Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas - We Are The Mighty
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Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 9

So … a certain writer and content curator took two weeks of hard-earned vacation and forgot to ask anyone to fall in on the military memes rundown.


Sorry about that. I’m back now, so here are 13 of the funniest military memes we saw this week (plus two secret bonus ones hidden at the end):

1. After all, if you stay in then you can have all the joy and happiness of first sergeant.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
If the military is the best job I’ll ever have, it might be time to look at an ultra-early retirement.

2. Don’t let them catch you with morale, they’ll steal it immediately.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Leadership is like a bunch of wet blankets.

3. “Hey, guys. Ready to have some fun?”

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
The best part is that the Coast Guard’s sailing ship is a former Nazi vessel, so those cadets are likely vomiting where Hitler once walked. History!

4. “Just gonna keep sleeping. Thanks.”

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
This tactic only works until the sergeant of the guard gets involved.

5. That Central Issue Facility logic:

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

6. My biggest concern is that it appears that wrench is way too large for that nut.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Like, I get that isn’t the point, but I feel like any craftsman should be able to eye wrench v. bolt/nut sizes better than that.

7. Look, it’s not that we don’t want to reward you for finding Taliban for us …

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
… but if we give you a commission, we’ll eventually have to give you a platoon. And there’s no way we’re finding 40 Joes who will follow you.

8. The greatest generation is still trying to get their disability ratings.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Pretty nice of the VA to set up shop inside their 1940s camp, though.

9. Honoring the flag waits for no paint job, not even haze gray.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Of course, left-handed salutes may be worse than missing colors.

10. They’re really cute and adorable poop factories:

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Wish they would use those cutesy paws to clean up their mess.

11. Not sure why he doesn’t melt with all that salt.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
The heat of combat is more dangerous for him than any other soldier.

12. Probably a soldier with an unfortunate name …

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
… but possibly a military fan with no idea what is going on.

13. Grumpy cat if it was an airman with a shaving profile:

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Mandatory fun isn’t (unless it’s the podcast).

Secret squirrel bonus 1:

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

Secret squirrel bonus 2:

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

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DARPA’s new Android app can call in air strikes

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
Photo: DARPA


Calling in air support just got faster, easier, and more precise. DARPA’s new Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld system, otherwise known as KILSWITCH, enables troops to call in air strikes from an off-the-shelf Android tablet. The system could also be used with small UAVs to provide ground troops with greater situational awareness of friendly forces and enemy locations. KILSWITCH is part of the Persistent Close Air Support program, designed to bring fires on target within six minutes of an observer requesting them.

Here’s a video of the system in action.  Read the full article at FoxtrotAlpha.com

NOW: The Navy wants to shoot 30 drones out of a cannon

OR: DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Veterans

The 10 best career paths for veterans after leaving the military

Reentering the workforce after serving in the military can be a tough transition for former service members and their families.

Navy Federal reported in 2019 that more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year. One of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find stable, well-paying work that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained while serving in the military.

Christopher Plamp, the CEO of Hire Heroes USA, said his own experiences looking for work after spending 26 years in the Air Force inspired him to begin working at the organization.

“When service members leave the military, they may have a gap in their skills or might have never even had a civilian job before,” he told Business Insider. “They might have never made a resumé, done a behavioral interview, or made a LinkedIn profile before. Hire Heroes helps them through this process, as well as connecting veterans and military spouses with companies that want to hire retired service members and their families.”

In 2019, Navy Federal and Hire Heroes USA asked veterans nationwide what they value most in a civilian career, whether it be location, compensation, flexible hours, or working at a mission-driven organization. Both organizations then worked together to come up with a list of promising career paths for former service members. Business Insider then used Zip Recruiter to find the average annual salaries for each role.

Here are the 10 best career paths for veterans.

Healthcare was ranked as the best career path for veterans.

The healthcare profession allows veterans to use skills they may have learned in the military and channel them into a rewarding, mission-based, and lucrative career. Popular career paths for vets entering the healthcare industry include hospital operations and logistics, registered nursing, medical research, and administration (data, records, hospital functionality).

Average annual salary: $66,413/year

See open roles here >>

One in four veterans works in government or public administration.

Veterans gain valuable leadership skills while serving in the military, which can often translate to a successful career in government or public administration. With plenty of opportunities for career growth and flexible hours, veterans looking to enter this career path should consider applying for jobs in administration, program analysis, and public affairs. 

Average annual salary: $45,647/year

See open roles here >>

Defense contracting involves creating materials that will help aid the various sections of national defense. Whether you’re building weaponry or an aircraft, defense contracting work offers competitive salaries and is directly related to the military. Potential jobs in defense contracting could include becoming an analyst, an intelligence specialist, a contract management specialist, or a quality assurance manager.

Average annual salary: $74,533/year

See open roles here >>

Information technology jobs utilize skills potentially learned in the military and offer competitive compensation.

Information technology jobs are expanding year after year, so veterans may want to consider joining this career. IT jobs provide competitive salaries and a clear path toward career advancement. Popular career paths in the IT field among veterans include project management, systems engineering, cybersecurity, data analysis, and information security analysis. 

Average annual salary: $54,495/year

See open roles here >>

Financial services careers work well for younger vets eager to enter an exciting and lucrative new career.

Financial services jobs are popular among veterans, with more than one in 10 younger vets placed in a job related to finance. Salaries are competitive, and popular career paths can range anywhere from being a financial advisor to a finance manager or accountant.

Average annual salary: $59,139/year

See open roles here >>

Education careers are best suited for veterans who believe in mission-based work.

For veterans who value mission-based work, a career in education may be the perfect fit. Most careers in education do require a college degree, and in 2019, it was reported that 13% of career-holding veterans end up in education-related professions. 

Average annual salary: $41,515/year

See open roles here >>

Law enforcement careers can be comparable to military experience, making it a good career fit for many veterans.

One popular career path among many veterans is law enforcement. Skills and experiences learned in the military make veterans a valuable asset to any law enforcement organization. Possible law enforcement careers for retired military members could include becoming a police officer, a crime scene investigator, an emergency dispatcher, or a corrections officer.

Average annual salary: $56,427/year

See open roles here >>

Retail jobs offer flexible work schedules that may be particularly well suited for veterans.

Veterans working in the retail industry can enjoy working on a team as well as the benefits of flexible hours. Employment in retail is most popular among veterans aged 45 and older, and popular career paths include sales, marketing, and warehouse logistics. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, retail employees have become even more valuable.

Average annual salary: $25,519/year

See open roles here >>

Manufacturing jobs often don’t require formal education, but they still offer career advancement and competitive pay.

The manufacturing industry is a viable career path for veterans without college degrees. While the average annual salary for careers in manufacturing as a whole is only $27,199, entry-level maintenance technicians reportedly make an average of $39,307 per year and manufacturing supervisors make an average of $58,129 per year.

Average annual salary: $27,246/year

See open roles here >>

Transportation or warehousing jobs give vets the opportunity to work with their hands and are well suited to their military experience and skills.

For veterans who prefer a more active, physical career path, working in a warehouse could be the right career choice. Plus, for veterans looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, warehouses are in need of more employees in order to keep up with increased demand for essential goods.

Average annual salary: $26,749/year

See open roles here >>

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

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This family fought for survival after the ship they were on was torpedoed in the Gulf of Mexico

In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille.  When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea.  The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raft when all hope seemed lost.


Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
The Downs family after their rescue.

The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration.  They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.

Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.

“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.

“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”

Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.

“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”

Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.

A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.

Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”

Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.

It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.

One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.

Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.

“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”

But they didn’t move on.

The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.

The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.

Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”

Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.

Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.

Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.

“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.

“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”

An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.

About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .

Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”

Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.

Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.

The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.

The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.

Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.

Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”

Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.

“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.

“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.

With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.

“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”

Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.

“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.

Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.

Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.

Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”

Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.

“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.

The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.

“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.

“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.

The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.

“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”

Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.

Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.

As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”

“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”

Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.

The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.

But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.

The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.

The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”

Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.

The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.

“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”

Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”

When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.

A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”

A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.

Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.

“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”

“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”

“What if the boat can’t find us?”

“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”

Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.

More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .

The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,”  “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”

His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival.  Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.  

To see more visit Michael Tougias’ website.

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France’s operators are reportedly hunting French militants in Iraq

France’s special operators in Iraq are collecting intelligence on their own citizens and then distributing it to Iraqi forces, according to the Wall Street Journal. The intent appears to be ensuring that as few French citizens as possible learn to fight under ISIS tutelage and then conduct attacks at home.


France has suffered many ISIS-sponsored and ISIS-inspired international attack, including the attack in Nice in July 2016 that killed 84 and the 2015 Paris attack that killed 130.

An estimated 1,700 French citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and France has little reason to want any of them back. Gathering intelligence on the most dangerous of them and handing it over to the Iraqis is a convenient way to reduce the threat without violating French laws on extra-judicial killings.

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
French TV news has reported that France’s special operations forces are embedded with Iraqi units. (Screen Grab from France 24 News)

The U.S. has killed Americans in drone strikes and firefights, but only one of them was specifically targeted. Anwar al-Awlaki was a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who preached a particularly anti-American and violent reading of Islam. He was targeted and killed in a drone strike in 2011.

France appears to be sidestepping the controversy that embroiled the Obama administration after the killing of al-Awlaki by outsourcing the dirty work.

Christophe Castaner, a French spokesman, responded to questions about the special operations with, “I say to all the fighters who join (Islamic State) and who travel overseas to wage war: Waging war means taking risks. They are responsible for those risks.”

Basically, the official spokesman equivalent of, “Bye, Felicia.”

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas
The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sails in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Navy

France was historically reluctant to join the wars in the Middle East, participating in the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan but protesting America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But the rise of ISIS drew France deeper into the fight and Paris currently has large operations ongoing in North Africa and in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, France’s only aircraft carrier was en route to the Persian Gulf when the ISIS attack in Paris killed 130. The carrier was rerouted to the Mediterranean Sea where it concentrated its air strikes against ISIS forces in Syria.

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Today in military history: US Senate repeals Tonkin Gulf Resolution

On June 24, 1970, the U.S. Senate repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was the catalyst for the escalation of American action in Vietnam. It refers to two incidents in August 1964. On Aug. 2, the destroyer USS Maddox was shelled by NVA torpedo boats. The Maddox responded by firing over 280 rounds in return. There was no official response from the Johnson Administration.

The pressure mounted however, with members of the military, both in and out of uniform, implying Johnson was a coward. On Aug. 4, the second incident was said to have happened, but Secretary McNamara admitted in Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War the second attack never occurred. The Pentagon Papers even implied that Maddox fired first in an effort to keep the Communists a certain distance away.

The resulting Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed by the U.S. Congress gave President Johnson – and subsequently, Nixon – the authority to strike back in southeast Asia against Communist aggression, even without a declaration of war from the Senate.

On June 24, 1970, the Senate voted to repeal the resolution as part of an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act. However, the Nixon Administration continued to fight the war on the legal grounds that Nixon had the inherent authority as Commander-in-Chief, until the United States withdrew in 1973.

The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).

The facts not in dispute by either side are just as harrowing: Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 wounded, not to mention the emotional toll the war took on American culture. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.

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This is how Patton smashed his way out of Normandy

When Allied troops landed in Normandy, Gen. George Patton had two jobs. One had been to lead the fictional First United States Army Group, a part of Operation Fortitude, to deceive the Germans as to the Allies’ actual intentions against Normandy. His second was training his real unit, Third Army.


Once the Allies had secured a beachhead, Patton took Third Army to Northern France where it became operational on August 1, 1944. By the time Third Army went into action, the Allies had spent nearly two months fighting for a breakout to no avail.

The thick Norman hedgerows and stiff German resistance had slowed progress to a crawl. Patton had other ideas.

Following on the heels of Operation Cobra opening a path, Patton turned Third Army “east, west, and south behind the German lines and went looking for trouble.”

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As Third Army broke free of the restrictive hedgerows, Patton showed that he was truly a master of maneuver warfare and combined arms tactics.

Patton would use armored reconnaissance scouts to range ahead of his forces to find the enemy. Once found, he used his armored divisions to spearhead the attacks. Armored infantry, supported by tanks and self-propelled artillery, would attack in force.

Every breach in German lines was exploited by more armor which kept the Germans from being able to effectively regroup.

Patton also pioneered the use of tactical air support, now known as close air support, by having tactical fighter-bombers flying cover over his advancing columns. This technique is known as armored column cover and used three to four P-51s or P-47s, coordinated by a forward air controller riding in one of the tanks on the ground.

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P-51 fighters. Photo from DoD.

 

Patton’s Third Army headquarters also had more staff dedicated to tactical air support and conducting air strikes against the enemy than any other formations in Europe.

Making the best of these new techniques, much like the Germans had with the Blitz, Patton’s first moves were to drive south and west to cut off the Germans in Brittany and open more ports on the coast to Allied shipping.

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Using speed and aggression, Third Army had reached the coast in less than two weeks.

Those forces then turned around 180 degrees and raced east across France.

 

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The 28th Infantry Division on the Champs Élysées in the “Victory Day” parade on 29 August 1944. Photo under public domain.

Patton’s forces moved so fast that normal tactics were insufficient.

Light aircraft that normally served as artillery spotters were pressed into the airborne reconnaissance role.

To keep up with his troops, the 4th Armored Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Wood, would often task one of his aerial artillery observers, “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter, to fly ahead to his armored columns so he could personally deliver orders.

Carpenter was famous for mounting bazooka’s on his light aircraft and attacking German armor – just the kind of fighting man Patton wanted in his army.

As Patton’s troops pushed east, they continued to drive the Germans back. Along with actions by the Canadians and Poles to the north, they were beginning to form a pocket around the German Army Group B.

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General Eisenhower reviews damage (including a wrecked Tiger II) in the pocket at Chambois. Photo under public domain.

The neck of the pocket was closing at Falaise, which was held by the Canadians. Patton was driving his men hard to effect a link-up and trap Germans attempting to retreat from Normandy.

Much to Patton’s dismay, Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelve US Army Group, called him off. Due to the fact that his forces were fighting the Germans all over Northern France, Patton could only commit four divisions to blocking German escape to the south. Bradley was worried that stretching Patton’s line further could lead to him being overrun by German forces desperate to escape the trap.

As Bradley would put it later, “I much preferred a solid shoulder at Argentan to the possibility of a broken neck at Falaise.”

Undeterred, Patton consolidated his forces and continued his drive out of Normandy.

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Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, and Major General Manton S. Eddy being shown a map by one of Patton’s armored battalion commanders during a tour near Metz, France, November 13, 1944.

With the Germans retreating from the area, Patton set his Third Army to give chase.

Depleted German units were easily overcome.

The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, recalled to England the month before, lamented that Patton continually overran their drop zones and kept them out of the action.

On August 25, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division, a lead element of Patton’s Third Army, arrived at the outskirts of Paris. Allowing the French 2nd Armored Division to take the lead in the liberation of their capital, the division moved into the city.

Just five days later, Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Northern France, was declared over.

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Operation Overlord in full swing on the beaches of Normandy. Photo under public domain.

Patton, however, was not done. He had his eyes set on Germany and continued to push his forces.

As Third Army drove hard towards the French province of Lorraine, they finally outran their supply lines. On August 31, Patton’s drive ground to a halt. Patton assumed that he would be given priority for supplies due to the success of his offensive, but was dismayed to learn that this was not the case.

Eisenhower favored a broad front approach and allocated more incoming supplies to Montgomery for his bold plan – Operation Market Garden.

Despite their success in defeating German units all across France and driving further than any other force, the men of Third Army would have to wait for their chance to drill into Germany.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.


The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.

After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”

The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.

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Photo: Wikipedia/Rose Physical Therapy Group from United States

“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.

“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”

“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.

The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.

“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.

Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.

Also Read: 4 most annoying regulations for women in the military

Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”

Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.

He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.

It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.

In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.

Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.

There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.

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A female pilot smiles for the camera. (Image used with permission)

Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.

Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.

Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?

There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.

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USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden

That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.

And if she has the audacity to, say, write a noncontroversial article about female grooming standards in the military? She gets ripped to shreds and accused of not even being a veteran based on her photo next to her byline.

Because we all know female veterans don’t color their hair. And male veterans don’t put on 50lbs and grow beards when they get out.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Saddam thought the US was cool with an invasion of Kuwait

Saddam Hussein once famously believed that the United States was a country whose people couldn’t handle 10,000 dead in a war. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen because no one has been able to inflict those kinds of losses on the U.S. since Vietnam. But we all know Saddam was a-okay with taking those kinds of losses.

Still, he really didn’t believe he would have to take those losses when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He honestly believed the United States gave him the green light for the invasion.


In the late 80s and early 90s, Iraq was heavily indebted to the rest of the world after its disastrous war with Iran failed to achieve much of anything at all, let alone seizing Iranian oil production and revenues. But what it did leave Iraq with was the world’s fifth largest army – the means by which Saddam Hussein could pay his debts.

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If you just failed to take another country’s oil fields, the solution must be to take another country’s oil fields, amirite?

(Kuwait News Agency)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Saddam wanted to increase oil revenues by getting OPEC member countries to reduce production and raise the price of oil. Kuwait didn’t even pay lip service to this idea, producing more than the OPEC quota and keeping the price lower than Iraq wanted. The two countries were in a border dispute at the time and Kuwait was using the oil price as leverage. This infuriated the Iraqi dictator, and his overtures toward raising the price of oil irked his American allies.

To make matters worse for Hussein, the dictator believed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should forgive the billion Iraq owed them for the Iran-Iraq War because he believed Iraq was keeping Iranian Shia influence out of their countries and protecting their governments. The fact that they wouldn’t forgive the debt further flamed tensions.

President George H. W. Bush continued many of his predecessor’s policies toward Iraq and the Middle East. His ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein halfway between Bush’s term in office. She stressed to the dictator that the United States had no interest in a trade war with Iraq.

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“Guys, I just got a great idea. Hear me out…”

In the same meeting between Glaspie and Hussein, the U.S. Ambassador told the Iraqi dictator that the United States had no opinion on its border dispute with Kuwait, and its chief interest in the matter was the price of oil.

But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”

The situation between Iraq and Kuwait kept deteriorating, to the point that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to step in to mediate the disagreement and prevent a war. When that failed, Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait to settle the matter by force. The entire time, he emphasized that he wanted good relations with the United States and was genuinely surprised to find his actions condemned by the Bush Administration.

When prompted about the meeting in Congressional testimony, Glaspie simple explained, “we had no idea he would go that far.”

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and rolled over the Kuwaitis in just two days. Iraq then annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”) as governor. They were expelled by a U.S.-led multinational coalition after a 40-day air war and a 100-hour ground campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks receives the 2016 Pat Tillman Award

Wounded warrior Elizabeth Marks sat down with Army veteran Bryan Anderson from We Are The Mighty to talk about her journey through recovery from her injury in Iraq to eventually becoming a Paralympic swimmer.


After receiving this year’s Pat Tillman Award at the ESPYs, she spoke about the support she has received after her injury and the inspiration she hopes to provide others in their struggles.

If you’re hurting, whether it’s mental or emotional; if ever you think you’re alone, you’re not. If ever you think no one cares, I do. Please come join me behind the blocks.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the former Army Ranger and NFL star’s legacy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

An audio recording of the high-pitched sound that American intelligence officials believe caused U.S. diplomats in Cuba brain damage was released Thursday afternoon.


The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording October 12th. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.

The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.

Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.

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The US flag flaps in the stiff breeze off the Florida Straits at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. Photo from US State Department.

The U.S. has confirmed 21 cases, and American intelligence operatives incurred arguably the worst damage reported thus far. U.S. spies have suffered brain damage, unrelenting hearing loss and other severe outcomes.

Reports of ongoing, mysterious attacks befalling U.S.-government personnel and other foreign citizens in Cuba are complete “nonsense” and “without evidence,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday.

“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel, the likely successor to Cuban President Raúl Castro, said Sunday.

Castro has also rejected any notion that the Cuban government is behind the attacks.

The U.S. Department of State has responded to the reported attacks, ordering all nonessential personnel in Cuba to evacuate the island. The State Department also issued a travel warning for all Americans not to visit the island nation until the attacks are resolved.

Articles

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.


The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.

“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”

The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.

Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.

In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.

Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.

Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.

“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”

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