For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.
WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.
Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.
The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.
Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.
Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.
All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, headliner and USMC vet Greg Hahn reads the crowd into his grand life plan and remembers how he was right out of boot camp.
A huge new “Star Wars” game is on the verge of being fully revealed: “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is expected to arrive later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Even better: The game is being made by Respawn Entertainment, the same studio behind the excellent “Titanfall” series and recent blockbuster “Apex Legends.”
So what is it? Here’s everything we know so far:
No, not this Jedi — “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” takes place long before Rey was born.
1. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is a third-person action game starring a Jedi as the playable character.
Given the naming convention, you probably already guessed it: “Fallen Order” stars a Jedi.
That means, unlike “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” this game is no shooter. Instead, it’s a third-person action game that focuses on lightsaber-based combat.
2. It takes place between the events of “Episode 3” and “Episode 4.”
Spoilers for “Episode 3” ahead! In “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” (“Episode 3”), a very moody Anakin Skywalker — before turning into everyone’s favorite cyborg, Darth Vader — sets out to destroy the Jedi Order.
It’s part of a bigger jedi purge, known as “Order 66.” Few Jedi survive the purge, but apparently the main character in “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is one of those few.
The game follows “a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66,” according to Disney.
3. It’s likely to involve stealth gameplay.
In a tweet this week, the official “Star Wars” gaming account from Electronic Arts published the image above with the text, “Don’t stand out.”
Given the time period of the game, it’s very likely that the main character — a Jedi — is trying to stay out of sight. When the game was announced in June 2018, Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella referred to its setting as “dark times.”
What that means for gameplay is that stealth is almost certainly involved. After all, even the most adept Jedi couldn’t withstand the collective force of the Imperial Clone army.
4. It’s scheduled to arrive in “holiday 2019.”
When the game was announced in June 2018, it was given a “holiday 2019” release window by Respawn Entertainment head Vince Zampella. Given that the next major “Star Wars” movie is set to arrive on Dec. 20, 2019, we’d guess that “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” will arrive somewhere in the vicinity of December or November 2019.
The image above leaked ahead of the official reveal, and it offered fans an early look at what to expect from the upcoming game.
5. There appears to be a droid of some form alongside the main character.
As you may have noticed in the image above, next to the Jedi is an adorable little droid. It appears as though that droid will star alongside the game’s main character — perhaps as an assistant? Or maybe it offers help in puzzle-solving situations? We’ll see!
(Apex Legends/Electronic Arts)
6. It’s being made by the folks who made “Apex Legends” and “Titanfall,” Respawn Entertainment.
Respawn Entertainment, an EA-owned game studio, has only produced excellent games. Starting with “Titanfall” and, most recently, “Apex Legends,” Respawn Entertainment has a near-perfect record.
That said, Respawn Entertainment is known for creating first-person shooters — before Respawn, many of the studio’s employees developed the most iconic “Call of Duty” games. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” is the studio’s first attempt at character action.
7. The game is getting detailed during a panel at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on April 13, 2019.
Ready to learn more? Good news: Disney’s about to tell everyone a lot more about “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” on April 13, 2019!
During a panel at the Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago, Disney is scheduled to reveal many more details about the upcoming game.
Here’s the full panel description:
“Join the head of Respawn Entertainment, Vince Zampella, and Game Director, Stig Asmussen, along with many special guests, to be the first to learn about this holiday’s highly anticipated action adventure game, ‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.’ Hear how Respawn and Lucasfilm collaborated on this original Star Wars story, following a young Padawan’s journey in the Dark Times following Order 66. And of course, we’ll have a few surprises in store.”
During World War II, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were responsible for leading their nations to victory and jointly planned strategies for the cooperation and eventual success of the Allied armed forces. Roosevelt and Churchill had already agreed early in the war that Germany must be stopped first if success was to be attained in the Pacific. They were repeatedly urged by Stalin to open a “second front” that would alleviate the enormous pressure that Germany’s military was exerting on Russia. Large amounts of Soviet territory had been seized by the Germans, and the Soviet population had suffered terrible casualties from the relentless drive towards Moscow. Roosevelt and Churchill promised to invade Europe, but they could not deliver on their promise until many hurdles were overcome.
Initially, the United States had far too few soldiers in England for the Allies to mount a successful cross-channel operation. Additionally, invading Europe from more than one point would make it harder for Hitler to resupply and reinforce his divisions. In July 1942 Churchill and Roosevelt decided on the goal of occupying North Africa as a springboard to a European invasion from the south.
In addition to the troops, supplies, ships, and planes were also gathered. One photograph shows some of the equipment that was stockpiled in this manner. Countless details about weather, topography, and the German forces in France had to be learned before Overlord could be launched in 1944. In November American and British forces under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at three ports in French Morocco and Algeria. This surprise seizure of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers came less than a week after the decisive British victory at El Alamein. The stage was set for the expulsion of the Germans from Tunisia in May 1943, the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy later that summer, and the main assault on France the following year.
Because of this success, Eisenhower was named commander of all Allied forces in Europe in 1943. When in February 1944 he was ordered to invade the continent, planning for “Operation Overlord” had been under way for about a year. Hundreds of thousands of troops from the United States, Great Britain, France,Canada, and other nations were assembled in southern England and intensively trained for the complicated amphibious action against Normandy.
General Eisenhower’s experience and the Allied troops’ preparations were finally put to the test on the morning of June 6, 1944. An invasion force of 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and nearly three million soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors was assembled in England for the assault. Eisenhower’s doubts about success in the face of a highly-defended and well-prepared enemy led him to consider what would happen if the invasion of Normandy failed. If the Allies did not secure a strong foothold on D-Day, they would be ordered into a full retreat, and he would be forced to make public the message he drafted for such an occasion. View a large version of the letter here.
Here’s what it says: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
As the attack began, Allied troops did confront formidable obstacles. Germany had thousands of soldiers dug into bunkers, defended by artillery, mines, tangled barbed wire, machine guns, and other hazards to prevent landing craft from coming ashore. Document 3 featured with this lesson shows some of the ferocity of the attack they faced. About 4,900 U.S. troops were killed on D-Day, but by the end of the day 155,000 Allied troops were ashore and in control of 80 square miles of the French coast. Eisenhower’s letter was not needed, because D-Day was a success, opening Europe to the Allies and a German surrender less than a year later.
This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Thursday, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller revealed that in Syria, “Hurras al-Din — a group made up of several al Qaeda veterans — has suffered successive losses of key leaders and operatives.”
And, the secretive Hellfire AGM-114R9X missile, a US weapon typically referred to as the R9X, reportedly played a role in some of those losses.
On Sept. 14, a US Reaper drone operated by special operations forces killed Sayyaf al-Tunsi, a senior attack planner for al Qaeda and its affiliates, with an R9X, The New York Times reported, citing US military and counterterrorism officials, who said that the hit would disrupt Hurras al-Din operations.
Following an R9X strike in June believed to have killed two Hurras al-Din members, the most recent strike marks at least the second time in three months the weapon has been used.
The R9X, The Times reports, has proven useful for targeting terrorist leaders in urban areas, where they assume the US is more hesistant to engage due to the heightened risk of civilian casualties.
The so-called “Ninja Bomb” or “Flying Ginsu,” a modified Hellfire equipped with a non-explosive warhead that kills enemies with 100 pounds of metal, sheer force, and six blades, first became public knowledge when The Wall Street Journal reported its existence in May 2019.
The weapon’s development began during the Obama administration as an airstrike armament less likely to kill civilians than other battlefield options.
It is suspected to have been used to kill Ahmad Hasan Abu Khayr al-Masri, a top al Qaeda leader, in Syria in February 2017 and Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi, the al Qaeda operative who masterminded the deadly October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, in Yemen in January 2019.
There have been several other suspected R9X strikes since then.
The New York Times reports that while explosive Hellfire missiles are preferred for groups of terrorist targets, the non-explosive R9X is the “weapon of choice” for eliminating leaders and other high-value targets who are traveling alone.
Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.
“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”
We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.
WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare?
I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission.
They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously.
There was no check and balance in place.
No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time.
WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?
It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle.
The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable.
As a contractor it’s really just you.
Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go.
WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?
It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for.
This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war.
Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’
Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to.
WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?
Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security.
Gate guard, tower guard.
Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available.
WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?
Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that.
So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.
They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.
It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community?
There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published.
Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater.
A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented.
So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help.
‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon.
About Onward Press
Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit. www.usvaa.org
Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.
We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.
All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio. We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions. Please see Submission Guidelines.
Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.
No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.
For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.
In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.
A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.
There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.
The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.
This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.
This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.
The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).
To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.
On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.
If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.
Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.
Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.
A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.
On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.
The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.
American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.
US Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Benavidez and US-flagged merchant vessels MV Resolve and MV Patriot set off across the Atlantic for Europe last month, escorted by guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf through a path made by the Eisenhower carrier strike group.
“We may not have been doing it for the last 35 years, but we have had … to conduct convoy operations around the planet,” Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, told reporters last week. “So we’ve put some of those concepts and lessons learned into how we’re executing this particular operation.”
The convoy comes ahead of this spring’s Defender-Europe 20, a massive multinational exercise to which the US is shipping 20,000 troops and much of their gear — the largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe in 25 years.
Defender-Europe 20 will feature “a fictional near-peer competitor” in a future “post-Article V environment,” an Army planning official said last year, referring to NATO’s collective-defense provision.
Like the Navy’s convoy, the Army-led Defender-Europe 20 is about practicing old skills to confront new challenges.
Preparations for Defender-Europe 20 began in January, when US personnel loaded vehicles and equipment for rail transport to US ports.
The first combat power arrived on February 20, when US Army tanks and other vehicles rolled into the port of Bremerhaven in Germany. Participating countries will stage equipment at 14 air and seaports in eight European countries as the exercise gets underway.
Another 13,000 pieces of equipment will be drawn from Army Prepositioned Stocks in northwest Europe and deployed across 18 countries for training — ground convoys will cover some 2,500 miles to stage the exercise.
Defender-Europe 20 will end with US and partner forces cleaning training areas, returning equipment to those stocks, and for US troops, redeployment to the US.
Like crossing the Atlantic, getting around Europe isn’t new, but doing so now will test skills that haven’t been used much in the years after the Cold War, when the US presence in Europe dwindled and NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy atrophied.
“I’m concerned about the bandwidth to be able to accept this large force,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, when asked what challenges he expects the exercise to present.
“I’m also concerned about road and rail from the center portion of Germany … all the way to the eastern border,” Wolters said.
“Because we have the appropriate resources, we now possess a white-team capability to examine our speed of move from west to east, and we also have enough white-cell individuals to assess how safely we get stuff through Bremerhaven and to the next point,” Wolters added. “Bandwidth with respect to size and speed are my greatest concerns.”
This exercise “will allow us to see ourselves at all three levels — tactical, operational, strategic,” Gen. Gus Perna, head of US Army Material Command, which oversees installations, maintenance, and parts, told reporters in February.
“It will reinforce where we think we are tactically as far as material readiness,” Perna added. “Can we mobilize ourselves out of the barracks and the motor pools, move to the ports and the airfields, and then strategically project ourselves to some place across the ocean?”
“On the logistics side of the house, the environment in Europe has to be mature enough to be able to absorb 20,000 soldiers and get those soldiers to the right prepositioned locations to be able to grab the appropriate gear that they’re supposed to get to their foxhole and be able to execute,” Wolters said.
“What we want to do is count every second that it takes to get the soldier from the first point of entry all the way to his or her foxhole to be successful … and we anticipate that there will be some snags,” Wolters said.
Wolters credited the European Defense Initiative, started after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with making Defender-Europe 20 possible.
EDI has “funded the rotational brigade combat teams that go to Poland, and that teaches all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines how to lift and shift larger quantities of forces across the Atlantic and to do so without any harm,” Wolters told the committee.
EDI also funded “our emergency contingency air operations sets for the Air Force, and our deployable air base systems for the Air Force,” Wolters said. “We’ve also been able to dramatically improve our airfield infrastructure and the reception infrastructure in the eastern part of Europe to where it is equipped today to safely receive those resources and effectively get those resources where they need to go.”
But EDI funding has been particularly important for the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks.
Two years ago, “we weren’t mature enough with respect to the prepositioned stockpiles to have a soldier show up at location X and be able to grab resources. Today, we can do that,” Wolters said. “We know the fitness of the resources, and now we’ll be able to examine the speed at which they can get to the foxhole and be able to execute.”
Those stocks keep heavy equipment like tanks and critical supplies like ammunition at forward locations so troops can deploy, equip, and move to the front line.
Perna, head of Army Material Command, said last month that his command was working on another prepositioned stock to be located where Wolters and the head of US Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, felt it was needed.
“I can envision where Defender 2020 might illuminate several things” about those stocks, Perna said. “Is it in the right place? Do we need to adjust? Do we want to set up alternate sites to keep everybody guessing about what we’re doing? Is there a better place to put things for better advantage?”
“I also think coming out of Defender 20 might be a thought process of, ‘Hey, we need more … or we need different from what we have,'” Perna added.
In his testimony, Wolters expressed concern about road and railways in eastern Germany, but transportation infrastructure throughout Eastern Europe has been a persistent worry.
In addition to a tangle of customs rules and transport regulations, railway sizes often vary between countries in that part of Europe, meaning delays as cargos cross borders. Roadways there are often narrow and, in some cases, can’t handle heavy vehicles — a particular problem for Eastern Europe’s many aging bridges.
All this would be complicated in wartime, as Russia, which used to control much of Eastern Europe, is familiar with the weak points. (Russia is “not overly pleased” with Defender-Europe 20, Wolters said.)
NATO and the European Union have also devoted resources to improving local infrastructure. NATO also set up two new commands to oversee movements like those underway for Defender-Europe 20. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, oversees operations in the Atlantic, while Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, oversees allied armor and troop movements in Europe.
Limitations on civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are “an issue that all of Europe was very, very aware of in the mid-’80s, and they are getting themselves reacquainted with it today,” Wolters said.
“They understand the imperative of making sure that we have bridging programs in the regions in the northeast and the southeast of Europe to ensure that we can shoot, move, and communicate fast.”
Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.
But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.
That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.
Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.
But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.
But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.
Army Chaplain (Maj.) Patrick Kihiu (Military Families Magazine)
Army Maj. Patrick Kihiu’s journey to becoming a chaplain and American soldier began in the slums of Kenya.
Born and raised in East Africa, Kihiu developed a deep religious conviction during high school. He cultivated his faith attending his local church in Nairobi and taking leadership roles in outreach programs, including in one of the world’s largest slums — the Kibera Slums.
His pastors recognized his potential, and understanding the value of international exposure, recommended he attend theological institutions in the U.S.
Diversity was not completely new to Kihiu though.
“I enjoyed being part of a culturally-varied community in Nairobi,” Kihiu explained. “My school mates came from the 42 tribes represented in Kenya. … After seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, the Lord opened the door of opportunity to begin theological training in the USA in September 1992 at age 22.”
After immigrating, Kihiu received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Exposed to additional diversity during his studies, Kihiu says he gained an even more profound love and respect for others.
“We were constantly reminded we were all made in the Image of God and that we should treat everyone with the utmost respect irrespective of human differences,” he said.
It was also at school he met his wife, Rebecca — a fellow immigrant from Kenya. Ever since, they have led mission trips back to her home village in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and orphan crisis.
Then, starting his seminary practicum, he took a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
“It was there I had the opportunity to serve military veterans, providing for their spiritual needs. I heard stories of service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation,” Kihiu said.
As this position ended, Kihiu’s supervisor, a retired chaplain, recommended he consider Army chaplaincy. Humbled, Kihiu contemplated this calling while engaged in his next internship, a CPE residency at the University of Louisville Hospital. Here, he served as an on-call chaplain in the Emergency Department (ER).
Army Chaplain (Maj.) Patrick Kihiu with his family arriving home from a deployment July 2012 (Military Families Magazine)
“On duty, I was constantly exposed to patients with major trauma, including multiple gunshot wounds and serious accidents. I was there when doctors delivered tragic news, staying with families after the medical teams left, and then following up with the doctors and ER team to make sure they were OK too. Though this was an incredibly challenging ministry, I felt called providing compassionate care to all my patients, family members, and medical staff,” he said.
Here, Kihiu also served military families referred from Fort Knox, explaining how their conversations revolved around the respect they had for Army chaplains.
“I began exploring this ministry more even though I was clueless [about the] military culture. These brave soldiers and precious family members became my initial window in understanding the men and women whom I would eventually be called to serve,” he said.
Consequently, upon ending his residency and with encouragement from Rebecca, Kihiu enrolled in the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, November 2009— the same year he became a U.S. citizen.
Kihiu has since served in operational and training commands, including a Warrior Transition Battalion, and deploying to Iraq. While in the1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, then battalion commander, Col. Steve Dawson, said of Kihiu, “No combat patrol ever went outside the wire without him personally blessing them before their departure, whether 2:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.”
Now at Watters Family Life Training Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Kihiu encourages military families to get to know their chaplains.
“Chaplains have answered the sacred calling to ‘serve those who serve.’ We provide the best care possible in a confidential setting. [And though] endorsed by different religious agencies, our call to duty is to faithfully serve our diverse military community on behalf of our beloved nation.”
In maintaining his own resiliency, Kihiu adds, “I have learned the benefits of ‘self-awareness.’ By this I mean accepting my own strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas in our lives we can improve. Therefore, we should be accountable to others, like trusted friends, mentors, supervisors, clergy, therapists, or supervisors—who can constantly check on us and provide honest feedback. I treasure these vital relationships in my own life, and I could not be where I am without them.”
If you really think about it, troops and veterans have been trained for all the stresses of Black Friday.
You’ve been trained in making a plan, navigating difficult driving conditions, effective crowd control, and hand-to-hand combat when comes time to secure that one toy your little niece really wanted, and how to properly exfil the f*ck out of that mall before the rent-a-cops show up on Segways.
However, if you’re smart enough to avoid all of that BS and do your shopping online, then you’ve earned these memes.
The new National Defense Strategy, announced Jan. 19, is aimed at restoring America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the United States, its allies, or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II.
It is the first new National Defense Strategy in a decade. The defense strategy builds on the administration’s National Security Strategy that President Donald J. Trump announced Dec. 18.
Elbridge A. Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, briefed Pentagon reporters about the unclassified summary of the strategy in advance of Defense Secretary James N. Mattis unveiling the policy, saying “this is not a strategy of confrontation, but it is a strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.”
The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure, and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power, he said.
The strategy states that the primary challenge facing the Defense Department and the joint force is “the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation,” Colby said.
The strategy aims at thwarting Chinese and Russian aggression and use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm U.S. interests, and specifically focuses on three key theaters: Europe, the Indo-Pacific, and the Middle East, Colby said.
While Russia and China are the main U.S. adversaries in this strategy, DoD must address North Korea, Iran, and the threat posed by terrorism, Colby noted, and he said this strategy does that. “The strategy will have significant implications for how the department shapes the force, develops the force, postures the force, uses the force,” he said.
More lethal, agile force
The strategy looks to build a more lethal and agile force, Colby said. It shifts away from the post-Desert Storm model, and DoD seeks to modernize key capabilities and innovate using new technologies and operational concepts to maintain dominance across all domains, he explained.
The strategy will build on America’s unequalled alliance and partnership constellation and seek new partners for the future, he added.
Finally, the strategy seeks to reform DoD to create a culture that “delivers cost-effective performance at the speed of relevance,” Colby said.
The new strategy is needed because China and Russia have “gone to school” studying the American way of war, he said, and the U.S. dominance in the Middle East during Desert Strom was not lost on Russia or China. The two nations have spent the last 25 years studying ways to deny America its greatest military advantage, he said: the ability to deploy forces anywhere in the world and then sustain them.
The anti-access, area-denial methods that both Russia and China have developed need to be countered, and this new strategy sets in place the framework around which to build those capabilities, Colby said.
Joint force should be ready
“The joint force should be ready to compete, to deter and — if necessary — to win against any adversary,” Colby concluded.
Modernization has been the sacrificial lamb in the recent budget wars, and this strategy reemphasizes the importance of modernization, Pentagon officials said. The strategy specifically states the United States must modernize the nuclear triad. It also emphasizes the importance of space and cyberspace as domains of warfare and calls for resilience in both space and cyberspace capabilities and technology and concepts to operate across the full domains.
The strategy also calls for modernized command-and-control assets and for new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, officials said, adding that missile defense plays a large role in the strategy, as well as the development of advanced autonomous systems.
Officials said the strategy also calls for resilient and agile logistics systems that will continue to operate under multidomain attack.
The Pentagon Library is full of documents that were announced with great fanfare, but ultimately were ignored or discarded. Officials say the National Defense Strategy will not be one of those.
I think if anybody knows Secretary Mattis or looks at his history, he’s not inclined to publish documents or give guidance that he doesn’t actually intend to execute,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a recent interview in Brussels. “I can assure you that one of the things that gives me confidence the National Defense Strategy will affect our behavior is Secretary Mattis’ ownership of the National Defense Strategy, and his commitment to actually lead the U.S. military in a direction that is supportive of that National Defense Strategy.
Leadership will be key to implementing the strategy, Dunford said. “I have a high degree of confidence that the secretary’s going to drive implementation of the NDS,” he said. “And I’m equally committed, as are all the combatant commanders and the service chiefs, to supporting the secretary in execution of the NDS.”
Last week was Infantry Week at Fort Benning, GA, an entire week dedicated to celebrating some of the most sought-after awards and training events. This year’s schedule included Best Sniper and Best Ranger.
First up was Best Sniper, where teams of two soldiers competed in a three-day event through an array of tests and obstacles, including close-up shots with pistols, to those where they must hit targets 600+ meters away with a rifle, as well as shotgun events. The entire competition is built off of individual and collective tasks focused around key Army Sniper Course basic teachings, like increasing validity and survivability through reconnaissance.
Competitors traveled from across the nation and from various branches of the military; Marines and members of the Coast Guard were present in this year’s event.
Last year’s competition was canceled due to COVID-19, and the event hasn’t fulfilled its international status since 2018.
Best Sniper competitors for 2021 gathered for a chance to win different titles, including: Field Craft Award, which encompasses land navigation, target detection, and night range estimation; Top Pistol; Coach’s Award; and Iron Man, for the team with the fastest time; and the coveted title of Best Sniper.
SFC Zachary Small, NCOIC for the Best Sniper Competition 2021, said, “I think the community needed this, i think the competitors needed this, and I know the coaches absolutely needed this.”
On describing the design, he said: “The competition was based on creating realism with some of the events. It’s kind of difficult to replicate combat scenarios, but trying to make it as realistic as humanly possible was primarily the goal here.”
The teams participated in an event called Flavortown where users gave away their position at the top of a building, then had to remove targets and exfil from the top of the structure. Other events included night range estimation, with some items in an urban setting and others in a woodland point of view. Physical tests were also brought in, such as the standard two-mile run, Small said, but with teams wearing uniforms and boots.
Certain technologies were also banned to test soldiers’ abilities without certain equipment, he said. Land navigation was done with SUAs (small unmanned aircraft system) and UAVs (unmanned air vehicles) trying to find the competitors in the woods.
Because different units have their own weapon systems, which tend to vary, SFC Small said competitors were restricted to using certain calibers. For their primary weapon they shot a .300 Win Mag and for their secondary, 7.62 mm.
“It’s an overall problem solving competition, he said. “It’s cool because you get to see how different services handle the problems mentally and their solution to the problem physically.”
As for the competition being held at Benning, Small said they had overwhelming support from leadership, ForceCom, Special Operation Forces, and sister services.
“The benefit of having other sister services is increasing the interoperability. We’re branching out and get to talk to other subject matter experts.”
A team consisting of First Sergeant Guillermo Roman and Staff Sergeant William Orr, former Sniper instructors and current hunting buddies, joined forces in their first sniper competition. Previously, they had worked and coached shooting events.
“It’s a different kind of stress, it’s more fun than I thought it would be,” Orr said. “It’s much more mentally stressful to see your time tick away, as opposed to seeing your target get away while you’re going through the process.”
As previous Sniper instructors, Roman agreed that they know the process, but the time pressure is the most difficult aspect to get used to.
“We’ve taught kids, take your time, check twice, take your shot. But when you’re under pressure, all that stuff almost goes out the window for a split second. You have to check yourself, remember to slow down and remember what we were taught and then engage.”
Winners of the event included:
Ironman Award: USMC School of Infantry West
Field Craft: UT ARNG (19th Special Forces Group)
Top Pistol: Special Forces Sniper Course
Top Coach: SFC Daniel Horner CA ARNG
1st Place: Special Forces Sniper Course
2nd Place: 3/75 Ranger Regiment
3rd Place: UT ARNG (19th SFG)
6th Place: CO ARNG
8th Place: CA ARNG
9th Place: IA ARNG
Overall, an OUTSTANDING performance and representation for the Army National Guard.