Why SpaceX's launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk's rocket company and the US as a whole - We Are The Mighty
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Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last space shuttle made its final voyage into orbit.

Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station.

That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS in a mission called Demo-2.


A successful flight would resurrect the US’s ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX’s first mission with passengers in the company’s 18-year history.

“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” hours ahead of the scheduled launch. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like, 1% chance, 0.1% chance.”

A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening a new era of space exploration.

Here’s how you can watch the launch live.

‘American astronauts on American rockets from American soil’

Russia has used its spaceflight monopoly to charge more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost has risen from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October.

A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million, according to NASA’s inspector general.

That’s why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline.

Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US would give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can carry only three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

An artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)

Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.

“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

He added, “We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”

Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars

SpaceX has big plans. Musk dreams of flying people around the moon and later landing on the lunar surface, then moving on to establish Martian cities and put a million settlers on the red planet.

At the forefront of commercial spaceflight, SpaceX also plans to fly space tourists. In February, the company announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

Even Tom Cruise intends to fly aboard Crew Dragon so he can film a new action movie on the space station.

NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone.

But the mission won’t be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth.

“We’re going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home,” Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. “Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that’s out there, and we’ve worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we’ll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home.”

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

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How to make the best steak ever, according to a Marine chef

There isn’t a dish more widely recognized as the single item dad’s cook than steak. Being able to prepare the perfect steak, for many Americans, is a rite of passage.


But a good cut is expensive, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for error when it comes time to put the meat to the heat.

As a kid, whenever there were steaks marinating in the fridge and the smell of charcoal burning hung in the air, you knew it had to be a special occasion.

Let’s get cookin’. 

Related: 8 reasons Marines hate on the Army

What you need

– A stove

– A cast-iron skillet big enough to comfortably fit your steak.

– A roasting rack

– A sheet pan

– A serving spoon

– A sheet of parchment paper

– A pair of grilling tongs

Ingredients.

– 1 cowboy-cut, 1.5 inch-thick ribeye steak (Buy it from the butcher, ensure it has great marbling)

– 2 tbsp vegetable oil (do not use olive oil, the smoke point is too low)

– Black peppercorn (Freshly ground/crushed to order), to taste.

– Coarse, flakey salt, to taste.

– Half stick of butter

– 4 garlic cloves (crushed)

– 6 sprigs of thyme

Step 1. Assemble your gear.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Get it together.

Put your steak on the parchment-paper-lined sheet pan and let it sit under refrigeration for an hour. Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and have all other ingredients close by. Once you get started, this process will require constant attention, so prep your ingredients beforehand.

Step 2. Be ready.

Once all items are in place and your skillet is hot, add the vegetable oil to your pan (Ensure that the oil is at least 1/8 inch deep across the pan). The oil needs to reach 375 Fahrenheit. When you see a slight shimmering across the top of the oil, it’s good to go. Test the oil by dropping a thyme leaf — just one leaf — in the oil. If it makes a popping noise, you’re on track.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Pepper that thing!

Step 3. Sear your steak.

Once your oil is ready and all items are in place, season your steak with salt and pepper generously. Crush or grind the pepper before sprinkling it on all sides of your steak. Use your hands and really cover the steak with seasoning. Next, turn the stove to high. The oil is going to reduce in temperature significantly when you add the steak, this will help keep it at 375-Fahrenheit.

Just before putting the steak on, pat the steak dry. Then, using tongs, place the steak into the cast iron skillet. Press to ensure as much surface area as possible is making contact with the pan.

Let it cook for a minimum of four minutes on that side before attempting to move. The steak will stick when it first comes into contact with the heat. It needs time to cook off before it will freely move.

Flip your steak with tongs to the other broadside for three minutes, or until edges turn brown. Sear all asides — the edges as well.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Keep the pan hot!

Step 4. Baste!

Next, toss in the butter, garlic, and herbs. When the butter has melted, tilt the pan so that the butter pools to the side of the pan closest to you.

Using that serving spoon, push the steak towards the other side of the pan and begin spooning the hot, aromatic butter over the top of your steak. Let the butter touch as much of the steak as possible before tilting the pan and pooling the butter once more.

Continue to do this until your steak is cooked the way you prefer (Anywhere from rare to medium is acceptable).

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Spoon the butter over the steak constantly.

Step 5. Let the it rest.

Turn off the heat, remove the steak, and let it rest on the roasting rack. Let the skillet and oil cool in a safe place.

Let the steak rest at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Also Read: 5 things infantrymen love about the woobie

Step 6. Enjoy!

Eat it with your hands for full enjoyment or use a knife and fork to pretend like you aren’t an animal.

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Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

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

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8 things you never knew about the Purple Heart Medal

August 7 is Purple Heart Day. A day when we are encouraged to pause and reflect on those wounded in battle and those who have given their lives in service to our country. The Purple Heart has had a long and interesting history, filled with starts, stops and infinite assessments.


Through it all, the Purple Heart has remained a steadfast symbol of courage and bravery. As members of the military family, there’s no doubt we’ve all heard of the Purple Heart, we’ve listened to the stories behind them and a few have maybe even seen one up close. But how much do you really know about the Purple Heart? Here are 8 interesting facts to get you up to speed.

The oldest military award in history

The Purple Heart was created by George Washington on August 7, 1782, by the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington. At its inception, it was known as the Badge of Military Merit, and at the close of the Revolutionary war, the medal was only given to three Revolutionary soldiers. No medals were given again until 1932.

Why is it purple?

The Purple Heart as we know it today was redesigned by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, in honor of the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. The medal is emblazoned with a bust of George Washington and displays his coat of arms and the words “for military merit” are inscribed on the back. It is believed that the color purple was chosen because it represents courage and bravery.

Qualifications have changed over the years (and continue to evolve)

When the Purple Heart was re-established in 1932, the award was limited to those serving in the Army or the Army Air Corps. In 1942, President Roosevelt formally designated the award for those who were wounded or killed in battle. He also expanded the eligibility to all branches of the military and allowed the Purple Heart to be awarded posthumously. In 1996, eligibility was further amended to allow Prisoners of War to receive the award.

First service member in modern history to receive the Purple Heart

While Revolutionary War soldiers William Brown, Elijah Churchill, and Daniel Bissell, Jr. were the first to receive the Badge of Military Merit, General Douglas MacArthur was the first modern-day recipient of the Purple Heart for his service during WWII.

1.8M Purple Hearts have been awarded

While there have been gaps and inconsistencies in record keeping since the Purple Heart was re-established in 1932, it is estimated that approximately 1.8M Purple Hearts have been awarded.

First woman to receive the Purple Heart

Army Lt. Annie G. Fox was the first woman to ever receive a Purple Heart for her heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Serving as the chief nurse at Hickam Field, Hawaii, Fox’s calm demeanor and exemplary leadership guided her staff through the events of that day, no doubt saving countless lives.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart 

Purple Heart recipients can join The Military Order of the Purple Heart. Formed in 1932, the MOPH is the only veteran’s service organization composed of only combat veterans and, of course, Purple Heart recipients.

First (and only) president to receive The Purple Heart

While more than half of our nation’s presidents have served in the military, only one was ever awarded a Purple Heart. President John F. Kennedy served in the Navy during WWII, and in 1943, he sustained a back injury when a Japanese destroyer collided with his torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands. Although he was injured, the former President swam three miles to shore with an injured crew member in tow. On July 12, 1944, John F. Kennedy received both a Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Medal (the Navy’s highest honor) for his actions that day. When he was asked about his heroism, JFK famously and humbly replied, “It was involuntary. They sunk my boat.”

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The critics are lining up against the VA’s PTSD pot study

Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.


“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Logo courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project.

VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.

Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.

He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.

“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”

Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.

“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.

The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.

Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.

“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Photo from public domain.

Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.

“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”

About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.

Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.

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The Army is upgrading its M4 rifles to be more durable and lethal

The U.S. Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack, and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull, and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable, and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day)

To date, the Army has completed more than 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 480,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.” Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

Also Read: Army fielding new magazine optimized for M4/M4A1 Carbine and M855A1

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine, and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camoflauge, removable iron sights, and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner)

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will “provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel” for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

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Here’s when vets should NOT buy franchises

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole


“Worry about the dollars and the pennies take care of themselves.” — anonymous

It’s worthwhile to keep that adage above in mind when you are being pitched to buy a franchise business.

One of the most costly mistakes veterans can make is paying too much upfront for a franchise that you can’t sell for the same price the next day.  It’s the venture equivalent of buying a used Chevy for the price of new BMW.

I hate it when I receive letters from veterans who “want out” of a franchise they just bought.  They feel snookered, trapped, and annoyed at themselves for not looking at the details before signing on the dotted line.

The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to become a smart shopper of franchise opportunities.  Here are five tips to help you assess if you are more likely to make money or lose money in the franchise world.

1. Set higher standards

If your objective is to merely “go into business for yourself” or “own a franchise” then your aspirations are not high enough to be a successful business owner.  After all, you will achieve your goal of business ownership the day you sign the franchise contract!  Then what?

A more purposeful objective is to own a franchise that will make money for you.  When you set high standards for your financial return on your invested time and savings your tire-kicking “due diligence” questions become more precise and purposeful.

2. Understand sales rep motivations

When you start to explore different franchise opportunities, you will come in contact with franchisor representatives and business brokers who have just one purpose—to sell you a franchise as fast as possible.  These individuals are not your trusted friends or unbiased financial advisors.  Certainly don’t sign any franchise agreement without prior review from an experienced corporate attorney who understands franchise valuations and royalty obligations.

3. Add up cost of acquisition

Sneaky franchise brokers are adept at hiding the true investment cost of a franchise purchase.  If you sign up to buy a franchise, your cost of acquisition is more than the down payment.  Include the amount you have to borrow to acquire the franchise plus other savings you may have to apply to the business until it achieves at least cash flow breakeven. (when net sales revenues exceed expenses every month)  This is the total amount you will have at risk in your new business.  How comfortable are you with this amount?  What would happen if you lost it all?

4. Evaluate owner’s compensation

Another trick of franchise sales reps is to present impressive financial projections of average franchise unit performance.  Look closely at these projections.  Do they include a budget allocation for the owner’s salary, healthcare, adequate insurance and other real world expenses associated with running a business?  If there is no allocation for an owner’s salary and benefits and you intend to work full time in the business, beware!

Remember, year-end profits should be your financial return on your invested capital, not your sole source of compensation for working 40 to 70 hours a week to keep the franchise alive!  Of course, the business could fail to generate a profit too which means you as the founder earns nothing for a lot of work.

5. Understand market value

Buy low, then sell high.  If you pay $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to buy into a franchise, then you should find evidence that other franchises can be sold at least for that much or more.  Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.

Research the market for this brand of franchise.  What are the average resale purchase prices in your state?  Who buys up franchises when the owner wants out?  Does the corporate office buy back franchises?  What does the franchise agreement call for?  Frequently, one regional franchise operator buys distressed properties at deep discounts.

Given all the risks associated with owning a business and personal obligation to repay debt, you should walk away from any franchise that cannot eventually be sold for at least two times your invested capital.

Unfortunately, I get too many letters from franchise buyers who are desperate to get out of a money-losing franchise.  They realize they overpaid for a franchise usually within a year of purchase.  They didn’t pay attention to the quantitative issues where they could lose hard cash because the sales reps kept their attention on how great it will be to at last be the boss of a money making business.   At the end of the day, they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any fun as a business owner.

Now you know better.

Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence.  Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the most annoying misconceptions about Marine boot camp

If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.

Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.

So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:


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They’re usually pretty cool. Just don’t piss them off. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Your drill instructor trains you to shoot

Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
You do learn tactics at combat training, however. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)

You learn infantry tactics

This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.

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Usually the morning. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Vivien Alstad)

All you do is PT

There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.

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Don’t piss them off when you get these moments.(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Your drill instructors never stop being mean

At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.

But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.

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It’s not all about crawling under barbed wire. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by WO1 Bobby Yarbrough)

Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult

While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.

If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp, because that’s what it means to be a Marine.


-Feature image: USMC photo by LCpl Jose Gonzalez

Articles

Pentagon denies it tried to quash report on $125 billion in waste

The Defense Department on Tuesday denied it tried to quash a 2015 study that found it could save $125 billion in noncombat administrative programs but admitted it has so far only found a small fraction of those savings.


The department hopes to save $7.9 billion during the next five years through recommendations in the study of back-office waste, which itself cost about $9 million to complete, the Defense Departments acting deputy chief management officer told a House panel.

The study’s original findings as well as a perceived lack of action from the Defense Department riled members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held the hearing on the fate of the report as President Donald Trumps administration plans a $54 billion boost in defense spending by cutting other federal programs such as foreign aid.

Read More: 85,551 things the Pentagon could have bought with that wasted $125 Billion

“I think the one thing I would take unequivocal issue with is that the report was in any way suppressed,” said David Tillotson III, who is acting as the Defense Department deputy chief management officer. “It was actively discussed within the department at the time and it has formed the basis of discussion since that time.”

The study found more than one million Defense Department employees perform noncombat related work, such as human resources, finances, health care management and property management, and $125 billion could be saved by making those operations more efficient. The study was conducted by the Defense Business Board, an advisory body to the Pentagon, and included work by two contracted groups.

The saved money could be enough to fund 50 additional Army brigades or 10 Navy carrier strike group deployments, the Defense Business Board found.

So far, most of the projected $7.9 billion in savings will come from information technology purchases and services contracts, according to Tillotson.

He said finding more savings might be difficult due to the Pentagons long-running resistance to efficiency and audit efforts, and that lawmakers could help with legislation such as a new round of base realignments and closures to help the department shed excess and costly real estate.

“There is an internal challenge, that is our job, we will go fight those battles and in some instances we are assisted by actions on The Hill,” he said.

The Washington Post reported in December that the Pentagon tried to shelve the findings because it feared Congress might use them to slash its budget.

At the time, the chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the report of $125 billion in potential waste was not surprising and both had been working for years to trim back the growth in headquarters staff, civilian workers and contractors.

Lawmakers on Tuesday wanted to know why the department has not used the report to find more savings.

“Did we waste $8-9 million dollars of the taxpayers money on a report on identifying waste in the Pentagon and if we didnt waste it, what have been the savings that came out of this report,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousand Oaks shooting suspect is allegedly a veteran

The suspect of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA, has been identified as U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ian David Long, age 28. The shooting occurred late on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a nightclub where at least 12 people were reportedly killed.

One victim includes a sheriff’s sergeant, Ron Helus.

He had legally obtained the .45-caliber handgun, which, according to BBC, had an extended magazine that allowed it to carry more than its typical capacity. He allegedly killed himself in the nightclub after firing into the crowd. Associated Press also reported that he deployed a smoke device.

As a symbol of respect, a Presidential Proclamation was released ordering the American flag to be flown at half-staff.

To contact the Veterans Crisis Line, veterans, servicemembers, and military families can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. They can also text 838255 or click this link for assistance.

Editor’s Note: This story is breaking. More details will be provided as they emerge.

Articles

10 most common ways troops get thrown out of the military

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a massive collection of rules, regulations, standards and procedures that defines the justice system for those serving according to Uncle Sam. It is federal law enacted by Congress that spells out all the activities that can cause troops to get slapped with an Article 15, Article 32, a court martial, or a host of other not-so-fun punishments.


Servicemembers have all raised their right hands and sworn an oath to protect and defend this nation and its constitution and, by default, they have also agreed, for as long as they’re in uniform, to live according to the rules and regulations of the UCMJ. But, I’m willing to bet 60 days of rollover leave that most of them don’t have a good idea of how severe the consequences often are of violating the UCMJ.

Here are 10 ways servicemembers get themselves into big trouble most often:

1. Failing the whizz quiz

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(Meme: fullbirdprivate.com)

At one point or another, we have all likely been subjected to a “sweep urinalysis,” which tests an entire company for illegal drug use by way of urine samples. Company-wide urine tests are allowed by the UCMJ, but you need to be on the lookout for commanders who order these inspections hoping to single out one specific person – perhaps you – for illegal drug use. Illegal drug use violates Article 112a of the UCMJ and could cost you your military career. Commanders need probable cause to order you to take a urine test, but not for a company-wide urine test. A commander may want to conduct a company-wide urine test to catch one specific person using illegal drugs because they may not have the evidence needed to test this one person. Ordering a company-wide urine test with the goal of catching one person using drugs is not allowed by the UCMJ.

2. Taking one drug to hide another

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(Image: usscreeningsource.com)

As a member of the U.S. Military, you are not allowed to wrongfully possess, sell or use drugs or items used to take drugs (needles, syringes, crack pipes, etc). The Department of Defense (DoD) specifically disallows this in DoD Instruction 1010.04, which addresses “problematic substance use by DoD personnel.” The DoD says drug paraphernalia is anything involved in, meant to be involved in, or meant to hide drug use. This includes things like diuretics taken before a drug test in order to hide drug use. If you are caught using one drug, such as a diuretic, to hide your use of another drug, you could be charged with failure to obey a lawful regulation. This is a violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ.

3. Getting too drunk to remember what happened

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(Photo: art15.com)

There’s nothing in the UCMJ that says service members can’t engage in consensual sex or enjoy alcohol responsibly. But UCMJ violations often appear when a lot of alcohol is mixed with a lot of sex. The extreme consumption of booze is often tied to charges of sexual assault in the military. As a result, it is common for service members to face Article 120 charges under the UCMJ for sexual assault, even when the alleged sexual assault victim does not remember consenting to sex or engaging in any sexual activity at all. The alleged victim’s lack of memory leads to an Article 120 charge and the alleged-person-who-did-the-assaulting’s lack of memory moves the charge forward with nothing to disprove a sexual assault occurred in the first place. No bender, no matter how epic, is worth this risk.

4. Sex with someone who’s underage

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(Image: Buzzfeed.com)

The last thing you want is a visit from “To Catch a Predator’s” Chris Hansen. If you are caught having sex with a minor, you’ll receive much worse than that under the UCMJ. And don’t count on the fact that you “didn’t know he/she was only 16” saving you from the wrath of military prosecutors. It doesn’t matter if the minor consented to sex or if you did or did not know the minor was underage at the time of sex, you will be charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child under the UCMJ anyway. This offense is punishable by up to 20 years of confinement. The cliff note summary here is if he or she looks to be under 18, don’t get involved with him or her. It isn’t worth the punishment or the end of your military career.

5. Sexting using a government phone

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(Photo: vwalways.com)

The next time you feel the need to snap and send a pic of your unmentionables, I recommend thinking twice, especially if you are about to do so with a phone issued to you by Uncle Sam. If you engage in sexting on a government-issued phone, you could be slapped with the charge of failure to obey a lawful general regulation, which violates Article 92 of the UCMJ. You may also be unaware of the real age of the person you are sexting, and sexting a minor could get you charged with online sexual exploitation of a minor, indecent language or exposure, or possibly manufacturing and/or distributing child pornography. These charges all violate Article 134 of the UCMJ or any applicable federal statute. You should also keep in mind that it is very common for text messages to be used as evidence by military prosecutors to help prove adultery and fraternization.

6. Playing fast and loose with marital status

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
(Photo: psychologytoday.com)

Military swingers beware: Your wife or husband’s thumbs up for you to sleep with other men or women will not save you from a conviction under the UCMJ. Your conviction could stem from a charge of adultery in violation of Article 134 of the UCMJ. Adultery, an offense unique to the military that non-military members do not have to worry about (just ask Tiger Woods or Arnold), occurs when a service member has sex with someone who is not his or her spouse or who is married to someone else. Take note that this offense is triggered by both consensual and non-consensual sex.

7. Solving an argument with a fist

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The military promotes confrontation. It is one of the reasons we love serving. But the military also requires good order and discipline and so confrontation and aggression are only allowed under specific circumstances, such as during drills, patrols, and obviously when deployed. Violent confrontation is not allowed by the military whenever and wherever. For instance, if two service members have an argument and agree to a fist fight to settle the disagreement, this is illegal under the UCMJ. If you take this approach to solving your disagreements while enlisted, you’ll likely find yourself charged with assault by battery in violation of Article 128 of the UCMJ.

8. Failure to be not fat

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A negative fitness assessment (FA) or physical training (PT) test failure can have a disastrous impact on your military career. Depending on your status and whether any other poor fitness assessments are already in your records, just one or more failures can cause you to be kicked out of the military. If you feel your FA or PT failure was due to an error, you could challenge it up your chain of command. If you have already tried that or have already been kicked out of the military, you could go to your branch’s Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records (BCMR or BCNR) and request that the error be removed or corrected.

9. Failure to be a snitch

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(Photo: bodybuilding.com)

Let’s say you are deployed to Afghanistan like I was a few short years ago, and you have a friend also stationed there who is a mail clerk. Your friend begins showing up after his shift with all sorts of extra goodies clearly coming from somewhere off base (cigars, video games, home cooked meals, etc.). You ask where he is getting all the loot and he says he has been opening the mail coming into the base and stealing the goods. Your ongoing knowledge of this theft and failure to report it could amount to a conspiracy in violation of Article 81 of the UCMJ.

10. Huffing

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(Image: legalschnauzer.com)

If you positively need to catch a high but are concerned about doing it with drugs that are labeled illegal by the UCMJ, you should know that “huffing” substances like dusting products, glue and gasoline can still get you in trouble with military prosecutors. If you use substances like these to get high, the military cannot punish you using Article 112a of the UCMJ, which addresses the wrongful use of a controlled substance. BUT, the military CAN charge you under Article 92 of the UCMJ for failure to obey a lawful regulation. There are various other branch regulations, such as in the Army and Navy, that also prohibit huffing. My recommendation – stick with runner’s high.

Mat Tully is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mat is the Founding Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, a coast to coast law firm defending the legal rights of servicemembers. The above is not intended as legal advice.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 common VA interview questions and how to prepare for them

Landing a job interview is one of the most exciting and potentially nerve-wracking parts of job hunting. While it’s thrilling to move on in the selection process, it can also feel like a lot is riding on one conversation.

Preparation is key to soothing those pre-interview jitters. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel relaxed and confident so the conversation can flow naturally.


Too bad you can’t get a sneak peek inside the interviewer’s head and learn the questions ahead of time!

Or… can you?

No mind-reading abilities required! We asked two of VA’s national recruiters, Hillary Garcia and Timothy Blakney, for information on VA’s interview process. Here are the six most common VA interview questions and tips on how to prepare for them.

Question: How have you developed and maintained productive working relations with others, even though you may have had differing points of view?

Tip: Come armed with an example or three. In this case, you’ll want to discuss how you worked as a member of a team, including the role you played and how the group interacted.

Question: Tell us about a time where you worked independently without close supervision or support.

Tip: At VA, you’ll sometimes need to make a decision on the fly, so an independent streak is a good thing. Play up your self-directedness. Also, when you describe past examples, don’t forget to mention the result and how your efforts made it possible.

Question: Describe a time when you went above and beyond your job requirements. What motivated you to put forth the extra effort? What was the result of your effort?

Tip: Many interview questions at VA have several parts, like this one. Consider bringing a notebook to jot down notes as questions are being asked so you answer them in full.

Question: Describe a situation where you have not communicated well with a co-worker, supervisor, management official or union official. What was the situation? How did you correct it? What was the outcome?

Tip: Communication abilities are often front and center in a VA interview, so be sure to think about your skills in this area ahead of time. You’ll probably be asked about a professional area of improvement or a time you could have changed how you responded. Answering this type of question thoughtfully demonstrates that you can reflect on and work to perfect your professional roles.

Question: Compare what you know about the job you are interviewing for with your own knowledge and skill. In what areas do you feel you already excel? What areas do you feel you will need to develop?

Tip: Make sure you read over the job announcement closely, especially the duties and specialized experience sections. Then review your own resume and previous experiences, paying particularly close attention to anything that makes you unique.

Question: Tell us about a time you briefed a supervisor or senior management official about bad news and/or results they did not like, along with recommending a different course of action. How did you persuade them to move in a new direction? What were the results?

Tip: Interviewers often ask questions about how you handled a difficult situation, and this can be a tricky one to navigate. You’ll want to think of a tactful example that demonstrates those vital communication abilities, as well as problem-solving and strategic thinking skills. If this was a negative experience, try to give it a positive spin by treating it as a learning opportunity.

Work at VA

Now that you’re feeling ready for a potential interview, a rewarding VA career is just a few steps away!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Humor

7 reasons ‘Enlisted Service Member’ is actually the worst job

A bunch of data crunchers at CareerCast have released their list of the Worst Jobs of 2017 and enlisted military service member was ranked number 4, causing a few headlines.


But seriously, when did the 3 worse jobs (newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and logger) ever have to stir their buddies’ MRE dumps into a diesel mixture and then mix it while it burns?

Here are 7 things CareerCast failed to mention about why being an enlisted service member is actually the worst:

1. The aforementioned MRE dumps

 

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
This is an airman preparing to change out the crappers on his base in Iraq. Yeah, even airmen have to take dumps with their thighs touching sometimes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Stagner)

Look, CareerCast looked at a lot of factors, but they don’t once mention diet and food choices in their methodology. Pretty sure newspaper reporters and broadcasters aren’t stuck eating 5-yr-old brisket and then trying to crap it out after it turns into a brick in their intestines.

2. Multi-year contracts guaranteed by prison time

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Holding a ceremony at the bottom of the ocean makes exactly as much sense as signing away the next four years, so why not do both at once? (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

They did look at “degree of confinement” as one of the “physical factors” of their measurements, but not as an emotional factor. Remember the last time a logger got tired of their job, walked off, and spent the next few years in prison?

No, you don’t. Because the only way that happens is if they set some machinery on fire or crap into someone else’s boots on their way out. But troops can’t quit, and there ain’t no discharge on the ground.

3. Long ruck marches, range days, and multi-day field operations

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Having to patrol 20 miles while wearing 65 pounds of gear is worth a maximum of five points but having tough competition for promotion is worth up to 15 points. (Photo: National Guard Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The list’s method discounts physical factors compared to emotional factors (“stamina” and “necessary energy” both top out at 5 points while facing strong competition for job placement and promotion is worth 15 points on its own).

Ummmm, anyone actually think waiting an extra year or two for promotion is harder than brigade runs every payday, 12.4-mile ruck marches every few months, and having to unload and re-load connexes whenever a lieutenant loses their radio? All so you can go face a nine-man board when you want to get promoted?

4. The barracks

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Who wouldn’t want to live here? (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Drunken parties spill into the hallways just an hour before sergeant major drags everyone out to pick up cigarette butts whether they smoke or not. Idiots knock on your door because they don’t know where their buddy lives, which sucks for you since you have duty in the morning.

But hey, at least your boss’s boss’s boss is going to walk through the building this Friday and critique every detail of how you live. That sounds like something that happens to reporters. Sure.

5. Beards

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Half the reason to go Special Forces is to be able to grow a beard when deployed. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Look, loggers are famous for their beards. And most people in the news and broadcast businesses can grow beards as long as they aren’t on camera.

Enlisted folks, meanwhile, have their faces checked for stubble at 6:30 most mornings.

6. PT Formation

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Speaking of which, that 6:30 formation where they’ll get destroyed for having a beard is the physical training formation, the one where they have to spread out and do a lot of pushups and situps in the cold and dark while wearing t-shirts and shorts because first sergeants have some perverse hatred of winter PTs.

All of that without a beard. It’s tragic.

7. All those extra laws

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a major part of maintaining unit discipline, but man is it annoying to have your own set of laws on top of everyone else’s. And, some of those UCMJ articles basically just say that you have to follow all rules and regulations, which are a couple hundred extra ways to do something illegal.

A sailor who smokes or eats while walking is in violation of NAVPERS 15665I, which is backed up by articles of the UCMJ and federal law Title, U.S. Code 10. Think chowing down on a donut while walking into the office is illegal for loggers, broadcasters, or reporters?

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