As a US-led coalition hammers ISIS’s oil infrastructure and other financial institutions in the Middle East, the terrorist group has cut salaries and infighting has broken out within the rank and file and senior leadership.
Reports of infighting within ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — aren’t new, but increased financial and territorial losses might be worsening the stress fractures that are splintering the group.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that ISIS is now facing an “unprecedented cash crunch” as the coalition ramps up strikes on its sources of wealth. Strikes have been hitting oil refineries and tankers as well as banks and buildings that hold hard cash.
ISIS salaries are taking a hit as a result of the financial losses. Some units reportedly aren’t being paid at all, and some fighters’ salaries have been cut in half, according to The Post.
The salary cuts specifically appear “to have significantly hit the organization’s morale,” according to Charles Lister, a resident fellow at the Middle East Institute.
“There are more and more frequent reports … of infighting, armed clashes breaking out in the middle of the night in places like Raqqa between rival factions,” Lister said on Friday during a panel discussion in Washington, DC, referring to ISIS’s de-facto capital in Syria.
“These are all indications of a significant drop in morale and a decrease in internal cohesion. And the cohesion argument was always something that analysts like myself always said was one of ISIS’ strongest strengths,” he said.
Part of what has made ISIS’s message so potent is the money that has come along with it — which is said to be a major factor in ISIS’s recruiting success. For locals in war-torn Syria especially, ISIS has been able to offer more money than people could hope to make elsewhere.
But the salary cuts have strained the loyalties of fighters to the group.
Abu Sara, a 33-year-old engineer from Iraq, told The Post that ISIS members are becoming disillusioned.
“Their members are getting quite angry. Either they are not getting salaries or getting much less than they used to earn,” Sara said. “All of the people I am in contact with want to escape, but they don’t know how.”
Some fighters “throw down their weapons and mingle with the civilians” in battle, according to Sara.
ISIS’s financial problems are compounded by the group’s territorial losses. Syrian forces recently retook the ancient city of Palmyra, while Iraqi forces are starting to move in toward Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq.
Territorial losses could hurt ISIS’s recruiting efforts because they run counter to the group’s central message of “remaining and expanding.”
The losses also hit at ISIS’s coffers because taxation and extortion make up a large share of ISIS’s revenues. Unlike other terrorist groups that rely on outside donations from wealthy individuals, ISIS squeezes money from the local populations it controls.
But ISIS isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi military strategist, told The Post that ISIS still controls significant oil resources across the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.
“They’re not going through a financial crisis that will lead to their collapse,” Hashimi told the newspaper. “They still have 60 percent of Syrian oil wells and 5 percent of Iraq’s.”
Most of the time, people have the best intentions when they’re talking to a veteran.
“By and large, at this stage in history, the American people are very, very supportive of veterans,” Brandon Trama, a former US Army Special Operations Detachment Commander, CivCom grad, and associate at Castleton Commodities International, told Business Insider.
Indeed, according to Gallup, the majority of civilians view each of the five branches either very or somewhat favorably.
“I’ve encountered numerous people when I transitioned who were willing to help me out, whether it was buy me a cup of coffee, give me thoughts on their career path, or put me in front of other people who may be able to point me in the direction of other opportunities,” Trama said.
And despite the good intentions of many civilians, there’s still a growing gap between the military and civilian worlds. So it’s important for civilians to remember that there’s a difference between reverence and understanding.
Business Insider spoke with veterans from several different branches of the military about transitioning back to civilian careers.
Here’s what they said they wished civilians would understand — and, in some cases, refrain from saying:
1. ‘We all owe you’
The military is widely held in esteem in the U.S. A whopping 72% of Americans have confidence in the institution, according to Gallup — compare that with the 16% of folks who have confidence in Congress.
But quite a few of the veterans Business Insider spoke with asserted that well-intentioned adulation can go too far.
Some advised civilians against overdoing it when thanking veterans for their service. These veterans also warned fellow ex-service members from letting any praise go to their heads.
“Stop thinking people owe you something,” Omari Broussard, who spent 20 years in the Navy, told Business Insider. “Nobody owes you anything.”
The New York Times reported that some veterans view being thanked for their service as “shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go.”
According to Broussard, it’s best for veterans — especially those who recently left the service — to not take the praise to heart, especially at work.
“When you get out, you’ve got to compete with the best,” the founder of counter-ambush training class 10X Defense and author of “Immediate Action Marketing” said. “Go get it. That may require you doing a lot more work than you think you need to do.”
2. ‘Do you have any friends that died?’
Probing and ill-advised questions from civilians can make many veterans feel dehumanized and othered.
“People will ask me plainly, ‘Do you have any friends that died?'” Garrett Unclebach, who served as a Navy SEAL for six years, told Business Insider. “And then the second question they’ll ask me is, ‘You ever kill anybody?’ Two super inappropriate questions to ask people.”
Unclebach said people should remember they don’t necessarily have a full grasp on the issues an individual veteran is facing.
“People talk about PTSD and they don’t really understand it so I would tell you that some guys who have it are embarrassed by it,” the VP of business development at construction firm Bellator Construction said. “Everyone needs an opportunity to be human and be vulnerable.”
3. ‘I don’t really understand how your ability to go fight is going to add value to my organization’
Edelman Intelligence’s study of 1,000 employers found that 76% want to hire more veterans — but only 38% said veterans obtain skills in the military that “are easily transferable to the private or public sector.”
Phil Gilreath, who served as a Marine officer for nearly 10 years, said this is a potential “stigma” veterans face in the business world.
“In reality, over 95% of what we do is kind of planning and operations and logistics,” he told Business Insider. “That absolutely translates to the corporate world, not to mention the things that aren’t necessarily quantitative, such as your leadership experience, your ability to operate in a dynamic, stressful environment that’s ever-changing.”
Gilreath is now director of operations at storage space startup Clutter and was previously a fellow at the Honor Foundation, a group that specifically helps Navy SEALs transition to civilian life.
He said veterans must enter the civilian world prepared to explain and demonstrate how exactly their skills cross over.
Evan Roth, an HBX CORe alum and former US Air Force captain who now works for GE Aviation, agrees.
“Not only does this involve creating a résumé that has readable — no strange acronyms — skill sets and experience, but also learning how to talk to companies in a way that demonstrates value,” Roth said. “Many members never practice how to give a 15-second ‘elevator pitch’ about how they can be valuable to a company, or in an interview they’ll tell a three minute ‘war story’ without tying it back to how this could be useful in the civilian world.”
4. ‘What the heck are you talking about?’
Many branches of the military rely upon specific jargon and acronyms to get things done.
Randy Kelley, who served as a Navy SEAL sniper for 11 years, said this means things can get lost in translation for recent veterans.
“Just like in any other cross-cultural situation, it’s going to create a little bit of animosity, and create the division that sometimes can actually hurt the military guy,” the founder of wellness startup Dasein Institute told Business Insider. “They have to stop speaking to civilians like they understand what a PRT is. All these different things that were important to them in their last career are no longer relevant.”
He said it’s best for veterans to drop such phraseology in a civilian setting, and for civilian employers to understand where veterans are coming from.
But, in the case of recent vets, it’s better to be understanding and ask for clarification, rather than just writing someone off because they’re still relying upon a military style of communications.
5. ‘You must want to go back into security-related work’
Not all veterans automatically want to work for a defense contractor.
James Byrne, who served as a US Navy SEAL officer for 26 years, said it’s important not to encourage veterans to “mentally lock themselves into the belief” that their skills only transfer to security-related industry.
When he first returned to civilian work, he said some well-intentioned civilians encouraged him to pursue a gig as a security guard at Walmart — simply because they couldn’t envision his abilities translating elsewhere. Today, he’s the director of sales and business development at solar tech company Envision Solar
“The sky’s the limit,” he told Business Insider. “You’re only stopped by your imagination of what you can do and what you can work with your network and yourself and your education and your soft skills and hard skills. There’s no limit to what you can do and how you can do it.”
6. ‘You must be glad to be back’
The process of leaving the military can be disorienting for some veterans. It’s patronizing to assume someone is in a better place just because they’re no longer in the service.
Former US Marine Corps rifleman and Victor App founder Greg Jumes told Business Insider he struggled with addiction and lived out of his car for a time after he left the military.
“When you get out, you’re surrounded by a group of people and you don’t know what the hell their deal is,” he said. “You just kind of feel all over the place and that kind of brings you back into a state of isolation.”
He said it’s crucial for military servicemembers interested in leaving to plan ahead.
“You have to plan,” he said. “You have to find where you should be moving to. You have to start networking before you get out.”
7. ‘You must have gone through so much’
Never assume you have an idea of what a veteran’s experience was like.
“The narrative that has been established for returning veterans has been unhelpful,” retired Green Beret Scott Mann, who served in the Army for 23 years, told Business Insider. “The narrative has been ‘the island of misfit toys.’ We’re broken.”
Today, Mann runs a leadership training organization MannUp and the Heroes Journey, a non-profit devoted to helping veterans transition. He said it’s harmful to have a perception of veterans as “damaged goods.”
“That could not be further from the truth, in most cases,” he said. “There are cases where some people need care for the rest of their lives. Most of the veteran population are high functioning and we actually need them in our communities and businesses leading in the front, putting those skills into play.”
Remember, there’s a ton of diversity when it comes to the experiences military servicemembers have across the five branches — and even within those branches.
“What I did in the Navy is probably unlike with the other 99% of people did in the Navy,” Charles Mantranga, Navy veteran and implementation manager at tech firm Exitus Technologies, told Business Insider. “It’s pretty hard for people to understand it, really.”
Developed by Lockheed Martin and most famously used for search and research by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sikorsky S-92 is one of the most versatile and dependable helicopters on the market and can fly through the toughest storms to complete its mission.
With its multi-mission capability, the S-92 is needed all over the world. But transporting the 15,000-pound, four-bladed, twin-engine aircraft can be extremely tricky and very dangerous.
Squeezing the durable aircraft into the narrow cargo bay of a transport plane would prove catastrophic if not handled correctly, as the helicopter’s wingspan stretches to an impressive 56 ft. So it takes a group of well-trained mechanics to properly dismantle the helo’s rotors.
Each pin that connects the rotors must be carefully loosened by hand and the instructions followed to a “T.”
As each rotor is ready for release, the team members must slide out each blade with surgical precision keeping the structures intact.
After the rotors are wrapped and stored for shipping, the greatest task is yet to be accomplished — loading the Sikorsky S-92 into the plane’s cargo bay.
Any troop in today’s military will eventually, inevitably be deployed. Even before the announcement of the new, “deploy or get out” policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find an E-6 or above who doesn’t have a bit of time in the desert under their belt.
Everyone else is simply waiting for their time to come — and those in wait always have a few questions about their upcoming deployment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to describe. You could be a commo guy in a signal unit, constantly dealing with threats up at your retrans site. Conversely, you could be an infantryman who spent years at the rifle range only to stay at a major base and train local forces on how to use their weapons. The fact is, you never know what it’ll actually be like until you’re there — and this is true regardless of rank, position, branch, or unit.
That being said, there are a few universal truths that stretch the spectrum of military service, for POGs, grunts, and special operators alike — and those truths are in direct conflict with what boots have on their mind.
On the bright side, that usually means PT is on your own schedule — but that doesn’t mean you can slack off. You’re probably still going to have to take regular PT tests.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ed Galo)
“I’ll have plenty of downtime”
Deployments seem like the perfect time to try and knock out some online college courses so you can get a leg up on your peers and have an easier time finding a job after your service — oh man, you are mistaken.
Your work schedule will shift from the standard of PT in the morning, work call during the day, and time off at night to something that looks more like work 24/7 with maybe a single day off. Sure, you’ll have a few hours here and there between missions, but those will usually get eaten up by catching up on sleep or relaxing with the squad.
Just imagine all the dumb crap that would fill these tents if people had access to wasting their money while deployed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marie Cassetty)
“I’ll have so much money when I get back”
On paper, a deployment seems like the perfect way to get out of debt. You’re gone for somewhere between nine to eighteen months, you’ll have nothing to blow your money on, and you’ll get better pay — tax free. This could be just what you need to crawl out of debt. The operative words here are “could be.”
If you’ve got a family back home, that money is being spent on responsibilities. If you’ve got preexisting debt, that money you’re accumulating is going toward paying people back. You’ll be making more than you’re used to back stateside and you’re less likely to waste it on stupid crap, — that is if you can avoid blowing it all in one reckless weekend like so many have before you.
Also, with deployments shrinking down to nine months, units aren’t going to be required to give their troops RR, so… there’s that…
(U.S. Air Force)
“I’ll get R&R when I want to”
All the calculating in the world can’t help you outrun the reach of the Big Green Weenie. There’s no scheduled block leave when it comes to RR. If your deployment is around twelve months, you’re lucky if you’re able to take it somewhere near the mid-point.
Your unit must remain operational, however, and it can’t do that if everyone is gone — so they’re not sending everyone home at the half-way point. Your leave is more than likely going to fall somewhere between three and nine months in. Troops who are expecting the birth of kids get top priority, but it’s a free-for-all after that.
Do not get this twisted. Troops are still in harm’s way every day. The likelihood of an outright firefight, however, has dropped.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley)
“I’ll get that Combat Action Badge (or equivalent) soon”
If there’s one prized medal within the military, it’s the one that comes after a troop has experienced combat first-hand. There’s an undeniable badassery that comes with the badge, ribbon, medal, etc., but they aren’t just handed out like candy anymore.
These days, fewer and fewer troops are seeing direct combat as America’s responsibilities in the War on Terror shift to more advisory roles with local militaries. Armed conflicts still occur in the Middle East, definitely, but the numbers are shrinking with each passing year. Even if your unit is one of the few that goes outside the FOB, you’ll likely not see combat right away.
Which leads us directly into the next myth about deployments…
The “hearts and minds” part of counter-insurgency truly is a better strategy for the overall well-being of the region. The sooner you adapt, the better time you’ll have outside the wire.
(DoD photo by 1st Lt. Becky Bort)
“My sole mission is to fight the bad guy”
From the moment you enter basic training, you’re fed one purpose. You’re being groomed to become the biggest, baddest motherf*cker Uncle Sam has ever seen. You will shoot, move, and communicate better than anyone else ever has. For the most part, however, that’s just not going to be the case.
If you do manage to get into a unit that will send you outside the wire, 98 percent of what you do are called “atmosphericals.” Basically, this means your unit rides through an area of operations, watching to see if anything goes down, being a show of force to both the civilians who need American aid and any potential threats watching from afar.
Case in point: There is a very specific reason I personally stopped mocking the French forces…
(ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)
“My foreign counterparts are held to the same standards as me”
American troops are given very strict instruction on how to be professional and courteous while turning an area of operations “less hostile.” Our foreign counterparts do not have the same level of regimented training. Other NATO nations could be treating war like it’s a nine-to-five while the local military’s training curriculum probably doesn’t even cover “minor” things, like properly using a weapon.
But this misconception swings both ways. You might also be surprised to learn that certain allies don’t mess around — and train their “standard” infantry more like special operations.
It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.
Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:
5. Things could always get worse.
Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.
Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.
4. Cleanliness regardless.
If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.
In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.
3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.
In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.
The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.
2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.
Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong withburning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve monthsis called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”
With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.
1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.
Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.
Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.
Army veteran Kenneth Carter wasn’t going to stop dealing or using drugs and alcohol, until prison forced him to. Rather than just bide his time behind bars, he used it to build a future he could be proud of. Now he’s helping others do the same.
On April 6, 2021 Carter shared in a LinkedIn post that he was four years sober. He hoped to inspire others by detailing his experience and sharing his truth, thinking maybe a few people would like the posting. Instead, over a half a million people responded with likes and it led to almost 50,000 comments.
Carter was in prison for two and a half years for trafficking cocaine. After being set up by someone he knew and dealing to an undercover police officer, you’d think it would have been the worst experience of his life. Instead, prison saved him. But his story and road to prison was long.
“My mom was in the Army and that’s what made me want to join. I heard all of the stories about her driving trucks, in the Army and wanted to do it too,” Carter said. “Immediately after highschool I joined and was in it before I even graduated. I was in basic training when 9/11 happened, that was really rough.”
He deployed to Kuwait for a year after graduating boot camp. Although Carter said he witnessed friends being impacted by serving in a combat environment, he didn’t think he was. Overtime, he noticed some changes in his own personality and behavior which he realized were connected to his time as a soldier. But he wouldn’t connect those dots until it was too late.
When Carter left the Army, he started driving trucks for civilian companies. Before the military, he wasn’t much of a drinker, he said. But slowly he found himself reaching for alcohol more and more. A tragic accident would make it even worse.
Carter had forgotten his lunch at home one day, so he drove back to get it. On his way down the road he passed a man on a bicycle as he was making his way through a construction zone. Carter passed him, eventually making a right turn to get on his route. Unbeknownst to him, that man on the bicycle had sped him to try to pass him at the same time. The bicyclist hit the truck and lost his life.
Carter said he’s never shared that part of his story before, until now.
“It haunted me. I started thinking about what I could have done. I had to speak to the family and the children of the man. It was really rough,” he explained.
Traumatized after the death of the bicyclist, he quit his job and began drinking even more. “It was six days a week. There was a guy who offered me coke [cocaine], saying it would balance me out. I ended up trying it and it was very addictive and it led me to wanting to sell it,” Carter shared.
Five years later, he would be caught selling to the undercover officer. Despite facing charges and being out on bond for a year, Carter said he kept doing drugs and drinking. “Nothing phased me until I went to prison,” he explained. His time behind bars would lead to deep reflection and the recognition he didn’t like who he had become.
Through processing it all, Carter would come to realize there were moments in his life which led to the prison cell. His mother was a proud soldier but when she went to serve, she had to leave her children with her mother, their grandmother. “There were four of us kids and she abused me constantly,” he explained. “I try to forget about it, really I was just suppressing it.”
The military has long been an escape for many individuals hoping to create a better life than what was waiting for them as a civilian. A 2018 RAND study of the Army found around 25 percent of soldiers joined for pay, benefits and around 22 percent joined to leave a negative environment.
When Carter found himself behind those bars, he did everything he could to feel because for so long, his emotions had been shut off. The avoidance and boxing of emotions is common in trauma survivors. “I went into my cell and looked at the mirror, which was just metal. I looked myself dead in the eyes and I had to see myself…I felt embarrassed,” he said. “I shed a few tears because it hurt, deeply.”
He spent the rest of his time in jail building a company. Two months after he left prison, he officially launched Ameriton Freight and Logistics. When he looks back on the past year and a half since walking out a free man, he sees more work to be done. “I am not satisfied because I want to be further but I am happy where I am at,” Carter said.
Carter never shared his experience of abuse, until now. As a child he was taught there was no help out there and if there was, not to trust it.
“Being black…we always said, Black people don’t do therapy. It just doesn’t happen. There’s a stigma against it. ‘Why do you need to talk to a white person about your problems, they don’t understand.’,” Carter explained. He’s found himself mentoring a lot of men and youth of color for that very reason, helping them by sharing his story and experiences.
As Carter looks back on his traumatic childhood, military service and his subsequent fall from grace, he’s grateful. The experiences, both good and bad, have shaped him into who he is today and it’s a person he can joyfully look at in the mirror and see reflecting back at him. Carter hopes his story will inspire others to begin their own journey of sobriety and healing, too.
The Pentagon is disputing reports that its rules of engagement in Iraq have been loosened following a deadly strike in Mosul that killed more than 100 civilians.
But its own spokesman seemed to confirm last month it did exactly that.
Previously, American advisors on the ground were required to go through an approval process with a command center in Baghdad before strikes were carried out. But in February, the AP reported the military had dropped this requirement to speed up strikes, with some advisors operating on the ground being “empowered” and no longer required to coordinate with Baghdad.
The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, confirmed to The Associated Press the rules of engagement in the fight against IS in Iraq were adjusted by the December directive, explaining that some coalition troops were given the “ability to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell.”
More coalition forces have been “empowered” to have the ability to call in strikes in the Mosul operation, Col. Dorrian told a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday.
Now contrast that with reporting from The New York Times, in which spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said rules had not been loosened. Besides its easing of the process, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces have increasingly gotten closer to direct combat.
Davis told The Times the strike that killed hundreds in Mosul was “at the request of Iraqi security forces,” and did not mention American advisors. This seems to suggest that US military planners may have received a direct request for air support from Iraqi troops, which may not have attempted to minimize collateral damage.
The idea of putting Iraqi troops in the driver seat with the ability to call in American air strikes seems a result of the “adjustment” of rules the AP had reported. In that story, published on Feb. 24, an Iraqi Army general is able to call an American lieutenant colonel to report a mortar attack and request support directly, something that had not been possible last year.
Col. Dorrian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Pentagon may be technically accurate when it says rules of engagement have not changed. Rules of engagement guidelines help troops understand when they can and cannot fire at an opposing force. Typically, troops are required to get positive identification of a target, only fire when under threat, and are required to minimize collateral damage when calling in air strikes.
@PaulSzoldra I spoke to the PAO for Lt. Col. Browning about a week after the AP report. He said ROE were not changed, PROCEDURES were.
While the overarching guidelines may not have changed, the process for carrying out air strikes certainly has — and it may be the reason why Mosul could be the site of the largest loss of civilian life since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that it would investigate the March 17 strike, accordingto The New York Times. The process is expected to take at least a few weeks.
“Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians,” a release on the coalition website says.
This is the second in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The military branches are like a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets along. With different missions, uniforms, and mindsets, troops love to make fun of people in opposite branches. Of course when it counts in combat, the military usually works out its differences.
One of the quickest ways to make fun of Marines is to call them dumb. Plenty of acronyms and inside jokes have been invented to harp on this point, like “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential” or even referring to them as “jarheads.”
The interesting thing about calling Marines names however, is that somewhere along the line they just decide to own that sh-t. Many terms used in a derogatory fashion — jarhead, leatherneck, and devil dog — eventually morph into terms that Marines actually call themselves. It’s like a badge of honor.
The thinking that Marines are not intelligent often stems from it being the smaller service known more for fighting on the ground, and the thinking that shooting at the bad guys doesn’t take smarts. There is some truth to this — they don’t call them “dumb grunts” for nothing — but the Marine Corps infantry is actually a very small part of the overall Corps, which also has many more personnel serving in admin, logistics, supply, and air assets.
In a head-to-head battle of ASVAB scores (the test you take to get into the military), the Air Force or Navy would probably come out on top, due to these services having many more technical fields. But plenty of Marine infantrymen (this writer included) know that being in the Marine infantry — or at least being really good at it — takes plenty of brainpower paired with combat skills and physical fitness.
Other common ways to make fun of the Corps are to go after their gear or barracks, since they usually get the hand-me-downs from everyone else, or to focus on their insanely-short and weird-looking haircuts.
Then there are people who tell Marines they aren’t even a branch, they are just a part of the Navy. To which every Marine will inevitably reply, “Yeah, the men’s department.”
This brings us to an important point to remember that in every insult on the Marine Corps, there is at least some truth behind it. But Marines are masters at spinning an uncomfortable truth into something positive, a point not lost on a Navy sailor writing a poem in 1944 calling them “publicity fiends.” Here are some examples:
When a new Marine comes to the unit, he or she might be told, “Welcome to the Suck.” Basically, a new guy is told that his life is going to suck and that’s a good thing.
“Retreat hell! We just got here!” and “Retreat hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.” — Even when the Marines are pulling back from the front, they aren’t retreating. They are attacking in a different spot, or conducting a “tactical withdrawal.”
“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, you’d be issued one.” — Forget about married life. Just focus on shooting and breaking things.
“Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOBs I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Why to actually hate the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the military, and it has a reputation for getting all the leftovers. This means everything: weapons, aircraft, and gear have traditionally been hand-me-downs from the Army.
Let’s start with the barracks: Usually terrible, though for some it’s getting better. There’s a rather infamous (thanks mostly to Terminal Lance) barracks known as Mackie Hall in Hawaii, which most Marines refer to as “Crackie Hall,” since it’s in a dark, desolate part of the base that’s right near a river of waste everyone calls “sh-t creek.” While the Corps has been building better housing for Marines, it’s still nowhere close to what the other services can expect.
Then there are the weapons and gear. Go on deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and you’ll see even the lowliest Army private with top-shelf uniforms, plenty of “tacticool” equipment, and the latest night vision. And on their brand new M4 rifle, they’ll have the best flashlight, laser sights, and whatever brand new scope or optic DARPA just came up with. But here’s the plot twist: That soldier never even leaves the FOB.
All of this “gee-whiz, that would be awesome if I had that” equipment will usually end up in the hands of Marines eventually. It’s just going to be a few years, and only after it’s been worn out by the Army.
That’s not to say the Marines don’t have their own gear specifically for them. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was designed with the Corps in mind, along with amphibious tractors and others, like the Marine version of the F-35 fighter.
Despite their sometimes decrepit gear and weapons, Marines also spin this as a point of pride — they are so good at this — rationalizing the terrible by saying they can “do more with less.” But if an airman or sailor is thinking this one through, they are saying to themselves, “but I’d rather do more with more” from the comfort of their gorgeous barracks rooms that look like hotel suites.
There’s also the Marine language barrier. Especially in joint-command settings, service members from other branches might be scratching their heads when they hear stuff like “Errr,” “Yut,” or “Rah?” in question form.
And as for what Marines hate about the Marine Corps: Field Day. Everyone can all agree on field day being the worst thing in Marine Corps history. The top definition of what “field day” is in Urban Dictionary puts it this way:
“A Thursday night room cleaning to prep for a inspection Friday morning that is required to go way beyond the point of clean to ridiculous things like no ice in your freezer, no water in your sink, no hygiene products in your shower. Most of the time you truly believe that someone woke up one morning, sat down with a pen and paper and just came up with a bunch of ridiculous things to look for in these “inspections”. Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis.”
That’s basically all true. Which leads some to count down the days until they get out, the magical, mystical day of E.A.S. (End of Active Service):
Why to love the Marine Corps
There are many reasons to have pride in the Marine Corps, and it usually comes down to its history. Since 1775, the Marine Corps has had a storied history of fighting everyone, including pirates, standing armies, and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And knowing history and serving to the standard of those who came before is a big part of what it means to be a Marine. A Marine going to Afghanistan today was likely told at boot camp about the Marines who were fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — with the idea that you definitely don’t want to tarnish the reputation they forged many years ago.
While there were many negatives aspects highlighted about the service here, many Marines see these instead as ways the Marine Corps operates differently. Marines see the bad as a way of thinking that “we don’t need perks” to do our job, which comes down to locating, closing with, and killing the enemy. The Marines even have a longstanding mantra to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
Other things to be proud of: Marines can get stationed in some pretty awesome spots like Hawaii and southern California for example, although some are sent to the dark desert hole that is 29 Palms. And besides the combat deployments, peacetime Marines enjoy awesome traveling and training in places the Army usually doesn’t go: Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, or the famous and beloved “med floats.”
And hands down, the Marine Corps has the absolute best dress uniforms and the best commercials.
For male Marines (as far as what your recruiter tells you), the dress blue uniform is like kryptonite to females in a bar. Interestingly enough, that same uniform is like kryptonite to young impressionable men who are interested in being among the “Few and the Proud.”
Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.
“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”
Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.
VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.
Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.
Improvements in memory and energy way up
“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”
During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.
When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.
“It’s worth every second.”
“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”
Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?
But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.
The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.
Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.
But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.
“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.
2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.
Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.
Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.
Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
With the tax season upon us, service members and their families can access free tax-filing software and consultations to help them navigate the task of submitting their annual taxes.
Military members and their families can visit the Military OneSource website or call 1-800-342-9647 for the no-cost “MilTax” software, explained Erika Slaton, a program analyst with Military OneSource.
The Defense Department recognizes military members and their families have unique filing situations with deployments, relocations and various deductions and credits, she said.
The MilTax software, previously known as “Military OneSource Tax Services,” was created with the military situation in mind, Slaton said.
Expert Tax Consultants Ready to Help
Tax consultants are available via phone through Military OneSource, Slaton said. In-person tax filing assistance can be accessed at military installations at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location.
The tax consultants can inform eligible users about the unique tax benefits available to service members and their families, Slaton said.
Tax laws change each year, Slaton pointed out, adding MilTax consultants are experts on the nuances of the law and can help users get the tax credits they earned and deserve.
“That’s why it’s such a great program because it is a program that is specifically designed for those unique military tax situations,” she said.
Confidential, Secure Resources
MilTax is confidential and secure, Slaton said. The online filing program allows users to submit a federal return and up to three state tax returns, she said.
Those eligible for MilTax include members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. Coast Guardsmen serving under Title 10 authority are entitled to the services as well. Retired and honorably discharged members are authorized for up to 180 days past their separation. Spouses, dependent children and survivors are able to use the free services as well.
Calculations are backed by a 100-percent accuracy guarantee, Slaton said.
The deadline to file taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18. The traditional tax deadline day is April 15, but it falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day, in the District of Columbia — a legal holiday — according to the IRS.
Call, Click, Connect
Slaton wants the military community to know about the range of services and resources available at no cost through the Defense Department-funded Military OneSource, including related to health, family relationships, education, employment, financial issues, deployments and transitions.
Military members and their families, she said, can “call, click and connect today” to access these services.
“We encourage service members and their families to learn more about Military OneSource, MilTax and all of the services that are available because it is a benefit that they deserve,” she said.
State and federal officials believe the Woolsey Fire, which forced the entire city of Malibu to evacuate, has not caused any radioactive materials to be released from the research facility. But some activists say toxic chemicals from Santa Susana likely contaminated the surrounding smoke and ash.
In the 1940s, the US government began using Santa Susana to test nuclear weapons and rockets. The facility spans more than 2,800 acres on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. A partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 caused radioactive material and carcinogens to contaminate the surrounding soil and groundwater, and some reports say the meltdown released more radioactive material than any other nuclear accident in US history.
In a statement, the Department of Toxic Substances Control said its scientists and toxicologists “reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”
Aerial view of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the Simi Hills. The Energy Technology Engineering Center site is in the lower left, with the Rocket Test Field Laboratory sites in the hills at the center.
A follow-up statement released Nov. 13, 2018, said staff members had tested the site over the weekend and did not find elevated levels of radiation. The department said it would conduct more air and soil testing over the next several days.
A group of physicians says the damage to Santa Susana could affect residents’ health
Some activists are concerned that the area surrounding Santa Susana may not be not safe for residents. Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, a group that advocates for the elimination of nuclear and environmental threats, says the fire likely released toxins into the air.
“We know what substances are on the site and how hazardous they are,” Dr. Robert Dodge, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “These toxic materials are in SSFL’s soil and vegetation, and when it burns and becomes airborne in smoke and ash, there is real possibility of heightened exposure for area residents.”
A 1997 study found that workers at the Santa Susana site had elevated rates of cancer in connection with nuclear activity at the complex. If radioactive particles were released into the air, it is possible that similar health effects could be observed among nearby residents.
However, Kai Vetter, a professor of nuclear engineering at University of California Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times that the health effects of smoke inhalation are greater than any potential danger from radioactive particles in the air.
“Although there is a possibility that radioactive materials — accounted for or not — could be dispersed through the fire and the smoke plume, the risk for health effects due to radiation is expected to be small,” Vitter said.
The physicians’ group also criticized the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for having “no public confidence,” and pointed out that state lawmakers commissioned an independent review panel in 2015 to monitor the department’s public outreach, fiscal management, and enforcement of hazardous-waste laws.
The clean-up process at Santa Susana has faced delays
Most of the Santa Susana site is owned by Boeing, though NASA oversees one area and the US Department of Energy leases a portion as well. A Boeing spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that more than 50% of the company’s property at Santa Susana burned.
Satellite image of the Woolsey Fire. The majority of western Malibu is engulfed by smoke and fire at the time of this image.
A 2007 order instructed the three parties to finish cleaning up the site by 2017, but those clean-up efforts have repeatedly hit delays. In August 2018, the Ventura County Star reported another delay: an action plan that was supposed to come out in the first half of 2019 is now behind schedule.
These delays have drawn backlash from local community members. In 2017, a group of parents called for tougher clean-up standards, claiming their children’s cancer diagnoses were linked to the nuclear research site. The group delivered a petition with more than 17,000 signatures to state officials.
Investigators have not yet determined what caused the Woolsey Fire. However, utility company Southern California Edison told state regulators that an outage was reported at one of its substations a few minutes before the fire began. The outage was in the same area where Woolsey broke out; in fact, the substation is located within the Santa Susana complex
Southern California Edison spokesman Steve Conroy told the Los Angeles Times that the company is required to file a report whenever an incident may be connected to another event.
“The report is preliminary,” Conroy said. “We have no other information other than a line went out of service and we don’t know why.”
The Woolsey Fire has killed two people and burned through more than 150 square miles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.