Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.

Resisting that effort out of public view are executives of the exchange services who fear their own success in running base department stores, gas stations and convenience outlets, which generate profits to support on-base morale, and recreational activities, could be put at risk by some of the policy executives they blame for deepening the decline in sales across the commissary system.


In 2016, Congress gave the department authority and new tools to “transform” base grocery stores, which for generations relied on taxpayer dollars to offer a wide array of brand products to military families and retirees at cost.

In addition, shoppers pay a five percent surcharge to fund the modernizing or replacement of aging commissaries.

The goal of recent reforms is to turn commissaries into profit-generating stores, similar to exchanges, thus lowering the $1.3 billion annual subsidy so that money can be diverted to more critical needs for sustaining a ready fighting force.

Congress insisted, however, that overall savings to patrons not drop, even as DeCA phases in more business-like practices. Two big ones are variable pricing of goods to replace the tradition of selling at cost, and adoption of commissary-label goods to compete for patron dollars with a narrowed selection of national brands.

Manufacturers over have competed through pricing for commissary shelf space. Surviving brands, in turn, often have cut coupon offerings and other promotions to make up for lower pricing, say industry sources.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(Photo by Chiara Mattirolo)

Meanwhile, they have complained, it’s unclear whether their reduced profit margins are being passed on to patrons or retained to offset commissary operating costs. So far, critics in industry contend, one clear consequence of commissary reforms has been to accelerate declining sales.

Policy officials implementing the reforms are now seen as doubling down on their bet, insisting that, to survive, military resale stores must consolidate to squeeze out inefficiencies, rescue commissaries and evolve into super retailers to more effectively compete with commercial stores, not only on prices but on providing a more attractive, rewarding, and convenient shopping experience.

Officials are warning Congress, store suppliers and advocates for military shoppers that defending the status quo, amid falling sales, will jeopardize “the department’s ability to ensure the long-term viability” of base stores.

The comment appears in a draft legislative proposal for creating the Defense Resale Enterprise by merging DeCA with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and the Marine Corps exchange system.

A merger, the proposal contends, will reduce reliance on appropriated funding; eliminate management redundancies; increase standardization of processes and systems; cut operating costs, and generate greater margins on goods sold “to be reinvested in price reductions, morale, welfare and recreation program funding and capital reinvestment.”

It also contends it “will increase the enterprise’s agility to respond to dynamic mission, industry and patron requirements and trends; and [to] ensure the long-term viability of these services” as benefits of military service.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi)

Sources say exchange officials are concerned that the team executing what so far are unproven commissary reforms is directing a merger of all resale operations with misleading claims. They are bristling at briefing materials to explain merger plans that lump exchanges in with DeCA as distressed operations. That’s just wrong, exchange leaders are contending, according to sources.

For example, AAFES touts that it has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period, from 3.2 percent in 2012 to 5.9 percent in 2016, despite an 11 percent force drawdown across Army and Air Force in those years. Also, its website business is growing 50 percent annually and AAFES says it consistently has delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs.

And yet, sources say, to win support for a merger, Defense officials have portrayed exchanges as part of a failing resale system. The only store system that has been mismanaged, particularly against outside competitors, is DeCA, they insist. One internal communication referred to DeCA “the elephant in the room,” with sales down 20 percent since 2012 and current reforms aggravating patrons rather than turning sales around.

On April 12, 2018, Defense officials briefed some military associations on merger plans, perhaps also learned what sort of resistance to expect. Advocacy groups say they need to learn more.

“We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.

Priorities for families are to sustain shopper savings, improve the in-store experience and ensure proper funding of MWR programs, Huck added.

Streamlining of backroom processes across base stores to gain efficiency, without diluting the shopping benefit, “is something we support,” said Brooke Goldberg, director of military family policy for Military Officers Association of America. But how does a full merger of stores benefit the exchanges, she asked.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis)

“We don’t have answers on that,” she said.

“The intriguing part of all this is the untapped potential of commissaries…[T]here are things that should be explored [to] preserve that benefit. But we also want to preserve the exchange benefit,” Goldberg said. “Any change to the commissary that negatively affects the exchange is not something we support.”

Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, the industry trade group for businesses supporting military resale, cautioned against using exchange earnings to underwrite a wider resale enterprise. The earnings belong to patrons, he said, and have been used for decades to reinvest in exchanges and support MWR to improve base community programs.

Rossetti suggested Defense officials should focus first on reversing the falloff in sales at commissaries before launching a merger with exchanges to try to gain long-term efficiencies, and also that they “take a long hard look before they leap to ensure benefits truly outweigh costs.”

There’s fear a broken commissary system, and the quest to cut taxpayer support of it, could endanger still thriving exchanges if, through merger, their profits are seen as a life raft to save grocery discounts as the law requires.

The draft legislative proposal, however, describes different goals aimed at keeping all base retail operations competitive, for example by allowing exchanges and commissaries to combine into single stores. This could “respond to generational shopping habits” and to market forces “impacting all traditional grocery and retail stores,” it says. “Millennials (ages 22-36), who collectively represent the majority of military shoppers, [are] using technology to shop and save, and are driven by speed, convenience, proximity, variety, (rather than brand) and experiences.”

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Meme day! Since many of you are already enjoying your four days off for Memorial Day, you won’t have to hide your phone while you read this week. (Unless you have duty, and in that case … sorry.)


1. Is there any doubt here?

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Your troops are planning their weekend. They are always planning their weekend.

2. Mario Kart no longer has anything on real life.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Though it will probably hurt more to crash in real life.

SEE ALSO: Video: 10 little known (and surprising) facts about al Qaeda

3. Coast Guard leads a flock of ships into safer waters.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

4.  Junior enlisted can’t get no respect (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
… unless the Air Force forms an E4 mafia.

5. Kids restaurants are taking serious steps to prevent fraud.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Of course, if they could just install .50-cal games, I’d be more likely to take my niece there.

6. Nothing shady about this at all (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Move along. Nothing to see here.

7. Dempsey discusses his plans for ISIS. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Finally, the infantry arrives and things really get going.

8. Most important class in the military: how to get your travel money (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Of course, it’s a little more complicated than is presented here.

9. “Do you even sail, bro?”

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Those machine guns look pretty cool when there isn’t a deck gun in the photo.

10. Mattis always focuses on the strategic and tactical factors.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
You only get to give Mattis orders if you’re in his chain of command.

11. Airmen 1st Class are trained professionals. (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
But, they aren’t necessarily experienced, and that can be important.

 12. There are different kinds of soldiers.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
If Waldo was the specialist, he would never be found.

13. “Everything needs to be tied down.” (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

NOW: 19 of the coolest military unit mottos

AND: The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this active cooling system for your rifle

If you’re a precision shooter, or have ever been to the range with one, you know that at some point you’re going to have to stop and let a rifle cool down. A hot barrel is a less accurate one, and usually long range shooters aren’t the type that want to turn money into noise. To reduce the dreaded waiting period, MagnetoSpeed launched an active cooling system they named Riflekühl.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen devices like this; several years ago Caldwell released their Accumax Barrel Cooler. However, there were some downsides. First and foremost it only worked with the AR-15 and then only those that used 5.56-sized receivers – that limits the application severely. MagnetoSpeed tells us they have a more efficient system that can drop the temperature of a barrel to ambient levels with an average of seven minutes. Inserted through the ejection port, the Riflekühl has a magnet to keep it snugged up against the bolt and the nozzle seals against the chamber to allow for the most efficient airflow. As a bonus, the Riflekühl has a replaceable 50-micron air filter (especially handy for those in desert environments) and the red color means it can also serve double duty as a chamber flag.


Of course, this being MagnetoSpeed, their target market is going to be for the bolt action crowd. With that said, we’re told that so far it has fit into every AR-15 and AR-10 style rifle that they’ve tried it in (.22LR not included!).

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

(Recoilweb)

Here’s some more information from MagnetoSpeed:

Tired of waiting and waiting for your rifle to cool down? MagnetoSpeed’s new barrel cooler, Riflekühl, is designed to get barrel temperatures down to intended operating levels quickly. The turbocharger inspired impeller is engineered to produce great air flow in a small package. Powered by a single CR123A Lithium battery (included), ambient air is forced through the extendable nozzle down the bore of the rifle. Designed to seal and push air flow down the barrel where it’s needed to efficiently cool barrels, typically under 7 minutes. Riflekühl doubles as a chamber flag and features an exclusive built-in air filter to prevent dust and dirt from being blown into your rifle. Spend less time waiting and more time shooting with the MagnetoSpeed Riflekühl.
Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

(Recoilweb)

Other features include:

‣Replaceable dust filter (50 Microns)
‣Strong neodymium magnet secures device to chamber
‣Included CR123 lithium battery lasts for dozens of range sessions
‣Spring loaded retractable nozzle designed for compact and durable storage
‣Belt/Pocket clip included for easy carry
‣Chamber seal for increased cooling efficiency
‣Red body serves as an empty chamber flag

Check out the video below or visit MagnetoSpeed online here for more information.

RifleKuhl

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

8 tips for managing a remote team during COVID-19

These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.


This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.

I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:

Stay connected.

MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Schedule video conference calls.

Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.

Create a virtual water cooler.

Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Share calendars.

Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.

c.pxhere.com

Take breaks.

Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Dedicate a space.

This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.

Don’t neglect hygiene.

Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.

Be patient.

This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.

Shannon Razsadin is the executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, www.militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Indian military unit fought for the Nazis

During World War II, the military force aiming to install an Aryan master race over the world found potentially unlikely allies on the subcontinent of India where thousands of soldiers joined the “Free Indian Legion,” fighting on behalf of the Nazis against the Allied Powers from the China-Burma-India Theater to the Atlantic Wall on D-Day.


Hitler’s Indian Regiment

www.youtube.com

Hitler’s Indian Regiment

India was a British colony during World War II that sent millions of loyal subjects to fight on behalf of King George VI, but the relationship between Britain and India was strained—to say the least—when the war started. India had been agitating for independence from the East India Company and then the British Crown for about a century.

Indian troops serving Great Britain fought valiantly and earned top awards for heroism in the battle against the Axis Powers, but not all Indian leaders thought the fight against fascism should trump the fight for Indian independence. Much like American patriots in the 1770s capitalized on Britain’s fighting with France, some Indian leaders thought Britain’s war with Germany was the perfect time to break away from the crown.

And the Nazis were happy to help. When they began to take Indian troops prisoner in Africa, they offered those men German uniforms, weapons, and training if they would take up arms against the British. The first 27, all seen as potential officers, were pulled out of German POW camps and sent to Germany for training in 1941. These were soon followed by thousands of others to fill out the ranks.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Let’s all agree that, regardless of motives or other accomplishments in your life, the photo of you shaking Hitler’s hand will never look good.

(Public domain)

An Indian independence leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, helped start the legion and got serious concessions from Germany on how the troops would be trained, deployed, equipped, paid, and more. Basically, the agreement was that the unit would be trained, paid, and equipped at the same level as any normal German unit.

But, the Indian troops could not be deployed like normal German units. The agreement that formed the unit would limit it to combat deployments focused on overthrowing British control of India. So Germany had to fund the unit like any German force, but they could only use it for Indian independence.

But still, the trade-off was seen as worthwhile by Germany as it struggled with how it would one day root British forces out of the jungles of Asia. This worry would prove well-founded when Britain and India began sending “Chindits” into the jungles to break the logistics chains and defensive lines of Japanese forces.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Soldiers with the Free Indian Legion fight side-by-side with other German soldiers in World War II.

(German Federal Archives)

So the Indian Legion was formed and given a distinctive badge of a leaping tiger. But, in direct contradiction of the agreement, Indian Legion troops would go on to serve almost exclusively in Europe during the war. This wasn’t some dastardly Nazi plot though. It was simply the reality of the battlefield.

Savvy World War II buffs will remember that, while the Axis Powers were triumphantly marching across much of the world in 1941 when the legion was first recruited, it was suffering serious setbacks just a year later.

While the Indian Legion was going through initial recruitment, organization, and training, America joined the war, Polish and French resistance gained strength against Nazi occupiers, England turned back the German tide in the Battle of Britain, and America began limiting and then defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Italy, meanwhile, crumbled under the Allied assault like it was an Olive Garden.

So the Indian Legion, still in Europe for training, was sent to the Netherlands and France to get experience guarding coasts in 1943 until Germany was ready to invade through either the Soviet Union or the Middle East into India. Some Indian Legion members were still on the French coast when the Allies launched the 1944 Operation Overlord, the invasion of Fortress Europe through France.

The Indian Legion saw some combat there, but was quickly pulled from the front lines as the men complained that they would likely be executed as traitors if captured by British forces. The legion continued operations across Nazi-occupied France and Belgium and maintained some presence on the Atlantic Wall.

It suffered a few casualties against French forces, but saw little combat overall until the last of its troops deployed in France were sent to join brethren already in Italy. It was there, in Italy, that the Indian Legion surrendered to the Allies. Indian Legion members generally opted to surrender to American and French forces, but they were handed over to British and Indian forces quickly after capture.

The Indian political climate after the war had little appetite for prosecuting Indians who had worked, albeit with the Nazis, for independence. And most of the soldiers who faced court-martial saw their charges dropped or commuted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what it was like to train right next to North Korea

With things starting to look up on the peninsula, it’s hard to believe that, in 2014, we were sitting around waiting to see what, exactly, was going to be the straw to break the Korean camel’s back reignite the (technically still-ongoing) Korean War. Thankfully, the North was wise enough to know not to f*ck with a Marine Corps infantry battalion. Regardless, we kept training for the worst.

We don’t have to tell you it’s cold on the Korean peninsula; you can read about that elsewhere. No, what you’re here for is to know what it was like for a Marine to be sitting three miles from the Korean Demilitarized Zone for a month and a half.


Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
We took the training more seriously at the time.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

Scary at first…

Yeah, it was. At the time, of course, we continuously called NK’s bluff because they did bark a lot for decades following the Armistice, but they’re enough of a loose cannon that some of us didn’t want to get complacent. It was better to assume that they were going to do something and we would be the first on the scene.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
We went on a DMZ tour and found out just how close it actually was.
(Photo courtesy of the author)

Of course, we didn’t realize how close we were to the DMZ until North Korea launched a few missiles. My company had been out on a range, police calling in the middle of the night when we noticed a couple of shooting stars streak across the sky. It was a beautiful site. That is, until we went back to base and saw that they were definitely missiles…

It didn’t help that the base didn’t have any ammunition for the first couple of weeks. We were basically sitting ducks, and if North Korea had known any better, it could have been huntin’ season.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
The biggest training challenge was the temperature.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

…then it was boring…

After the edge wore off, we became super bored. It didn’t help that we were on a base that was small enough for you to be able to throw a rock from one end and hit some POG working on a Humvee on the other. The training itself wasn’t bad. It was all easy stuff. But it was the heavy amount of downtime that really threw us for a loop.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Seriously, so much Friends.

External hard drives containing anything from games to movies to adult entertainment were passed around the platoon. Cigarettes, smoked all the way to the butt, were deposited into the butt can at least five times per day (more when the temperature was above 50 degrees). In fact, we probably broke the record for how many times you can watch Friends from beginning to end in a single week.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
The ROK Marines were honestly pretty cool.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Mains)

…until the ROK Marines showed up.

It was a major snoozefest up until the Republic of Korea Marine Corps showed up. Then it quickly turned into a dog-and-pony show on top of the snooze fest. Then, training became much more frequent, so it quelled our boredom. We ended up forgetting that North Korea existed during that time, you know, except when our Battalion Commander reminded us during every formation.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
My platoon before a major training op that was called off because the range was set on fire.

All in all, training next to North Korea was hyped up beyond what it actually was. There was a lot of anxious excitement at first and then it was just, “what show are we watching today?” For a first deployment, I definitely expected a lot more, but, thankfully, it wasn’t any more exciting than it was because, you know, fighting in the cold would suck.

So, that’s what it’s like to train next to North Korea.

Articles

Don’t pack a lip with that shrapnel-flavored snuff

Bring it in, take a knee, drink some water. You need to read this before you start popping that little can and getting a pinch — there’s a recall on Copenhagen, Skoal and Husky, which sucks, we know, but might save you some additional mouth pain.


It’s one thing to mix MRE instant coffee or Rip It powder in with your dip. But potentially mixing shrapnel in is quite another.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Is there some JDAM in there? (DoD photo)

Since four to five times as many military members use smokeless tobacco as their civilian counterparts (and given an average DoD expenditure of more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care), we reckon this is a warning that oughta get out there.

The recall comes from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. It’s a voluntary recall, applying to all products coming out of its Franklin Park facility in Illinois. Among them are a number of the company’s most popular products, including Cope Long Cut Straight (overseas military only), Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen (overseas military only) and about three dozen other flavors.

According to Altria…

“USSTC initiated the recall after receiving eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. Complaints have been received from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.”

The FDA is apparently aware of the complaints and the voluntary recall and is investigating.

Chances are if you’ve ever served, you’ve either used “smokeless tobacco” — i.e. snuff — or worked alongside or deployed with someone who has. Its use is ubiquitous, in both line and support units. The Millenium Cohort Study of 2012 made the relationship between combat and smokeless tobacco use very clear.

Overall, troops who were deployed but did not see combat were almost one-third more likely to take up a smokeless tobacco habit than their non-deployed counterparts. Those odds were two-thirds to three-quarters higher for troops who were in combat or who deployed multiple times.

DoD wide tobacco use in the military has declined since an Iraq War high, but it’s still far higher than the general civilian population and continues despite numerous measures taken discourage or even forbid it. Such regs as AFI 40–102, SECNAV 5100.13E, Army Regulation 600-63, and numerous local regulations like the one below for gyrenes are in place, but their impact is fairly anemic.

(5) Use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited during briefings, meetings, classes, formations, inspections, and while on watch. (6) The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste is confined to heads within government buildings aboard this installation. The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste within or from government vehicles is not permitted.

The reasons for that are many, and doubtless require little articulation here…stress relief, boredom, a boost to stay awake during long hours and night operations are the most often cited.

As long as assorted chumps are shooting at us in faraway places, that’s not likely to change either.

You can find further details in this press release from Altria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

How veterans and their families can get free video games

Most veterans who have served in the past 20 years are probably familiar with video games. From barracks LAN parties, to marathon sessions of Madden NFL at the MWR while downrange, it’s safe to say veterans like to play video games. Studies have shown that video games also help veterans recover from some mental health challenges, providing an escape while boosting confidence, personal growth, leadership, and social connections.

Operation Supply Drop’s Games to Grunts program supports community engagement to veterans, military, and their families through video games. Most of the games they offer are on Steam, such as TEKKEN 7, Cooking Simulator, and Vietnam 65′, but other platforms are also available, like free XBOX Game Passes. All of the games are available through digital download codes.


MIGHTY TRENDING

How to survive the first 4 weeks of Marine boot camp

“Get off my bus right now!”


This is how Marine Corps recruit training, or boot camp, begins. Some guy you’ve never met, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, screams at you to get off the bus. You file out and stand on the yellow footprints, a right of passage for all future Marines, and a reminder that every one of the Corps’ heroes and legends stood where you’re standing.

The first 72 hours are called “receiving,” and they’re a mild introduction to what’s ahead. Those first three days consist of a flurry of knife-hands, screaming, rough buzzcuts, gear issue, and general in-processing and paperwork.

If you’re tired or having second thoughts by then, you’re in trouble. The real work hasn’t even started.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Task & Purpose spoke to Staff Sgt. Thomas Phillips, a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, to talk about what recruits go through during the first four weeks of Marine Corps boot camp.

The 27-year-old Marine enlisted when he was 18, and six years later returned to Parris Island in July 2013 as a drill instructor assigned to the same company where he was a recruit.

“Six years ago, I was in their shoes on that same black line they’re now standing on,” says Phillips, who has now trained eight platoons of Marines. A platoon of recruits can range in size from 50 to 100, and is overseen by three to five drill instructors, depending on the platoon’s size.

Enlisted Marines are trained at only two locations: Parris Island and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. Parris Island is home to 4th Recruit Training Battalion, where female Marines are trained.

Drill instructors serve a variety of roles. There’s the enforcer, often called a “kill hat;” an experienced drill instructor, called a “J-hat” or a “heavy,” who has the most interaction with recruits; and a senior drill instructor, who serves as a stern paternal figure. Phillips served in each of these roles throughout his seven-and-a-half cycles training recruits.

Recruit training lasts 12 weeks and is broken into three phases.

In first phase, civilians learn how to be Marine recruits, and later, Marines.

First phase begins during receiving, and afterward, recruits are assigned to their platoons and introduced to their drill instructors.

“First phase is that indoctrination,” says Phillips. “They’re not recruits yet, you’re teaching them how to be recruits. It’s a whole new lifestyle.”

Recruits relearn everything they thought they knew: how to dress, walk, talk, eat, and even how to shower and properly clean themselves. Throughout boot camp, recruits must refer to themselves in the third person. The words “I, you, and we,” are replaced by “this recruit,” “that recruit,” and “these recruits.”

“We have to teach them a new way to talk, a new way to eat, brush their teeth, shave their face, everybody comes from different backgrounds growing up” says Phillips, who explains that first phase “evens the playground for everyone, it strips them down and puts everyone on that even playing field.”

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Staff Sgt. Maryssa Sexton, a chief drill instructor with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, ensures a recruit is paying attention during a history class Aug. 18, 2014, on Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple)

First phase also involves a lot of lectures, conducted by a drill instructor who lays out the Corps’ history from its founding in 1775 to now.

“The knowledge is such a key part,” says Phillips. “I’ve had kids tell me they didn’t expect there’d be so much classroom time. It’s not ‘Call of Duty,’ kids are like, ‘Man this is completely different from what I’ve expected. I haven’t shot a weapon, I’ve just carried it around.'”

Recruits also drill almost non-stop — which means walking in military formation with their weapons — for 100 or more hours, explains Phillips, who adds that drill teaches recruits proper weapons’ handling, instills discipline, and builds unit cohesion.

“Drill is used in first phase to get that discipline,” says Phillips. “Just standing at attention and not moving for 20 or 30 minutes, that’s hard for a lot of those 18 or 19-year-old kids that are used to just doing whatever they want to do. Drill is that unit cohesion, that teamwork, that sense that if I mess up, those guys on my left or right are going to suffer.”

If you come in with the wrong mindset, it will cost you.

“The thing that’s going to get you spotlighted during first phase is attitude,” says Phillips. “[Recruits] should know coming here that it’s never personal. The Marine Corps is a business. It’s a fighting force.”

If recruits do mess up, and they will, then they “suffer,” usually in the form of incentivized training or “IT,” which involves lots of push-ups, running in place, burpees in the sun, and planks.

Also Read: This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

“They watch the videos and hear the yelling and screaming and think ‘I won’t break,’ then they get here and it’s time to be a man.”

This phase of training culminates in two events: initial drill and swim qualification.

Initial drill involves a detailed inspection where recruits’ uniforms and weapons are checked, and they’re quizzed on what they’ve learned in those first few weeks.

The final hurdle in phase one is swim qualification, and if a recruit can’t pass that, then he or she has no chance of moving forward.

“Some kids have never been in the pool and I would tell them to be mentally prepared for that,” says Phillips.

In addition to being mentally prepared, prospective Marines who can’t swim might want to think about taking lessons before they sign on the dotted line.

“If you can’t swim, there is nothing they can do, you are not going to move on to that next phase,” says Phillips.

According to Phillips, no matter how tough the drill instructors are, everything they do is for a reason.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis/USMC

Consider the knife-hands that recruits are told to point and gesture with. There’s a reason for that. A knife-hand is when your fingers are outstretched and together, like a blade, your wrist is straight, with your thumb pressed down. That’s also the position your hand should be in when you salute.

It’s not a coincidence, says Phillips.

“They don’t even know the reason, but they’re going to reap the benefits of that reason.”

After phase one, recruits move on to the second phase of training where they are taught how to shoot, as they build off what they’ve learned in the first four weeks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA wants to make you eat your own trash

Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)


Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.

But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.

And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.

(DARPA)

And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”

The press release went on to say:

A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.
Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.

(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)

Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.

And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.

Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.

It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.

Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Air Force pilots train with VR and 360-degree cameras

The 80th Flying Training Wing is moving at the speed of innovation and is bound to only get faster as visionaries incorporate the latest in mixed realities to boost undergraduate pilot training.

Lt. Col. Jason Turner, 80th FTW Strategic Initiatives director, said the implementation of virtual and augmented realities is creating a portfolio of tools that allows instructor and student pilots alike to enhance the learning experience within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world’s only internationally manned and operated combat pilot training program.


Through the use of 360-degree cameras, skilled pilots and actual images from flights over north Texas and southern Oklahoma, the program is able to build instructional content to train students on items such as local aerial procedures and ground operations.

In short, it’s creating a realistic flying environment in a controlled setting that enables students to learn and make mistakes in a safe setting.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets Preston Tower, left, Alexander Knapp and Ian Palmer fly three T-38C Talons in formation in a mixed reality environment during a flying training session with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)

“The solution essentially gives them the ability to visualize some of the things that they’ll experience airborne so that once they do get airborne, they’re able to take those reference pictures that they saw in mixed reality and apply them to their training in the air, hopefully making their air time training more valuable,” he said.

Maj. Steve Briones, the 80th FTW’s director of Wing Innovation, has played an integral role in leading the innovative charge to marry traditional simulator training and real flight time with fast-advancing technologies such as virtual and augmented realities. He said it has taken about six months to go from concept to two functional “Innovation Labs” available to ENJJPT instructors and students.

Virtual reality creates an experience where a person is immersed in a virtual world, whereas an augmented reality incorporates digital elements to a live view of an environment.

“It’s the future of learning in the Air Force,” Briones said. “It’s just being able to take different methods of delivering content or just making the learning content accessible in different ways.”

Briones said the innovative training tools will not replace traditional simulators as they provide a physical, hands-on platform to practice instrument familiarity and emergency procedures. However, the newest set up does allow for visuals that can’t be replicated in a simulator such as formation flying because they are able to link individual training stations.

The technology brings pilot training methodologies together in a new and adaptive way, he said, that is a cloud-based and student-focused in such a way that airmen in the ENJJPT program can access courseware wherever they are and whenever they want to.

“If you asked folks six months ago when we were just thinking about this if this was possible, they would’ve been like, ‘No way. There’s no way,'” he said. “So, I think it allows us to think critically about how we’re training and how we can make ourselves better.”

A group of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were in the 10-station lab Feb. 1, 2019, trying out the technology as part of a visit to the 80th FTW. Turner said the trio taking a virtual flight had spent about 30 minutes on the mixed reality trainers, but they were already showing a skill ENJJPT students learn over the course of the 55-week program: formation flying.

“They’re still learning. They’re still developing,” Turner said of the potential for student pilots as seen by the MIT students. “But this also gives them a place to practice where mistakes don’t cost them their safety.”

There is, admittedly, some hesitancy with the new technology as there is very little performance data in the program at this time to fall back on. Turner said part of that is because the technology has not been specifically introduced into the ENJJPT syllabus.

What they’ve done, he said, is encourage students to try out the equipment to change their mindset in regards to effectiveness of the training and the sense of reality it brings. What they’ve seen is when one student sees the capabilities, they bring others to the experience, who in turn bring more.

Turner said ENJJPT Class 20-04 will start a small-group trial at the end of February 2019, which will include deliberately implementing these technologies into their training. They will also soon have the ability to toggle between T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon training modules.

“While that virtual reality or mixed reality won’t replace actual flight time, it’s intended to augment it to make that time more valuable,” he said. “That’s when students will officially be coming here as part of their training experience.”

Turner and Briones both lauded the public-private partnership with industry leaders to create a training environment that compliments existing platforms. The technology, they said, is exceeding expectations and they are seeing how it will continue to enhance the ENJJPT training curriculum.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How battleship salvos worked in sea combat

There are no battleships left in active service. But they were once the kings of the seas, essentially sea dragons that could literally breathe fire. But these behemoths didn’t take shots in combat willy-nilly. They typically fired in salvos or partial salvos, with all or most of their guns firing at once. How come?


Salvo (Military Tactic)
www.youtube.com

Well, there are actually a lot of good reasons why battleships and other large artillery platforms typically fire all of their guns or a lot of them at once. This practice, known as a salvo, has different uses.

The most common and obvious reasons to fire all the guns at once is to knock out the enemy’s ability to make war as quickly as possible. Battleships are mobile platforms. That means that they are out of range of the enemy until, suddenly, they’re not. And if the ships are still closing or if the enemy has better range, then the battleship is in as much danger as the enemy.

But if the battleship fires all of its guns at once and manages to land a couple hits home, then the enemy ship will be forced to fight while crippled. Crucial manpower will be diverted to damage control, some guns could be knocked completely out of service, and there’s a chance that the engine or the bridge or another essential area could be destroyed.

Base Exchanges now fight plans to merge with Commissaries
The USS Missouri fires a broadside.
(U.S. Navy)

If the battleship isn’t sure of exactly how far away the enemy ship is, it might fire partial salvos instead. This is when the ship fires a third or half of its guns at once to find the enemy range. While this can technically be done with single shots, it’s easy for the fire control officers to miss a round or two hitting the water in the chaos of combat. But if five or ten shells hit the water at once, the officer can definitely tell if the rounds landed far or short.

And salvos typically create a tighter spread of impacts than individually fired guns, so partial salvos to find range can be more accurate than firing individual guns.

But best of all against enemy ships, a salvo could be fired with guns aimed at different points, dropping shells both at the spot where the commanding officer thought the enemy ship would be as well as the point where it would most likely be if it attempted to maneuver away from the impacts. So, even if the rival ship attempts to escape, it’s still catching multiple shells in its decks.

But even against shore targets, firing in salvos can be good. That’s because taking out a bunker takes a near or direct hit, but bunkers have much less exposed area than an enemy ship does. Firing more guns gives a better chance of busting the bunker in one pass.

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