On December 22nd, the United States entered a partial government shutdown due to a failure to get legislation signed that appropriated funds for 2019. All politics firmly set aside for the sake of this discussion, the fact is that about 400,000 of the 2 million civilian federal employees are expected to be furloughed.
Troops in four of the five branches of the Armed Forces will not be affected. Life, for the most part, will continue as it has, with only minor hiccups felt by a few civilian employees. The major exception to this is the roughly 42,000 Coast Guardsmen who currently face uncertainty.
Since Coast Guardsmen are contractually obligated or possibly deployed at this moment, it’s not like they can just work Uber or Lyft until this blows over.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)
To put it simply, the Coast Guard is a part of the United States Armed Forces, but isn’t a part of the Department of Defense. They’re a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Defense has many safeguards in place to ensure that troops are taken care of in case of government shutdowns. The budget for Fiscal Year 2019 was determined by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY19 back in August, and it covers DoD expenses for the year until October, 2019.
Unless this shutdown is an extreme case and lasts until October, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines don’t need to worry. The longest shutdown on record ran for 22 days in 1995, so it’s pretty unlikely.
But even if there were a shutdown around the time an NDAA needed to be completed (as was the case in 2013), paying the Armed Forces is a bipartisan issue and is protected by the Pay Our Military Act of 2013. This solidified the troops, including the Coast Guard, as essential personnel to receive pay and tapped directly into the treasury to ensure that the troops were taken care of in 2013. Unfortunately, that bill only covered Fiscal Year 2014.
Today, the Coast Guardsmen are being left in the dust.
You can keep that promise with one simple email or phone call.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Jennifer Nease.)
Coast Guardsmen are essential employees that are required to work without pay until the government reopens. Thankfully, they did receive pay on December 31st and the 0 million required to properly pay them was given, so the effects aren’t being felt quite yet.
If the shutdown lasts 25 days — which would be a new record by 3 days — we’ll be at January 15th. Then, Coast Guardsmen will start feeling the effects of being an entire paycheck behind. The official statement of the Coast Guard says that personnel should, essentially, maintain a stiff upper lip, but contact financial institutions, banks, and creditors in case of the worst. If the shutdown ends or a stop-gap is put in place by January 15th, things will be alright again.
There is one thing that can be done, shy of including the Coast Guard in the NDAA for FY2020, and that’s through the recently proposed “Pay the Coast Guard” Act.
Contact your legislator and tell them that our Coast Guardsmen deserve to be paid.
We, as troops and veterans, may make fun of our little sibling branch for being puddle pirates, but we always look to protect our own. Right now, our brothers- and sisters-in-arms need our help.
The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the Taliban controlling more territory and American forces reaching a five-year high in terms of dropped ordnance last month. That is what Congress was told in testimony Oct. 31 by the man tasked with overseeing the effort in that country.
According to a report by the Washington Times, John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that the Afghan National Army has lost 4,000 troops, and 5,000 Afghan policemen have also dropped from the ranks. The decline in Afghan forces comes as armed clashes are on the rise.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” Sopko said. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”
Sopko also complained that the military was classifying some important information that had exposed wasteful spending. One of the more egregious cases included the expenditure of $500 million for Italian planes that were unable to operate in Afghanistan. The presence of “ghost” soldiers, whose paychecks are pocketed by senior officers, is also a problem.
From January 1 to August 23 of this year, 10 Americans have been killed and 48 wounded during operations in Afghanistan. That figure does not include the death of Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, who was killed in a crash on Friday.
According to iCasualties.org, 2404 Americans have died during Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support. Since President Trump took office, U.S. forces have taken a more aggressive posture, including the first combat use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb.
Featured Image: Afghan agents with the National Interdiction Unit participate in the grand opening ceremony for the new Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan Headquarters Compound June 17, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of CNP-A, U.S. Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan)
As a child, birthdays are a big event. Every year is celebrated like it’s the biggest day of the year. Then there are milestone birthdays: They’ll hit the sweet 16 and get their license, turn 18 and join the military, turn 21 and they legally drink…and then that’s about it. Unless they’re looking for a sarcastic “congratu-f***ing-lations,” it’s just another day in the military.
Even though some members of the chain of command have good intentions, it’s best not to test the waters by letting everyone know it’s your birthday. Here’s why:
Don’t think you can just take in the singing. You’ll be in the front leaning rest position through it all.
(photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Your gift is embarrassment
Think of the moment when you go to a chain sit-down restaurant and one of your buddies mentions it’s your birthday to the staff and they come out to sing “happy birthday” with almost no excitement in their voice.
Imagine that except it’s the rest of your company singing, they all know you, and they’re slightly agitated because they have to take ten seconds out of their day to sing to you.
The intention is to make you awkward. And it works almost every single time.
And yet for some reason, they always add the “And one more for the Corps. One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!” Like the “one per year” thing didn’t apply. How old do they think you are?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery)
Push-ups for every year
If troops let it slip that they’ve successfully made another orbit around the sun, it’s not like there will be a surprise party secretly waiting in the training room. The poor unfortunate souls are often given the most re-gifted present in the military: push-ups.
There’s no spite in this. And despite how civilians feel about push-ups, they really aren’t that bad. But the troop owes Uncle Sam one push-up for every year they’ve been on this Earth. It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.
Happy birthday, ya poor b******.
(Meme via Terminal Lance)
There (usually) won’t be cake
Cakes are actually a lot harder to find on military installations than you’d think. If the kindhearted soul who does want to do right for the party, they’ll need to go off-post.
For everyone else (and those troops in the field or deployed) they’ll often just get a doughnut or the pound cake that comes in the MRE. Candles are optional but they’re occasionally cigarettes.
“Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”
(U.S. Army Photo)
It’s still a regular work day
In between the awkwardness, the pranks, and mediocre reception, the Army goes rolling along. It’s still just a regular old day.
Some chains of command may give single troops a day off (usually as a consolation prize because they give married troops their anniversary off.) Some don’t. The work still needs to get done and it’ll feel like it’s just any of the other 364 days in a year.
You know your squad has your back if they carry your home from the bar.
(U.S. Army Photo)
But the squad (usually) does care
The squad is your new family. Just like your siblings went out of their way to make sure your birthday was special, so do your squad-mates.
Just like the push-ups, the squad will usually get together and buy shot for every year you’ve been on this Earth and share them with you.
Afghan officials said unknown aircraft hit Taliban forces in a province along the border with Tajikistan, killing eight militants, a day after a shooting that left at least two Tajiks killed.
The origin of the aircraft was unclear. Tajik officials denied its warplanes or helicopters were involved, as did Russia, which has a sizable military contingent in Tajikistan.
Khalil Asir, spokesman for police in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, said the aircraft struck early on Aug. 27, 2018, in the Darqad district near the border area. In addition to the dead, six other militants were wounded, he said.
Cross-border clashes are rare along Afghanistan’s 1,400-kilometer border with Tajikistan. However, security in some border provinces, including Takhar, has deteriorated over the past few months and regular clashes have broken out between Afghan security forces and militant groups, including the Taliban.
Spokesman Khalil Asir says eight Taliban militants were killed in the attack.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying it broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards. Mujahid said the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.
Mohammad Jawid Hejri, the provincial governor’s spokesman, also said the clash had occurred between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. He said the area is under Taliban control.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service about the reported airstrike, border guard spokesman Muhammadjon Ulughkhojaev said he could not confirm it.
“An operation to search for and detain armed individuals is ongoing” in a neighboring region, he said. “But the Border Guards Service didn’t use helicopters there.”
Other Tajik security agencies did not immediately respond to queries about other aircraft in the area.
The incident came one day after two Tajik foresters were killed in a shooting incident along the border. A Tajik security official, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the shooting — either gunfire or mortars — came from the Afghan side of the border.
A third Tajik forester was also wounded in the Aug. 26, 2018 shooting, according to Sulton Valizoda, the head of the Farkhor district.
“Foresters, along with an employee of a livestock farm, were out gathering hay. They had official permission,” Valizoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. “But they were attacked, and two were killed. The case is being investigated.”
The Tajik Border Guard Service said in a statement on Aug. 26, 2018 that the three were all forest rangers.
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
John Rambo was almost any other throwaway movie veteran. But luckily for the character – and fans of the Rambo series – the script for First Blood was in the hands of Sylvester Stallone. For Sly, something felt a little off about the story. So he asked real Vietnam veterans what was missing.
And movie history was made.
Sly gets input from veterans when it comes to writing “Rambo”
Given John Rambo’s place in the action movie pantheon,First Blood isn’t the shoot-em-up action movie someone might expect. In between the fight scenes, it’s a poignant remark on the treatment of Vietnam veterans, a wound that was still fresh when the movie was released in 1982. It started life as a book, but John Rambo’s speech at the end – the words that bring the entire story and its message together – wasn’t in the book. Stallone added it with the input from Vietnam veterans. It was a message that resonated with Vietnam vets in their own words.
Sly didn’t stop there. For the sequel, where Rambo is sent to Vietnam to rescue POW/MIA still in captivity, Stallone reached out to vets at Soldier of Fortune Magazine to talk about Vietnam War prisoners that might be held over. For the third, he tapped troops with experience in Afghanistan. He did the same to learn more about the decades-long civil war in Burma.
Stallone reprising his iconic role a John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood.
Stallone’s favorite ‘Rambo’ weapon isn’t the trademark knife
There are a lot of now-iconic action scenes where John Rambo is using weapons to great effect. The large survival knife from First Blood is legendary, but Rambo has a whole cache of other tools. He uses the compound bow in every Rambo movie to come after, an M60E3 with one hand in First Blood Part II, and who could forget the time he uses a Browning M2 to first obliterate a Jeep driver at close range before taking out half of Burma’s army in 2008’s Rambo.
For Stallone, the latest weapon resonated most with him. Rambo is short on time in Last Blood and has to fashion a few weapons for himself. Among those is a “vicious” weapon crafted from a spring on a car for use in close combat. Stallone calls it a “war club” with the emphasis on war.
“That thing talks to me,” the actor tells We Are The Mighty.
Imagine all the places this pitchfork is gonna go.
John Rambo enlisted in the Air Force first
Sorry, Big Army. Before Rambo joined the U.S. Army’s most elite Special Forces unit, he crossed into the blue. It wasn’t just something he did for a few minutes before realizing he wanted to be in the Army, either. John Rambo did two tours in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot and even received the Medal of Honor before he ever thought about being in the Army.
According to the man who plays Rambo himself (in the video above), John Rambo got into a fight in Saigon with a bunch of Special Forces guys who told him that anyone could fight in the sky. So Rambo went to Fort Bragg as soon as he could, reenlisting so he could join the Army’s Special Force. In the film, you’ll see John Rambo in Air Force blue.
Catch Rambo: Last Blood in theaters starting Friday, Sep. 20, 2019.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.
The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.
The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.
Power, urgency, will
Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.
“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.
“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.
China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.
“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”
The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.
“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.
Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.
All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.
South Asia Strategy
The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.
The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.
Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.
But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”
In January 2008, the Army began the process of removing drill sergeants from Advanced Individual Training, and replacing them with platoon sergeants. One decade later, the reverse transition has begun with the first wave of noncommissioned officers graduating March 8, 2018, from a 10-day conversion course qualifying them to wear the drill sergeant identification badge.
In the past, noncommissioned officers who trained to be AIT platoon sergeants attended the first six weeks of the nine-week long drill sergeant school before splitting off to learn other things, such as attending the master resilience course.
According to officials, although AIT platoon sergeants proved effective and provided “ready Soldiers for the nation,” the return of drill sergeants is expected to “improve the standards and discipline” of new Soldiers.
Making the transition is mandatory for those who have graduated from the AIT platoon sergeant course on or after Jan. 21, 2017. Platoon sergeants who have between 13 to 18 months of time can volunteer to extend for an additional year to become eligible.
Master Sgt. Christopher Foley, 1st Engineer Brigade operations sergeant major, said the brigade has 27 platoon sergeants at installations across the country, 15 of which are here at Fort Leonard Wood. “(As a whole,) 15 must attend training; six are in the option window, and six do not have enough time remaining,” Foley said. “Two within that option window have already volunteered and will incur a third year of duty.”
(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)
Foley added that the brigade has already had three of their Fort Leonard Wood platoon sergeants attend the course, making the transition to drill sergeant. The brigade plans to have all eligible platoon sergeants converted by July 2018.
Staff Sgt. Ericka Kong-Martinez with Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, is one of those recent graduates. She has spent one year as a platoon sergeant and, after volunteering to extend for a year, will spend the next two as a drill sergeant.
“It’s a good opportunity to see the difference between both roles,” Kong-Martinez said. “Now I see the difference in trainees’ reactions from a platoon sergeant to an actual drill sergeant. They react a lot faster when a drill sergeant addresses them.”
She added, “the discipline level is higher. It shouldn’t be, but it is.”
Here, the 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades, together, have approximately 38 platoon sergeants that will also transition or be replaced.
In the end, approximately 600 current platoon sergeants across the Army will make the conversion to drill sergeant. All are expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year.
In Army Special Forces parlance, an A-Team is not a fictional squad featuring Mr. T – it’s a real thing. An Operation Detachment-A Team is made of 12 operators, each with a different specialty (but is of course cross-trained to another), to form the core team that makes up the Green Berets.
Greg Stube, a former Green Beret, believes anyone is capable of operating at the Green Berets’ level. His new book shows you how to build an A-Team in your own life to achieve your goals.
Stube enlisted in the Army infantry in 1988. Just four years later, he was reclassing as a Special Force Medical Sergeant. As a Green Beret, his training went much, much further. He learned surgery, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. He also went to dive school and SERE school, and became a master parachutist. Like every Green Beret, he became fluent in a foreign language – his language was Russian.
He was ready to conquer anything. He would have to be in the coming years.
Listen to our interview with Greg Stube on the Mandatory Fun podcast:
His career spanned 23 years and included the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the start of the Global War on Terror. During Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006, Stube and his Green Beret team were outnumbered in the Battle of Sperwan Ghar – a week-long battle against the Taliban. Stube took a hit from a powerful IED, was shot numerous times, and was even on fire. He suffered wounds to his lower body and even nearly lost a leg. But after 17 surgeries in 18 months, Greg Stube miraculously recovered.
In that time, he learned that applying the way Green Berets are taught to accomplish a mission by any means necessary to his personal life he really could overcome any obstacle and any situation. His new book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team, is a leadership book designed to help anyone use that mentality to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Stube’s newest mission is to share what he’s learned and to help make other people’s life a little better through his experiences.
“This is my attempt, from my life and career, to sum up the things I’ve done and witnessed in peace, conflict, and healing,” Stube says. “I just want people to know it’s not reserved for the military or a special forces team. Everything we learn and refine in those desperate situations can be used without all the pressure – without the life and death risk.”
Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team is available on Amazon and will soon be available as an audiobook download on Audible, read by the author himself.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, the network’s ally, the Afghan Taliban, has announced.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement in English on Twitter early on Sept. 4, 2018.
The Taliban claimed that Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era.”
The United States, after allying with Haqqani to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, by 2012 had designated his organization a terrorist group.
The elder Haqqani was paralyzed for the past 10 years, AP reported. Because he had not been heard from in several years, reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Haqqani was once a minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2002 that followed the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Prior to the U.S. invasion, Haqqani fostered close ties with Arab extremists, including the now-deceased Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who set up militant camps in Afghanistan before being run out of the country into hiding in Pakistan by U.S.-led NATO forces.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
It was blamed for the truck bombing in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people, though the group denied its involvement.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
For as long as the United States has existed, Americans have played close attention to what the president says.
So it’s no surprise that presidents have had a huge impact on the English language itself.
Presidents are responsible for introducing millions of Americans to words that we now consider ordinary. Thomas Jefferson, for example, is responsible for bringing the word “pedicure” over from France, while Abraham Lincoln gifted us with “sugarcoat.”
Meanwhile, the ubiquitous word “OK” has a lengthy history closely intertwined with our eighth president, Martin Van Buren.
Read on to discover the presidential origins of 11 common words we use today.
1. Iffy — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt began using the word “iffy” early in his presidency, and by virtually all accounts, he was the first known person to have used it.
That’s according to Paul Dickson, the author of “Words from the White House,” which tracked the influence US presidents have had on the English language.
Defined as “having many uncertain or unknown qualities or conditions,” iffy was apparently a go-to word for Roosevelt when dismissing hypothetical questions from the press, like when he’d say, “that’s an iffy question.”
2. Mulligan — Dwight Eisenhower
Before Dwight Eisenhower came around, the word “mulligan” was rarely heard outside the golf course.
But according to Dickson, Eisenhower — an avid golfer —introduced the word to the masses in 1947 when he requested a mulligan in a round of golf that was being covered by reporters.
A mulligan is an extra stroke awarded after a bad shot, and it wouldn’t be the last time Eisenhower was awarded one. In 1963, the former president was granted a mulligan as he was dedicating a golf course at the Air Force Academy, after his ceremonial first drive went straight up into the air.
3. Founding fathers — Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding is usually ranked among the worst American presidents, but he succeeded in popularizing a phrase that has become a staple of our political discourse.
The most famous instance came in 1918 when Harding, then an Ohio senator, said in a speech that “It is good to meet and drink at the fountains of wisdom inherited from the founding fathers of the Republic.”
Before Harding, America’s pioneers were typically known as the “framers.” But Harding’s punchy alliteration soon became the standard for decades to come.
4. Pedicure — Thomas Jefferson
Perhaps no president has contributed more words to the English language than Thomas Jefferson.
One of his most widely-used contributions is the word “pedicure,” which he picked upduring his years living in Paris. The earliest use of the word in English dates back to 1784, according to Merriam-Webster.
5. Sugarcoat — Abraham Lincoln
Not only did Abraham Lincoln pioneer the use of “sugarcoat” in the sense of making something bad seem more attractive or pleasant, but he stirred up a minor controversy with the word, too.
In 1861, four months after he was inaugurated, Lincoln wrote a letter to Congress as Southern states were threatening to secede from the Union.
“With rebellion thus sugar-coated they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than 30 years, until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the government,” Lincoln wrote, according to Dickson.
John Defrees, in charge of government printing, was so incensed by Lincoln’s folksy verbiage that he admonished the president, telling him, “you have used an undignified expression in the message.”
But Lincoln insisted on using the word “sugarcoat,” and he got the last laugh: “That word expresses precisely my idea, and I am not going to change it,” he responded. “The time will never come in this country when the people won’t know exactly what ‘sugar-coated’ means.”
6. Administration — George Washington
George Washington set the standard for all US presidents to come, and one major impact he had was establishing the language of the presidency.
Although the word “administration” has been around since the 14th century, it was Washington who first used the word to refer to a leader’s time in office. According to History.com, Washington’s first use of the word came in his 1796 farewell address when he said, “In reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error.”
7. Normalcy — Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding makes another appearance on this list for popularizing the word “normalcy,” the state of being normal.
Harding dropped the word in his famous “Return to Normalcy” speech, delivered as a candidate in the 1920 election in the wake of World War I.
Critics immediately pounced on the senator for using the word instead of the more popular “normality.” The Daily Chronicle of London even wrote that “Mr. Harding is accustomed to take desperate ventures in the coinage of new word,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Kory Stamper.
What the critics didn’t know is that “normalcy” was a perfectly valid English word dating back to 1857, less than a decade after the debut of “normality,” according to linguist Ben Zimmer. But ever since 1920, the word has been indelibly linked to Harding.
8. Belittle — Thomas Jefferson
We can thank America’s third president for introducing us to the word “belittle,” meaning to make someone or something seem unimportant.
The earliest use of the word researchers have found was a 1781 writing of Jefferson’s in which he said of his home state Virginia, “The Count de Buffon believes that nature belittles her productions on this side of the Atlantic.”
Americans picked up on Jefferson’s coinage in the coming years, and Noah Webstereventually included it in his first dictionary in 1806.
9. OK — Martin Van Buren
The word “OK” has a rich history, and eighth president Martin Van Buren played a major role in its lasting popularity.
There are a few explanations as to how “OK” came about, but the most popular one pegs it to an 1839 edition of the Boston Morning Post. That OK stood for “oll korrect,” as in, “all correct” — apparently, it was a popular fad among educated elites to deliberately misspell things. Other jokey abbreviations of the era included NC for “nuff ced” and KG for “know go.”
By the end of the year, OK was slowly making its way into the American vernacular, when Van Buren incorporated it into his 1840 election campaign. A native of Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren’s nickname was Old Kinderhook, and as History.com explained, “OK” became a rallying cry among his supporters.
That election gave OK all the exposure it needed, and the word was cemented into our speech ever since.
10. Bloviate — Warren G. Harding
Somehow, one of America’s least-heralded presidents managed to popularize yet another word that is commonly used today: “bloviate.”
To bloviate is to speak pompously and long-windedly, something Harding readily acknowledged he did frequently. The president once described bloviation as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.”
While bloviate sounds like it could come from Latin, it’s actually just a clever coinage playing on the “blow” in words like “blowhard.” And although Harding didn’t coin it himself, he likely picked it up as a boy growing up in Ohio, where the word was most frequently used in the late 1800s.
Just like in the case of “normalcy,” Harding came under plenty of fire from language purists when he made use of “bloviate,” but most people wouldn’t bat an eye at it today.
Fake news has been around as long as the news itself. But ever since Donald Trump took office, the term has experienced a shift in meaning.
While fake news traditionally refers to disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news, Trump’s repeated use of the term has given way to a new definition: “actual news that is claimed to be untrue.”
Trump’s reimagining of fake news became so widespread in his first year as president that the American Dialect Society declared it the Word of the Year in 2017.
“When President Trump latched on to ‘fake news’ early in 2017, he often used it as a rhetorical bludgeon to disparage any news report that he happened to disagree with,” Ben Zimmer, chair of the group’s New Words Committee, said at the time.
“That obscured the earlier use of ‘fake news’ for misinformation or disinformation spread online, as was seen on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign,” he said. “Trump’s version of ‘fake news’ became a catchphrase among the president’s supporters, seeking to expose biases in mainstream media.”
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Asked on Thursday by Rep. Tim Ryan of the House Appropriations Committee to explain why the US doesn’t just go to war to stop North Korea from developing the capability to hit the US, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a grim scenario.
“I would suggest that we will win,” Mattis said. “It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953.
“It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” Mattis said of Seoul, South Korea, which boasts a metro-area population of 25 million.
North Korea recently launched one of the nation’s largest military exercises, displaying a deadly barrage of artillery. (Photo from North Korean news service)
“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” Mattis said, but “we would win at great cost.”
Mattis explained that because the threat from North Korea loomed so large and a military confrontation would destroy so much, he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all made a peaceful solution a top priority.
Mattis said the topic of North Korea dominated Trump’s meeting in April with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s only ally, and that the US intended to make China understand that “North Korea today is a strategic burden, not a strategic asset.”
China argues it has limited influence on Pyongyang, but as one expert explained, Beijing could at any moment cripple North Korea through trade means, forcing it to come to the negotiating table.
Mattis made clear that the US was nearing the end of its rope in dealing with North Korea, saying: “We’re exhausting all possible diplomatic efforts in this regard.”
North Korea recently taunted Trump by saying it was capable of hitting New York with a nuclear missile, but Mattis said a war today would hurt our Asian allies.
“It would be a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely,” Mattis said.
President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to create a “space force” as a new, sixth military branch to oversee missions and operations in the space domain.
“We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said during a speech at the National Space Council meeting, held at the White House on June 18, 2018. “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense to immediately begin the process to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”
“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the space force,” Trump said. “Separate, but equal. It is going to be something so important.”
Trump then directed Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to “carry that assignment out.”
“Let’s go get it, General,” he added to Dunford, who was at the council meeting.
The Air Force did not immediately have a statement in response to the announcement, and directed all questions to the office of the secretary of defense.
In March 2018, Trump first revealed he had an idea for a “space force,” or separate military service for space.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, has been in a months-long debate over an additional branch.
“Because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space, maybe we need a new force,” he said. “We’ll call it the space force.”
Trump’s comments came a few months after discussions had wound down in the Pentagon about a separate military force for space.
Lawmakers have pushed the Air Force to stand up a branch for space within the service in hopes of taking adversarial threats in space more seriously.
Both Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have been trying to discourage talk of a separate military branch, maintaining that the Air Force has the means and the personnel to meet current requirements for space.
“This [Air Force] budget accelerates our efforts to deter, defend and protect our ability to operate and win in space,” Wilson told a House Appropriations Committee panel days after Trump’s first announcement. “There are a number of different elements of this with respect to the space — the space portfolio.”
Goldfein agreed with the secretary during the March hearing, and added there is no question space is a warfighting domain in need of better protection. The Air Force has overseen the domain since the mid-1950s.
“As a joint chief, I see that same responsibility as the lead joint chief for space operations is making sure that we have those capabilities that the joint team requires. And so, as the president stated openly, this is a warfighting domain,” Goldfein said. “That is where we’ve been focused. And so I’m really looking forward to the conversation.”
Soon after, Goldfein, Wilson and even Defense Secretary Jim Mattis publicly downplayed the idea, citing costliness and organizational challenges.
And while lawmakers ultimately removed language requiring such an overhaul of the Air Force’s mission, they still required a study of a space force and also backed changes to the management of the space cadre.
Rogers and other key lawmakers believe it is still possible to stand up a “space corps” within three to five years, and have still chastised the Air Force for not creating something like it “yesterday.”
“The situation we are in as a nation, the vulnerabilities we have to China and Russia, I’d like for the American public to know more, [but] I can’t because I don’t want to go to jail for leaking classified info. But we’re in a really bad situation,” Rogers said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in March 2018.
Rogers has looked to Trump for support on the new space mission.