areas of the country where the Marine Corps is not otherwise represented.

“We have big bases in California, North Carolina and Okinawa,” Barker said. “There are states in the mid-west where there are no Marine Corps bases, active or reserve. So, when we participate in rodeos, parades, or monument dedications, we are quite possibly the only Marines in the entire state. Everybody sees Marines on television, or in the news, but they rarely get to stand next to them, shake their hand and talk to them. That’s what we get to do.”

The horses and Marines train together daily, and always travel together.

Also read: This is how Theodore Roosevelt turned a ‘cowboy cavalry’ into the battle-ready ‘Rough Riders’

“We have a truck and trailer, and wherever they go, we go,” Barker said. The Marines often go so far as to sleep in the truck and trailer, rather than reserving hotel rooms, in order to save money and stay as close as they can to the horses to ensure safety.

“Another benefit is we can get them ready earlier,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG Stableman. “Also we have to stay with our horses if they are not in a stables area.”

All of the travel can be difficult, but Cummins said it’s nothing like a deployment.

“For me, my wife is pretty conditioned to it,” he said. “It’s the kids that make it hard sometimes. They don’t know why you have to go.”

It helps to come back and get into a regular routine with family, as well as the horses.

“Our daily regimen (at the stables) depends on what’s going on, as far as events,” Barker explained. “We get here at 7 a.m. and feed and water the horses, and muck the stalls out. As Marines, we still have jobs to do as well, plus ground work, saddle training, and ranch maintenance.”

“For our maintenance training and farrier work we have Terry Holliday, a contractor,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG stableman. “Each Marine is assigned to two horses to work with daily, and if any Marines are out, we cover their horses, too.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
The Marine Corps’ Mounted Color Guard. Left to right: Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, Sgt. Moses Machuca, Sgt. Terry Barker and Sgt. Jacob Cummins. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by: Carlos Guerra)

Much has changed over the years, to include the procurement and initial training practices for the horses. In the early stages, Lindsley went to Utah with $600 to purchase horses for use with the MCG Marines.

“The horses we use today are all obtained through the Horse and Burro Program out of Carson City, Nevada,” explained Barker. “From there, they go through an inmate rehabilitation program, where the inmates get the horses to where they are green-broke, which means you can approach them, touch them, and touch their feet and so forth.”

Some of the Marines assigned to the MCG, such as Barker and Cummins, as well as two other riders, Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, and Lance Cpl. Alicia Frost, have prior experience riding and working with horses. However, most of the riders assigned to the MCG, such as Sgt. Moises Machuca and Sgt. Miguel Felix who are both currently with the team, did not have any experience with horses prior to their arrival. It is Holliday’s task to train the Marines to ride the horses effectively. The Marines learn basics first, such as the use of saddles, rein work, the various types of bridles and their functions, as well as how to make contact with the animals.

“They may come to the MCG without experience, but these are Marines and they’re the  best of the best, so they do this like they do everything else,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Atkinson, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mounted Color Guard. “They work hard and become the best. It’s an honor to represent the Marine Corps in such a manner.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to camp like a soldier

Camping is a quintessential summer activity, but let’s face it; we’ve gone soft. On my last camping trip, I packed pillows, blankets, a stove, a hammock, books and approximately a month worth of junk food. I brought along a car adaptor so I could blow up our three air mattresses with ease. On the way out the door, my friend asked if she could run back in to grab her straightener. Her. STRAIGHTENER.

Camping in the field is another game entirely. It’s not even a game, really. It’s challenging, team-building, possibly life-threatening work, but you’ll return knowing you fought nature and won. SO much cooler than glamping. Think you’re tough enough? Here’s how to try it for yourself. (Sort of.)


Say goodbye to your lounge chair. 

As the owner of a 7-passenger SUV, I can proudly say that I have used 100% of my available cargo space on a single, five day camping trip. All of it. Camping with friends and family is about fun and convenience, not necessity.

Camping in the field, however, is more like extreme backpacking. Kiss your air mattress, propane heater, bluetooth speakers, and endless snacks goodbye. Creature comforts are out, necessities are in. Imagine you’re about to be stranded in the wilderness, alone, and you can only bring what you can carry. Marshmallows, White Claw, and movie projectors probably don’t make the cut.

Forget relaxing and get to work. 

This probably goes without saying, but day drinking, movie nights, and leisurely hikes aren’t exactly the point of being in the field. You’re expected to follow a strict schedule; you have a job to do, after all! Your exact duties will likely vary, but sightseeing isn’t on the agenda.

Pick people for practicality, not play. 

Look, it’s not personal. Your buddy who starts day drinking right after rolling out of a hammock at noon just won’t be able to keep up. Nor will Pinterest camp mom, who shopped for an entire cooler’s worth of perishable ingredients to try out the nine different gourmet campfire meals she added to her camping board. By the time she’s made a three-course campfire foil brunch and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ, the rest of the troops will have left her behind.

Day drinking dude and Pinterest mom are ultra-fun to camp with, but camping in the field isn’t about fun. You’ll be camping with those who are the most useful to your mission, so you better learn to like them. Even if you’re not best buddies, you’ll learn to appreciate their unique skills.

Expect the unexpected.

If a sudden rainstorm hits during a family camping trip, you can stuff all your junk in the car and book it to the closest Motel 6. Or maybe a nice hotel with a hot tub and room service. You’ve got options. When you’re a soldier, your only option is to find the driest patch of land, build a shelter with what you have, and wait it out. If there’s a dust storm, your options aren’t much better. You just have to deal with it, basically, and hope you don’t come across a demonic-looking camel spider. Shudder.

Prep your survival skills. They’re not just for show. 

Who here has watched Bear Grylls eating bugs and drinking reindeer blood from the couch? Just me? As it turns out, Bear Grylls actually served in the British Army reserves from 1994–1997. He was trained in desert and winter warfare, unarmed combat, climbing, parachuting, explosives, and (duh!) survival. His training actually gave him much of the knowledge he needed for his more well-known career as a survivalist and TV persona. While you probably won’t have to resort to drinking animal blood at your cozy family campground with running water, bathrooms, and fire pits, crazy survival skills like that are actually useful in the field. While one hopes you never need them, it’s best to have them in case you do! And if you don’t, you can retire and go into reality TV.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do with your TSP after the military

Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?

Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.


The usually-better options include:

  1. Leave the money in your TSP account.
  2. Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
  3. Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.

The rarely-better options include:

  1. Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
  2. Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.

Leave the balance in your TSP account

Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.

“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”

Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.

Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.

Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement

Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!

Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan

Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)

Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.

Forrest Baumhover, a certified financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, suggests caution when moving your TSP to a 401(k).

“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”

Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum

Pros: Cash in hand.

Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.

Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity

Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.

Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.

This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.

Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.

“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spec Ops leaders tell Congress they’re in the ‘risk business’

Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.

Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.


The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.

Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”

Not stretched thin

West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”

As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.

“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”

A more lethal force

Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.

“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.

To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.

“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.

Global mission sets

“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.

“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.

In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.

Emerging technologies

“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.

“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”

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The US Air Force has an absurd plan for replacing the A-10 Warthog

The US Air Force has presented several plans for replacing the beloved A-10 Warthog close air support attack plane over the years, but their latest plan takes the cake as the most absurd.


As it stands, the Air Force wants to purchase or develop not one, but two new airframes to eventually phase out the A-10.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
U.S. A-10s and F-16s take part in an Elephant Walk in South Korea | US Air Force photo

First, they’d pick out a plane, likely an existing one, called the OA-X, (Observation, Attack, Experimental), which would likely be an existing plane with a low operating cost. Propeller-driven planes like the Beechcraft AT-6, already in use as a training plane for the Air Force, or Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which the US recently gave to Afghanistan for counter-insurgency missions, are possible options.

Related: Here’s a friendly reminder of how big the A-10 Warthog’s gun is

The OA-X would fly with A-10s in low-threat air spaces to support the tank-buster, however this option appears to make little sense.

A sub-sonic, propeller-driven plane can perform essential close air support duties in much the same way a World War II era platform could, but it’s a sitting duck for the kind of man-portable, shoulder-launched air defense systems becoming increasingly prominent in today’s battle spaces.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Mobile air defenses are already widespread, and only gaining ground. | YouTube screenshot

Next, the Air Force would look to field an A-X2 to finally replace the Warthog. The idea behind this jet would be to preserve the A-10’s CAS capabilities while increasing survivability in medium-threat level environments.

So while an update on the 40-year-old A-10 seems to make sense, the funding for it doesn’t.

The Air Force expects a “bow-wave” of costs in the mid-2020s, when modernization costs are looming and can’t be put off any further. This includes procuring F-35s, developing the B-21, procuring KC-46 tankers, and even possibly embarking on the quest to build a sixth-generation air dominance platform.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James seemed puzzled by the proposed plan to replace the A-10, saying in an interview with Defense News, “everything has a price tag … If something goes in, something else has to fall out.”

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, noted to Defense News his doubts that the proposed replacements would be a good use of limited public funds.

“If you look at the things within the combat Air Force portfolio that I’m responsible for in modernization and taking care of those systems, I don’t know where the money would come from,” Carlisle said. “And if we got extra money, in my opinion, there’s other things that I would do first to increase our combat capability before we go to that platform.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
The US Air Force has a shortage of planes, where perhaps money could be better spent. | U.S. Air Force photo by Andrew Breese

Also, Carlisle doubted the need for a plane to operate in low-threat or “permissive” airspaces, as they are fast disappearing.

“Given the evolving threat environment, I sometimes wonder what permissive in the future is going to look like and if there’s going to be any such thing, with the proliferation of potential adversaries out there,” he said.

“The idea of a low-end CAS platform, I’m working my way through whether that’s a viable plan or not given what I think the threat is going to continue to evolve to, to include terrorists and their ability to get their hands on, potentially, weapons from a variety of sources.”

Furthermore, the Air Force’s proposal seems to run contrary to other proposals to replace the A-10 in the past. For a while, Air Force officials said that the F-35 would take over for the A-10, and though the F-35 just reached operational capability, it was not mentioned as part of the newest proposal.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Air Force General Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee that other legacy fighters, the F-16 and F-15 could fly the A-10’s missions in Iraq and Syria until the F-35 was available, but that idea was also mysteriously absent from the Air Force’s two-new-plane proposal.

The Air Force, expecting huge costs in the near future, is wise to try to slash costs, and retiring an airplane and all the associated infrastructure makes an attractive target, but the A-10 represents just 2 percent of the Air Force’s budget, and has unique capabilities that no other aircraft in the fleet can hope to match.

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jul. 1

It’s America Weekend! If you’re not already on a four-day, we are so sorry and we want to know what’s wrong with your command just as much as you do.


Whether you’re stuck on duty, working some post-DD-214 civilian job, or just waking up from the first barracks party of the weekend, here are 13 of the week’s funniest military memes:

1. Word is that if he actually donated his own blood, every recipient would go super saiyan (via Military Memes).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

2. “Guys, I’m already just faking half of my duties.”

(via Pop Smoke)

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

SEE ALSO: After 50 years, a heroic Huey pilot will receive the Medal of Honor

3. “Oh crap.”

(via Marine Corps Memes)

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

4. “Hello, tank. Some guys on the ridge took pop shots at us.”

(via Military Memes)

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
“Could you –” BOOM! “Yeah, that probably did it.”

5. The famed Pillsbury Dough Chief (via Military Memes).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

6. So many certificates, so little learning (via Air Force Memes Humor).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
There’s supposed to be another joke right here.

7. First step to any military plan: Get everything clean (via Team Non-Rec).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Second step: Inspections.

8. “Do not mouth off to the NCOs, do not mouth off –”

(via The Salty Soldier)

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Remember: That first sergeant is likely to be on the promotion board.

9. That toll booth operator told this story at every party for the net ten years (via Military Memes).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Seriously tank, you could’ve driven on the grass, across the parking lot, through the booth, anywhere.

10. Better submit that ticket before the keyboard starts burning too (via Coast Guard Memes).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Forget the fire extinguisher. The computer guys will bring one with them.

11. “So, you’ll start by taking the ASVAB …”

(via Do You Even Marine, Bro?)

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

12. The F-35 is always in trouble (via Air Force Nation).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

13. The E-4 mafia gets saltier and saltier every year (via The Senior Specialist).

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Maybe it’s because the specialists have given up on getting promoted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New nuclear cruise missiles could go on the Zumwalt destroyer

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes a long-term plan that could put nuclear cruise missiles aboard the new Zumwalt class (DDG 1000) of stealthy Navy destroyers, according to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.


Air Force Gen. John Hyten, StratCom chief, said the plan to develop a new, low-yield nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM, or “Slick-em”) would not be limited to using ballistic submarines as the sole launch platform, as many assumed when the NPR was endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early February 2018.

“It’s important to know that the NPR, when it talks about the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, does not say ‘Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile,’ ” Hyten said in a Feb. 16, 2018 keynote address in Washington, D.C., at the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Also read: The Navy has new, long-range ship killer missiles for the Zumwalt

In response to questions, he said, “We want to look at a number of options — everything from surface DDG 1000s into submarines, different types of submarines” for the SLCMs.

“That’s what the president’s budget has requested of us — to go look at those platforms, and we’re going to walk down that path,” Hyten said.

The USS Zumwalt, the first of three new stealthy destroyers billed by the Navy as the world’s largest and most technologically advanced surface combatants, experienced numerous cost overruns in construction and problems in sea trials. It also broke down while transiting the Panama Canal in 2016.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (U.S. Navy)

The second ship in the Zumwalt class, the Michael Monsoor, had to cut short sea trials in December 2017 because of equipment failures.

The NPR called for the development of two new, low-yield nuclear weapons — the SCLM and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Hyten said the U.S. will be modifying “a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a prompt, low-yield capability, as well as pursuing a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile in the longer term.”

He added, with some regret, that both are necessary to enhance U.S. deterrence against growing tactical and strategic nuclear threats from Russia and China.

“I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was,” he said. “We, as a nation, have long desired a world with no or at least fewer nuclear weapons. That is my desire as well. The world, however, has not followed that path.”

New developments with the Xian H6K strategic bomber, a version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber, has given China a nuclear triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines “for the first time,” Hyten said.

Related: Why the new Zumwalt destroyers’ guns won’t work

He also cited repeated statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin about modernizing his own nuclear force and developing a new generation of low-yield weapons. “Russia has been clear about their intent all along,” he said.

In the question-and-answer period at National Defense University, an official from the Russian Embassy in Washington challenged the general’s assessment of the threat posed by his country.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Vladimir Putin.

Hyten responded, “We listen very closely to what your president says, and then watch closely” through a variety of means to see Putin’s thoughts put into action. “We have to consider those a threat.”

Earlier, he said, “Our adversaries are building and operating these strategic weapons, not as a science experiment, but as a direct threat to the United States of America.”

In an address preceding Hyten’s, Pentagon policy chief David Trachtenberg said that the new NPR developed for the Trump administration should not be seen as a divergence from the 2010 NPR adopted by the Obama administration.

More: Watch Russia test fire a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile interceptor

“Contrary to some commentary, the Nuclear Posture Review does not go beyond the 2010 NPR in expanding the traditional role of nuclear weapons,” said Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

“The goal of our recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed, and the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”

However, “it is clear that our attempts to lead by example in reducing the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons in the world have not been reciprocated,” Trachtenberg said.

Russia and China have made clear their intentions to “expand the numbers and capabilities” of their nuclear arsenals, he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Korean War started 68 years ago this week

When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.

Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.

The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.


Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton an Eighth U.S. Army first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit looks out on the South Korea countryside during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)

The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.

When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.

The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.

Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Early photo of a group of Korean Service Corps members during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)


The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.

During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:

“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”

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

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The Army found an M2 .50 caliber machine-gun still shooting perfectly after 90 years of service

The .50 caliber M2 machine gun was designed in 1918, near the end of World War I by John Browning.


Production began in 1921 and the weapon was designed so a single receiver could be turned into seven different variants by adding jackets, barrels or other components.

Roughly 94 years after the first production run of M2 machine guns came off the assembly line, the 324th weapon produced made it to Anniston Army Depot for overhaul and upgrade.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Cody Bryant, left, and Corby Tinney inspect the 324th M2 receiver ever produced. The weapon arrived at Anniston Army Depot to be converted to a M2A1 in May. Photo: Army Materiel Command Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus

In more than 90 years of existence, the receiver with serial number 324 has never been overhauled.

“Looking at the receiver, for its age, it looks good as new and it gauges better than most of the other weapons,” said John Clark, a small arms repair leader.

Despite the fact that the weapon still meets most specifications, it may be destined for the scrap yard.

Modifications made to the weapon in the field mean part of the receiver would have to be removed through welding and replaced with new metal, a process which usually means the receiver is scrap.

“I’d rather put this one on display than send it to the scrap yard,” said Clark, adding the weapon’s age makes it appealing as a historical artifact.

Currently, the 389th M2 is on display in the Small Arms Repair Facility. There is an approval process the older weapon would have to go through in order to be similarly displayed. Clark and Jeff Bonner, the Weapons Division chief, are researching and beginning that process.

In 2011, the depot began converting the Army’s inventory of M2 flexible machine guns to a new variant.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Photo Credit: US Army Gertrud Zach

The M2A1, has a fixed headspace, or distance between the face of the bolt and the base of the cartridge case, and timing, the weapon’s adjustment which allows firing when the recoil is in the correct positon.

In the past, every time a Soldier changed the barrel on the M2, the timing and headspace had to be changed as well. If that wasn’t done properly, the weapon could blow apart. The fixed headspace and timing eliminates this risk to Soldiers.

“It only takes 30 seconds to change out the barrel on the M2A1 and you’re back in business. The M2 Flex version could take three to five minutes, depending upon your situation,” said Jeff Bonner, weapons division chief.

Bonner said this is the first major change to the M2 weapon system since the machine gun was first fielded.

Since the overhaul and upgrade work began in fiscal year 2011, the depot has brought more than 14,000 of these .50 caliber machine guns to better than new, and upgraded, condition.

Once the weapon is rebuilt, it has to be readied to be fired, repeatedly, without jamming or suffering other mechanical difficulties.

To assist with this process, a machine known as the exerciser is used to ensure the new parts work well with the old.

After all, the older parts of the weapon could be nearly 90 years old.

The exerciser simulates charging the weapon, or preparing it to be fired, 700 times.

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