How to do the military spouse career balancing act - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to do the military spouse career balancing act

Military spouse careers are a unique balancing act. We are always teetering between what is best for ourselves, our military members and our families. The military lifestyle means many things are out of our control. What can spouses control in this uncertain, often stressful, amazing adventure called military life?


Control Over Our Careers

We do not envision ourselves pursuing an education, vocation or degree to land a job and work our way up the ladder, only to have it fall apart once we marry into the military. None of us plan for our careers to take a back seat to that of our beloved member of the armed forces. We have our own career aspirations. We do not aspire to be underemployed or unemployed. Unfortunately, this is often our reality. When do military spouses get to put our careers first and submit our “dream sheet” for life?

Luckily, there are many resources available to enable us to have more control over our careers, despite the challenges presented by the military lifestyle. Organizations and publications exist to tackle the military spouse employment issues identified by recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys. Specific resources encourage educational, mentoring, advocacy and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses. There are work-from-home, flexible, telework and remote work options available if we know how to search for them appropriately. We can take control of our careers by utilizing available resources and researching our options. Included below is a list of a few available career resources specifically for military spouses.

Balancing our careers with our family’s well-being

Like all working parents, we must consider what our career options mean for our families. Our goals and aspirations may not be the best thing for all parties involved. We are always balancing our happiness against what is best for our children. The military lifestyle means deployments, long periods away for one parent, and frequent moves. These types of challenges compound the need for us to focus on others above ourselves. We want to provide stability for our families when the military cannot.

As spouses, we do have control over recognizing and prioritizing the needs of our family and ourselves. We can have honest, open discussions with our military members and families about our career goals, needs, and dreams. Our children learn from watching us as parents. As military spouses, we have a unique opportunity to show our children how to develop a strong work ethic, appreciate career and gender equality, set goals, and pursue dreams.

Our service member’s careers can benefit ours

In a perfect world, the military member’s career and that of the spouse always align. The reality is, the service member’s career always comes first. The active-duty opportunities dictate our location, home choices, our children’s schools, and, ultimately, our career opportunities as military spouses. However, we can control how we advocate for ourselves regarding the service member’s career. Perhaps if we compromise, the next duty station can provide options that benefit both careers. The following location might hold additional educational opportunities for spouses. If childcare is an issue, we can advocate to move closer to our support resources.

We are not that different from our career-oriented civilian spouse counterparts. Any families with two employed parents struggle with similar balancing acts. However, the military lifestyle brings an added layer of complexity. There is a lack of control over one’s own life that comes along with the military. They are called orders for a reason. Military members, spouses, and families do not have a choice.

However, as spouses, we can choose how we deal with the orders. We can make career choices that allow us to have less uncertainty and anxiety in our lives. We can pursue our dreams and passions. We can determine our career destiny separate from that of our military members. We may not have control over what the military hands us, but we do have control over how we handle what comes our way. Perhaps, we can find more life balance and career satisfaction if we focus on what we can control.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines train to save lives from downed aircraft

Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.

The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.

“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”


During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.

“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”

Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.

“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”

ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.

Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.

“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and India cozy up as China looms large

September 2018’s “two-plus-two” meeting of defense and diplomatic leaders in New Delhi will seek to deepen cooperation between India and the United States and bolster programs and policies to maintain the free and independent Indo-Pacific region that has been in place since World War II, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs said on Aug. 29, 2018.

Randall G. Schriver spoke with Ashley J. Tellins at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the ground-breaking meeting scheduled Sept. 6 and 7, 2018, between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.


It is the first such meeting between the nations.

The outreach to India – the largest democracy in the world – is the outgrowth of more than 20 years of diplomacy reaching back to the Clinton administration, Schriver said. At its heart is ensuring conditions for a free and independent region.

“We believe countries should have complete sovereign control of their countries, to make decisions from capital free from coercion [and] free from undue pressure. We also mean free, open and reciprocal trade relationships,” he said. “By ‘open,’ we’re talking about open areas for commerce, for navigation, for broad participation in the life of the region commercially and economically.”

American and Indian airmen learn from each other on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 23, 2018. Defense and diplomatic leaders from both countries will meet in New Dehli in September 2018 to discuss opportunities for cooperation.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis)

Schriver talked about “operationalizing” the areas of convergence between the two nations. Some of these areas will be in defense, some will be economic, and others will be political, he said, noting that the principals will discuss this at the meeting.

​Chinese aspirations​

China is the elephant in the room. Though U.S. policy is not aimed at any specific nation, Schriver said, “China is demonstrating that they have a different aspiration for the Indo-Pacific region. This manifests in their economic strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, their militarization of the South China Sea, a lot of the coercive approaches to the politics of others.” The Belt and Road Initiative is Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in countries that lie between China and Europe.

The United States would prefer China buy into the current rules-based international system, the assistant secretary said.

At the meeting, officials will examine how and where the United States and India can work together, Schriver said, adding that he sees both countries’ efforts complementing each other in some nations of the region and closer cooperation on the security side.

“We’ve seen exercises – not just bilateral India-U.S. exercises, but multilateral exercises,” he said. “Obviously, you exercise for a reason. You exercise to improve the readiness and training of your own forces, but you think about contingencies, you think about real-world possibilities.”

The substance of the meeting will be discussions about regional and global issues, but there will also be concrete outcomes, Shriver said.

“We’re working on a set of enabling agreements,” he said. “Collectively, what they will allow us to do is have secure communications, protect technology, protect information. Getting those agreements in place will allow security assistance cooperation to go forward, allow us to exercise and train in more meaningful ways. I think we are going to expand the scope of some of our exercises – increase the complexity and elements that will participate.”

Schriver said discussions also will look at the situations in Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

Featured image: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on Sept. 26, 2017.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

B-1B bombers fly training missions near Korean Peninsula

Two Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew near the Korean Peninsula Monday, days after North Korea conducted another ballistic missile launch, Pacific Air Forces officials tell Military.com.


The bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to conduct “bilateral training missions with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japanese air forces,” said Lt Col Lori Hodge, PACAF public affairs deputy director.

Hodge did not specify how close the bombers flew to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ, but said they were escorted by South Korean fighter jets.

Related: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

When asked if the bombers were carrying weapons, the command wouldn’t disclose, citing standard operating policy.

In September, the service put on a similar show of force over South Korea, deploying B-1B bombers alongside South Korean fighter jets after another nuclear test from North Korea.

The U.S. military has maintained a deployed strategic bomber presence in the Pacific since 2004.

A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. | U.S. Air Force photo

While Hodge said the training was routine, the recent flyover marks another in a series of events the U.S. has taken to deter North Korea’s Kim Jong Un from additional ballistic missile tests — the latest which occurred April 28.

U.S. Pacific Command on Friday detected the missile launch near the Pukchang airfield, the command said at the time. “The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” PACOM said.

The isolated regime claims to have fired off at least seven missile tests, one space rocket and two nuclear weapons tests since 2016.

Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group finally arrived in the Sea of Japan on Saturday, weeks after the U.S. announced its plans to send the Vinson to deter North Korean aggression.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Pacific Ocean January 30, 2017. | U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tom Tonthat

PACOM announced April 8 that the Vinson was canceling a planned port visit in Australia in order to return to the Western Pacific amid rising tensions with North Korea. But confusion soon followed when the carrier was spotted sailing the other direction — nearly 3,500 miles away.

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill last week, PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris took the blame for the unclear message about the Vinson’s stalled deployment. Harris also said that while all options remain on the table for dealing with the rogue regime, the goal is “to bring [dictator] Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not his knees.”

Also read: That time North Korea took a shot at a Blackbird

The Air Force also plans to carry out another long-range missile test launch this week, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The launch, set for Wednesday, comes after the service conducted a similar launch with an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on April 26 which traveled 4,000 miles from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and landed in the South Pacific, according to Fox News.

The next launch is scheduled between 12:01 a.m. and 6:01 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA’s still flying to the moon but not how you think

NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of 2019, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency’s long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars.


Watch This Space: The Latest from the Moon to Mars

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“The Moon has unique scientific value and the potential to yield resources, such as water and oxygen,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Its proximity to Earth makes it especially valuable as a proving ground for deeper space exploration.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon.

“This payload selection announcement is the exciting next step on our path to return to the surface of the Moon,” said Steve Clarke, SMD’s deputy associate administrator for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The selected payloads, along with those that will be awarded through the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads call, will begin to build a healthy pipeline of scientific investigations and technology development payloads that we can fly to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial landing delivery services. Future calls for payloads are planned to be released each year for additional opportunities,” he said.

Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon July 20, 1969.

(NASA image)

The selected payloads include a variety of scientific instruments.

  • The Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer will measure the lunar surface radiation environment.
  • Three resource prospecting instruments have been selected to fly:
    • The Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System is an imaging spectrometer that will measure surface composition.
    • The Neutron Spectrometer System and Advanced Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface are neutron spectrometers that will measure hydrogen abundance.
  • The Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer for Lunar Surface Volatiles instrument is an ion-trap mass spectrometer that will measure volatile contents in the surface and lunar exosphere.
  • A magnetometer will measure the surface magnetic field.
  • The Low-frequency Radio Observations from the Near Side Lunar Surface instrument, a radio science instrument, will measure the photoelectron sheath density near the surface.
  • Three instruments will acquire critical information during entry, descent and landing on the lunar surface, which will inform the design of future landers including the next human lunar lander.
  • The Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies will image the interaction between the lander engine plume as it hits the lunar surface.
  • The Surface and Exosphere Alterations by Landers payload will monitor how the landing affects the lunar exosphere.
  • The Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing payload will make precise velocity and ranging measurements during the descent that will help develop precision landing capabilities for future landers.
Celebrating Apollo as We Push Forward to the Moon

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Celebrating Apollo as We Push Forward to the Moon

There also are two technology demonstrations selected to fly.

  • The Solar Cell Demonstration Platform for Enabling Long-Term Lunar Surface Power will demonstrate advanced solar arrays for longer mission duration.
  • The Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator will demonstrate a navigational beacon to assist with geolocation for lunar orbiting spacecraft and landers.

NASA facilities across the nation are developing the payloads, including Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; Johnson Space Center in Houston; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Nine U.S. companies, selected through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) in November 2018, currently are developing landers to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon’s surface. As CLPS providers, they are pre-authorized to compete on individual delivery orders.

NASA also released the Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payload (LSITP) call in October 2018 soliciting proposals for science instrument and technology investigations. The final LSITP proposals are due Feb. 27 and awards are expected to be made this spring.

“Once we have awarded the first CLPS mission task order later this spring, we will then select the specific payloads from the internal-NASA and LSITP calls to fly on that mission. Subsequent missions will fly other NASA instrument and technology development packages in addition to commercial payloads,” said Clarke.

Commercial lunar payload delivery services for small payloads, and developing lunar landers for large payloads, to conduct more research on the Moon’s surface is a vital step ahead of a human return.

As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA has announced plans to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface by 2028.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.

Articles

Chinese Navy may outnumber US Navy by 2020

China’s carrier Liaoning | PLAN photo


Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.

The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.

Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.

The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: One of the last living Marines from Iwo Jima shares his story with WATM

Frank Clark was 15 years old when Pearl Harbor was brazenly attacked by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. On that fateful Sunday morning in Hawaii, 2,403 people lost their lives and 1178 more were wounded. The next day, the United States entered World War II.


Clark’s two older brothers, Charles and Pat immediately enlisted into the Air Corps. “Our patriotism among the young men was unbelievable. They just flooded the enlistment,” he shared. Since he was too young to join, he had to wait. On December 23rd, 1943, his mother signed the paperwork that would allow him to become a United States Marine.

He was just 17 years old.

Clark had a twinkle in his blue eyes and a sly grin when he shared that he chose to serve as a Marine because of their beautiful uniforms. He had no way of knowing what was waiting for him.

Clark turned 18 two weeks before he graduated from Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, CA and was chosen to become a radio operator. When he finished his training, he joined the 4th Marine division in Hawaii. On February 17th, 1945 – he and those he described as “on his level” were told of the plan to invade Iwo Jima in two days time.

The 4th Marine division was told that the invasion would give the United States a staging facility to eventually attack Japan, since Iwo Jima was just 750 miles from its coast. Iwo Jima boasted two air strips that would be needed for a successful attack on Japan. Clark also shared that the officers told them that the recent air and naval bombardments over thirty days had taken out 95% of the Japanese’s fighting force on Iwo Jima. Officers assured the Marines that they’d be off the island in five days and back in Hawaii.

Clark shook his head and said, “What they told us was wrong and we paid dearly for it.”

As a radio operator, he was on a small communications ship off the shore of Iwo Jima as the Army and Marine divisions hit the island all at once. Clark watched in horror as the men who stepped off the landing ship were killed without warning.

Unbeknownst to those officers who planned the attack on Iwo Jima, the Japanese had created underground tunnels. It was there that they hid, safely waiting out the month long bombings from the United States. As those soldiers and Marines stepped onto the beaches of Iwo Jima, on February 19th, 1945, a camouflaged mountainside artillery awaited them.

It would take all day under intense fire, but eventually the Marines and soldiers were able to take the first part of that coveted airfield. The price for that piece of land was heavy. Hundreds of bodies laid on the volcanic ash sand beach bearing witness to the cost of that day.

On the third day of the battle of Iwo Jima, Clark got off the boat and made his way on the island – with an extra forty pounds of radio equipment on his back. He and the other Marines he was with struggled through the tough sand to make their way to safer positions.

At one point, he and three other radio operators were in a hole about five feet deep with all of their equipment communicating with their leaders. Clark vividly remembers what happened next. He bent over to get something and within a second, the Marine behind him was shot in the forehead, dying instantly. That bullet was meant for Clark, but bending over saved his life.

It wouldn’t be the last time Clark narrowly evaded death.

He remembers the feeling of that volcanic ash sand on his body. He stopped to take a quick break to catch some sleep, burying himself in the sand and covering his head with his poncho. “When I started getting up and pushing myself to get out, I felt a hand there. As it turned out, I had taken my little nap laying in the lap of a dead Japanese soldier. It wasn’t a good feeling, but there was nothing you could do about it,” Clark said.

Clark shared another memory of his time on Iwo Jima. He recalled seeing six rows – each the length of a football field – of bodies covered in white lime. He was unsure if they were American or Japanese bodies, but seeing that gave him an eerie feeling. Clark said you won’t find pictures or videos of that, as he was sure the government told the media not to show it. That image of those bodies has stayed fresh in his mind.

The Marines and soldiers continued their advancement onto Iwo Jima, slowly taking the island. On day six of the bloody battle, that now infamous picture was taken of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The image would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and become an iconic image of the war.

It would take almost another month before they captured the island completely. When they left that island, Clark didn’t look back.

The Marines in his division never made their way to Japan – they didn’t have the fighting power like they originally planned for. The Battle of Iwo Jima took the lives of 6,800 brave men and US troops suffered 26,000 casualties. After the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the Japanese quickly surrendered.

After leaving Iwo Jima, Clark was informed that his two brothers, Charles and Pat, had both been killed in action.

Clark left the Marines after the war ended and went on to live a quiet civilian life. He was married for 68 years and 8 months to his beautiful wife Nadine, before she passed away in 2017. After her death, he moved into the Missouri Veterans Home.

Frank took a break from his interview to ask WATM writer Jessica Manfre for a dance.

These days, Clark enjoys spending time on his computer and visiting with the ladies that work at the Veterans home.

When asked what advice he would give incoming service members as we approach twenty years at war he laughingly joked, “Do what you can to get into officer’s training – live the better life.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Trump’s 2019 budget

President Donald Trump, on Feb. 12, 2018, released his budget request for fiscal 2019, marking the first step in a months-long process in which lawmakers from both chambers of Congress debate and, ultimately, decide on its funding levels and policy provisions.


Trump’s defense budget request for the fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, totals $716 billion, including $686 billion for the Defense Department alone. The Pentagon’s top line includes a base budget of $597.1 billion and an overseas contingency operations, or war, budget of $89 billion. It represents a nearly 12 percent increase over the current year’s level of nearly $612 billion.

Also read: The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

But defense spending as a share of the economy would remain relatively flat at roughly 3.1 percent, according to Pentagon budget documents, and the spending bump would be financed in part by deficit spending.

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the President’s budget request:

2.6% pay raise

The Defense Department proposed a 2.6 percent military pay raise for 2019 that would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase this year. “In support of the department’s effort to continue to build a bigger, more lethal and ready force, the FY2019 budget proposes a 2.6 percent increase in military basic pay,” the Pentagon said in releasing its budget request. The proposed raise, which would have to be approved by Congress and the White House, would amount to the largest military pay raise in nine years, the department said in the supporting papers for the budget request. Check out Military.com’s pay charts to see what the change would mean for you.

16K more troops

The proposed spending plan would add 16,400 more troops, bringing the size of the total force, including the Guard and Reserve components, to 2.15 million members. That figure differs from those published in the Pentagon’s overview budget document because it takes into account 2018 levels recently authorized by Congress. The additional troops would include 15,600 for the active component, with 1.3 million service members; and 800 for the Guard and Reserve, with 817,700 service members, respectively. Here’s how those figures break down: 4,000 soldiers for the active Army, 7,500 sailors for the Navy, 100 Marines for the Marine Corps, and 4,000 airmen for the Air Force; 100 sailors for the Navy Reserve, 200 airmen for the Air Force Reserve, and 500 airmen for the Air National Guard.

Related: White House wants $30B defense budget increase this year to rebuild military, fight ISIS

More aircraft, ships, vehicles

The president’s budget would fund a number of weapons systems designed to give the U.S. armed forces a technological edge over adversaries, including new missile interceptors and cyber operations. It would also fund a higher number of existing aircraft, ships and combat vehicles, including adding 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 250 B61 nuclear bomb upgrades, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two fleet replenishment oilers, five satellite launches through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and 5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen.)

Army

The Army is requesting $182 billion, including war funding, a 15 percent increase from $158 billion, according to budget documents. The service wants to continue growing its headcount, with funding for 4,000 soldiers for the active component, largely to resource fires, air defense and logistics units. The service would also purchase large quantities of long-range missiles and artillery shells, and would buy a higher number of aircraft such as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by Boeing Co.; combat vehicles including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp., and missile systems such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile System.

Navy

The Navy is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 12 percent increase from $173 billion in fiscal 2018, according to budget documents. However, the much-hailed jump-start in Navy shipbuilding to reach the larger fleet officials say the service needs represents only a small portion of the service’s requested funding increase. By 2023, the Navy expects to add 54 new ships, but most of them had already been part of long-term production plans. For 2019, the plan includes only one more ship than was budgeted in 2018: an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, for a total purchase of three instead of two. The service is also set to add 7,600 sailors as its fleet grows, in part to man new Navy variant of the V-22 Osprey, the CMV-22.

Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

Air Force

The Air Force is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 14 percent increase. The proposal would increase the size of the service’s active-duty end strength to just over 329,100 airmen, an increase of 4,000 airmen over the current year, according to the documents. The Air National Guard is requesting another 500 airmen; the Air Force Reserve wants another 200 airmen. The spending plan also includes funding to train nearly 1,000 pilots to deal with a chronic shortage; buy more F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, KC-46 tankers; develop the future B-21 bomber; and replenish the stockpile of precision-guided munitions such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, and Hellfire missiles.

More reading: Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Marine Corps

Part of the Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the Marine Corps is asking for $28.9 billion, a nearly 5 percent increase. As a second rotation of Marine advisers begins work in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and other units continue to fight ISIS in the Middle East, the budget request features a significant increase in big guns and artillery rockets — as well as a plus-up of some 1,100 Marines, including 2018 manning increases. There are significant procurement outlays as the Marine Corps makes big investments in its CH-53K King Stallion, slated to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter in coming years, and continues to pursue the amphibious combat vehicle 1.1. Among the most eye-catching planned buys, however, are in ground weapons systems, including 155mm towed howitzers and high mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard asked for about $11.7 billion in funding for fiscal 2019, an increase of $979 million, or 8.4 percent, over its previous request. The additional money would include $750 million for a new heavy icebreaker slated for delivery in 2023. The funding would go toward building “the Nation’s first new heavy Polar Icebreaker in over 40 years,” a budget document states. In other big-ticket equipment items, the service’s budget request also includes $400 million in funding for an offshore patrol cutter and $240 million in funding to buy four new fast response cutters (FRCs), designed to replace the 110-foot patrol boats and to enhance the service’s ability to conduct search-and-rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws and prevent terrorism.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Veterans Affairs

The Veterans Affairs Department requested $199 billion, an increase of $12 billion, or 6.5 percent, from the current request. The plan includes nearly $110 billion in mandatory funding for benefits programs and $89 billion in discretionary funding, with the goal of “expanding health-care services, improving quality and expanding choice to over 9 million enrolled Veterans,” the VA said. The budget includes money for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows vets to seek private-sector care. It also includes another $1.2 billion for a costly effort begun in 2011 to make health records electronic and reintroduces a controversial proposal to round-down cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to the nearest dollar for vets who receive disability compensation — a practice that was standard until 2013, Stars and Stripes reported.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the new US course in Syria will collide with Iran’s

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently laid out a new U.S. approach to the conflict in Syria, and two things became immediately clear — the U.S. is staying in Syria and conflict with Iran could be coming.


Up until this point, the U.S. presence in Syria has focused on fighting ISIS, the terror group that gained control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014. But with ISIS in rapid decline and its once U.K.-sized territory all but completely removed from their grasp, Tillerson described Iran as the new principal threat to U.S. interests in Syria.

“Continued strategic threats to the U.S. from not just ISIS and Al Qaeda, but from others, persist,” Tillerson said earlier in January. “And this threat I’m referring to is principally Iran.”

Tillerson said Iran “is positioning to continue attacking U.S. interests, our allies, and personnel in the region” through its positioning in Syria.

In no uncertain terms, Tillerson said Iran dreams of a land arch that would connect them to their ally, Lebanon, through Syria, where it can provide weapons support to anti- U.S. and anti-Isreal terror groups. He noted that one of the U.S.’s desired end results is that “Iranian influence in Syria is diminished, their dreams of a northern arch are denied, and Syria’s neighbors are secure from all threats emanating from Syria.”

While the new strategy does not guarantee outright fighting between the U.S. and Iran, it puts the U.S.’s 2,000 or so troops in Syria in direct strategic competition with Iran’s estimated 70,000.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speak to members of the press . (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Numbers can be deceiving

Despite an apparent 35 to 1 numbers advantage for Iranian and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Iran’s forces are weak, overexposed, and certain to fare poorly in a direct competition with the U.S., according to Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

U.S. and U.S.-backed forces have already come into contact with Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and the short engagements proved decisive victories for the US, which holds considerable advantages in air power and high-end warfighting.

But those skirmishes only focused on getting Iranian forces off the backs of U.S.-aligned forces while the U.S. focused on defeating ISIS. In the US’s new campaign to shut down Iran’s hoped-for land bridge to Lebanon, the U.S. will likely have to work with local allies, according to Badran.

“The U.S. is going to have to develop local Arab fighting forces,” said Badran, “But you can do a lot more damage a lot quicker by expanding or amplifying the existing Israeli campaign by going after installations, mobile targets, or senior cadres.”

Israel, while it has stayed out of the majority of its neighbor Syria’s civil war, has made no apologies for stepping in with airstrikes when it feels Iran getting to close to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia vows to wage war against the Jewish state.

Also Read: Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

With Israel potentially at its back, the U.S. “has assets far beyond 2,000 guys out in the desert somewhere,” said Badran. The U.S. can call on naval power, aircraft carriers, nearby air bases, allied air power, standoff weapons like cruise missiles, and artillery.

Iran sacrifices asymmetrical advantage

While Iran usually enjoys what military analysts call an “asymmetrical advantage” over U.S. forces in the Middle East, or its ability to fight against U.S. interests using proxy armies and less-than-lethal force, that advantage disappears in a direct confrontation. If Iran mounted a large-scale attack on U.S. forces in Syria, the bases, depots, and planners involved in the attack would be quickly reduced to rubble, according to Badran.

For that reason, Iran may look to avoid direct military engagement with the U.S., and simply continue to support the U.S.’s enemies while playing the long game of aggravating the U.S. and hoping Washington’s will breaks before Tehran’s.

But another prong of the U.S.’s strategy in Syria is to isolate the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

“We’re going to treat Syria like North Korea — an economic, not just a political pariah,” said Badran.

With the U.S. pressuring allies not to do business with the Assad regime and providing no money for reconstruction, the Syrian government, Iran’s ally, may weaken, making way for a less Iran-friendly administration in the future, thereby denying Tehran its land bridge without a shot fired.

The U.S. won’t go it alone

On the walls of the former American embassy. (Image Flickr Babak Fakhamzadeh)

Tehran has its own problems to worry about. Country-wide protests over the country’s steep inequality and billions in spending on foreign adventurism have threatened the very fabric of its leadership. Local Syrians — a diverse, mainly Sunni bunch — also may prove resistant to Iran, the dominant Shiite Muslim power in the region.

Though the   U.S. and Turkey frequently clash over differences in their vision for Syria, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute expert James Jeffrey says Washington and Ankara ultimately agree on the broad goals.

“Right now, about 40% of Syria is under control of U.S. or Turkey, and while U.S. and Turkey are not all that well coordinated, both U.S. and Turkey see the goal to a transition to a regime that will not do what [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has done,” said Jeffrey.

Jeffrey added that Turkey also would like to reduce the role of Iran in Syria, as Tehran has a “tendency to bully the Sunni Arab population” which could lead to another civil war.

Badran does not question that the U.S. could easily overwhelm or destroy Iranian forces in Syria, and instead believes the real challenge lies in determining who will establish control of southern Syria in the future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

A significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan won’t impact upon the security of the war-torn country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said on Dec. 21, 2018.

It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.

“If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control,” Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said via social media.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Dec. 20, 2018, as saying that Trump “wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”


The AFP news agency quoted a U.S. official as saying the decision has already been made for a “significant” U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” AFP quoted the official as saying.

CNN also reported that Trump has already ordered the military to make plans for a withdrawal of perhaps half of the current 14,000-strong force.

NATO has so far declined to comment on the reports, saying only that is aware of the reports.

In response to an RFE/RL question, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, “The Afghan Army and police have been fully in charge of the security of Afghanistan for over four years. They are a brave, committed, and increasingly capable force, who have ensured the security of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.”

“Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan,” Lungescu said.

“Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home.”

However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose NATO-member country is a contributor to Resolute Support, voiced skepticism that even a partial U.S. withdrawal could be supplanted by the remaining members.

“Frankly, I do not believe that we can split forces and rely that something can be done in the absence of an important player. It’s difficult really to say,” Linkevicius told RFE/RL.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

The reports came a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers, administration officials, and international allies by saying he was pulling “all” U.S. troops out of Syria, where they are leading a multinational coalition backing local forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

It also came shortly before Trump announced that his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, would be leaving his post at the end of February 2019.

U.S. media are reporting that Mattis opposed Trump’s move to withdraw from Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said his views were not fully “aligned” with those of the president.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

A U.S.-led coalition has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it drove the Taliban from power after Al-Qaeda militants — whose leaders were being sheltered in Afghanistan — carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

However, the Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

‘Huge Mistake’

Mohammad Taqi, a Florida-based political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be “a huge mistake.”

“If we look at it in context of talks with the Taliban, then it seems [the] Taliban have already strengthened their position,” he said. “Now the reports of [a U.S. withdrawal] show a weakening stance by the U.S., which could subsequently undermine [the] Afghan government’s position.”

On Dec. 20, 2018, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.

Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”

Khalilzad’s remarks came following his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, claimed the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.