Fighting fire with chainsaws - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

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


MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers’ directors just undid that major ‘Endgame’ twist

One of if not the most dramatic moments in Avengers: Endgame is the scene in which a shieldless Captain America wields Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer that Odin enchanted so that only the worthy are able to lift it. There’s an entire scene in Age of Ultron showing the other Avengers trying and failing to pick it up. Or at least that’s what we thought was happening.

In a new interview, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo were asked why Cap is able to pick up Mjolnir in Endgame but not in Age of Ultron. What changed between the two films, about nine years of Marvel Cinematic Universe time?


Anthony replied: “In our heads, he was able to wield it. He didn’t know that until that moment in Ultron when he tried to pick it up. But Cap’s sense of character and humility and, out of deference to Thor’s ego, Cap, in that moment realizing he can move the hammer, decides not to.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Lifting Thor’s Hammer – Movie CLIP HD

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There is a brief moment in that Ultron scene in which the hammer appears to move ever so slightly and a look of panic flashes across Thor’s face, so it’s not as though Russo’s explanation comes completely out of left-field. The problem is simply that his version is just not as interesting as the prevailing theory.

Many thought that in Ultron, Cap couldn’t quite pick up the hammer because he was keeping a huge secret from Tony. In Captain America: Civil War he was forced to admit that Bucky was the one who killed the Starks. So by the time that scene in Endgame rolls around, he is worthy of wielding Mjolnir. It’s a nice arc that makes narrative sense and puts adherence to a moral code, the foundation of any good superhero story, at the forefront.

And now the Russos have deflated it. Because as nice as it is to be humble and not show up your friends, it’s not nearly as interesting as telling your friend that you’ve been keeping the identity of his parents’ murderers a secret.

J.K. Rowling learned the hard way that fans don’t particularly like it when architects of elaborate fictional worlds make statements outside of their work that alters their experience.

So while theorizing about this stuff is fun, creators have to know that when they do it comes from a place of authority that can have the effect of erasing fan speculation. That robs fans of the fun of speculating themselves and, as in this case, it can provide a less interesting “answer” to the most exciting questions the work in question raises.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon releases an artificial intelligence strategy and it’s straight up Skynet

The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019’s White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

“The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security,” Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.

The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy’s launch with reporters.


The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. “That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities,” he added. “The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.

Speed and agility are key

Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.

“The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy,” Deasy said.

“I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC,” he noted. “Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department.”

Reforming DOD business

The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department’s business processes. “Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency,” he added.

Pentagon outlines its artificial intelligence strategy

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AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.

JAIC: focal point of AI

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity,” JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.

The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 “to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.”

Mission themes

The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.

  • First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. “This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities,” he said. “The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption.”
  • Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact, Shanahan said. “One of the JAIC’s most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services,” he explained.
  • Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it’s important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
  • Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.

Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that “initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months.”

And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.

“Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners,” Shanahan said. “Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components.”

The JAIC’s mission, the director said, “nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there’s no time to waste.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded ‘marsquake’

NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”


The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA’s InSight

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“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Listen to audio of this likely marsquake at: https://youtu.be/DLBP-5KoSCc

For more information about InSight, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/insight

For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are some of the best non-food freebies this Veterans Day

Companies grateful for the military’s service show their appreciation each year with free or discounted meals. Every Nov. 11, troops and vets map out an itinerary to maximize the best day ever.


The festivities can begin a week in advance and many troops stick with their tried and true classics. Cracker Barrel for breakfast, Red Robin for lunch, Hooter’s for Dinner, Old Chicago for beer and pizza with buddies.

If you really want to maximize your day, throw in a few things to do between meals. Be sure to grab your military or veteran ID and said buddies to share the Saturday of freebies with!

Free Haircuts

You can’t go out looking like a slob and expect civilians to take you seriously. After breakfast, why not grab a free haircut?

There are countless local and chain barbershops this year — too many to name. Everyone from Great Clips and Super Cuts to that place you like down the road (probably) are giving free hair cuts.

Give them a call in advance to verify.

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It also helps to book a time slot. (Image via Defense.mil)

Free Oil Change

If that light has been on for a bit too long on your dashboard, now is the time to get it checked out. You’ll need your car working in the best shape if you plan on driving all over for more deals.

Car care centers are also giving free oil changes including Meineke, Jiffy Lube, and many other local auto shops. Give them a call in advance to make sure.

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They’re like the motor pool for your personal ride. (Image via Trucker)

Free Car Wash

Speaking of car care things people have been pushing off for too long, it’s time to get your car cleaned if you plan on showing up in style.

The organization Grace For Vets is working with over 3,215 car wash locations across the world to offer free car washes for veterans.

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You may be paying 26% interest rate on it, but you’ve got to keep it looking good! (Image via Agency360)

Free Bowling

And to round the night out before the bars start opening up, have everyone meet up at the bowling ally for a game on the house. If you live near a Main Event bowling center, you even get a free entrée and $10 FUNcard to use at that location.

Many locations also offer free bowling Saturday, as with all the other fun deals, be sure to call in advance so you don’t end up being “that guy” who makes a scene about not getting a free round of bowling.

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And who doesn’t want to enjoy one of the only professional sports that allows you to drink? (Image via Military.com)

Free Wedding Dress

If you’ve got that one perfect date set in mind, now is the time to check one more thing off that list if you, or your fiancé, are military or a first responder.

Hands down the most impressive freebie this year is a free wedding dress. Granted, there are many stipulations on this one including: wedding in the next 18 months, you or your fiancé deployed in the last 5 years or about to deploy, and only certain deployed locations count. But submarine, Navy, and Special Ops orders all count. You can also qualify if you’ve had a civil ceremony in the past and are now planning a formal wedding.

To register through Brides Across America, click on this link here.

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Saber arch not included (Image via af.mil)

Free Beer

There’s no way to finish a perfect day of freebies than by having a beer on the house.

Places like Mockery Brewing in Denver and Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas is offering up your first beer free while the First Division Museum is giving two “tastings.” Orlando Brewing in Orlando, FL; 38 State Brewing Co in Littleton, CO; and Blackfinn Ameripub in Vienna, VA all have variations on a “buy a vet a beer” program.

Many more exist out there. It all depends on how your local bar is handling it. Chances are, if you’re a regular and they know you’re a vet, the bartender will probably just slide you one on the house.

Fighting fire with chainsaws
And at the end of the day, isn’t a nice cold beer the best way to celebrate?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what National Guard units across the country will be doing on Election Day

From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.

Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.

As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.

No Uniforms, No Weapons

Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.

Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.

“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”

Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.

In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.

“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”

Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.

The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.

“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”

The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.

“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”

Bracing for Conflict

Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.

“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.

If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.

“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.

After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.

“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”

Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.

“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”

In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.

“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”

For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.

“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.

The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.

The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.

“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.

The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.

As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s first enlisted pilots in 70 years

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.


“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”

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A RQ-4 Global Hawk taxis for take off from the Beale Air Force Base, Calif. June 14, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

In light of this, the Air Force selected 12 active-duty airmen last year to become RQ-4 pilots as part of the first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, the first enlisted airmen to fly aircraft since 1942.

“I wasn’t expecting to be selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Courtney, an RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot who was part of the initial class. “It was a huge honor and I was extremely excited and nervous. I’m glad I applied, a lot of great opportunities have come from it and I’ve learned a lot more about the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) enterprise by being able to move to the pilot side.”

Courtney has been part of the ISR career field throughout her career. Over the years she’s filled several roles, including one as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4, where she sat next to the pilot operating the aircraft’s camera during missions.

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Enlisted pilots of the RQ-4 Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base, Cali., are now flying operational missions after completing pilot training. These are the first enlisted Airmen to fly aircraft for the U.S. Air Force since 1942.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

She always wanted to be a pilot and was going through the process of applying for Officer Training School to come back and fly RPAs when this program was offered as an exclusive volunteer possibility by the Air Force.

Courtney says even though it’s unique paradigm shift to have officer and enlisted pilots training and flying side-by-side, the dynamic of operating and conducting a mission is no different than on any other airframe.

“It’s important because everybody’s opinion matters when you’re flying an aircraft or executing a mission,” said Courtney. “We’re trained and we’re expected to fill an expectation and a skill level of that crew position. So regardless of what the rank is, our job is to get the mission done and if the senior airman sensor operator has a better idea and it works and I agree with it, then that’s what we’ll go with. Rank doesn’t play a part when we’re executing the mission.”
For RQ-4 pilots, there are a lot of missions.

In 2017, the Air Force was tasked with nearly 25,000 ISR missions, collecting 340,000 hours of full motion video and producing 2.55 million intelligence products — which averages almost five products per minute that close intelligence gaps and support target analysis and development.

The Enlisted Pilot Initial Class training was created to provide more pilots to the RQ-4 program and ensure the Air Force is able to keep up with the high demand for its ISR products.

But, training new pilots takes time as the RPA training program spans almost a full year. Airmen begin Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado, where they learn to fly and complete a solo flight in a DA-20 Katana aircraft. After IFT, students progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and then Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.

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Maj. Michael, a remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course instructor pilot, right, discusses a training mission utilizing the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted pilot student, and Staff Sgt. James, a basic sensor operator course instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

At the conclusion of this training airmen are rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are Federal Aviation Administration certified to fly the RQ-4 in national and international airspace and mission-qualified to execute the high altitude ISR mission.

“We pin their wings on them,” said Keith Pannabecker, a civilian simulator instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The creation of the career field was the best thing the Air Force could have done because it created an avenue for folks to volunteer. Beforehand, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the manned and unmanned airframes.”

Pannabecker, who is a retired Air Force colonel who helped with the inception of the RPA enterprise, thinks the Air Force is on track with a smart solution to a real problem, which is a shortage of pilots around the whole Air Force.

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Keith Pannabecker, a remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilot, left, monitors a training mission utilizing the T-6 Flight Simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted RPA pilot student, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We no longer pull pilots from the manned aircraft,” said Pannabecker. “Now, we’ve got our fresh group of motivated young people that are saying, please pick me to come be RPA pilots, which wasn’t always the case with asking for volunteers from the manned aircraft pilots. So, what we have now is a win-win.”

Since the graduation of the initial enlisted pilots in 2017, the Air Force added 30 more airmen into the training pipeline this year and plans to grow to 100 pilots by 2020. By then the Air Force expects nearly 70 percent of Global Hawk missions will be commanded by the “Flying Sergeants.”

“So, enlisted pilots are a very small force right now and we’ve relied on each other for information and we are each others’ shoulders to lean on,” said Courtney. “It’s going to take some time for enlisted pilots to integrate into the squadron and find the perfect flow, but we are very integrated into the mission.”

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Remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilots and student pilots review the training mission schedules of the the T-6 Flight Simulator at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Courtney said during February 2018 all RQ-4 missions in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale were flown by enlisted pilots.

“I’m hopeful in the future for the enlisted pilots and an equal playing field, so we won’t be seen as enlisted or officer, but we’ll be seen simply as pilots,” said Courtney.

Courtney believes the only thing that matters is providing intelligence that’s vital to the men and women on the ground fighting every day.

“It’s something that I value and I appreciate. Being able to be the commander of those missions means a lot to me and I take it seriously,” said Courtney. “I have so much respect for the other men and women that fly alongside of me. I’m thankful I’m able to provide that protection and the extra level of intelligence that they need to get their mission done.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Yemen reportedly bans US special-operation ground missions after botched raid

After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.


The New York Times on Tuesday night cited US officials who said the reaction among Yemenis was strong after the operation left some women and children dead.

Also read: Air Force keeping the beloved A-10 around for at least a few more years

The officials said the suspension would not apply to drone attacks or the US military advisers who are already providing intelligence support to the Yemenis.

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Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. | US Navy photo

The January raid against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, known as AQAP — which was approved by President Donald Trump after a postponement from the Obama administration, which was waiting for a moonless night — unfolded with a 50-minute firefight in which a team of SEALs was met with fierce resistance.

Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in the battle.

Though the White House has received some criticism over the raid, the Trump administration has called it a success, saying US forces gathered valuable intelligence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker has another big problem

The Air Force’s and Boeing’s development of the new KC-46A Pegasus tanker has been waylaid by cost overruns and operational issues over the past several years.


Officials from the Air Force and Boeing have said that significant lingering problems, like contact between the KC-46’s refueling boom and the receiving aircraft during refueling, are expected to be resolved this year, ahead of Boeing’s October deadline to deliver 18 of the new tankers.

However, a report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has cautioned that while the KC-46’s most important systems could operate under EMP conditions, its operational capabilities in such a scenario have not been fully tested.

“While testing indicated the KC-46A flight-critical systems and boom refueling systems are likely survivable to the 6 decibel (dB) contractual requirement, the Program Office approved verification plan did not demonstrate the residual KC-46A mission systems capability during such an event,” according to the report, which covers fiscal year 2017 and was released last week.

“The program uninstalled or deactivated multiple mission-critical systems prior to testing and, therefore, their EMP tolerance was not tested on an aircraft in a mission-representative configuration,” the DOTE report said. “The program pre-deployed the refueling boom with hydraulics deactivated for the EMP test and therefore the capability to deliver fuel during or immediately following the EMP event was not tested.”

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A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

The KC-46 underwent EMP testing in July at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland and at Edwards Air Force Base in California. During the testing in Maryland, the plane received pulses from “a large coil/transformer” above the aircraft, designed to evaluate its “ability to safely operate through electromagnetic fields … under mission conditions,” Boeing said at the time.

The DOET report said no tests were conducted with all flight and mission systems activated — a step required to fully test the aircraft under EMP conditions. But representatives from the Air Force and Boeing said the KC-46 had proven its EMP functionality as mandated by its test plan.

Air Force spokesman Maj. Emily Grabowski told Inside Defense that mission-critical systems has passed testing and that the systems the DOTE report highlighted are “non-critical.” Grabowski added that, overall, the KC-46 met system specifications and that the Air Force was working with DOTE to “reconcile” concerns raised in the report.

Related: Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Charles Ramsey, a spokesman for Boeing, said EMP testing was conducted according to the Air Force’s test plan and that systems designated critical by that plan showed their functionality on a subsequent flight. “There are no EMP issues on the KC-46,” he told Inside Defense.

The Air Force is planning two tests related to nuclear threats during fiscal year 2018, which began in October and ends in September. One will evaluate the KC-46s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base, and the other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects, according to the DOTE report.

The DOTE report also notes that the KC-46 contract was awarded with a six-decibel threshold for the aircraft — a standard that the aircraft met during testing in July. However, after the contract was signed, the US military imposed a new 20-decibel standard tanker aircraft.

Without further testing, the report says, the Air Force and US Strategic Command will not know if the tanker meets that new requirement. “The Air Force should re-test the KC-46A in an operationally representative condition to determine the actual EMP design margin,” the report concludes.

‘They’re going to clear out pretty quick’

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The KC-46A Pegasus deploys its centerline drogue system, October 8, 2015. (Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

In December, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certificate for the Boeing 767-2C, which is the baseline aircraft for the KC-46. The firm still needs to get an FAA supplemental type certificates for the military and aerial-refueling systems needed so the 767-2C can function as a KC-46. Additional tests are expected during the final review process.

The Air Force currently expects to receive the first operational KC-46s by late spring. Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times in December that once testing is finished and the new tankers star arriving, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.

Boeing won the KC-46 program contract 2011, and the Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. As a part of the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment, and as of late 2017, the defense contractor had taken on about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has had limited involvement in Pentagon weapons programs, but he issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, saying he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Starship Troopers’ is on every military reading list

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of troops and veterans today have seen the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. It’s an expertly crafted film and its tasteful use of special effects (for late 90s, anyway) was beyond astounding.

The film is terrific in its own right, but Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, upon which the movie is (loosely) based, elevated the science fiction genre and has a place on nearly every single required reading list created by the United States military. If you’re a young private in the Marines or a battalion commander in the Army, you will be asked to read this classic — and this is why.


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In case you were wondering, these were the Skinnies. 10,000 of them were killed with only one human death.

(Mongoose Publishing)

Technically speaking, the film was originally based off an unrelated script for a film called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine until the production team realized that it only had a passing resemblance to the novel. This lead to many of the significant differences between the two and a drastic change of tone.

The adaptation of the original script to film lead to more of a statement on how propaganda affects the troops fighting in a war in a satirical manner. The novel, however, uses the Bugs as a stand-in character for some nameless enemy to focus in on the novel’s theme of the mindset of a soldier fighting a seemingly unstoppable force.

This is immediately made clear in the first paragraph of the novel.

“I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important — it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.

I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is: I’m scared silly, every time.”

Contrary to what you’d expect if you’ve only watched the film, they’re actually fighting a different alien than the Arachnids (at first.) The first enemies were called “skinnies” and were essentially just tall, lanky, human-like aliens that didn’t really cause a threat to the humans. Their entire Army is easily wiped out by just a single platoon but the prospect of war still frightened Johnny Rico, the stories protagonist.

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Hate to break it to anyone expecting giant bug battles in the novel…but it’s fairly light on the fight scenes.

(TriStar Pictures)

After the battle, the story flashes back to Rico’s time as a civilian before the Mobile Infantry. The idea of “service equals citizenship” had a different meaning in the novel. Despite the world being under the unified “Terran Federation,” the military and its veterans were treated as a higher caste than non-military people. You literally had to join the military to become a citizen.

This hyperbole was just as relevant in 1950’s society (as it is today in the military community). Despite the fact that signing up is a fantastic way to get benefits in our world, and definitely in the novel’s world, military service is often discouraged and looked down on — as demonstrated through Rico’s father.

The novel spends a lot of time in boot camp for the Mobile Infantry. It shows the deeper motivations about what it takes to be in the military — mainly the forced brotherhood, the “one team, one fight” mentality, and the loss of personal identity that comes with service. Which eventually leads to the “Bug War” when the Arachnids destroy Rico’s home city of Buenos Aires.

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The novel also misattributes the quote “Come on, you ape, do you want to live forever” to an unknown platoon sergeant in 1918 — as if it wasn’t the greatest thing ever spoken by the greatest enlisted Marine of all time, Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly.

(TriStar Pictures)

The troops are overzealous and believe they can handle it. Despite Rico being the only one personally affected by the attack, he’s also one of the only ones not to refer to the Arachnids as “bugs,” which was highly implied to have racial undertones. He instead keeps a level facade while remaining terrified. The first chapter happens around here. This is the exact mindset of many troops right before they’re sent to deploy.

When the Mobile Infantry arrives on Klendathu, it’s a complete disaster — the exact opposite of the battle with the skinnies. The Arachnids were massive and though the humans had the firepower, it was no match for the unstoppable numbers of their enemy.

Rico finally gets his chance to fight the Arachnids with the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. He and his men capture a Brain Bug and begin learning more about the “bug” society. It mirrored their own except the Warriors were the lowest caste fighting for an apathetic queen. Rico learns that aimlessly tossing troops at the problem would only result in more and more deaths.

The novel ends with a coda of the first chapter as Rico is about to make his drop onto Klendathu with confidence. He does this because he learned the value of military strategy — the one thing the Arachnids lacked.

Starship Troopers makes heavy parallels between the Mobile Infantry and Arachnids. It’s often incorrectly believed by casual readers, or those without knowledge of the military, that the novel promotes fascism and militarism — it doesn’t.

If anything, the novel explores the psyche of the troops as they head off into combat — it just utilizes an extreme science fiction setting to do it.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s what the GOT creator thinks about the finale

Game of Thrones may have come to an end on HBO Sunday night but the saga continues off-screen, in the yet-unfinished series of books penned by George R.R. Martin which inspired the hit show. On May 20, 2019, the author reacted to the finale and also hinted at what’s to come for fans.

“Let me say this much — last night was an ending, but it was also a beginning,” Martin wrote in a post on his website, Not a Blog. “There are characters who never made it onto the screen at all, and others who died in the show but still live in the books… if nothing else, the readers will learn what happened to Jeyne Poole, Lady Stoneheart, Penny and her pig, Skahaz Shavepate, Arianne Martell, Darkstar, Victarion Greyjoy, Ser Garlan the Gallant, Aegon VI, and a myriad of other characters both great and small that viewers of the show never had the chance to meet.”


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George R. R. Martin speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Game of Thrones”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The 70-year-old went on to add that he’s still working on the next installment in the series, The Winds of Winter, which was originally supposed to be published in 2015. “Winter is coming, I told you, long ago… and so it is,” he promised. “[The next book] is very late, I know, I know, but it will be done. I won’t say when, I’ve tried that before, only to burn you all and jinx myself… but I will finish it.”

And that won’t even be the last book. Martin said that fans can also expect A Dream of Spring to round out what he thinks will be a total of 3,000 pages between the final two reads.

As for whether the books will end the same way as the show, Martin remained vague, saying, “well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 strongest militaries in Europe, according to BI

NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.

Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.

The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.


The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.

Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.

NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.

Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.

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Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)

Power Index rating: 1.0885

Total population: 11,491,346

Total military personnel: 38,800

Total aircraft strength: 164

Fighter aircraft: 45

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 17

Defense budget: .085 billion

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A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.

(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)

Power Index rating: 1.0035

Total population: 10,839,514

Total military personnel: 268,500

Total aircraft strength: 93

Fighter aircraft: 24

Combat tanks: 133

Total naval assets: 41

Defense budget: .8 billion

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Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Caitlin Sweet)

23. Slovakia (Overall ranking: 62)

Power Index rating: 0.9998

Total population: 5,445,829

Total military personnel: 14,675

Total aircraft strength: 49

Fighter aircraft: 18

Combat tanks: 22

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.025 billion

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Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)

Power Index rating: 0.9953

Total population: 8,754,413

Total military personnel: 170,000

Total aircraft strength: 124

Fighter aircraft: 15

Combat tanks: 56

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .22 billion

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A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.

(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)

21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)

Power Index rating: 0.9839

Total population: 7,101,510

Total military personnel: 52,650

Total aircraft strength: 73

Fighter aircraft: 20

Combat tanks: 531

Total naval assets: 29

Defense budget: 0 million

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Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.

(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)

20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)

Power Index rating: 0.9687

Total population: 5,518,371

Total military personnel: 262,050

Total aircraft strength: 153

Fighter aircraft: 55

Combat tanks: 160

Total naval assets: 270

Defense budget: .66 billion

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Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.

(US Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabor Horvath)

19. Hungary (Overall ranking: 57)

Power Index rating: 0.9153

Total population: 9,850,845

Total military personnel: 77,250

Total aircraft strength: 35

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 32

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.04 billion

18. Denmark (Overall ranking: 54)

Power Index rating: 0.9084

Total population: 5,605,948

Total military personnel: 75,150

Total aircraft strength: 113

Fighter aircraft: 33

Combat tanks: 57

Total naval assets: 90

Defense budget: .44 billion

17. Belarus (Overall ranking: 41)

Power Index rating: 0.7315

Total population: 9,549,747

Total military personnel: 401,250

Total aircraft strength: 202

Fighter aircraft: 43

Combat tanks: 515

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: 5 million

16. Romania (Overall ranking: 40)

Power Index rating: 0.7205

Total population: 21,529,967

Total military personnel: 177,750

Total aircraft strength: 135

Fighter aircraft: 34

Combat tanks: 827

Total naval assets: 48

Defense budget: .19 billion

15. Netherlands (Overall ranking: 38)

Power Index rating: 0.7113

Total population: 17,084,719

Total military personnel: 53,205

Total aircraft strength: 165

Fighter aircraft: 61

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 56

Defense budget: .84 billion

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A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.

(NATO photo)

14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)

Power Index rating: 0.6784

Total population: 5,320,045

Total military personnel: 72,500

Total aircraft strength: 128

Fighter aircraft: 49

Combat tanks: 52

Total naval assets: 62

Defense budget: billion

13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)

Power Index rating: 0.6634

Total population: 8,236,303

Total military personnel: 171,000

Total aircraft strength: 167

Fighter aircraft: 54

Combat tanks: 134

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .83 billion

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Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)

Power Index rating: 0.6071

Total population: 9,960,487

Total military personnel: 43,875

Total aircraft strength: 206

Fighter aircraft: 72

Combat tanks: 120

Total naval assets: 63

Defense budget: .2 billion

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erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)

Power Index rating: 0.5969

Total population: 10,674,723

Total military personnel: 29,050

Total aircraft strength: 103

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 123

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .6 billion

10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)

Power Index rating: 0.5383

Total population: 44,033,874

Total military personnel: 1,182,000

Total aircraft strength: 240

Fighter aircraft: 39

Combat tanks: 2,214

Total naval assets: 25

Defense budget: .88 billion

9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)

Power Index rating: 0.5255

Total population: 10,768,477

Total military personnel: 413,750

Total aircraft strength: 567

Fighter aircraft: 189

Combat tanks: 1,345

Total naval assets: 115

Defense budget: .54 billion

8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)

Power Index rating: 0.4276

Total population: 38,476,269

Total military personnel: 184,650

Total aircraft strength: 466

Fighter aircraft: 99

Combat tanks: 1,065

Total naval assets: 83

Defense budget: .36 billion

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A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.

(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)

7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)

Power Index rating: 0.4079

Total population: 48,958,159

Total military personnel: 174,700

Total aircraft strength: 524

Fighter aircraft: 122

Combat tanks: 327

Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: .6 billion

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An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.

(Italian Air Force photo)

6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)

Power Index rating: 0.2565

Total population: 62,137,802

Total military personnel: 267,500

Total aircraft strength: 828

Fighter aircraft: 90

Combat tanks: 200

Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: .7 billion

5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)

Power Index rating: 0.2461

Total population: 80,594,017

Total military personnel: 208,641

Total aircraft strength: 714

Fighter aircraft: 94

Combat tanks: 432

Total naval assets: 81

Defense budget: .2 billion

4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)

Power Index rating: 0.2216

Total population: 80,845,215

Total military personnel: 710,565

Total aircraft strength: 1,056

Fighter aircraft: 207

Combat tanks: 2,446

Total naval assets: 194

Defense budget: .2 billion

3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)

Power Index rating: 0.1917

Total population: 64,769,452

Total military personnel: 279,230

Total aircraft strength: 832

Fighter aircraft: 103

Combat tanks: 227

Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

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French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

2. France (Overall ranking: 5)

Power Index rating: 0.1869

Total population: 67,106,161

Total military personnel: 388,635

Total aircraft strength: 1,262

Fighter aircraft: 299

Combat tanks: 406

Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

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Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.

(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)

Power Index rating: 0.0841

Total population: 142,257,519

Total military personnel: 3,586,128

Total aircraft strength: 3,914

Fighter aircraft: 818

Combat tanks: 20,300

Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: billion

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why recruiters have a thankless job

If there’s one thing every military veteran has in common, it’s that we all went through a recruiter — but experiences may vary. For example, some recruits had either high-value skills or were willing to take any job the recruiter might offer and, thus, were pursued by military recruiters. Others had to seek one out. Either way, our feelings about our recruiters rise and fall as our career progresses.

At first, many feel like they were bamboozled by their recruiter. As if somehow, they lied to us.


Maybe they made us promises they had no intention of keeping. Maybe they said we were going to get a bonus when we didn’t, or maybe the bonus wasn’t as big as promised. Or maybe the recruiter told us we could go in “Open General” and then choose to be an Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst when we’re in basic training and we wouldn’t have to take whatever the Air Force chose to give us.

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Which is how I became a combat cameraman. Don’t tell me recruiters don’t lie.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ave I. Pele)

The fact of the matter is that every U.S. enlisted troop has a recruiter story. The recruiting process is the one thing every branch of the military has in common. From MEPS to the naked duck walk to going on a trip with a group of strangers whose only common bond is a manila envelope full of personal information, this is the area of the military that transcends branch of service — one that all Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines experience equally.

But what we don’t realize until we’re grown up a little and have a little rank on our sleeves or collars is that recruiting is a really, really tough job.

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“Yeah, we all totally love this uniform.”

1. Everyone thinks recruiters are g*ddamn liars.

I know I kinda covered this one, but it’s a big deal. Not because the recruits think recruiters are lying — who cares what they think? They can go home if they want to. It’s that people already in the military think recruiters are liars. That’s the whole thing about recruiters — the one tired joke that never stops playing.

People think you’re out there luring high school kids into a Marine Corps-painted Astro van with promises of chest candy. Or that you somehow prey on minorities and low-income communities. Or that you’re filling the ranks with sub-par people just to make an invisible quota of some kind. The Army doesn’t exactly sell itself, so recruiters must be tricking these kids somehow.

Now read: 7 white lies recruiters tell and what they really mean

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“What’s the matter, you already have the haircut.”

2. Recruiters are competing with a great job market.

The unemployment rate of Americans between 16 and 24 — prime military recruiter targets — fell to a 50-year low in 2018. For recruiters, people who have to bring in a certain number of recruits to keep the Army, Air Force, and Navy Departments going for the foreseeable future — this is a terrible thing.

For some, joining the military is something that provides access to opportunity. If someone from Podunk, Conn. (which is a real place, by the way) has the choice of working at the Ice Cream Factory (which does not exist in Podunk, it’s just an example) or joining the Marines during a 17-year-long war, which do you think they might be more inclined toward? As a Marine Recruiter, you have to convince him that a lifetime of mud, dirt, paperwork, and potentially killing ISIS fighters is a better choice than riding dirtbikes at the bonfire Saturday night.

Good luck with that.

Read: The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

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Or, in some cases, a unicorn.

3. Most wannabe recruits aren’t cut out for service.

The Pentagon believes that 71 percent of American youth aren’t able to enlist for a number of reasons. They may be overweight, they may have drug use issues or ear gauges, or maybe they can’t score well on the ASVAB. No matter what the issue is, of the 29 percent left, the Army estimates only seven percent of the remainder is even interested in serving.

So, your job is basically to find those needles in all that haystack.

Related: Here’s why most Americans can’t join the military

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“Pew pew! … And that’s how you do Army. Just sign your name in crayon.”

4. Training and living as a recruiter is actually incredibly difficult.

Recruiters train to go into a local community and pull out the most potentially exceptional recruits from neighborhoods that might hate you. At the same time, the recruiter has to typify everything that makes the perfect U.S. troop, from physical fitness and on down the line. If you even pass the screening process, every branch of the military has an in-depth intense training school that involves professional development and very detailed instructional lessons on all the ins and outs of your chosen branch of service.

Remember, recruiters are supposed to be demi-gods with all the answers, so it makes sense that to be an example for youth to follow, potential recruiters have to train incredibly hard at it.

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In case you didn’t believe me when I said people will hate you. Because they will.

5. You’re (mostly) alone out there.

More than that, a recruiter lives far from a military community, where things might be way more expensive than in your standard military base area. There may be no other military personnel to lean on except for the other recruiters in your area and since none of you are exactly keeping banker’s hours, a potluck jamboree might be hard to schedule.

So you only need to be the perfect picture of physical, mental, and financial health with unlimited energy and money to stay up all night to recognize talent and have all the answers required to get them to give you the first years of their adult life while their parents (who might really, really hate you) look on. No sweat, right?

You dirty liar.

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