Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.

Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.


Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.

“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.

The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”

Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.

Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.

Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.

Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.

Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.

“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.

All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.

Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.

“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.

Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.

Visit https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/Combined-Maritime-Forces/ to learn more about Combined Maritime Forces.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last World War I soldier to see combat died at age 111

On Sept. 22, 1917, a British Lewis gun team was hit by an incoming German shell during the third Battle of Ypres, near Passchendaele, Harry Patch was a member of that team. He was blown away by the blast, but his other three teammates were completely vaporized. He never saw them again. Patch struggled for years to tell that story, which he finally did before he died in 2009.

At his death, the last British Tommy to see World War I combat was 111 years, one month, one week, and one day old.


Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

A Canadian soldier tests out a Lewis Gun similar to the one Harry Patch worked in World War I.

With Patch went our collective connection to a bygone era. While other Great War veterans outlived Patch, Patch was the last among them to fight in the mud, the wet, the disease-ridden trenches of World War I’s Western Front. He was born in 1898 and drafted into the British Army at age 18. After a brief training period, Private Patch was sent to the Western Front with the other members of his Lewis Gun team during the winter of 1916. The next year is when the German artillery round hit his position and killed his friends.

Patch was still wounded and recovering by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. For the rest of his life, he considered September 22 to be his remembrance day, not November 11.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

Patch with Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry in 2008.

By the time World War II rolled around, Harry Patch was much too old to join the Army and served as a firefighter in the British city of Bath instead. Patch never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, let alone journalists, so he declined interviews until 1998, when the BBC pointed out to him that the number of World War I veterans still alive was shrinking fast. His first appearance was World War I in Colour, where he recalled the first time he came face to face with an enemy soldier. He shot to wound the man, not kill him. Patch was not a fan of killing, even in warfare.

“Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left,” he told the BBC in 2007.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

Six pall-bearers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles bear the coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch into Wells Cathedral in 2009.

Before his death, Harry Patch returned to the fields of Passchendaele where his three best friends met their end. He was going to once again meet a German, but this time there would be only handshakes. At age 106, Patch met Charles Kuentz, 107-year-old German World War I veteran who fought the British at Passchendaele. The two exchanged gifts and talked about the futility of war.

Patch wrote his memoirs at 107, to become the oldest author ever, and later watched as World War I-era planes dropped poppies over Somerset in memoriam to those who served. He died in 2009, aged 111 years, one month, one week, and one day. The bells of Wells Cathedral in Somerset were rung 111 times in his honor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.

That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.


Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.

At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.

The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.

Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.

“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”

The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Reestablishing air defense in Europe

The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.

During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.

Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.

But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.

In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.

Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)

The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.

“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The world wants China to own up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”


To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.

In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.

In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”

Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Liu Xiaobo

At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.

“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.

In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”

In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”

Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.

Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Wu’Er Kaixi

However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.

“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”

Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.

In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.

On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.

“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.

“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

Articles

After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Lockheed Martin photo


For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.

But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.

Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.

The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.

Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
SIPRI chart

Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.

Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.

In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.

Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Iraqi M-1 tanks on parade | Wikimedia photo

This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.

Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.

But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.

This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Russian Su-30 fighter | Wikimedia photo

China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.

But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.

Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
A Saudi F-15 during a Red Flag exercise in the United States | U.S. Defense Department photo

SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.

In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreased by 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.

Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.

Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman gave his life to protect his daughter

As a tornado demolished Master Sgt. Dan Wassom’s house, he and his wife, Suzanne, tried to protect their 5- and 7-year-old daughters by using their own bodies as shields.  It worked.  Their children survived, but Dan didn’t make it.


With winds reaching nearly 200 miles per hour, the devastating EF-4 tornado smashed into Vilonia, Arkansas, April 27, 2014, killing 16 people.  The twister demolished 50 of 56 homes in the Wassom’s subdivision, as well as nearly half the businesses in the town of 3,800.  Known as “Bud” to his family and close friends, 31-year-old Wassom died while hovering over his 5-year-old daughter, Lorelai.

Also Read: This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Wassom was a C-130 Hercules loadmaster evaluator with the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Joining the Air Force as a patriotic calling shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he followed in his dad’s footsteps. The senior Dan Wassom was a C-130 Hercules maintenance crew chief at Little Rock AFB before retiring from active duty.  He still works at the base as a civilian in the 19th Maintenance Group, just minutes from his son’s unit.

A decorated Airman, Wassom earned an Air Medal during his deployment to Kuwait – a combat tour he volunteered to do.  He was supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2010.  According to his award citation, Wassom flew 16 successful combat missions — conducted day and night under the threat of enemy anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles — over the war-torn countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, executing multiple, flawless contingency airdrops.

According to his parents, the only thing Wassom treasured more than his Air Force career was his family.  So while his death came as a shock to those who knew and loved him, the way he died – protecting his family – surprised no one.

Wassom’s wife told his parents that he remained calm, cool and collected even as the monster twister began to consume their 2,300-square-foot home.  As Wassom bent his 6-foot-2 frame over his youngest daughter, forming a semi-protective cocoon over her, a heavy structural beam struck the back of his neck and a one-by-four impaled his chest. Lorelai lost a toe on her left foot and suffered a serious injury to her right shoulder, but she, along with her mother and sister, Sydney, survived.

Wassom’s last mission … accomplished.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain
Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom, a 189th Airlift Wing evaluator loadmaster killed in a recent tornado, will be remembered with a 5K run in his honor. Wassom served in the 189th for 12 years. (189th Airlift Wing courtesy photo)

“He was the best daddy I’d ever seen, and he loved his wife with all his heart,” said his mom, Pam Wassom, who along with Dan Sr. resides in Cabot, Arkansas, only 20 minutes from where their son’s home used to stand before being reduced to a pile of rubble.

“He took to parenthood as naturally as breathing air,” she said. “He was involved in every aspect of those girls’ lives.  He was their hero, and he proved it with his last breath.”

Wassom was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal, along with a Meritorious Service Medal and the Arkansas Distinguished Service Medal from the governor of Arkansas.  Additionally, a Little Rock AFB street now bears his name. — MSGT DAN WASSOM ROAD.

Articles

What You’ll Miss When You Get Out

military_transition


Military service ends for everyone at some point.  Regardless of how rewarding and enjoyable it has been, regardless of rank attained or awards earned, eventually it’s time to start the next chapter of a working life – a time to transition to a civilian career.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

For me the time came at the 20-year mark.  I spent the majority of my time in uniform stationed at an air base in Virginia Beach attached to various F-14 squadrons.  When I received orders to teach at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I knew my flying days were most likely over, so I started considering what life on the outside might look like for me once I became retirement eligible.

Nothing really jumped out at me.  Because I’d been a Naval Flight Officer – a backseater – and not a pilot, the airlines weren’t an option (not to mention the airline industry has had a major employment downturn in the last decade or so).  I had a bachelor’s degree but it was in political science . . . pretty useless in terms of determining a viable civilian career field.

In spite of the fact that for decades I had assumed that there would be all kinds of jobs waiting to be blessed by my presence when I elected to get out, only when I actually started looking for one did I realize my options were limited.  And when I say “limited” I’m not necessarily speaking about limited in terms of income potential.  I’m talking about limited in terms of job satisfaction potential.

You see, like most of us who stay in the military past our initial obligations, I enjoyed what I was doing.  Of course there were bad days and the challenges of long periods of family separation, but I was living a life of consequence, working a job that Hollywood makes movies about.  I’d flown from aircraft carriers sailing in hostile waters and worked with incredible professionals.  We had carried out the important missions we’d been given.

So among my fears as I transitioned to my first civilian job – that of a civil servant working one of the aircraft programs at a systems command – was that my day-to-day efforts wouldn’t amount to anything important.

And they didn’t . . . at first.

As I traded my flight suit for khakis and a golf shirt I was thrust into a world of grey areas.  Sure, there were job titles and GS pay scales, but those didn’t replicate the structure I’d known during my time on active duty.  Who was I relative to my co-workers?  Absent rank on my collar or warfare devices and ribbons on my chest what did they know (or care) about my years of service?

Nothing, or so it seemed.  I was suddenly just the new guy.  I had no track record.  I’d never done anything that mattered.  Instead of flying fighters and leading troops I was now tasked with, among other minutiae, updating the program’s social roster.  I felt like I was stuck in that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”:

“Glory days, they’ll pass you by; glory days, like the wink in a young girl’s eye . . .”

I had no flight schedule to comply with.  I had no detailer to call for my next set of orders.  I had no master chiefs to keep me out of trouble.  I had no uniforms to wear.  Nobody was going to be filming any movies about the action-packed life of a civil servant.

In spite of all my “prep” for the transition (including mandatory TAP, of course) I wasn’t prepared for the subjective part of the move – the “spiritual” side, if you will.  I was more lost (and depressed) than I ever thought I would be.  And the scary part is I wasn’t even fully in the private sector; I was working for the Department of Defense.

Fortunately by the end of the first year of my transition, I’d found my footing, job-wise.  I switched programs to one that actually needed what I had to offer in terms of talent, outlook, and enthusiasm.  In time I was a trusted member of a team again, one with a seat at the decision-making table, and the position was rewarding in its own way.  And that job ultimately gave me the confidence and experience to make the move to the private sector into a role that fully leverages my military career and creativity.

Change is hard; transitioning out of the military is harder.  Part of making it easier is thorough prep work research and networking-wise.  The rest is understanding that it won’t be easy and fighting the notion that the best years are behind you.  Sometimes you might need patience.  Sometimes you might need to go after it in a hurry.  But the same elements that made you an effective warfighter will ultimately serve you well during the civilian chapter of your working life.

NOW: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

OR: The Vice President Just Pulled A ‘Jody’ Move At The Defense Secretary’s Swearing-In 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s Voyager 2 finds mysterious layer outside our solar system

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.

It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.

Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.


The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.

“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.

The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The place where solar and interstellar winds interact

On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.

It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.

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This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.

But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.

Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.

The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.

“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.

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An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI))

Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.

The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.

“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.

What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.

“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.

The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.

“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”

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The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.

(NASA/JPL)

5 more years of Voyager data

NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.

The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.

“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.

Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.

After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.

In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.

“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

US Navy brass reject claims of Chinese threat to carriers

Officials revealed that the U.S. Navy is confident its carriers and other key strategic units can hold their own inside China’s growing anti-access zones in the Asia-Pacific region.


Anti-access, area-denial “is certainly a goal for some of our competitors, but achieving that goal is very different and much more complicated,” argues Adm. John Richardson in an interview with the National Interest, indicating that rival states with anti-access ambitions are struggling to develop weapons capable of permanently boxing out the U.S. military.

More: China’s ‘carrier-killer’ missile may be a serious threat to the US Navy

When questioned about whether or not U.S. carriers can survive rival anti-access A2/AD systems, Richardson reportedly responded with an adamant “Yes.”

The logic is that A2/AD weapons technology, while it has a fancy new name, is not a new concept. A2/AD weaponry is essentially long-range weaponry. Missiles are just the latest evolution of long-range weaponry, explains the National Interest.

China’s “keep out” diplomacy and projectile-based A2/AD defense systems are generally regarded as threats to the resurgence of American military power in the Asia-Pacific. China’s so-called “carrier killer” missiles are considered serious challenges to American naval and air operations in the Asia Pacific by military insiders.

China is building a missile wall to deter U.S. incursions into the South China Sea and the East China Sea — regions where China hopes to carve out a sphere of influence for itself.

China cannot compete with U.S. Naval and air power, so it uses missiles as a primary deterrent. Projectile weapons are much easier and cheaper to produce than advanced naval and air units. Anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), surface-to-air missiles (SAM), fast attack submarines, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are the core components of China’s A2/AD strategy.

Richardson and Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller assert that Chinese A2/AD zones are not “impenetrable domes.

Defense strategies using long-range weapons to deny access to superior forces has been a component of war for centuries, the military is factoring this into its calculations and strategies. That other countries are developing A2/AD technology is not a surprise.

Miller suggested that the A2/AD threat to the U.S. Navy was actually greater during the Cold War when the Soviets deployed countless Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfires and sent out numerous Omar-class cruise missile submarines to eliminate U.S. carriers. By comparison, China’s present A2/AD advancements are less threatening.

To counter potential A2/AD threats to U.S. Naval and air units at sea, U.S. carrier air wings, groups consisting of aircraft carriers and several aircraft detachments, are being outfitted with the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network. This system allows any unit in the carrier air wing to act as a sensor or shooter for another unit.

Richardson and Miller expect the F-35C, a joint strike fighter, and the MQ-25 Stingray, an aerial refueling unit, to dramatically boost the strategic strike capabilities of U.S. carrier wings.

“When the F-35 enters the air wing, I think it’s going to be quite potent,” Rear Adm. Miller told the National Interest. “The F-35 is a quantum leap in air superiority,” he added.

The F-35C will likely be combined with the MQ-25 Stingray, the airborne early warning (AEW) E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, and the multipurpose F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter, as well as the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) to create an elite carrier wing capable of dealing with projectile weaponry and penetrating enemy anti-access zones.

Adm. Richardson and Rear Adm. Miller believe that U.S. aircraft carriers will remain viable well into the future, especially with the deployment of the improved Ford-class aircraft carriers.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A growing body of research indicates that there are likely billion of Earth-like planets that we haven’t yet discovered.

That’s good news for astronomers seeking alien life. Since Earth is our only example of a life-bearing world, scientists try to pinpoint planets like ours when they search for life elsewhere.

That’s what NASA’s Kepler space telescope set out to do. Kepler scanned the skies from 2009 to 2018, and it found over 4,000 planets outside our solar system. A dozen or so of these planets seem like prime real estate for life.

Kepler’s data has produced a growing body of research that indicates there are likely billions more Earth-like planets that we haven’t discovered.

Here’s why scientists are starting to think planets like Earth might be common.


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Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

When astronomers peer across the cosmos for potential outposts of alien life, they look for planets like Earth.

That means a rocky planet that’s roughly the size of Earth. Scientists haven’t exactly defined this size range, since they don’t yet know how big rocky planets can be.

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The habitable zone, or “Goldilocks zone,” around a star is where a planet is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water.

(NASA)

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This artist’s concept illustrates the idea that rocky worlds like the inner planets in our solar system may be plentiful, and diverse, in the universe.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

A handful of recent discoveries shows that Earths could be common in the universe.

That means alien life could be common, too.

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An illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

(NASA)

Most of what we know about exoplanets comes from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Kepler, which first launched in 2009, retired last year after it ran out of fuel. NASA passed the planet-hunting torch to the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April 2018.

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From the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly took this photo of Earth and the Milky Way. He posted it to Twitter on Aug. 9, 2015.

(NASA/Scott Kelly)

Based on Kepler’s findings, one NASA scientist estimated that our galaxy alone contains 1 billion Earth-like planets.

Astrophysicist Natalie Batalha sent these rough calculations to the Washington Post in 2015. She noted that it was a conservative estimate.

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This artist’s concept of the Milky Way shows the galaxy’s two major arms and two minor arms attached to the ends of a thick central bar.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since then, further research has indicated that the Milky Way could harbor as many as 10 billion Earths.

In a study published in August, researchers estimated that an Earth-like planet orbits one in every four sun-like stars.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet on Feb. 12, 2019.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

Those researchers didn’t want to rely solely on the planets Kepler found. That telescope’s method is better at detecting large planets (like Jupiter) than small planets (like Earth).

That means that Kepler data probably underestimates the number of Earth-like planets in the cosmos.

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In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth. This May 9, 2016 transit lasted seven-and-a-half-hours.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein)

That’s because Kepler used the “transit method.” It watched for tiny dips in a star’s brightness, caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Larger planets obstruct more of their stars’ light, making them easier to detect. Plus, Kepler’s method was biased toward small, dim stars about one third the mass of our sun.

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A multi-frequency all-sky image of the universe’s background radiation.

(ESA/ LFI HFI Consortia)

So Ford’s team built a simulation of a universe like ours and “observed” its stars as Kepler would have.

The simulation gave the scientists a sense of how many exoplanets Kepler would have detected in each hypothetical universe, and which kinds. They then compared that data to what the real Kepler telescope detected in our universe, to estimate the abundance of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

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This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from nearby one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(SO/M. Kornmesser)

The result: up to 10 billion rocky, Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

“There are significant uncertainties in what range of stars you label ‘sun-like,’ what range of orbital distances you consider to be ‘in the habitable zone,’ what range of planet sizes you consider to be ‘Earth-like,'” Eric Ford, a professor of astrophysics and co-author of the study, told Business Insider in August 2019. “Given those uncertainties, both 5 and 10 billion are reasonable estimates.”

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An illustration of the binary star system Sirius. Sirius A (left) is the brightest star in the night sky of Earth, and it has a small blue companion called Sirius B.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon)

Many of those planets could be Earth-like in other ways, too. Last week, a study found that 87% of Earth-like planets in two-star systems should have a stable axis tilt like Earth’s.

“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars,” Gongjie Li, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems.”

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The surface of Mars.

(NASA)

That stable tilt is crucial for life on Earth. The tilt of Mars’s axis changes wildly over tens of thousands of years, creating drastic shifts in global climate that could prevent life from taking hold.

Some scientists think Mars’s changing axial tilt contributed to the disappearance of its atmosphere.

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A star like our sun dies by casting off its outer layers of gas, leaving only the star’s hot core behind.

(NASA/ESA/K. Noll)

In an autopsy of six dead stars, researchers found that the shredded remains of rocky planets contained oxygen and other elements found in rocks on Earth and Mars.

The researchers used telescope data to calculate how much the iron in these rocks had oxidized — the process where iron chemically bonds with oxygen and rusts.

“The fact that we have oceans and all the ingredients necessary for life can be traced back to the planet being oxidized as it is. The rocks control the chemistry,” Edward Young, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “We have just raised the probability that many rocky planets are like the Earth, and there’s a very large number of rocky planets in the universe.”

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An artist’s representation of Venus with land and water.

(NASA)

Earths might even be common in our own solar system. Venus may have had oceans and a climate like Earth’s for billions of years.

In September 2019, researchers presented the results of five different simulations of the climate history of Venus. In all five scenarios, the planet maintained temperatures between 20 and 50 degrees Celsius for up to 3 billion years.

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NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this colorized picture of Venus on Feb. 14, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The researchers think that a mysterious catastrophe about 700 millions years ago transformed Venus into the uninhabitable hothouse it is today.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Michael Way, a NASA scientist and study co-author, said in a press release.

It could have been magma bubbling up from below Venus’s surface, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That would have trapped enough heat to reach the broiling surface temperatures that average 462 degrees Fahrenheit today.

“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today,” Way added.

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On the morning of June 22, 2019, astronauts in the ISS captured the plume of ash and gases rising from the erupting Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.

(NASA)

Even that susceptibility to disaster is, in fact, quite Earth-like.

A supervolcano eruption or asteroid impact could one day make our planet uninhabitable. That could be the end of life on this Earth, but the research shows there may be plenty more Earth-like planets to spare.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New protective gear saves soldier’s life

Less than a week after receiving his new Integrated Head Protective System, or IHPS, the neck mandible saved the soldier’s life in Afghanistan.

The armor crewman was in the turret manning his weapon when a raucous broke out on the street below. Amidst the shouting, a brick came hurdling toward his turret. It struck the soldier’s neck, but luckily he had his maxillofacial protection connected to his helmet.

The first issue of this mandible with the IHPS helmet went to an armored unit in Afghanistan a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for soldier protective equipment at Program Executive Office Soldier.


The neck protection was designed specifically for turret gunners to protect them from objects thrown at them, she said. She added most soldiers don’t need and are not issued the mandible that connects to the IHPS Generation I helmet.

A new Gen II helmet is also now being testing by soldiers, said Col. Stephen Thomas, program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at PEO Soldier.

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A new generation of Soldier Protection System equipment is displayed during a media roundtable by Program Executive Office Soldier during the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

About 150 of the Gen II IHPS helmets were recently issued to soldiers of the 2-1 Infantry for testing at Fort Riley, Kansas. The new helmet is lighter while providing a greater level of protection, Whitehead said. The universal helmet mount eliminates the need for drilling holes for straps and thus better preserves the integrity of the carbon fiber.

The new helmet is part of an upgraded Soldier Protection System that provides more agility and maneuver capability, is lighter weight, while still providing a higher level of ballistic protection, Thomas said.

The lighter equipment will “reduce the burden on soldiers” and be a “game-changer” downrange, Thomas said at a PEO Soldier media roundtable Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

It will allow soldiers flexibility to scale up or scale down their personal armor protection depending on the threat and the mission, he said.

The new soldier Protection System, or SPS, is “an integrated suite of equipment,” Thomas said, that includes different-sized torso plates for a modular scalable vest that comes in eight sizes and a new ballistic combat shirt that has 12 sizes.

The idea is for the equipment to better fit all sizes of soldiers, he said.

The ballistic combat shirt for women has a V-notch in the back to accommodate a hair bun, Whitehead said, which will make it more comfortable for many female soldiers.

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center) holds the Ballistic Combat Shirt.

(US Army)

The modular scalable vest can be broken down to a sleeveless version with a shortened plate to give an increased range of motion to vehicle drivers and others, she said.

The new SPS also moves away from protective underwear that “soldiers didn’t like at all” because of the heat and chafe, Whitehead said. Instead the new unisex design of outer armor protects the femoral arteries with less discomfort, she said.

PEO Soldier has also come out with a new integrated hot-weather clothing uniform, or IHWCU, made of advanced fibers, Thomas said. It’s quick-drying with a mix of 57% nylon and 43% cotton.

In hot temperatures, the uniform is “no melt, no drip,” he said.

Two sets of the IHWCU are now being issued to infantry and armor soldiers during initial-entry training, he said, along with two sets of the regular combat uniform.

The new hot-weather uniform is also now available at clothing sales stores in Hawaii, along with those on Forts Benning, Hood and Bliss, he said. All clothing sales stores should have the new uniform available by February, he added.

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

Articles

This is how the Army teaches you to ‘see green’ — not brown, black or white

Recently, the Huffington Post article “Becoming A Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect Of Serving Your Country?” has been making its rounds across the veteran community.


Basically it’s a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author’s NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.

The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article’s defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.

However, it glosses over the U.S. military’s extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but “green.”

All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.

The Army’s diversity mission statement is: “To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity.” In every sense, we are.

The term “seeing green” refers to removing your view on another troop’s personal identity and welcoming them as a brother or sister in arms who also swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Of course, we still understand that they are of a different ethnicity. We’re not blind. We only place importance on their rank and position.

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We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you’re a young private – you’re probably an idiot no matter what. And if you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably an idiot who’s also in the chain of command.

Troops come from all walks of life. I’ve served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.

I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you “see green” far more than the minute group of f*ckfaces that do radicalize.

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Still one of his coolest photos was when he was a Private First Class. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn’t the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn’t doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.

In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.

We quickly became friends. We’d talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.

Things shifted when the topic of “why we enlisted” came up. He told me it was his life’s goal to help teach others that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.

One of radical Islam’s recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.

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A little compassion goes a long way. (Photo via Military.com)

Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radical sh*theads. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.

My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.

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I’ll never take it off, brother. I even argue with the TSA over taking it off.

It didn’t matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn’t have his in his time of need.

He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others’ ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.

Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same ‘green.’

MIGHTY TRENDING

Intense bombing brings Syrian rebels to the bargaining table

Rebels in besieged areas of southwestern Syria say they are returning to negotiations with Russia over a possible pullout after an intensive bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian forces.

The move by rebel forces on July 5, 2018, comes after a brief suspension of the Moscow-brokered negotiations that have produced agreements already to return more than 30 towns to government control in the strategic zone of southern Syria bordering both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A brief collapse of the talks on July 4, 2018, ushered in a blitz of Russian and Syrian air strikes, barrel bombs, and missiles, following a pattern Russia and Syria have pursued repeatedly to regain control over rebel territory.


The bombing barrage sent an estimated 320,000 civilians fleeing the area in what appeared to be one of the fastest displacements in Syria’s seven-year civil war, prompting an international outcry and meetings at the United Nations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s goal is to recapture Syria’s entire southwest, one of the last rebel strongholds in the country.

Within 24 hours of the resumed bombing, rebels said they wanted to return to negotiations, with the talks focusing on their pullout from the territory they still control in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the provincial capital.

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Daraa is considered to be the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Assad that triggered the devastating war, which has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions.

Hussein Abazeed, spokesman for the south’s joint rebel command, accused Russia of pursuing a “scorched-earth policy” to force rebels back to the negotiating table.

As rebels agreed to renewed talks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported a halt to both Russian and Syrian government air strikes over the south.

Rebels say Russia has insisted that opposition factions hand over their heavy weapons all at once, while rebels want to relinquish their arms in several phases.

Moscow also reportedly has refused rebel requests for safe passage to opposition-held territory in other parts of Syria, as was granted to rebels who agreed to pull out of Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.

During the renewed fighting, regime forces retook control of a security checkpoint on the Jordanian border for the first time in more than three years, the monitoring group said.

Rebels then handed some 275 square kilometers of territory near the border to government forces without a fight, said observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

Nearly 150 civilians have died since the government assault in the south began two weeks ago, according to the observatory.

Many of the area’s 320,000 displaced people have been fleeing south to the borders with Jordan and the Golan Heights, the UN says.

But both Israel and Jordan have kept their borders closed, despite mounting calls to let Syrians escape to safety.

The International Rescue Committee said displaced families are struggling to cope with 45-degree heat, scorpions, and snakes in the open desert area.

Rebel territory in southern Syria was included in a cease-fire zone created last year in a deal between Washington, Amman, and Moscow, but that did little to halt the government’s assault.

Near the start of the government’s offensive, Washington indicated it would respond to violations of the cease-fire deal, but it has not done so yet and rebels said it had told them to expect no American military help.

The onslaught has sparked calls for restraint and an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on July 5, 2018. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that an “estimated 750,000 lives are in danger.”

But Russia blocked the council from adopting a statement on the issue. A diplomat said on condition of anonymity there had been a fruitless push to persuade Moscow to accept a pause in fighting to distribute humanitarian aid.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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