How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles - We Are The Mighty
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How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

A Marine Corps F-35B used its on-board sensors to function for the first time as a broad-area aerial relay node in an integrated fire-control weapons system designed to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles from distances beyond-the-horizon, service officials announced.


A Navy “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. designed to replicate maritime conditions, used ship-based radar to connect the F-35B sensors to detect enemy missiles at long ranges and fire an SM-6 interceptor to destroy the approaching threat.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

The emerging fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was deployed last year on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior, last year.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
An F-35 Lightning II flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s newest and most technologically advanced surface ship. | U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe

“This test was a great opportunity to assess the Navy’s ability to take unrelated technologies and successfully close the fire control loop as well as merge anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons,” Anant Patel, major program manager for future combat systems in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, said in a written statement.

The test was a collaborative effort across the Navy and Marine Corps, White Sands Missile Range and industry partners leveraging a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B and the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System

“This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer in charge.

A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
The F-35B conducts a vertical landing on the USS Wasp. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

NIFC-CA Upgrade

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles. In particular, NIFC-CA is the kind of technology which, in tandem with other sensors and ship-based weapons, could enable a larger carrier to defend against the much-discussed Chinese DF-21D “carrier-killer” missile. The emerging DF-21D is reportedly able to strike targets as far as 900 nautical miles off shore.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army is resurrecting coastal artillery

We know there’s a big, inter-service rivalry between the Army and the Navy (especially around the time of the annual Army-Navy game), but now the Army is looking to get some anti-ship missiles into service. Has the “Go Army, Beat Navy” slogan gone too far? Well, not exactly. Sure, the Army wants to kill ships, but the United States Navy (and America’s allies) nothing to worry about.


According to reports, the Army is going to be resurrecting an old branch — or at least exploring the possibility in the upcoming RIMPAC 2018 exercise. The Army will be using a truck-mounted Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile to sink a target ship. This Norwegian missile system uses an infra-red seeker, stealth technology, and has a maximum range of over 100 nautical miles.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
A 10-inch gun from Fort Hamilton Bain, a Coast Artillery Corps installation. (Library of Congress photo)

This would be the functional resurrection of the Army’s old Coastal Artillery Corps. The Coastal Defense Study Group notes that after the Spanish-American War, the Army restructured their artillery from regiments to companies. There was field artillery, which made use of lighter guns, and coastal artillery, which carried the heavy guns.

Back then, the purpose was simple: Protect American harbors and ports from enemies. This was the original purpose of Fort Sumter and other similar establishments. The Fort controlled the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. In World War I, many Coast Artillery units were sent to the Western Front in order to safeguard the coastal homefront. That war, however, also saw the emergence of technologies that would ultimately cause the dissolution of the Coastal Artillery Corps in 1950: The submarine (which the artillery couldn’t hit) and the airplane (which could reach much further than the guns could).

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
The ex-USS Ogden (LPD 5) is hit by a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from the Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F 310) during a Sink Exercise (SINKEX) as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014. The Army will be firing the NSM at a ship in the 2018 version of RIMPAC. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon E. Renfroe)

So, why the comeback? Well, one big issue is that the United States Navy has seen a huge decline in hulls. The Naval Strike Missile, able to hit land targets as well, gives the Army another option outside of the MGM-140/MGM-164 ATACMS family of weapons.

Russia has long used ground-based anti-ship missiles, as has Iran. The Navy faced off against land-based anti-ship missiles off Yemen in 2016.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.


Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

popular

This is the ironic reason the Spitfire beat the Bf 109

Every student of history knows that the British won the Battle of Britain in August and September of 1940, and that the Spitfire played a key role. But why was that the case?


The answer is stunningly ironic, and it requires us to look at what both the Spitfire and the Bf 109 were supposed to do.

(Yes, I said Bf 109. Believe it or not, calling Willy Messerschmidt’s signature design a Me 109 isn’t accurate. Messerschmidt worked for the Bavarian Aircraft Works, or Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Now, Messerschmidt bought the company in 1938, but planes designed before the purchase, like the Bf 109, kept the old designation.)

 

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

 

So, with that out of the way, let’s look at the Bf 109 and Spitfire.

Both planes were really designed to fulfill the same mission profile: that of a short-range interceptor.

The Spitfire Mk VB had a top speed of 370 miles per hour, could climb 2,600 feet per minute, and had a combat radius of 470 miles. The Bf 109G had a top speed of 398 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles with a drop tank, and could climb 3,345 feet per minute.

In 1940, the Germans needed a plane to escort their bombers, and the Bf 109 was their only option. They tried the Bf 110, a twin-engine plane with long range and heavy firepower. The problem was, the Bf 110 was easily killed by the more maneuverable Spitfires, so the Bf 109 found itself pressed into service.

But even with a drop tank, the Bf 109 just didn’t have the endurance to be a good bomber escort.

 

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

The Spitfire was also plagued with short endurance, but during the Battle of Britain — and even over Dunkirk earlier in the summer of 1940 — it was fulfilling its role as a short-range interceptor.

In essence, it was doing what it was designed to do. The Bf 109 was also a short-range interceptor…but it was pressed into service as a bomber escort, and it just couldn’t hack it.

When the United States entered the war, one thing they were truly successful at was coming up with the perfect escort fighter, the P-51 Mustang. You could say they had learned from Nazi Germany’s mistake.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Confederate rivalry allowed 30,000 Union troops to escape

During the Civil War, a rivalry between two Confederate generals led to 30,000 pinned-down Union troops escaping encirclement in 1864, allowing them to go on and capture Atlanta, rallying Union morale, and ensuring a Republican victory in the elections and a Union victory in the war.


How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

The USS Hartford and Admiral Farragut forces their way past Confederate defenses at New Orleans in 1862,

(Julian Oliver Davidson)

The year 1864 was possibly the most important of the war. The presidential elections that year were framed as a referendum on the war. Supporters of a continued Union advance against the South were backing the Republicans as those who wished to create a negotiated peace backed George McClellan and the Democrats.

The Confederates, meanwhile, knew about the divisions and were doing everything they could to convince common Northerners that the war wasn’t worth the costs. Gen. Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland, privateers attacked Union shipping on the high seas, and commanders elsewhere redoubled their efforts to bleed the Union for every yard lost.

Amidst all of this, two capable Confederate generals in Louisiana were constantly arguing with one another. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith was the commander of Confederate troops in the Trans-Mississippi in 1863 and 1864, and one of his subordinates was Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor, son of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor and brother-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Both were described as having skill at tactics and strategy, but Smith was a cautious West Point graduate while Taylor was Yale-educated man with hot blood, constantly angling to take the fight to the Union.

In 1864, the Union was still trying to cement their control over the waterways in the south, completing their Anaconda Plan to choke off the South from external or internal resupply. To that end, massive numbers of troops were sent up the Red River that forms the border between Louisiana and Arkansas.

Smith wanted to slow the Union advance with defensive engagements punctuated by the occasional counterattack, while Taylor was itching to push his way back to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually re-take New Orleans.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

The Battle of Irish Bend Louisiana

(William Hall, Harper’s Weekly)

So, when Taylor saw Union Forces overextend themselves while moving up the Red River, he sent his forces to smash into their weak points, winning victories at the Battles of Mansfield and then Pleasant Hill. Union commanders, worried that they would soon find themselves separated from one another and encircled, fought their way south and finally holed up in Alexandria, Louisiana.

This was what Taylor had been waiting for. His enemy was in a weak position, outnumbered, and with no place to run. But Taylor didn’t quite have the forces necessary to finish the fight — all he needed was a little help from Smith.

Instead, Smith took the bulk of Taylor’s forces and re-deployed them to Arkansas where they helped harry an enemy that was already in retreat. The Union forces at Alexandria saw the sudden gap in the lines and broke out, making their way back east. 30,000 Union troops were now free to continue fighting.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

The Battle of Atlanta

This allowed them to arrive in the East just in time to join in important advances there, including Gen. William T. Sherman’s infamous push south. Sherman started his fight to Atlanta in May 1864 with 110,000 men split into three armies. If he hadn’t gotten the 30,000 from the Red River, he’d have been forced to decide whether to wait or advance with only 80,000 troops and two armies.

Follow that to the actual assault on Atlanta and following siege. While Union forces were able to get to Atlanta with relative ease — the last serious Confederate attempt to prevent a siege took place on July 22 and only 35,000 of the 100,000 Union troops actually engaged in the battle — the siege itself was a close-fought thing.

The siege ran from late-July to late-September, barely wrapping up in time for Northern newspaper reports to buoy Union morale and support for the war, leading to Lincoln’s strong re-election numbers. But Sherman relied on his numerical strength to win the fight. He used two of his armies to pin down Confederate troops or to draw their attention while his third army sneaked by to attack their rear or snip away supply lines.

With only two armies (or with three undersized armies), none of that would’ve worked. Instead, Sherman would have had to maintain a conventional siege against repeated and determined counterattacks, likely delaying the fall of Atlanta or even preventing it. The removal of 30,000 troops really might have tipped the scales against him and, therefore, against Lincoln.

Luckily, Sherman never had to face that possibility. Instead, he had plenty of troops to capture Atlanta, was able to split his forces after, marching east to the sea with the bulk of his men while the rest cut west across the South —all because two Confederate generals in Louisiana couldn’t work together.

As for them, Taylor was eventually recognized by the Confederate Congress for what successes he had achieved receiving promotion while Smith remained in the Trans-Mississippi, angry, until the end of the war.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 1

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Rainier Howard, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performs preflight inspection of a C-130J Super Hercules at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 6, 2017. This is the first C-130J to be assigned to Pacific Air Forces. Yokota serves as the primary Western Pacific airlift hub for U.S. Air Force peacetime and contingency operations. Missions include tactical air land, airdrop, aeromedical evacuation, special operations and distinguished visitor airlift.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Smith

18th Wing Shogun Airmen observe the horizon from the cargo bay door of a 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II during a training sortie off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, March 21, 2017. Brig. Gen. Barry Cornish flew with the 17th SOS to better understand combat capabilities of the MC-130J and aircrews.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft

Army:

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers participate in the 1st Mission Support Command Best Warrior Competition mystery event, held on Camp Santiago, Puerto Rico, March 14. 

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Martinez

South Carolina National Guard Soldiers perform high-altitude flight operations aboard a CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift cargo helicopter in proximity of Vail, Colo., March 9 and 10, 2017. The crew was attending a week long power-management course at the High-Altitude ARNG Aviation Training Site located near Eagle, Colo. 

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine

Navy:

JINHAE, Republic of Korea (March 31, 2017) Equipment Operator 3rd Class Thomas Dahlke, assigned to Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, cuts a piece of steel in a training pool at the Republic of Korea (ROK) Naval Education and Training Command in Jinhae, ROK.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brett Cote

SAN DIEGO (March 29, 2017) Senior Chief Special Operator Bill Brown, assigned to the U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, prepares to land during a skydiving demonstration at the USS Midway Museum. The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi

Marine Corps:

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, ride in an MV-22B Osprey during an Evacuation Control Center exercise, over the Pacific Ocean, March 23, 2017. The Marines conducted non-combatant evacuation procedure training during Certification Exercise for the MEU’s 17.1 Spring Patrol.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Breanna L. Weisenberger

A Crew Chief assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167, observes the landing zone from a UH-1Y Huey during a training operation at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, North Carolina, March 9, 2017. MWSS-274 conducted casualty evacuation drills in order to improve unit readiness and maintain interoperability with HMLA-167.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Brosilow

Coast Guard:

U.S. Coast Guard Northeast-based USCG Cutter Seneca crew continues to train while underway. Here, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey A. Evans, a maritime enforcement specialist, trains on a .50 caliber machine gun in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles
US Coast Guard Photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

What dinosaur each branch would actually use in combat

Every Jurassic Park film usually involves the same few things. Man creates dinosaurs. Some military-esque dude comes along and tries to use them for war or whatever. Dinosaurs eat man. Sequels inherit the Earth. It’s literally the plot of every single movie but this has us wondering — what would it be like if they just let the military-esque dude actually use the T-Rex in combat?

Sure, dinosaurs are difficult to control or whatever, but there really hasn’t been a compelling reason not to militarize these animals. Okay the entire series is basically dedicated to why it’d be a terrible idea but it’d still be fun to speculate!

Related: Some veterans went balls out and made a ‘Jurassic Park’ fan film

If the military managed to get their very own dinosaurs and learned to control them so they didn’t go around killing everyone in sight (genetic modification or wahtever), it could look something like this:

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

Now only if we could find a way to attach a BRRRRRT to one we’d be set.

Air Force – Quetzalcoatus

Obviously the branch that prides itself on air superiority would have the dinosaurs from the pterosaur family. While many flying dinosaurs existed, most of them were a lot smaller than the films made them out to be.

The Air Force would definitely make use of the absolutely massive Quetzalcoatus, with its 52 ft wingspan and razor sharp beak, as the best way to pluck out enemy ground troops.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

Fun fact: neither of these dinosaurs were from the Jurassic period.

Army – Triceratops

The Army has always been fond of comparing its armored units to rhinos so it would makes sense to bring in their bigger badder, late Cretaceous counterparts: the Triceratops.

It has been speculated that since the Triceratops and the t-rex were both in modern Utah during the late Cretaceous period, the two may have fought for dominance. Just the fact that they could go toe-to-toe with a t-rex makes them worthy of the Army’s attention.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

If you thought Bruce from ‘Jaws’ was terrifying…

Navy – Megalodon

The only dinosaur that could match the domination of the sea is the greatest apex predator of all time – the Megalodon. It was a friggin’ massive version of the modern great white shark.

Fossil records show that this monster could be found in every corner of the world’s oceans and their jaw size meant that they could easily take down even modern whales. It would only make sense that the Navy would use them take down submarines.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

A squad of Marines is basically already a pack of raptors so it makes sense.

Marine Corps – Utahraptor

The dinosaur that best suits the Marines would have to be a pack creature with a keen killer instinct. Since the real life Velociraptor would only come up to about the average human’s kneecap, this distinction goes to the often misattributed Utahraptor.

Unlike the movies, the Utahraptor (and nearly all raptors) were actually feathered – making them more like giant murder chickens than your typical lizard.

How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

What better beast could there be to make the Coast Guard intimidating as f*ck?

Coast Guard – Mosasaurus

As much as everyone picks on the Coast Guard, they would unarguably get the best dinosaur – the Mosasaurus.

Despite being bigger than freaking buses, these things were only ever discovered around coastlines and there is little evidence that these things would have ever bothered going deeper. Just like the modern Coasties.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 life-saving tips for traveling with young kids

Hitting the road with young kids can seem like a daunting task — especially when the destination is hours away. But with some planning and smart preparations, you can make the trip much easier on all involved, and yes, that includes you!


Whether you’re headed home to visit family or are packing up and getting ready for your next PCS, follow these proven tactics to keep the kids happy and occupied throughout the entire journey.

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Pack smarter, not harder

Whether you’re driving, flying, or a combination of the two, you can make travel sessions easier by packing smart. Keep an extra outfit or two within easy reach (especially for littles). The same goes for toiletries (if you’re planning an overnight on the road), and any items you’ll need in a pinch. If you’re doing an overnight en route, pack a “hotel bag” and keep the giant suitcases in the car.

Baby wipes are a necessity for travelers of any age, and blankets, drinks, and medications always come in handy for comfortable travel sessions.

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media.defense.gov

Bring more snacks than you think you need

Bottles, juice, pre-packaged snacks — pile them on in. (Liquids are allowed for babies and toddlers on planes, just be prepared to have it tested.) Trust us, traveling kids can eat. It might be more out of boredom than actual hunger, but whatever works, right? If snacking keeps them occupied, it’s best to have more on hand than you’ll need.

If you prefer healthy options, just plan ahead so you can have all of their favorites within quick reach.

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Leave on their schedule, not yours

If kids will sleep on the road, it’s best to bite the bullet and leave as early as possible. Sure, it’s not ideal for mom and dad, but think about the possibility of having complete control of the radio and zero complaining from the back seat. (We’re hearing angels sing!)

If they’ll sleep, create an environment in which they’ll actually sleep!

When planning around naps, you might have to wait until later in the day to get on the move. This isn’t always great for making good time, but it can help make for some happier travelers (parents included). While older kids will be a wild card — who knows if they’ll sleep, let alone when, younger kiddos can be encouraged to rest on the move. Consider kids’ schedules and look to leave around their sleep times for easier transitions.
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Make a list of activities

Depending on your kids’ ages, create a list of activities and compile them into a single bin (ideally that they can get to easily). Sure this can contain a phone or tablet, but battery life only lasts so long. (Plus consider the negative effects it can have on their moods when used long term while traveling.)

Gather tiny board games, toys, homemade activities that help them learn while keeping them busy. Art projects are great, too. (Bonus if it’s water-based markers or something like a magnet board so there’s no mess.) Meanwhile, you can host participation games like I Spy or other road trip classics.

Help plan a smooth trip for all involved with a little planning ahead. And with any luck, full bellies and distracted kids will help make the trip a breeze.

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4 amazing military stories that should totally be movies

1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush

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Working Title: Killing Up Close

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Tom Hardy

Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.

Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.

Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.

As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.

“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”

When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.

The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?

If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.

Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.

2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags

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Working Title: Soldier Under Three Flags

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Aaron Paul

Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.

Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.

Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).

But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.

Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.

Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.

But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.

Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however  — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.

Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.

The U.S. Army details:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed.  It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment.  This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.

Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed  — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.

The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.

3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL

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Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Starring: Christoph Waltz

Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.

Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.

He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.

His military career began when he was ordered to serve with the OSS, or the Office of Strategic Services in 1942. He then became the Chief of the Office of Strategic Service Maritime Unit, and things only got cooler from there.

According to David Nye from WATM:

In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.

Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.

Unfortunately, Taylor and his men would run into trouble after their drop into Austria during the “Dupont Mission,” where he and his men rallied Austrians sympathetic to the Allied cause, formed a network of cities and towns that would support them, and photographed German defense strategies and equipment.

Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.

Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.

Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.

When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.

4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories

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Working Title: Mad Jack

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Star: Harvey Keitel

When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.

Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.

Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.

Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.

Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.

Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”

Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.

NOW: A WWII veteran has a Nazi doctor to thank for saving his life – twice

OR: The 6 scariest military vehicles of WWI and WWII

MIGHTY TRENDING

According to a US official, South Korea’s military is ‘among the best in the world’

The South Korean military is among the best in the world, and it is the largest part of the force that will “fight, tonight” if North Korea attacks, said a US Forces Korea official speaking on background.


The official spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford is here to participate in the Military Committee Meeting with his South Korean counterpart Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo.

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Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with South Korea Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the 42nd Military Committee Meeting at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

‘Fight, Tonight’

Much of the discussion in the Military Committee Meeting is on the military capabilities and capacities that the United States and South Korea bring to the ability to “fight, tonight.”

By itself, the South Korean military is an excellent force. When it is combined with US forces it is world class, the official said.

North Korea is a dangerous state, the official said, noting the North Korean military gets the lion’s share of resources in the country. And, while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is working to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, North Korea’s conventional forces are a worry, as well, he said.

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F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. USAF photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld.

The North has much of Seoul — South Korea’s capital city with 25 million people — within range of artillery over the demilitarized zone, the official said. The North has 950,000 service members on active duty and another 600,000 reserve personnel.

South Korean Military

The South Korean military is extremely capable, the official said. The United States and South Korea are strongly tied to one another with US assets aiding the South Koreans and vice versa. The two nations train to the same standards, the official said, and use the same battlefield tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Related: South Korea trained commandos just to kill North Korea’s dictator

“From a person who has worked with a lot of different countries, I put them at the high-end of capability,” the official said of South Korea’s military. “I wouldn’t stretch it to say it is an absolute replacement for a US capability, but combined it is very strong.”

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Cadet Huh Choong-bum (left), a third-year cadet at the Korea Military Academy, pulls a guard around his fellow soldiers as they examine the map during the land navigation training at Camp Casey, South Korea, March 27. Photo from DOD.

South Korea has a formidable force of its own with about 625,000 service members on active duty and about 3 million in reserve, he said. South Korea has military conscription.

The South Koreans also have an economy to buy and maintain modern military equipment, the official said.

North Korean Military Capabilities

North Korea’s conventional military capabilities “are in the decline,” the official said, “because of the economy, because of their austerity.”

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South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

North Korea’s aircraft are old, as are its tanks and armored personnel carriers, the official said. North Korea’s navy has a number of submarines, but it is uncertain how capable they are, he added.

Just comparing capabilities, the official said he’d South Korea’s military capability “way above that of the North.”

But the North has the numbers and “quantity has a quality all its own,” the official said.

“I do not dismiss the conventional threat from the North,” he said. “But the [North’s] unconventional threat — the nukes, the missiles, cyber capabilities, special operations forces — are growing.”

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‘You’re Really Pretty For Being In The Army’

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“This is great – you can help counteract the stereotype that only big bull dykes join the Army just by being there,” the recruiter said (yes, really).

That was one of my first introductions to how much my appearance would constantly be noticed – and openly discussed by others – as a female soldier. I had signed up to do Hometown Recruiting (between initial entry training and going to your first permanent duty station, you can spend a week helping local recruiters out for a few hours every day without getting charged leave, while still having your evenings free). Instead of going back to my hometown, I’d decided to visit a friend in New York City, and the station I was assigned to apparently thought my key asset was not looking the way they apparently assumed lesbians look.

Later in my military career, people regularly told me, “You’re really pretty for being in the Army.” This baffling pseudo-compliment made me uncomfortable, and I developed a joking stock response: “What, all the pretty girls join the Air Force?” … while at the same time wondering if what they meant was that as civilians go, I’m ugly. It was further confirmation that at least initially, my appearance was a key part of how people would form opinions of me as a soldier.

Recently, an internal email from the female officer heading an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed ground combat jobs and units to the public affairs office was leaked and much of it published by Politico. In it, she urged that public affairs personnel choose photos of “average looking women” to illustrate generic stories. I’m not thrilled with all her word choices, but I’m worried that her core message has been obscured by quibbles over terminology and the relish media outlets and pundits take in trying to turn everything into a major story. If she had wrapped her message in more obfuscating language – perhaps saying women who do not seem to be trying to conform to modern beauty norms by use of appearance-enhancing efforts instead of the shorthand pretty, maybe it wouldn’t have led to the same degree of public outcry. (I also empathize with her on a personal level: I’m not careful in how I phrase messages that are not meant to be public and certainly wouldn’t want some of them leaked!)

The heart of her argument fell much farther down in the story: compared to photos where women troops are obviously wearing makeup, photos of female soldiers with mud on their faces “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”

This immediately resonated with me based on my own experiences. While I was deployed to Iraq, I got a few days of RR in Qatar. While there, I went shopping, bought makeup, got a massage, and drank a few (carefully rationed!) beers. Upon my return to Mosul, Bruce Willis and his band (who knew?) came to our FOB on a USO tour. On a whim, I wore the mascara from my RR – it had been nice to feel feminine for a few days.

Guys asked me about it for weeks. All the male soldiers in my unit noticed I’d worn makeup. They commented on it. It changed how they looked at me and thought about me. And they all knew me, had known me for months or years already.

So when it comes to Infantrymen who haven’t served with women before, do I think that this picture might make them think differently about women joining the combat arms than these? Yes. Yes I do.

OK, I purposefully chose extreme examples. It’s not always that cut-and-dry. When my friends and I were discussing this story on social media, we argued about whether or not women in various photos were wearing makeup (yes, really). It isn’t always easy to tell, and for many women, makeup is a fraught issue. I know women who will never be seen without makeup. While I was in Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force, one of my suitemates got up an hour before we had to do physical fitness training to put on full makeup. Full makeup – to go run for miles – in the heat of a Texas summer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (Recently reading this piece on indirect aggression among young women made me think hard about my negative reaction and wonder if I’d react the same way now that I’m a decade older…)

Part of the kerfuffle about this, to me, comes down to the problems of real versus ideal.

In my ideal world, the way I look is meaningless, whether I wear makeup doesn’t matter – I’ll be judged on how competent I am. But in the real world, I have to be aware of the fact that (in normal settings) wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” So I’ve worn makeup to every job interview I’ve ever gone on. Once I’ve gotten the jobs, there have days I skipped wearing makeup to the office – I can work toward making my ideal world a reality by demonstrating to my colleagues that my appearance and competence aren’t connected. But the important days, when I wanted to make a good first impression? I lived in the real world.

In my ideal world, the way people dress is unimportant. But in the real world, I wore a suit on my last job interview, too – and so did my husband, because this isn’t just about gender. (Although apparently if either of us had applied to work in the tech world, it may have benefitted us NOT to wear suits.) You meet the social norms of the world you want to inhabit, and then you can work to change it from the inside. But if you thumb your nose too heavily at the mores of the organization you want to join, you risk not getting that opportunity.

Almost all of my women veteran friends who posted about this story on social media seemed (to me) angry that the ideal world hasn’t yet materialized, pissed off that people think about women’s appearances at all, irritated that men in the military might let something as trivial as eyeliner distract from the far more important question of whether or not a woman soldier can accomplish the mission effectively. I get that.

But several of the male troops and vets that I know said they got COL Arnhart’s point and agreed with the core message on at least some level (while agreeing the wording was suboptimal). I imagine part of this is that they aren’t triggered in the same way by words like “pretty” and “ugly,” which can be tremendously emotionally charged for women – and that may give them the space to more clearly acknowledge the real world we still inhabit. (Although one of them less charitably posited, “When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature.”)

All signs currently indicate that the Army will be opening ground combat arms jobs to women (I’m not as sure about the Marines). This is a tremendous step forward for both women and the Army. COL Arnhart, who has since stepped down, was – in my take of the situation – urging a couple of colleagues to be mindful of the real world we still inhabit while setting the stage for those women, in order to slightly diminish the obstacles that will be awaiting them. Those women, by demonstrating their competence, strength, and abilities, will help accomplish the mission, regardless of how they look – and that will help drag the ideal world once step closer to reality.

Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of “Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army.” This article originally appeared on her website.

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This is why golf courses are important to military installations

Golf is a fun and relaxing sport that’s excellent for relieving stress. Nothing’s quite like aimlessly swinging your club, hoping to hit the caddy cart on the driving range. It makes for a fantastic pastime to bond over while you and your guys get drunk as you wait for your respective turns. I’ve also heard that some people actually play the game as a sport and get enjoyment out of it, too — if you’re into that sort of thing.

The sport is directly linked to U.S. military culture. There are 234 golf courses spread across the over 800 U.S. military installations located around the globe. Nearly every major location has a course. And these courses are much more than just a place senior officers go to hide from staff meetings.


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Golf courses on deployed locations also double as rifle ranges. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

All golf courses on military installations are required by federal law to remain completely self-sufficient and not rely on government funding for upkeep and maintenance. Despite this, the courses will almost always be the first things suggested for the chopping block when installations need to cut costs; they’re often seen as either a waste of resources or space. In reality, however, they’re neither.

When the golf course is not in use, they are, essentially, large plots of land that are free from trees. They’re secure, defendable locations that can used for any purpose at the drop of a hat.

Military golf courses are also conveniently located near population centers on most installations. If there ever came a moment when the sh*t hits the fan, the course could be quartered by the military and transformed into a landing site for helicopters, a troop staging area, or even a mass casualty site to aid the wounded.

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In the meantime, I guess it’s fine if people play golf on it. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

And this isn’t just theory — golf courses have been used as back-up locations in the past.

The most recent time in history a U.S. military base on American soil was attacked was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. There, when the American pilots took to the skies to fight the Japanese, some planes were damaged. The island of Oahu is dense with hills and forests, but golf courses became invaluable places to make a relatively safe landing.


Feature image: US Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be a woman in North Korea’s military

North Korea isn’t turning a lot of people away from military service. Men are universally drafted for service around age 17. If you’re in the political elite, chances are good your kids are safe. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. The lowest castes of the Korean hierarchy are also exempt – why would they fight for a system that hates them?

For women, the system is much, much different. The process is a little more selective and can be unsurprisingly horrifying.


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It can always get worse.

Women are stationed exclusively with other women, sleeping 30 to a barracks. Like in U.S. military basic training, they sleep in bunk beds with only a cabinet to hold their belongings. Their cabinets, however, also contain small photos of the leaders of North Korea. Lee So-yeon, a North Korean defector whose job was to infiltrate the south and relay artillery coordinates in the event of a war, had photos of deceased ex-President Kim Il-Sung and then-living Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il.

When she first arrived to her duty station in the early 1990s, the chow halls actually had menus of food items to choose from. In reality, they were just for show. The troops got bowls of rice with bits of corn. For special events, they would get bits of meat and little candies. Troops like Lee would slip into apple orchards to steal their fill.

Still, life among the troops was a proud life. War with the U.S. and South Korea is the paradise on earth they are promised from day one. Then there are other, less traditional positions.

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Especially for North Korea’s Harvey Weinstein over here.

The North’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung created a women’s pleasure squad, the kippumjo. The pleasure squads, sole job was to perform for the Leader, the leadership of the Korean Workers Party, and even sometimes the country’s honored guests. The 2,000-strong unit was said to have been disbanded by Kim Jong-Un after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011.

One member of this unit was Mi Hyang, who provided an incredible trove of information on Kim when she defected to the South years ago. She described a much different man than the propaganda made him out to be. She was recruited based on her looks and her height. Kim Jong-Il was very short, so any woman over 5’5″ was excluded. Like any other conscript, she was recruited in high school. Officers visited her school and took the prettier girls aside, asking if they’d ever been with a man and inspecting their bodies for scars and blemishes.

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Are we creeped out yet? Here’s how their service ends.

After they’re drafted, they trained for six months before being interviewed by the Dear Leader, who would then decide if he liked them. If he did, they could serve him until they turned 25, a period of ten years.

Other conscripts must now serve until age 30 but get none of the benefits of the kippumjo, like new appliances and a ,000 stipend. No one knows if the unit exists in any form under Kim Jong-Un. For the regular Army, their lives were dirty (they had no real ways to clean themselves, save for a garden hose that was sometimes filled with frogs), and a bed made of rice casings, only to wake up and perform the manual labor of cooking and cleaning.

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