U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.
Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.
The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.
New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
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A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.
And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.
An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:
“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.
“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”
Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.
The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.
Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.
An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.
Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.
Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.
Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”
He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”
The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.
They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.
After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.
The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.
The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.
“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”
The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.
Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”
Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy is deploying a hospital ship to assist health care providers in New York who could be strained with resources amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Navy announced that efforts to deploy the USNS Comfort to the state were underway. Cuomo said his discussions with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus were productive, and the plan was approved. The governor activated the state’s National Guard on March 10, as the number of cases in the state jumped to over 2,300 as of Wednesday morning.
“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said on Wednesday morning. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously confirmed he ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying two of its hospital ships, the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, during a press conference on Tuesday. The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, is currently undergoing maintenance; while the Mercy is at port in San Diego, California.
Navy officials stressed that preparations for the Comfort, which have been “expedited,” will take weeks before it is ready to assist. The Mercy is expected to be ready to assist “before the end of this month,” Esper said.
The ships are staffed by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
The two ships will specifically focus on trauma cases if deployed. The plan is to alleviate the burden on traditional hospitals dealing with a high number of patients with the coronavirus.
“Our capabilities are focused on trauma,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “Whether it’s our field hospitals, whether it’s our hospital ships … they don’t have necessarily the segregated space as you need to deal with infectious diseases.”
“One of the ways by which you can use either field hospitals, hospital ships, or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases, and open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases,” he added.
The extended timeline for the Comfort’s deployment was not only incumbent on its scheduled maintenance or the amount of medical equipment on board. The number of qualified medical staff aboard the ship was a primary concern for the Navy, according to Esper.
“The big challenge isn’t necessarily the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals,” Esper said. “All those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves.”
“We’ve got to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states, that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak,” Esper added.
Most of the medical staff for the Comfort is based at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. The ship has made several deployments since 1987, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Airmen from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, are always primed to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend bases around the world. On Oct. 11, 2018, that moment came.
However, they weren’t traveling to faraway lands to set up security in foreign territory. They were driving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, to protect a base that had been ravaged by a category four hurricane one day prior.
“Our sole purpose is to be a global response force,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beil, 822nd BDS base defender. “We have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime, just like that, and secure an entire base.”
Tyndall is only a three and a half hour drive from Moody, but what the 822nd BDS defenders found when they arrived was outside of the expectations many had when setting out.
Airmen from the 822d Base Defense Squadron depart Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as they convoy en route to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to provide base security during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)
“Our group commander told us before we left to keep a sympathetic and empathetic mindset,” Beil said. “I tried to keep that in my head, but nothing could have prepared me for the damage that was done. The first thing that went through my head was that they definitely needed all the help they could get.”
For airmen accustomed to rapid global response, the call to action so close to home brought a whole new set of experiences.
“For them to have us come down here, this was definitely something new,” Beil said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Once we took over, we had new procedures for making sure the right people were getting access to the base.”
Defenders from the 822d Base Defense Squadron load ammunition prior to departing Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to provide base security at Tyndall AFB, Fla., during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)
The many airmen who have joined the recovery team at Tyndall AFB have undertaken a demanding task and produced real results that lend hope to the future of the base.
“The key here has been adaptability,”Beil said. “That’s always been ingrained in us at the squadron, but coming out here to do this has been a true test of that.”
Among the experiences unique to securing a base within the United States, Beil has found comfort in lending a hand while at home.
“For me, it’s heartwarming,” Beil said. “These are Americans I’m surrounded by. They appreciate the work that we do for them. They appreciate how we’re here trying to represent the Air Force and making sure everyone is safe. We’re the first faces that they see when they come through the gate.”
North and South Korean troops have started to disarm their heavily fortified border as part of reconciliation efforts between the nations.
Starting on Oct. 1, 2018, Seoul and Pyongyang began removing all the land mines from the Joint Security Area (JSA), located along the 155-mile Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries.
The project will take place over the next 20 days, according to the South’s defense ministry. The move is part of the agreement reached between the South’s President Moon Jae-In and the North’s Kim Jong Un in September 2018 in Pyongyang, where they promised to halt “all hostile acts” against each other and remove threats of war.
Ri Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Kim Jong-sook during the 2018 inter-Korean summit.
The deal also calls for the removal of guard posts and weapons from the JSA. According to Reuters, the troops who remain will be unarmed. The JSA is the only point on the border where troops from both sides come face to face.
The two sides have already taken steps to cool tensions in the region.
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. For better or for worse, we compiled some of the more colorful Whispers.
Nearly 74 years ago, in the skies over Hansa Bay on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly, Jr. was crewing a B-24 bomber named “Heaven Can Wait.” He and ten other crewmen were on a mission to destroy Japanese anti-aircraft batteries when, suddenly, his aircraft was struck, sending it crashing into the ocean below.
The wreckage and those on board were lost to the sea — until May 2018.
The crew of “Heaven Can Wait.” 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly is pictured in the center, top row.
On that fateful day, March 11th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kelly’s struggle ended — but for those he had left behind back home, it had just begun. Wracked with grief and left without closure, his family pieced together whatever information they could find — eyewitness accounts from military reports, mission documents, diary entries, etc. — to try and better understand. But without help, there would be no conclusion. That’s when Project Recover got involved.
Project Recover makes uses of the most sophisticated underwater imaging technology to find the once-unrecoverable.
Project Recover was established 2012 with the goal of locating the underwater resting places of the 72,000 Americans that have gone missing in action since World War II. Through a partnership between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the BentProp Project, the organization uses sophisticated, modern technologies to find those once deemed unrecoverable.
The northern end of Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Upon receiving the compiled evidence, Project Recover set out to Papau New Guinea in October 2017, with aims of searching for 5 sunken U.S. aircraft that accounted for 24 MIA. After carefully reviewing the documents and conducting an archaeological study, the team determined that “Heaven Can Wait” was resting somewhere in the north end of Hansa Bay.
It was there, after 11 days of searching across 27 square kilometers of sea floor, that they found her under 213 feet of water.
What remained of “Heaven Can Wait”
“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of “Heaven Can Wait” who bravely served our country,” said Dan Friedkin, a member of Project Recover and CEO of The Friedkin Group, whose substantial contribution to the Project made the trip to Papau New Guinea possible.
Since their discovery, a process has begun with the U.S. government to, hopefully, recover and identify the remains of the up to 11 crew members aboard “Heaven Can Wait.” In the last five months, there have been three repatriation ceremonies for veterans who served in World War II — all of which are a direct result of Project Recovery’s work — but much remains to be done.
Dan Friedkin stated, with determination, that the organization’s “search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue.”
For more about Project Recover, be sure to visit their website. For all the details on the amazing story surrounding the recovery of “Heaven Can Wait,” watch the video below.
Tension and confusion gripped a train platform in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok on April 23, 2019, when North Korean Kim Jong Un’s bullet-proof armored train pulled in for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both Putin and Kim are known for making grand entrances and power moves like showing up late to meetings with world leaders. But Kim on April 23, 2019, appeared delayed due to a gaffe.
Kim arrived via train, as is his family’s custom and perhaps a clever way to avoid admitting his country has few working aircraft — but something was amiss.
When Kim’s train pulled into the station, it slightly overshot a red carpet laid out in advance for his big stepping-out moment.
While Kim maintains a horrific human rights record at home, he has been increasingly courted by world leaders looking to curb his country’s growing nuclear capabilities.
Apparently, Kim’s security detail found it unacceptable that he should walk on anything besides the red carpet, and had to stand there awkwardly holding a ramp while the train repositioned.
The meeting between Putin and Kim represents just the fourth official summit with a world leader for Kim. Putin, however, has met with most national leaders across Asia.
Russia and North Korea have historical ties of friendship, though the relations became strained during North Korea’s long nuclear breakout.
Upon arrival, Kim appeared to shake off any embarrassment from the train gaffe and quickly spoke to Russian media, a rare step from a leader who previously only spoke through North Korean state outlets.
Kim’s visit to Russia comes at a time when US-North Korean talks have stalled over a basic misunderstanding over the pacing of denuclearization steps and sanctions easing.
North Korea recently publicized the testing of a “tactical” weapon, potentially as a warning to the US that if talks collapse, missile launches and “fire and fury” could again become the norm.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force’s pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.
As a result, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.
“Should we go with a ‘fly-only’ track?” Gen. Carlton Everhart II said in an interview July 26.
Everhart said he envisions something like this: “You stay with me for 20 years, and I let you fly. You … could maybe [make] lieutenant colonel, but you may not make higher than that.”
“Then, [we] allow you to stay at your home station for three to four years instead of two to three, so you can get some longevity,” he continued. “Then, it’s not just [flying airlift cargo or tanker planes]. You could go to [Air Education and Training Command] and help out there for three to four years to help bring on new pilots.”
“To sweeten the deal, as you come into your career, maybe in the last four years, we allow you on a ‘dream sheet’ to put your top three choices, try to get you moved to there so you can establish your family and where you want to retire,” he said.
Everhart said the ‘fly-only’ effort would still encompass wing, squadron, and group duties and deployments but — bottom line — “it’s longevity.”
The same aviator retention bonuses would also apply, he said.
“The idea being explored is seeking airmen volunteers for a professional ‘fly-only’ aviator track comprised of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the AMC flying force,” said Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for the command, in an email. “This small group of airmen would be linked to flying jobs throughout a career.”
AMC has nearly 49,000 active-duty members and civilians; 42,000 Air Reserve component military; and 35,000 Air National Guard members, according to the command.
The mobility Air Forces has roughly 8,500 total force pilots. Throughout the Air Force, active-duty mobility pilots total 5,125, Karns said. Active-duty pilots assigned to AMC installations total 2,866.
How airmen will be selected for the ‘fly-only’ program is still being determined, the officials said, as well as how many will be involved.
Everhart said his teams are looking at the program to establish more fixed methodology behind the effort, but would like to “look at it in the next three to four months” to begin a trial run.
“There’s certain things we have to do to code these folks … and I’ve introduced the notion and got a tentative nod from [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein],” he said. “I think there’s merit there, but I’ve just got to work all the way through it, then do the small group tryout and see where we go.”
“I’m not taking anything off the table because I need them with me, I need them to fly with me,” he said.
The Issues Wearing Out Pilots
Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have said the service was 1,544 pilots short by fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots — with the deficit expected to grow.
Everhart said the Air Force stands potentially to lose 1,600 pilots who are eligible to separate from the service in the next four years.
He has been working with an AMC aviation retention task force for the past few months, trying to come up with recommendations as a result of airman feedback.
That feedback includes: Flying has become secondary to administrative duties; airmen desire more stability for themselves and their families; they lack support personnel; and they fear the impact of service politics on their career paths.
Airman feedback has resulted in one concrete move — the removal of additional duties, a common complaint.
In August, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as “additional duties” typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. It has since cut 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”
Some duties were reassigned to commander support staffs, and civilians will be hired to take on some other duties in coming months.
Other areas are also getting scrutiny: Officials are looking at accession and promotion rates, giving commanders more freedom to think of creative solutions, and working with US Transportation Command to look at deployment requirements, Everhart said.
“We’re working hand-in-hand with headquarters Air Force A3 … so we don’t get in crossways with each other, and can we, as solution sets, put these across the entire broad perspective of the Air Force,” he said, referring to Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, head of operations, plans and requirements.
He’s also in communication with Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the Air Force’s chief of manpower, personnel, and services, and the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, he said.
Lessons learned from these discussions and trial programs could then be applied to the fighter pilot community, Everhart said, but that’s still a ways out.
But the Air Force is not the only organization in crisis.
Working With Civilian Airlines
Boeing Co., the US’ largest aerospace company, on July 26 said it predicts that in the next 20 years, North American airline companies will need 117,000 new pilots to keep up with commercial demands, CNN reported.
Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.
Last May, the Air Force met with representatives from civilian airline corporations such as American Airlines and United; academic institutions such as Embry Riddle University, an aeronautical university; civil reserve airfleet institutions such as FedEx; and Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy.
The groups established working areas, Karns said, that need critical attention, such as exploring ways to make a career in aviation more desirable; finding ways to reduce the cost of earning a civilian aviation certification — for example, a debt relief program; looking at enhanced data analysis to establish a baseline for what is actually required to meet national pilot need; exploring potential alternate pathways to becoming a pilot — possibly by accelerating timelines; and improving the effectiveness of “shared resources” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.
“We’ve got another airline meeting coming up in September,” Everhart said, in which leaders will discuss the secondary phases for these working areas.
“We need to instill in the hearts of our American public what … aviation is all about,” he said.
Rotating Air Force Assets
AMC already employs a rotational system to keep its aircraft sustainable longer.
“In an effort to extend the life service of various mobility fleets and enhance aircraft availability, we’re looking to work with the Guard and Reserve to rotate aircraft more regularly and consistently to avoid disproportionate wear-and-tear on systems,” Karns said. “What has been known as enterprise fleet management is adjusting to what is called ‘Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet.’ ”
The system rotates aircraft from the three components more often in order to “shrink … and no longer have that airlift gap,” Capt. Theresa Izell, a maintenance officer, said in March during an AMC media day at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Could that system be applied to the pilot gap — moving pilots flying various platforms throughout, or qualifying pilots to fly more platforms?
“I think you’ve got something there,” Everhart said. “I think we already do that with cross training. We do some cross training for airframes as far as pilots flying tankers versus cargo, but I have to explore that more. I haven’t looked at it from the human dynamic prospect — and I think that’s something to pull back [on]. I love it.”
Love for Country
Everhart reiterated that time in service always comes back to the willingness to serve.
In June, the Air Force unveiled a new tiered Aviation Bonus Program, an expansion of Aviator Retention Pay that puts into place the cap authorized for the incentive under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.
Should they choose to stay, fighter and drone pilots, for example, are slated to receive the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year, while special operations combat systems officers would receive the least at $10,000. Officers have until Oct. 1 to decide whether they want to extend their service.
The number of pilots taking the aviator retention bonus for AMC has also slightly declined, Karns said. In 2015, the “take-rate” of pilots choosing the bonus and choosing to re-up into the Air Force was 56 percent; in 2016, that number dropped to 48 percent, Karns said.
While bonuses matter, Everhart reiterated it’s not always about the money.
“They stay in the military because what’s in their heart, and their service to America. They really believe [in] an American fighting force. That’s why they stay,” he said.
“The bonus? Sure, that’s sweet. But that’s not why I stayed,” Everhart said. “I stayed because it’s service to the nation. And that’s what I’m finding out across the board” from other pilots.
The most expensive weapons system under the Air Force’s $17.9 billion research, development, test, and evaluation funding request for 2016 is also without a doubt the most mysterious.
Under the proposed 2016 budget, the Air Force has requested an allocation of $1.2 billion for its Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program, according to Defense News. The program, which is expected to reach initial operating capability by the mid-2020s, envisions the construction of 80 to 100 planes with an estimated unit cost of $550 million each (though the actual cost will most likely be much higher).
The LRS-B is being billed as the successor to the US Air Force’s B-2 Stealth Bomber. Last summer, the Air Force opened a competition for the development and construction of the plane. Northrop Grumman, the developer of the B-2, and a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin are vying for the chance to build the LRS-B.
Alongside the F-35 and the KC-46 aerial refueling plane, the LRS-B is one of the Air Force’s top three priorities for future research and acquisition.
“I think the long-range strike bomber is absolutely essential to keep our deterrent edge as we go into the next 25 years,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a town-hall meeting at Whiteman Air Force Base.
The focus on the development of the LRS-B, alongside the F-35 and the KC-46, is aimed toward the Air Force’s having a “family of systems” approach in which each airframe seamlessly complements the others during operations.
“Everyone focuses on ‘the fighter,'” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told National Defense Magazine. “But the answer to next generation air dominance is likely to be a family, like the long-range bomber.”
It’s a rite of passage for veterans. The morning of the day they’re set to receive their DD-214 is one of the last times for a long time that many vets will pick up a razor. Some still shave to maintain a professional appearance when they enter the civilian workforce, but the most important thing is that it’s their choice to give their face a trim.
Those veterans who do decide to sport their well-earned lumberjack style may run into a few speed bumps along the way. The vet beard isn’t for everyone — but those who can rock it look like glorious vikings ready to storm the bar and take every keg of beer with them.
If you’re struggling to keep up with these majestic-as-f*ck vets, here’s a few pointers:
Growing a beard is actually pretty easy. You just have to wait.
(Cpl. Brandon Burns, USMC)
Patience is a virtue.
A great beard takes time. Throughout the growing process, there’ll be many great moments, like the point where your mustache gives you an 80s action-hero look. But then it’ll grow longer to the point where you’re getting a mouthful of mustache whenever you take a bite of food — not to mention the constant itchiness. But you’ll have to endure if you want that vet beard.
Many of the these downsides can be addressed with proper care. As long as you treat your beard right, you can minimize the downsides and simply enjoy envious looks from your peers.
If Luke Skywalker can keep his hair and beard on point despite being on some deserted planet for years, you can take a few seconds out of your day to put some shampoo in yours.
Your beard is still hair. Use conditioner and brush it.
It’s surprising how few people actually care for their beard as it’s growing out. You shampoo and condition the hair on top of your head in the shower, why skip the hair on your chin?
You can also brush it to keep it in proper form after you’re done in the shower. This also helps get out all the accidental bits of food that occasionally get trapped in there. Using conditioner and regularly brushing will help the scratchiness of your beard and help it from basically becoming Velcro on everything.
If you know what you’re buying, it’s fine. Just don’t expect much other than a slightly more luscious beard that smells nice.
(Photo by Marc Tasman)
Beard oil isn’t some magical, instant-beard formula
Oils are (usually) exactly what is being advertised. They’ll help if you think of it more like a leave-in conditioner that will make your beard smell nice, but many people who buy beard oils are under the impression that it’s more like a type of Rogaine for your face — it’s just not going to immediately give you something like in that episode of Dexter’s Laboratory.
Oils marketed to promote “beard growth” will actually make your beard grow in healthier and prevent breakage, so your beard will appear thicker and longer, but it still won’t happen over night.
Kind of like how Mat Best does it. Still professional, yet bearded.
Trim it down to maintain a professional appearance
If you’re down with looking like a bum, by all means; you can do whatever you want with your facial hair in the civilian world. That’s your choice now. Still, if you’re looking to make strides in the professional world, first-impressions are important — arguably more important than an extensive resume.
Even if your beard puts a Civil War general to shame, tidy it up with a pair of scissors to keep an organized appearance. You can also shave off the under-chin and the scraggly bits on your cheek to make your beard growth look intentional.
I’m going to go out on a limb as say that the dudes from ZZ Top don’t care about touring in the northern states during the winter.
(Photo by Ralph Arvesen)
If you can endure the summer heat, you’ll do well in the winter
Summers suck with long beards, but things start getting better after Labor Day. If you live an active lifestyle, no one will fault you for cutting it down in the summers to keep the sweat out. But don’t chop it all off if you want a head start when things cool down and you’ll probably look like a thirteen year old when you do.
Soldier through it and, when the winter chills start hitting your chin come December, you’ll be happy you took the extra few months to grow your own face protection.
Or shave it however you want, like what Tim Kennedy does every now and then. Welcome to the civilian world, where you have options again!
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)
There’s no shame in shaving what you can’t grow
The ability to grow beards is entirely hereditary. If your dad could grow a bear, you’re probably good. But the person you should probably look toward for a better indication of your potential beardliness is if your maternal grandfather. That’s just how it works; genetics are funny.
It’s all a roll of the dice. If your face is better suited for a goatee, rock it. If your granddad could be confused with Gandalf, go all out. If you can’t grow a beard, embrace it. That’s just you.
The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.
There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.
“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”
The bug-out bag in your trunk.
This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.
To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?
Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.
Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.
How to gain credibility in one easy photo.
Staring at everyone’s shoes.
Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.
Eating too fast.
How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.
Carrying everything in your left hand.
When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.
When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.
Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it.
There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.