Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.
The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.
The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.
The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.
Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.
“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”
Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.
“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”
Experts fear that the hackers’ alleged theft of employees’ SF86 forms — a 120-page questionnaire detailing the personal history of anyone applying for government security clearance — from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) could be used to blackmail, exploit, or recruit US intelligence officers.
Joel Brenner, who from 2006 to 2009 served as the Intelligence Community’s top counterintelligence official, described the hack to AP as “crown jewels material, a goldmine” for China, adding: “This is not the end of American human intelligence, but it’s a significant blow.”
The SF86 form is an exhaustive examination of the applicant’s life, including their financial records (including gambling addictions and any outstanding debt), drug use, alcoholism, arrests, psychological and emotional health, foreign travel, foreign contacts, and an extensive list of all relatives.
“I’m really glad to be out of the game,” a recently retired CIA senior operations officer told former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler in a Daily Beast article.
“There’s bad, there’s worse—and there’s this,” he said, referring to the breach. “CIA officers are not supposed to be anywhere in OPM files, but I’m glad I’m not posted overseas right now, hoping that’s true.”
“When you add this to Snowden, it’s really not a good time to be posted abroad anywhere less safe than maybe Canada or Australia,” a currently-serving CIA officer told Schindler.
The OPM “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies,” Reuters reported last week.
The government agency also stores the results of polygraph tests, which is “really bad, because the goal of government-administered polygraph tests is to uncover any blackmailable information about its employees before it can be used against them,” Michael Borohovski, CEO of Tinfoil Security, told Business Insider on Friday. “So it’s really a goldmine of blackmail for intruders.”
Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.
With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?
Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.
However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadlyattacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.
Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.
As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.
Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.
(U.S. Army photo)
The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.
To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.
There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.
Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.
The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.
“How can we serve them best?”
For Burnett, the mission is personal
“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.
“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”
Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.
“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”
For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.
And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”
Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population
“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.
“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.
“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.
“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Yes, #notallPOGs and all that. But seriously Persons Other than Grunts, the range rules aren’t that crazy. First, learn to safely handle your weapon. Second, learn to fire your weapon. And third, get off the range without embarrassing yourself.
Unfortunately, these 6 things manage to pop up every time POGs go to the range en masse:
1. Targets that look like they were hit with birdshot
“Are you changing your sight picture?”
“Shut up. Yes, you are.”
2. Truly baffling weapons malfunctions
The Army’s acronym for fixing weapon problems, O-SPORTS, is only effective against actual weapons malfunctions. It does little for operators who load their magazines upside down or don’t realize they can run out of ammunition.
3. So. many. safety. violations.
See how this guy lowers his weapon when some schoolchildren move in front of him? And he doesn’t have to be told to not point his weapon at something he doesn’t want to shoot? Yeah, it’s not very complicated, POGs. All weapons should be pointed up and downrange when they’re not being aimed at targets. Stop flagging each other on the range.
4. MRE Alternatives
When infantry goes to the field, they bring MREs and possibly even sleeping systems and tents to stay out there for a few days. Some POGs will at least bring MREs while others … others make arrangements with a gut truck or ice cream van.
5. “Easter basket” helmets and other uniform violations
Helmet chin straps dangling like the soldier is in a John Wayne movie, troops carrying helmets by the chin strap like it’s an Easter Basket, mirrored sunglasses, armor lacking rank insignia or name tapes, the potentially catastrophic uniform violations are everywhere. It’s all a sergeant major’s nightmare.
6. “Clean” weapons that will never be accepted by an armorer
POGs will always declare their weapon clean after 30 minutes and then be surprised when the armorer turns them away to re-clean before they can turn in. Have you cleaned the star chamber with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until you went mildly crazy? Then it’s not clean yet.
And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.
American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.
And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.
Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.
“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.
“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.
While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.
“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”
And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.
“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.
He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”
Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.
Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.
“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”
Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.
Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.
Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.
Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”
“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”
Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”
With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.
Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.
The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.
Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”
Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”
On August 14, 1945, US President Harry Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, thereby ending World War II.
The surrender came after months of bombing raids across the Japanese countryside, two atomic bombs, and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on the island nation.
The iron resolve of the Japanese was a major factor the US anticipated while planning the invasion of mainland Japan. The culture known for literally putting death before dishonor with practices such as hara-kiri would not, by any stretch of the imagination, go softly into surrender.
This badly hurt Japanese morale as Yutaka Akabane, a senior-level civil servant, observed: “It was the raids on the medium and smaller cities which had the worst effect and really brought home to the people the experience of bombing and a demoralization of faith in the outcome of the war.”
But despite several bombing raids a week in the beginning of 1945, and the resulting displacement of 5 million people, the Japanese remained resolute.
And as US forces prepared a ground invasion, they were acutely aware of the challenges they faced against an iron-willed Japanese population.
The planning committee for the US invasion expected that “operations in this area will be opposed not only by the available organized military forces of the Empire, but also by a fanatically hostile population.”
Nevertheless, the Allied forces prepared to send 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, and 400 destroyer ships and escorts to Japan’s coast. The Allies expected 456,000 deaths in the invasion of Japan’s military stronghold at the island of Kyushu alone.
In preparation for what everyone expected to be a bloody, prolonged clash, the US government manufactured 500,000 Purple Hearts to be awarded to troops wounded in the invasion.
At the same time, 32 million Japanese braced for war. That figure includes all men ages 15 to 60, and all women ages 17 to 45. The US anticipated them to bear whatever weapons they could muster, from bamboo spears, to antique cannons, to machine guns.
Children had even been trained to act as suicide bombers, strapping explosives to themselves and rolling under Allied tank treads.
After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where 140,000 lost their lives, on August 8, the USSR then declared war on Japan as well, and on the next day they attacked Japanese-occupied Manchuria, China. On that same day, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000 instantly.
Japan had previously been presented the Potsdam Declaration, or terms for an unconditional surrender, but the country had refused it.
Even after the two atomic bombs, Japan would not surrender for fear of how Emperor Hirohito would be treated after the war.
Emperor Hirohito was not merely a constitutional monarch, but a living god in the eyes of the Japanese. They would not see him treated as a war criminal by Allied forces — and after Pearl Harbor and 20 million or so Asian lives lost to Japanese imperialism, the Allies would accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender.
Japan and the Allies spent mid-August arguing over the exact language of the surrender, but on August 15, Emperor Hirohito addressed his nation via radio for the first time ever to announce the country’s surrender. Because of a difference in time zones, this anniversary is remembered on August 14 in the US.
Just last month, Japan officially released the master audio recording of Hirohito’s surrender. A version of this recording can be heard below:
The infantry is an enigma. There are legitimate advantages to have the 03 or 11B military occupational specialty. There are also no-so-legit advantages for trigger pullers as well. Soldiers and Marines can put aside their branch rivalries and bond over their experiences in theater. The differences in conduct and promotions vary among the other jobs in the military. The advantages continue after their service if they choose to continue to work for the government.
1. The job has an element of prestige
When a civilian asks what one does in the military and the response is infantry, they have a general idea of what we do. Grunts do not have to feel with the condescending, disappointed ‘oh’ when personnel other than grunts say they do a non-combat job. Sometimes civilians are just ignorant, they want immediate gratification. Forgive the civilian, they simply do not know what they do not know. When they meet a troop they want to hear you have a high speed, low drag occupation. Infantrymen do not have that problem.
When infantrymen retire as staff NCOs or officers there are jobs in the Department of Defense that are unofficially reserved just for them. Uncle Sam has a seat for those willing to continue their service to their country after their contracts have ended.
2. They shine brighter on promotion boards
When infantrymen switch military occupational specialties into other fields, they quickly climb the ranks. Their service records are more impressive, they’ve earned more awards, and they’ve lead troops in battle. Its hard to have a meritorious board not take any of that into consideration. When a former infantryman switches to a new field there is an expectation they will succeed – and they do. A both a non-infantry and grunt can check all the boxes, but the POG can’t deploy back in time to a time of war.
3. The way infantry junior troops respect seniors
When I was in the Marine Corps I joined with several friends during the surge. Together we covered different MOS: Infantry, engineer, airwin and cook. When we became noncomissioned officers it was night and day whose troop are whose. The cook’s behavior was borderline disrespectful compared to grunt juniors. It was far too casual for the likes of anyone in a line company. The engineers didn’t fair too much better but they at least took hierarchy a little more seriously. The air wingers are just weird.
In the end your juniors are a reflection of yourself. Some NCOs prefer a more relaxed environment while other prefer tact and instant obedience to orders. There is something missing from the way other fields react when being issued an order that just rubs grunts the wrong way.
4. Infantry Drill Instructors have a secret mafia
Similar to the advantage of switching to another MOS, infantrymen who go drill instructor have a whole other advantage to POGs. Becoming a drill instructor is a fraternity within a fraternity. When one observes the chain of command’s staff non commissioned officers, I will bet my last dollar most are former drill hats. The drill field is one bridge between grunts and others.
However, that same experience gives one an edge on promotion boards. So, while two E5s stationed at boot camp fulfill their billet commitment, infantrymen will be more bias to award the grunt. When that, now E6, returns to their MOS they will have that same favorable bias for becoming drill instructors. Think of it as the universe balancing itself out for years of slow promotions as a lower enlisted. Drill Instructors do a lot of work, so, it isn’t free chevrons by any means.
5. The MPs don’t roll by the barracks
An infantry barracks is a no man’s land for military police. They may show up occasionally but they will not patrol certain areas as if it was downtown Detroit. I vividly remember seeing a patrol car showing up to a non infantry barracks during weekend parties to establish a presence. Those MPs are absent during the debauchery unfolding at our barracks.
My first experience in the fleet was a battalion formation with a livid colonel chewing out everybody. Apparently, alpha company and charlie company’s rivalry escaladed into a unit wide brawl with reinforcements from bravo and weapons company. When the MPs showed up half naked Marines disarmed the MPs and beat them with their own batons. The commander’s main point was that just because the unit returned from Iraq doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. There were no arrests because they could not get a single witness statement or detainees.
That was my second week in the fleet. I rarely saw MPs show up around our area throughout my career in the Corps. In the infantry there is a code of silence. It is true what they say, the infantry is the biggest gang in the world and the cops know it.
During my years and years of deployments, training, and schools I learned to make due with very little and be very thankful for what little I had. I have eaten road kill unsure of what animal it was, dumpster dived, slept under tarps, taken whore baths in wells and rivers, stolen food from a VIP reception, and crapped in more holes than any man should have to in a hundred lifetimes.
When you are a soldier in the field, it’s the little things in life that bring happiness.
And when I say ‘the field,’ I don’t mean the Forward Operating Base where you have access to a hot shower, a computer, hot chow, and a PX. I mean the field, the boonies, Indian country, anything outside the wire where nothing separates you and the enemy but air and a faded, worn out, torn uniform that reeks of sweat, field nuts, and ass.
So what are some of these amenities that make us field soldiers so happy?
Here’s a list of seven things that brought me the most joy when forward deployed to whatever asscrackistan country I was in.
Anyone who has ever been to combat will tell you there are two things you must take care of: your weapon and your feet. People with bad feet typically do not make it into the Infantry and certainly don’t make it into Special Operations. Your feet get you where you are going, literally. When the rest of your body looks and smells like a bag of smashed assholes, nothing can raise your spirits like putting on a clean pair of socks.
The woobie or field blanket, also known as the poncho liner, is one of the Army’s greatest inventions. There is nothing more comforting when exhausted, soaking wet or freezing than crawling under the warmth of a woobie. I never paid much attention to the Linus character from Charlie Brown when I was growing up except to make fun of the guy for hauling around his favorite blanket. As soon as I went on my first field training exercise, I knew Linus was onto something (minus the thumb sucking). As a matter of fact, I found woobies so comfortable and comforting that I carried two in my ruck for years and even slept between the two for months after finishing Ranger school.
3. Baby wipes
These beautiful little inventions, originally meant for baby tushes, are the field soldier’s best friend. One of the most over-looked issues with being in the field is sanitation and hygiene. Nothing will knock out a soldier or an Army like disease. In many cases soldiers spend days, weeks or months in the field without showers. Baby wipes let you clean the cheese from between your toes, nut sweat, arm pits and then your hands before packing that glorious dip of snuff after a patrol.
Everyone remembers the first pair of Army boots. The kind you got in basic training. You know the ones that have been unchanged since World War 1. They were designed by some sadomasochist who gave them the comfort level of walking on plywood and ensured they did not break-in until near the end of training. Recently, the Army got a clue and started investing in good boots. I think it was because they were finally starting to see that forcing soldiers to wear 80 pounds of “lightweight” equipment was taking its toll on the force. I always deployed with four pairs of boots — yep, four. The first pair was what was issued to me and was the Army directed pair for wearing with BDU/ACU for ceremonies. The second was my favorite pair of extreme hot weather boots made by Merrell. I used them for light patrolling, going to the range and training. The third was a pair of Asolo’s for hot weather as well but for hiking and more sturdy for wearing full or assaulter’s kit. Finally, my most favorite was my winter boots made by Lowa. Putting them on was like putting on a pair of leather gloves. My feet would immediately break into a happy dance and thank me profusely.
5. Foot powder
It is not just for feet anymore. The next critical comfort item was foot powder, but not just any foot powder, Gold Bond. That stuff is divinely inspired and could turn any wet, cold, sweaty and aching feet or crotch into a place of immense happiness and joy. Combined with a clean pair of socks, and comfortable boots, we can simply label it “me time.”
There are many things in life you must become accustomed to when you are in the Infantry. Being hungry and tired are two of them. As an Infantryman you need to be alert at all times. Not much in life can help you get over being hungry or tired like tobacco. Smoking can be seen and smelled by the enemy. Is tobacco bad for you, yes; but so is getting shot or blown up. Snuff has always been my solution. I always felt the best thing about eating the putrid tasting MRE was the dip afterward. Nothing in life tastes better after a firefight than a dip of Copenhagen . . . nothing . . . except maybe beer and bourbon.
7. Toilet paper
No, I don’t mean those thin pieces of tissue someone put in the MRE’s as a joke. (Whatever bean counter that chose that cheap stuff to go in the rations should have his ass kicked.) I mean real, tickle-your-grommet-while-cleaning-all-the-shit-off-you, toilet paper – the stuff they advertise using cartoon bears on TV. There are essentially two kinds of toilet paper in this world, the good kind and the Army kind. The super cheap toilet paper the army buys is dubbed ‘John Wayne’ paper because it is tough as leather and won’t take any shit. (It can also be used as high grit sand paper.) If you’ve ever taken a shit in the field you know that things can literally be blowing up all around you, but if you have the right toilet paper when you need it all is truly right with the world.
The SR-71 Blackbird is the arguably the most popular and easily recognizable airframe ever used by the U.S. Air Force. It maintains the speed record it set back in 1976 (even with a broken engine). The Blackbird’s missile evasion technique is legendary; it simply flew faster than the whatever was chasing it.
Not one SR-71 was ever shot down.
It could take a full photo of the entire country of North Korea in seven minutes and fly across the entire United States, lengthwise, in just over an hour.
Not bad, but that capability didn’t happen overnight. The Air Force actually developed more than one supersonic plane for its reconnaissance and strike missions.
1. XB-70 Valkyrie
Only 2 of North American Aviation’s B-70 bombers were ever built, and the program only lasted for the five years between 1964 and 1969. The Valkyrie was a six-engine bomber, capable of flying Mach 3, designed to outrun enemy interceptor aircraft with speed and altitude. At the time, interception was the only defense against bombers.
Surface-to-air missiles changed the game.
The XB-70 was still fast enough to fool radar, but its limited range and expense made the B-52 a more economically efficient choice for production. Though short-lived, the Valkyrie did blaze a trail for the structural dynamics that would be so crucial to the SR-71.
Not to be confused with the later naval stealth fighter proposal dubbed the A-12 Avenger II, the A-12 Archangel was a recon aircraft developed by Lockheed for the CIA between 1962 and 1967. The defense giant’s “Skunk Works,” the nickname given to its Advanced Development Programs department, developed the A-12 for the CIA’s Oxcart Operation.
Oxcart was the agency’s effort to replace the U-2 spy plane after it became increasingly susceptible to Soviet SAMs. They were wildly successful – the planes boasted a host of new technologies designed just for the program. They were built with titanium to handle hypersonic speeds (strangely obtained from the Soviet Union).
Though designed to fly over Cuba and the USSR, the Lockheed A-12 never executed that mission. It flew over North Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo Crisis.
The North Vietnamese were able to track the A-12 via radar, and routinely launched missiles at it. It never took a direct hit from a SAM but did get debris from an exploding missile lodged in its fuselage.
Since the A-12 was never going to fly over the Soviet Union and the use of satellite photography was on the rise, the program was scrapped almost as soon as it had begun. The A-12s were either stored in Palmdale, California, or sent to museums.
The M-21 variant of the A-12 was designed to carry the Lockheed D-12 Drone. This variation had a cockpit for the drone’s launch control officer who released the autonomous drone which was mounted on the back of the M-21 airframe.
The D-21 was launched from the back of the A-12. Once its mission was complete, the drone would eject the data it collected at a preprogrammed point and then self-destruct. The ejected data was caught in mid-air by a C-130.
This program was canceled in 1966 when a drone collided in midair with its launcher. The M-21 crew all bailed out, except for the LCO. From then on, the D-21 would be launched from under the wing of a B-52.
4. Lockheed YF-12
The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the A-12. Designed to be an interceptor, the YF-12 set the speed records that would only be surpassed by the legendary SR-71. It also has the distinction of being a publicly announced aircraft, which had benefits of keeping the A-12 a secret because the public couldn’t tell the difference.
The cost of the Vietnam War kept the YF-12 from the Air Force inventory. And by the time the funds were available, the YF-12 wasn’t necessary to defend the mainland U.S., so the program was scrapped.
The aircraft did successfully test the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which was the predecessor to the Phoenix missiles. The YF-12 also tested how AWACS could command bombers in a tactical environment, which later helped the development of the B-1 Bomber.
The YF-12 also tested how engine inlet performance affected airframe for NASA, as well as issues related to propulsion interaction, boundary layer noise, heat transfer under high-mach conditions, and altitude hold at supersonic speeds – all necessary to develop the SR-71, not to mention the Space Shuttle program.
The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.
Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.
If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.
“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”
She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.
In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.
(US Navy photo)
“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.
“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”
As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.
There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.
The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov in contradiction to signed treaties and the Law of the Sea show that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018.
The secretary spoke to reporters while awaiting the arrival of Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis for a meeting.
Over the weekend, Russia barred the Kerch Strait at the mouth of the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula. Russian sailors opened fire and wounded at least three Ukrainian sailors in the seizure of two armored naval vessels and a tugboat.
Mattis noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the action on behalf of the 29 NATO allies and called for “calm and restraint.” The NATO official also called for Russia to release the ships and sailors immediately.
“It was obviously a flagrant violation of international law, it was I think a cavalier use force that injured Ukrainian sailors,” Mattis told reporters. “It was contempt, really, for the traditional ways of settling these kinds of concerns if they had any. When you think there is a treaty between the two countries that prohibits exactly what happened, it just shows that Russia cannot be counted on now to keep its word.”
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
During a Nov. 26, 2018 news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance members “expressed their full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
“We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” he added. The secretary general’s statement came after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
The incident is the latest escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine that started when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. NATO’s position since the annexation has been consistent: The United States and all NATO allies condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
Stoltenberg said Russia must end its support to militant groups in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.
The escalation is the latest in Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “The Russian move poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO provides support to Ukraine and its people. The United States and the other NATO allies sanctioned Russia for its moves.