Either way, the impact on your bank account will be felt for sure. The bottom line is, we all need to start preparing for military to civilian transition no matter where we are on our military journey. If we don’t, we could be in for one heck of a case of sticker shock. Here are a few things you should start thinking about sooner rather than later.
1. Military salary vs civilian salary
If you break out your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), you’ll notice several different types of pay and allowances. Their “main” pay is their “base” pay, but stacked on to that are other entitlements, such as basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), as well as other special pay and allowances. All of these different types of pay ultimately make up your service member’s salary.
In order to keep the same exact lifestyle you’re accustomed to now, start taking a look at the job market and looking at the salary ranges for civilian positions with your service member’s skill set. Sometimes it can be a significant bump in salary to find a civilian job doing pretty much what they’re doing now. Other times, you may find that civilian salaries hover around your service member’s base pay…without the bells and whistles of other allowances. You’ll want to take this into account well before transition is on your radar.
2. No More BAH
As military families, we’re not often afforded the opportunity to decide where we live, but as civilians we can move wherever we choose. As previously mentioned, BAH is an entitlement that’s tacked on in addition to our service member’s base pay. Once our service members exit the military, that money will cease to exist (unless we take that income loss into account when negotiating future salaries with civilian employers). Even if your family is retiring from military service, the lack of BAH might be a hard pill to swallow the first few months, so it’s best to start saving up for a transition buffer now. You’ll ideally want to add a 6-12 month buffer of savings to your exit strategy, which could take a while to accrue.
Right now, our tax liability as military families is truly not a lot. But once we enter the civilian world, that tax bill will come to roost, so be prepared. You may not be subject to state taxes now, but if you decide to stay in the state you’re currently stationed in, you’ll need to crunch some numbers to see just how high your tax bill will rise. When leaving the military, you may want to consider moving to a state that doesn’t have income taxes. If your service member plans to retire, be sure to look at whether or not your state will tax their retirement pay. Wherever you plan to live after the military, you’ll want to decide where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
4. Medical costs
Medical costs are yet another expense you’ll have on the “outside.” Say what you will about TRICARE; the fact is that we’ll all be paying more for our healthcare once our service member takes off their uniform. If your spouse isn’t retiring from the military, your family will need to secure healthcare through other means, whether that’s a civilian employer or the healthcare exchange. If your service member ever served in combat, they have the option to receive VA healthcare for up to five yearsafter leaving the military, even if they don’t have a service-connected disability. But the VA only covers the family so you will need to talk with your spouse about finding a civilian insurance plan.
For those service members retiring from military service, you’ll still have access to TRICARE…but you’ll still have expenses. In addition to premiums, you’ll now have the added expense of co-pays. Thanks to the recent TRICARE reform, retirees using TRICARE now have higher co-pays. While $30 per specialty visit doesn’t seem like a whole lot, imagine having physical therapy twice a week, to the tune of $240 a month.
Whether your service member ends up getting out after four years or retires after serving twenty, you need to start preparing financially NOW. Even if they just re-enlisted for another tour, plan as if you’re leaving the military next year. Pay down your debt, start a transition savings account, and start researching where your family will set down their roots once military life is over.
I’m not telling you all of this to scare you. I’m telling you all of this because transition is NO JOKE and we all need to be prepared. These are the realities and how your family prepares for these realities will ultimately determine how positive or negative the impact of your transition to civilian life will be.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”
It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.
If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.
Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China ran report after report on Chinese military developments, leading some observers to suspect that the country is trying to send a message to its rivals and citizens at a time of heightened tensions with the US.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment said in mid-January 2019. The Chinese media seems determined to let the world, especially the US, know it’s developing powerful new weapons.
The Chinese military is reportedly working on everything from railguns and knife guns to “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles. Here are seven of the weapons China’s been showing off.
A record firing of an electromagnetic railgun, or EMRG, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia.
(US Navy photo)
1. Electromagnetic railgun
Photos of an old tank-landing ship carrying a railgun prototype surfaced online in 2018, and Chinese state media said January 2019 that Chinese warships will “soon” be equipped with naval railguns capable of hitting targets at great distances.
“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made,” China’s Global Times reported, citing state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). Chinese media said “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
While it appears that China is making progress, railguns are militarily useless compared with existing alternatives, experts have told Business Insider.
“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, said.
China has suggested that the technology could be used to develop electromagnetic catapults for China’s future aircraft carriers.
China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, a major Chinese defense-industry corporation, has, according to Chinese media, developed a massive conventional weapon for China’s bombers known as the “Chinese version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs.'”
The weapon is China’s largest nonnuclear bomb, the Global Times said, citing the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Although China is using the same nickname for its bomb, the Chinese weapon is smaller and lighter than its American counterpart, a 21,600-pound bomb that the US dropped on Islamic State targets in Afghanistan in 2017.
The weapon would likely be carried by the Chinese Xi’an H-6K bombers. The American version is so large that it has to be carried by a C-130.
The DF-26 ballistic missile is not a new weapon, but China recently released, for the first time, video footage of a recent exercise involving the weapon, which is reportedly able to carry conventional and nuclear warheads for strikes against land and sea targets.
The DF-26 is commonly referred to as a “carrier killer.” The video revealed certain features suggesting the missile is a capable anti-ship weapon with the ability to take out a US aircraft carrier. These missiles are also known as “Guam-killer” missiles because they are believed to be capable of ranging US military installations in the Pacific.
Analysts said China released the video of its DF-26 ballistic missiles to send a message to the US.
The exercise sent “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the South China Morning Post.
4. Super-soldiers armed with guns that shoot around corners
Chinese state media said January 2019 that the Chinese military is arming its special forces with “sci-fi” weapons — “futuristic individual combat weapons like grenade-launching assault rifles, corner shot pistols and knife guns.”
Citing a Beijing military expert, the Global Times said China was developing “super” soldiers who will be able to take on 10 enemy combatants at one time.
CCTV said these weapons highlight the People’s Liberation Army’s modernization, according to Chinese state media. The Chinese military is undergoing a massive overhaul with the goal of creating a world-class fighting force.
CCTV aired a video showcasing China’s stealth drone “Sky Hawk” taking flight for the first time in January 2019.
The drone, which made an appearance at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018, was shown taking off and landing at an undisclosed location, the Global Times reported. Experts suggested that the unmanned aircraft could be launched from China’s future aircraft carriers.
Another Chinese stealth drone in the works, according to Chinese media, includes the CH-7, which was also on display at the event in Zhuhai.
Chinese military experts said the US maintains an edge in this area, having developed the X-47B carrier-based drone, but both China and Russia are both rushing to develop stealth drones for future missions.
J-20 stealth fighter.
6. Upgraded stealth fighter
China is considering the development of a twin-seat variant of the J-20 stealth fighter, which would be a first for fifth-generation aircraft, the Global Times reported January 2019, citing CCTV.
Chinese media said the aircraft would be capable of tactical bombing missions or electronic warfare, not just air superiority.
Having aircraft variations “that other countries do not possess will greatly expand the Chinese military’s capability in an asymmetric warfare,” the Global Times said, citing Chinese analysts.
China has also, according to Chinese media, been looking at the possibility of creating a twin-seat variant of the carrier-based J-15s to expand the combat capability of the fighters, which are considered problematic and are expected to eventually be replaced.
In a related report, China’s Global Times said the advanced J-16 strike fighters now possess “near stealth capability” thanks to a new paint job. Detection may be more of a challenge, but it is unlikely the aircraft could be considered stealthy.
A DF-5B missile is displayed in a military parade.
7. Underground bunkers and intercontinental-ballistic-missile strikes
Chinese troops have reportedly been conducting simulated intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) strike exercises from underground bunkers, the Global Times reported January 2019, citing CCTV.
The nuclear-attack exercises, which are aimed at simulated enemies, are designed to improve China’s counterattack (second-strike) capability in the event a war breaks out, Chinese media explained. The strategic bunkers where the drills were staged are referred to as China’s “underground Great Wall” by Qian Qihu, the man who designed them.
The drill was “about signaling China’s modernizing nuclear deterrence. It is about telling the Americans and others that China has a credible second-strike capability and that it is determined to use it if it comes under nuclear attack,” Ni told the South China Morning Post, adding that he believes it is “in part a message from Beijing to the US about the ultimate perils of escalation.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you enjoy one of the saddest best shows currently on broadcast television, then you’re in for a good cry treat — NBC’s This Is Us is exploring the background of one of its central characters, Jack Pearson, a Vietnam veteran. But to tell the story about Jack’s enlistment, producers and writers on the show needed the perspective that only an enlisted Vietnam veteran could give them.
They got it from one of the war’s most famous veterans.
The show follows the lives of three family members — one adopted — and the history of their mother and father. The family’s patriarch, Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, died when the show’s three siblings (now in adulthood) were 17 years old. The history of the family’s mother and father is shown mainly through flashbacks. This season is exploring Jack’s service in Vietnam.
Not only did This Is Us put the actors in the show through a boot camp, they sent camera crews to Ho Chi Minh City — the city, as some Vietnam veterans remember, that used to be called Saigon. Most importantly, they wanted to give Jack and his brother Nicky as realistic a Vietnam experience as possible.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Ventimiglia in NBC’s This Is Us. His character is a Vietnam veteran.
Milo Ventimiglia’s character, Jack Pearson, deployed to Vietnam in 1971. He enlisted to follow his little brother, Nicky (as played by Michael Angarano), who was drafted into the Army. In reality, Ventimiglia’s Jack would have been rejected by a draft board for a heart condition. While the reason for Jack’s enlistment is a work of fiction, his experience in Vietnam may not have been.
In order to add to the realism of the show and to Jack’s tour of duty, This Is Us producers hired Vietnam veteran and author Tim O’Brien as a consultant. O’Brien, a draftee himself, wrote the seminal Vietnam war story, 1990’s The Things They Carried.
Author and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien
(Photo by Darren Carroll)
O’Brien told Variety he was pleasantly surprised by how well the show portrayed realistic Vietnam War firefights while playing up the dread felt by soldiers who were on jungle patrols in the country.
“You’d think you’d be afraid of dying, but you were afraid of your reputation being sullied, am I brave enough, can I stand up under fire? And the alternative is guys lost it, and you’d almost be insane if you didn’t lose it,” O’Brien told Variety.
For medics, like Angarano’s Nicky Pearson, O’Brien says there was very little protection for them — the best they could hope for was to not get killed while getting all their wounded onto helicopters and out of the fighting.
Tim O’Brien in Vietnam
O’Brien’s 1990 book is a collection of autobiographical short stories and essays inspired by his service in Vietnam. The author was drafted into the 23rd Infantry Division – the Americal Division – from 1969 to 1970. His unit operated in the area around Mai Lai, where a massacre was perpetrated the year before O’Brien arrived in country. O’Brien describes the lives of Vietnam War medics well.
“There wasn’t much you could really do. And watching people die and die on you day after day and lose feet and legs, you could expect how a guy could lose it,” the author says.
Jack Pearson in Vietnam, from NBC’s ‘This Is Us.’
The Things They Carried is routinely listed as one of the top books on Vietnam ever written, is listed as one of the 22 best books of the last 25 years by the New York Times, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. O’Brien himself is the recipient of numerous awards for The Things They Carried and his other works. Most recently, he received the Mark Twain Award in literature. For the show’s producers, collaborating with the Vietnam veteran was a rare treat.
“Tim has been a writing hero of mine since college,” the shows’ creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman told Deadline. “It was incredibly intimidating bringing him into our room to discuss a Vietnam plot line – and it was even more rewarding.”
The official Mad Scientists of war, otherwise known as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employees, have crafted a way for helicopter pilots to see through dust, snow, and smoke to fly safely even when their view is blocked.
Currently, low-visibility conditions lead to crashes and collisions that cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars and can lead to troops’ deaths. Brownouts, when helicopter pilots lose visibility due to dust kicked up by their rotors or sandstorms, have caused a number of crashes in the recent wars in the desert.
The system maps terrain and landing zones in brownouts or whiteouts, prevents collisions with other aircraft and obstacles, and warns of weather hazards.
When the pilot is in combat, the system will aid in identifying and acquiring targets, guiding weapons, and linking the data feeds of different aircraft.
Ideally, the system will work as a “plug and play” add-on to current and future aircraft. Everything from modern helicopters to drones to the coming Joint Multi-Role Aircraft will feature the technology.
At least one military base is warning service members against the dangers of wandering into unauthorized areas while chasing Pokemon.
“Since Pokemon Go hit last week there have been reports of serious injuries and accidents of people driving or walking while looking at the app and chasing after the virtual Pokemon,” says the message posted this morning to the Joint Base Lewis McChord official Facebook page. “Do not chase Pokemon into controlled or restricted areas, office buildings, or homes on base.”
The wildly popular iPhone and Android app, “Pokemon Go,” leads players on a real world chase via their phone’s GPS system and camera, through which they can “catch” virtual Pokemon that appear around the player within the app. At least one player has reportedly stumbled on a dead body while playing the game, according to news accounts, while others have been lured into corners and robbed, other sources have reported..
Lewis-McChord officials said the notice was a precaution and that there have been no reports of problems on the base caused by service members, families or employees playing the game.
“We talked about it here this morning with our director of emergency services, and said, as a precaution, let’s just tell people right away ‘do not be using the app to follow Pokemon creatures into restricted areas on base or controlled areas,'” said Joseph Piek, a JBLM spokesman. “We’re not saying don’t play — but we are saying there’s certain areas, don’t chase the Pokemon there, you’ll just have to leave them be.”
Officials with the Defense Department said they have no plans to issue military-wide Pokemon guidance or rules for playing the game within or around the Pentagon.
“Our personnel are well informed on the restrictions regarding restricted areas, regardless of if they’re chasing Pokemon or otherwise,” they said.
JBLM is home to the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Special Forces Group as well as the Army’s I Corps and the Air Force’s 62d Airlift Wing.
Joseph Sroka isn’t just an investment specialist, he’s a military veteran and business owner with a passion to assist the veteran community. He is the Chief Investment Officer of NovaPoint Capital, a firm he co-founded, which provides investment management for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations.
Before getting into the number crunching and chart watching of the investment world, Sroka served as an infantry officer in the Army. After graduating from West Point in 1988, he was stationed in Berlin, Germany and was witness to the iconic fall of the Berlin Wall, reunification of Germany, and collapse of the Soviet Union. As a person who was inspired to serve by Ronald Reagan, seeing the end of the “Evil Empire” seemed like a good time for a career change.
“I grew up in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and was in middle school during the Iran hostage crisis,” Sroka recalls. “President Reagan brought pride back to the country and the military. I was proud to serve.”
After earning his MBA, Sroka spent time working in equity research at investment banks, hedge funds, and asset management firms in Chicago, New York, and eventually Atlanta, the city he now calls home. The investment management industry has proven as lively as the military. Sroka was working at 4 World Financial Center, across the street from the World Trade Center, on 9/11 and helped evacuate his colleagues at Merrill Lynch from the building. He has also managed through the volatility of the markets during the 2008 financial crisis.
His deep experience in the industry helped him develop the tools he needed to go into business with his partner, Alan Conner. Together, they decided the goal of NovaPoint Capital was to provide individuals and institutions with disciplined and transparent investment management.
We’ve both seen the ugly side of the business over the years,” Alan explains, “Excessive fees and complicated investment products seem designed to benefit the investment firms and the brokers, rather than the clients. It is very satisfying to run a firm where we truly put the client first.
As a boutique firm, they offer an aspect that is often lost when dealing with larger firms: the opportunity to build a personal one-on-one relationship directly with their clients. This structure provides clients with direct access to the manager who is handling their money and not sales representatives or relationship managers who are twice or three-times removed from the actual investment.
They recognize that a lot of trust that comes with handling investments. NovaPoint seeks to provide all clients, large and small, with complete transparency in how their money is invested. They have used technology to simplify the process and give clients a window into what the team at NovaPoint is doing every day.
NovaPoint shows they are purposeful and disciplined when it comes to the strategies they put forth. Both owners understand discipline. Sroka as a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, Conner as an endurance athlete and three-time IRONMAN triathlon finisher. Conner sees “the discipline in our investment process as a simple extension of the discipline we have in our everyday lives.”
Being a veteran-owned business, NovaPoint understands the value the veteran community provides to the country’s economy and wants to encourage other veterans to pursue their investment and financial goals. To help veterans achieve these goals NovaPoint Capital takes a few proactive steps. They offer special discounts on standard fees as well as waiving minimum investment requirements for veterans. They extend these offers to include retirement plans for other veteran-owned businesses as well as non-profit organizations that serve the veteran community. Additionally, NovaPoint contributes one day of revenue every six months directly to veteran charities.
Beyond discounts and waived requirements, Sroka personally continues to serve veterans in his community by being a mentor through organizations like Veterati and FourBlock. “I am a huge believer that the current generation of transitioning veterans are going to be the leaders in the U.S. economy for decades to come,” Sroka said. He is also working to bring a Bunker Labs chapter to Atlanta to help military and veteran entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in the area.
The Air Force basically owned the market on drones for decades, so it must’ve come as quite the shock last year when the Super Bowl LI light show featured a few hundred drones making beautiful designs in the sky, eclipsing the best of the Air Force’s drone choreography (but falling well short of the Air Force’s best light shows).
The men and women at Travis Air Force Base got to enjoy a similar light show on July 5, though, when Intel brought their drones to the installation for a special Independence Day Celebration. We’ve got some photos from the event below.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.
Daphne Bye’s memory is from her father’s traditional Peruvian Ceviche, which he made for her every time she came home. Daphne was brought up on the flavors of South America and would always crave the Ceviche, homemade by her family, especially when away from home for extended periods of time. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for Daphne:
Peruvian Ceviche w/ Uni and Yucca Crisp
Inspired by Daphne’s Dad’s Traditional Peruvian Ceviche
*all chopped ingredients should be roughly same bite-size.
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good quality)
2 Cups Canola Oil (for frying)
5-8 Limes (juiced)
2 Lbs Striped Bass (or other firm white fish – chopped)
1 Large Jalapeño (seeded, stemmed and chopped)
5 Garlic Cloves (chopped)
3 Roma Tomatoes (chopped)
1 Small Red Onion (chopped)
1/4 Cup Cilantro (chopped)
2 Ears of White Corn
4 Tbs Uni (sea urchin – for topping)
1 Large Yucca
Boil Corn in 2 quarts of salted water for 15 minutes or until they are halfway cooked. Remove,
cool and slice kernels off cob, one side at a time. Put kernels aside.
Add corn to fish, jalapeño, garlic, tomato, onion and cilantro. Top with salt and pepper, lime
juice and olive oil.
Let sit in refrigerator overnight.
When ready to serve, heat Canola oil in small, heavy bottom pan or Wok to 350°. Meanwhile,
peel and slice Yucca with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin you can just slice uniform
slim slices of the Yucca carefully with a sharp knife. They should be the thickness of thin
When oil is at temp, fry Yucca chips in small batches pulling out when they turn golden brown.
Drain on paper towel.
To serve, place 2-3 spoonfuls of the Ceviche in a bowl, top with the Uni and Yucca chip.
Every year, more than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life, joining more than 18 million Veterans to form one of America’s largest and strongest communities. But like most big transitions in life, this one is not easy. Since its inception in 2010, Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) has been helping Veterans stay active, connecting to their new communities and developing a resilient mindset. Today, Team RWB is 217,000 members strong, with chapters across the country. Volunteer leaders run these chapters, and collectively, they host nearly 40,000 events per year.
Providing Veterans more opportunities
Through a newly formalized partnership (signed memorandum of understanding) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA stakeholders will have access to Team RWB’s wide-ranging network of events, providing Veterans and supporters everywhere opportunities to connect at the local, regional and national levels.
In addition, Team RWB will work with local VA staff to bring the power of the Eagle network to communities across the country. Events range from hikes to yoga classes, to preparing care packages for deployed service members.
“Team RWB is a non-profit organization, but in that, we are so much more, ” says Mike Erwin, founder and Executive Director of Team RWB. “We are a movement and an identity, a mindset and a community that challenges and supports each other. We are accountable to each other, especially when it comes to creating healthy habits in our post-military lives. Through this new partnership with VA, Team RWB is positioned to engage every Veteran in our country—to help them re-discover the power of physical activity in their lives. And through that, a sense of pride, confidence, purpose and belonging.”
Last fall, Team RWB released a mobile app to engage Veterans wherever they are throughout the day. The Eagle app makes it even easier to discover nearby events and participate in virtual challenges like last month’s March Madness Challenge that had states competing with each other. In May, a new update will introduce social networking, the ability for members to create events and more.
Born for the Storm
As Team RWB prepares to celebrate its 10th year, the organization has rolled out a new mantra for its Veterans: Born for the Storm. It’s a virus now, but it could be something else by the fall. Life is unpredictable and adversity is certain. Team RWB knows that every Veteran has persevered through numerous physical and mental challenges while serving the nation, and reminds its Veterans that they have the character to weather whatever storms they may be facing.
Team RWB is fired up to partner with VA and wants you to explore the idea of joining the Team and becoming active in virtual challenges right away. You, the Veteran community and our country, will be better for it.
Let’s face it, when the Army bought the Stryker, in one sense, they were really just catching up with the Marines, who were making an 8×8 wheeled, armored vehicle work for quite a while. Now, though, the Marines are getting a new system for one variant of their Light Armored Vehicles, the LAV-AT, which will make them even deadlier and easier to maintain.
According to a release by Marine Corps Systems Command, the LAV-ATM project gives this version of the LAV a new turret. The LAV will still be firing the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile.
“Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight,” said Jim Forkin, Program Manager’s Office LAV-ATM team lead.
“The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn’t have before,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer, PM LAV team, explained.
A Marine tests the enhanced vision capability—part of an upgrade to the Light Armored Vehicle’s Anti-Tank Weapon System—during new equipment training Sept. 18-29, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command completed its first fielding of four upgraded ATWS in September. (United States Marine Corps photo)
The new LAV also makes maintenance easier with an on-board trouble-shooting system that allows operators and maintenance personnel conduct checks on the systems involved with the vehicle and turret. Learning how to use the new turret takes about one week each for operators and maintainers. The Marines have also acquired 3D computer technology to enhance the training on the new LAV-AT.
But the real benefit of the turret is that “Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better,” according to Chief Warrant Officer Lovell. “We’re providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield.”
Enemy tanks will hopefully be unavailable for comment on these enhancements.
Within a decade after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the author serves as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq, co-founds the nonprofit Team Rubicon — and writes his first book.
His Take Command, Lessons in Leadership: How To Be a First Responder in Business was published in 2014 as a “tool kit” and is a fast read from the “evolving leader.”
A year after, Jake Wood is one of two veterans profiled in Joe Klein’s book about post-military service, Charlie Mike. Since then, Wood has fared better than the other subject, former Navy SEAL, founder of The Mission Continues, and author Eric Greitens, who resigned ignominiously as governor of Missouri.
Half a dozen years later Wood is back in hardcover. This time, in Once a Warrior, he writes about developing Team Rubicon — and, rewardingly, about becoming Jake Wood. (That’s his rear side on the front of the book jacket, although he is not identified. The book has his back, so to speak.)
By now the disaster-response organization and its CEO Wood are familiar names. Their mutual success is regularly lauded, and in 2018 Wood received the ESPN-ESPY Pat Tillman Award for Service, named for the soldier and former NFL player killed in Afghanistan in 2004.
Given Wood’s established public image, is there anything else to know about him?
Plenty, and Once a Warrior is valuable for its intimacy. The 37-year-old’s memoir is about leading from the heart. From his and, ultimately, to yours.
“Coming home from war is a lifelong process. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve made it back, but that’s never the case.” The book “explores both the harrowing cost of military service” and the subsequent search for healing.
On one level, you get Rubicon rigor and resilient Wood, whose proposal for this publication was rejected 37 times six years ago. “On a higher level, this is the story of America’s veterans and the battles they continue to fight. Some prevail; others do not.”
His persistence gives him and his story power. The Iowa-born, 6-foot-6, college football-playing guy in an American-English “gray” (not the book’s British-English “grey”) Team Rubicon T-shirt is open about complexities, such as:
What makes a warrior: “I once drank whiskey until the sun rose with two men that were on the Osama bin Laden raid. […] But if they are the yardstick by which warriors are measured, then maybe I wasn’t one.”
Ill-heeled boots: Nine months after returning from Iraq, his battalion deploys to Afghanistan. “The Pentagon threw a thousand Marines into the bloodiest province of Afghanistan, told them to hold the line, and wished them luck.”
Intimations of mortality: “I’m amazed at the ease with which violence was normalized. I don’t say that with regret. I’m not sure I would have survived Iraq and Afghanistan if I hadn’t become comfortable with death.”
Reasons to return: “My urge to go back to war was not born of patriotism or idealism or a defense of good versus evil. It was driven by guilt and fear. Guilt that I’d come home unscathed. Fear that I would never be able to honor and make sense of my friends’ deaths.”
Being invisible: Wood describes a traumatic “recurring dream” that is a full-fledged nightmare: He is in the back seat of a car, in dress blues “with rows of shiny medals adorning my chest.” In the front seat are two men “in crisp green Marine Corps uniforms” and on death-notification duty, and they ignore him. Wood finally realizes the vehicle is arriving at his childhood home, and his parents are at the door. “I scream but hear no sound.”
Emerging from guilt: His fellow sniper and “smart and handsome” friend Clay Hunt killed himself in 2011, and he remains a beacon to Wood and Team Rubicon — but with an emotional toll. Might Wood have done more to keep Hunt alive?
“I was carrying Clay’s lifeless body with me through life, no differently than if I had slung him over my shoulder on the battlefield.
“I sought the weight because the weight brought pain. I wanted the pain because pain was the price I needed to pay for letting him down” in a “self-imposed sentence of guilt.”
Only “when I’d forgiven myself for Clay’s death,” Wood writes, is he “able to love [his wife], or anyone, again.”
Wood work: The book ends during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when Rubicon volunteers “gutted 1,078” damaged homes in Houston. One of the houses is Hunt’s family’s, and Wood finds the folded flag he handed to Susan Hunt during her son’s memorial service six years earlier.
Susan approaches Jake. They pause. They think about Clay. They go on. “Come on,” he tells her, “we’ve got a job to finish.”
His Rubicon job is perhaps a mission in making sense. His losses are “no less tragic. The aching no less dull. But they were buoyed by a new sense of purpose and hope for a better tomorrow.”
What? A “hope for a better tomorrow”? The cliche is superfluous in a book whose strength is in its exposing wounds, not decorating them. Such a lapse into truism (“service was in their blood” is another) muddies the message. May his next book resist profundity’s temptation and rely on Wood’s personable style, evident here:
After a deadly firefight in Anbar province another Marine offers Wood a cigarette. His first.
Wood puffs, and the combat-tested, blood-stained cigarette “whispered sweet nothings and my body relaxed.”
He laughs. What’s so funny in a combat zone?
“I never smoked before,” he tells his buddy, “because this shit will kill you.”
Once a Warrior: How One Veteran Found a New Mission Closer to Homeby Jake Wood, Sentinel, 320 pages, $27