New multi-branch plan to improve military housing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

The civilian and military leaders of the Air Force, Navy and Army attempted March 8, 2019, to convince skeptical senators that they are working aggressively — and effectively — to correct poorly maintained military housing that has left some homes coated in mold, infested with rodents and with other problems affecting health and safety.

“Our military families deserve good housing,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And when there’s a problem with a house, it should be fixed promptly and competently. Moreover, our airmen should be comfortable that they can identify problems without any fear of retaliation.”


Wilson was joined by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer as well as the military chiefs of each service — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson.

Each was alternately contrite and outraged, apologizing for the not attacking the problem sooner but promising swift and decisive action. The responses followed blunt assessments from a number of senators.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

James Inhofe, R-Okla. and committee chairman, said reports of substandard housing are “heart wrenching.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the current state of housing on some bases is the result of “systemic failures on the part of contractors and Department of Defense.”

The service secretaries and chiefs each acknowledged the problem.

“In too many cases, it is clear the private housing companies failed to uphold their end of the bargain, a failure that was enabled by the Army’s insufficient oversight,” Esper said. “We are determined to investigate these problems and to hold our housing contractors and chains of command … accountable.”

To underscore their response, leaders of each service described their services’ review of base housing. Wilson told senators that the Air Force completed its review on March 1 and that she personally visited housing at MacDill, Tinker and Shaw Air Force Bases. Goldfein saw housing and met families at Keesler and Maxwell AFBs.

Each found problems and substandard maintenance that “were very consistent with the testimony that you heard from the families that came forward,” Goldfein said. “And I’ll second what the secretary said, that the most concerning to me that I found was the breakdown in trust that we’ve got to rebuild.”

A major part of the corrective effort, the officials told senators, is creation of a tenant bill of rights. An early version of the document has been released. It provides service personnel who live in military housing more authority and stronger tools to alert the chain of command to problems and force action.

Foremost is the ability of renters to withhold payment if problems are properly reported to the private companies that manage the homes but are not addressed or resolved.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

“Excitement in the near term based on hearings is interesting, not compelling,” Goldfein told senators. “We are going to have to keep our boot on the throat of the underperforming contractors and our command chain and leadership to make sure we get after this for the long term. And we’re committed to do so.”

How long it will take to enact the tenant bill of rights, however, is unclear. Spencer said it could take 90 days because it requires contacting each company that manages military housing to inform “and educate” them about new expectations and consequences for not complying.

Beyond the bill of rights and stronger commander involvement, the service secretaries and chiefs said they will work to ensure that base housing authorities are sufficiently staffed and trained. Wilson said she as part of her review, at bases where housing is well maintained and satisfaction ratings are high, the housing authority is strong.

“One of the bases that I went to was one that was rated as performing well and when you have a contract housing office where the contractor is performing well, we probably have enough people in that housing office,” Wilson said. “But when performance starts to slide that’s when it becomes overtaxed. So how we put the people back (to) give support to the base commanders where it’s really needed is … going to be the key decision point.”

Wilson, Goldfein and the other leaders also said that commanders must work harder to understand the state of housing on their bases and to respond aggressively and quickly. In addition, each secretary and service chief said there would be “zero tolerance” for retaliation when problems are reported.

“If people feel that if they act there will be retaliation, people will not act,” Wilson said.

When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to speak directly to active-duty service personnel who are living in substandard housing, Goldfein said the issue was a “mirror check” moment for him and other commanders.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

“We have a moral obligation,” he said. “We are not going to stop until we have the system right and we can take care of all of them.”

The Air Force and other services are also looking at the terms of leases to determine if universal language might be used. They also are examining building codes and how building inspectors from local governments are used to ensure that safe and most up-to-date standards are used.

While the hearing was for the most part cordial, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., focused on the role that commanders play to ensure that rules and standards are enforced. She also said they must be more assertive in rejecting bonus payments to contractors that fail to meet high standards.

A contract can have “perfect language,” she said, but “If leaders don’t enforce the rules, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be delivering for our military personnel.”

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., agreed. “This is ultimately a commander responsibility.”

McSally should know. A retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, McSally said her experience is that the record of commanders is “very patchwork.”

By the end of the 3-hour hearing, senators said they believe the actions and plans of the services are well designed and will make a difference.

But they also warned that their attention will not wane and that each of the services is expected to show real and lasting improvement.

“We will have another oversight hearing with the chairman’s blessing to see where the progress is,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said. “And I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking on fairly short intervals because if you look at this, this is not rocket science. We can fix this. And it starts by doing what every branch has said they’re going to do.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 epic photos from our enemies’ Instagram feeds

We have a history of showing off American military hardware, training, and photos. But we’re not always great about showing the great photographic work of our rivals. (Our “enemies” if you’re feeling aggressive or if you need to make your headline more click-baitey.)


So, we just took a quick walk through the Instagram feeds of the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as their senior leaders and found these seven epic photos that show off their hardware, troops, training, and celebrations.

Because they’re coming from Instagram and we don’t have the rights to download the images and upload them raw, you’ll also see the captions the photos were shared with. Lucky us, the Russian military includes English captions on their photos. The Russian caption comes before the English one, so just scroll until you see some familiar letters.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh-VBjxn5vj/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Chinese Armed Forces on Instagram: “We serve China! – People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Su-30MKK – #中国 #中华人民共和国 #中国人民解放军 #中国人民解放军空军 #中国武装力量 #中华人民共和国武装力量 #plaaf…”

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This Su-30MKK is an export variant of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30. It’s flown by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force and is a capable fourth-generation fighter. It’s primarily used to protect from other fighters or to conduct strikes against targets on the ground like an F-15 does.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0GHMPIAG5L/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “До Дня ВМФ чуть больше недели, а морпехи Тихоокеанского флота уже целый месяц репетируют эпизоды шоу, которое состоится во Владивостоке в…”

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These armored personnel carriers are Russian BTR-82As. They can race along the ground at about 62 mph and have only been in service since the end of 2009. A three-person crew is needed to operate the vehicle, and seven more can ride in the back. It boasts a 30mm auto-cannon as well as a 7.62mm machine gun.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0Akdy7ge8o/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Удивительные кадры первых репетиций Главного военно-морского парада, посвященного Дню ВМФ, прошедших вчера в Санкт-Петербурге. В…”

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A Russian helicopter, most likely the Mi-17, flies over St. Petersburg during rehearsals for a national holiday. Russia’s transport helicopters are some of the best in the world, and their attack helicopters have gotten better and better as well, though the most-modern Apaches and Vipers can likely still clear the sky.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BzS_LkwpVoL/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Instagram post by General Zhuang Dingman • Jun 29, 2019 at 2:15pm UTC

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Chinese troops lift tires filled with water and dump them on themselves. The general who shared this image provided no context, but displays like this are common for Chinese troops, especially special operators, when cameras are nearby to capture the moment.

That may make it sound like these troops are just photo models, but China’s special operators have actually placed highly at recent Warrior Competitions in Jordan, taking first and third in 2017 and second in 2018.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0gSJnOgC-y/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Небо Москвы вчера озарили 2500 фейерверков в честь 75-ой годовщины освобождения Бреста от немецко-фашистских захватчиков ⠀ Брест был…”

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The Russian government and its citizens celebrate the liberation of Brest, Belarus, during a party in Moscow. Brest was one of the first Russian cities lost during the German invasion in World War II but Russia re-took the city in 1944, 75 years ago.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BvpAt8NgtSy/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]General Zhuang Dingman on Instagram: “Airmen erect air-defense missiles!!!!!”

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Chinese troops prepare to erect an air defense missile. China has a wide selection of air defense missiles including S-300 and S-400 missiles imported from Russia as well as domestically built HQ-9 and HQ-22 missiles.

There’s some speculation about how much technology China might have reverse-engineered from Russia without permission, but the HQ-9, at least, was first deployed before China got access to Russian air defense missiles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL kicked PTSD with coffee

In 2008, former SEAL Salvatore DeFranco was busy ramping up for his second deployment to Iraq when an unexpected accident happened. Salvatore was in a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident that left the SEAL with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), in a coma, and with nearly half of his skull removed to relieve the pressure on his brain.


Salvatore was in for a hard road ahead. He was sent home to Massachusetts to recover — and he has, but it took a while. He battled a number of issues daily in his recovery, which included depression. Salvatore had been seeing a mental health professional, but it was time to explore medication as an option in coping.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Salvatore DeFranco and wife Dana kicking depression with caffeine.

The doctor he went to see asked Salvatore two questions: Are you working out? Are you drinking coffee?

The answer to the first question was yes, but Salvatore’s answer to the second question was no. He had never been a coffee drinker. The doctor (which happened to be a former SEAL) stated that coffee was a natural anti-depressant and that it may help. After drinking coffee, things began to get better; he was happier and his energy came back. He started hanging out at cafes where the interaction with people was therapeutic and his passion for the coffee industry grew.

It’s not a stretch to say that coffee saved his life.

Battle Grounds Coffee is the product of this pain, hard work, and perseverance. Battle Grounds Coffee Company proudly roasts one of the finest coffee beans on earth. Alongside their popular house blends, they source a variety of seasonal single-origin coffees to provide their customers with a broad coffee experience. In addition to coffee, they serve breakfast sandwiches all day and a selection of salads and specialty sandwiches.

Salvatore and his wife Dana opened Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 and have never looked back. They opened it as a way to give back to their community. Dana comes from a military family; her father, uncle, and grandfather all served. Her grandfather believed in the business so much he provided the seed money to open the café. He was a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and was awarded the silver star, bronze star, and purple heart.

This family is no stranger to service for one’s country and community.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Coffee is an unexpected treatment that can have a positive effect on veterans suffering from depression.

Community is the corner stone for Battle Grounds Coffee. They strive to be at the forefront of initiatives for the local and state veteran’s community. From helping homeless veterans stay warm in the cold weather to helping veterans get back to work. Salvatore and Dana are a family owned and run business and want to serve as a bridge between veterans and civilians.

“Battle Grounds serves as a place for people to discuss ideas, build relationships and create business. In our community, we are the tip of the spear,” stated Salvatore.

Country, Community, Coffee.

Side note: The doctor that suggested the coffee as a solution was a sleep specialist.

Visit Battle Grounds Coffee, where you can buy coffee and merchandise.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Check out Battle Grounds Coffee Co. on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Bennett is a former Reconnaissance Marine and US Army Infantryman. Bennett is the Co-Founder of Battle Sight Technologies, Cigars Sea Stories and 5Paragraph and is the Managing Editor of Change Your POV Podcast Network. Also, as a Certified Peer Support Specialist Bennett has dedicated his life to helping veterans navigate the system and aid them in adding value to their communities.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Prestigious NORAD Air Force award goes to… a coastie

When the Continental U.S. North American Air Force Aerospace Control Alert Maintainer of the Year for 2020 was announced, there was some shock. The prestigious Air Force award went to … a coastie.

The Continental Division of the North American Aerospace Defense Command is comprised of the United States Air Force, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Canadian Air Force and to the surprise of many – the Coast Guard.


The National Capital Region Air Defense Facility of the Coast Guard is housed under the command of NORAD in Washington, D.C and is their only permanent air defense unit. Operating simultaneously as both a military branch and law enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security allows the elite Coast Guard unit the ability to respond to potential threats on a moment’s notice. One of their most vital missions is protecting the restricted air space around the White House.

When a threat to the capital is detected, coasties are the first on deck to respond.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)

Avionics Technician First Class Andrew Anton is a member of the small crew of coasties tasked with protecting America’s capital and the only coastie to have ever been selected for the Maintainer of the Year award. “It was a surprise to me. I didn’t see it coming and it’s very humbling,” he said. Anton continued, “We don’t fly the helicopter by ourselves. This is a team award and a Coast Guard win.”

Anton is responsible for managing, scheduling and maintaining all of the helicopters at the unit. “We are the only rotary wing air intercept entity under the NORAD structure. We are Coast Guard but we work for the Air Force,” he explained.

Working within aviation is not without risk, which is why Anton feels his award is attributed to the team and not just him. A day in the life of a coastie working aviation involves dangerous chemicals, heavy parts and working in high lifts. Then, there’s the inherent risk of simply being up in the air in flight. “At the end of the day, there has to be a human factor in this. We all live and die together. This is a very dangerous job,” Anton shared. “This unit applies the best amount of leadership that I have ever seen. Although this is an individual award, it is a team. No one can be successful if the ones around you can’t do their jobs.”

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)

Military service has been ingrained into Anton his entire life as his family has served in the Armed Forces for generations. “I have had a passion for aviation since I was very young. Every male in my family since World War II was a pilot, I am the only mechanic in my family. I love flying but I prefer to work with my hands,” he explained. When he finished college, he knew he wanted to join the Coast Guard.

“I work for Aviation Engineering and I am a maintainer, a mechanic,” Anton said. But he’s much more than that. Anton is a Coast Guard Rotary Wing Aircrew Member, an Enlisted Flight Examiner, Flight Standards Board Member, a facility Training Petty Officer and is responsible for primary quality assurance.

Since his unit is a part of NORAD and works alongside the Air Force, they have unique protocols to follow. “The Coast Guard regulations are one thing, but we also have to abide by the Air Force Regulations because we are an Air Combat Alert unit,” Anton explained.

Anton shared that when the Air Force completes the inspections for their Coast Guard unit, they are often left baffled. When they realize that only one Coast Guard maintainer does the job that it takes eight separate Air Force members to do, they’re shocked. “When they come for these assessments, it’s kind of funny to hear them ask, ‘I’d like to talk to your refueler’ or ‘I’d like to talk to your tool manager’ and I’m like – still here, all me. They’ll do that for everything. We take pride in our workload and what we are able to accomplish,” he said.
New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)

They maintain their high level of efficiency with just six maintainers on a daily basis.

“As coasties, there’s just so many hats that we take off and put on, but we do it well. We’re so accustomed to being adaptable,” Anton shared. Many may find themselves shocked at what the Coast Guard accomplishes in a single day and probably didn’t realize they are a vital part of protecting the President of the United States.

“We don’t have Coast Guard signs out front and this mission isn’t as heavily publicized because we are following POTUS around. It’s a way to mitigate risk,” Anton shared. The members of this unit are not allowed to wear their Coast Guard uniforms outside of the facility and much of what they do still remains shrouded in secrecy, as a matter of national security.

While this unit is lending vital support to Operation Noble Eagle, the Coast Guard as a whole is also engaging in Rotary Wing Air Intercept nationwide for the U.S. Secret Service. They guard the skies above National Special Security Events and the president, wherever he or she goes.

Receiving this award showcases the important role that the Coast Guard plays in not only guarding America’s waters, but her sky as well. Their missions are accomplished with pride and devotion, despite the challenges they encounter within their budget. “It’s important to know that these guys and this team manage it all. You don’t hear about it because they do it so well,” Anton said. “The Coast Guard is such a small branch that it must be that good.”


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The female Viper pilot with bigger balls than you is blazing trails

Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnik is the new commander of the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team (VDT).

On Jan. 29, 2019, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, certified the new F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander ahead of the 2019 season, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The final certification by the ACC Commander follows extensive training including four certifications, off-station training flights and more than 30 practice missions.


With over 1,000 flying hours in her eight years of military service “SiS”, originally assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, is the Air Force’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot.

She will lead the team in about 20 locations across the world during the upcoming airshow season.

“What I’m looking forward to most is the potential to have an influence on younger generations,” said Kotnik in a public release. “I know firsthand how impactful airshows can be and what a difference it makes to young people to see just one example of what they too can do and who they can become. I hope to be a source of inspiration and motivation they can draw from to apply in their own lives.”

The F-16 VDT performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.

“These shows allow us to demonstrate the capabilities of the F-16 to a world-wide audience while highlighting the work of the airmen who keep the Viper flying,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schneider, F-16 VDT superintendent. “It’s not every day people get the chance to hear the sound of freedom roaring over their heads or watch a team of maintainers working together to make it happen.”

If you are interested in learning a bit more about her, here’s an interview “Sis” gave to LiveAirshowTV in fall 2018:

Meet Capt. Zoe “Sis” Kotnik – F-16 Viper Demo Team Pilot-Commander

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

New Navy secretary welcomes ‘any patriot that wants to serve’

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer visited Naval Station Norfolk for the first time August 10, where he pledged that America would defend itself and its allies against aggression from North Korea.


Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated amid threats from Kim Jong Un to lob missiles near the American territory of Guam, which is home to naval and Air Force bases. President Donald Trump ramped up warnings of “fire and fury” should the dictator put his plan into action.

Spencer, who was sworn in as the Navy’s 76th secretary August 3, declined to comment on the Navy’s preparations in the Pacific.

“We just hope that Korea stops acting the way it does,” Spencer said. “We’re going to defend ourselves; we are going to defend our allies. They should know that, and we hope that we can have conversations and de-escalate.”

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
US Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez (right), command sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Regions, greets Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay.

Spencer’s comments came after he toured the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner and named people, capabilities, and process as priorities for his new role.

Spencer joined the Marine Corps in 1976 after graduating from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and flew the service’s H-46 helicopter. He attained the rank of captain before leaving in 1981 for a career in finance, according to a Navy biography. He most recently served as managing director of Wyoming-based Fall Creek Management, LLC.

Spencer follows Ray Mabus, whose nearly eight years as Navy secretary — the longest since World War I — was marked with criticism for decisions to name some ships after civil and human rights leaders and for dropping a more than two-century-old naval tradition of referring to sailors by their rate, or job title, in favor of rank. That decision was reversed after a storm of fierce opposition.

During his July 11 confirmation hearing, Spencer told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports the use of alternative energy sources, growing the capacity and capabilities of the fleet, and protecting Navy bases against sea-level rise.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Richard V. Spencer is sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy by William O’Donnell, Department of the Navy administrative assistant. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Spencer also said he opposed the use of the services as “a petri dish for social experiments,” instead saying it should be left to the Pentagon to develop policy. A little more than two weeks later and in a series of tweets, Trump said he was banning transgender military personnel from service, stunning an unprepared Pentagon.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reaffirmed current policies until additional guidance is given by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Spencer said August 10 he would follow policies developed by the Pentagon at the direction of the White House, adding context to his “petri dish” statement to mean that no service secretary “should go off and do experiments on their own.” But Spencer did not directly say whether the thousands of transgender service members on active duty and in the reserves should be kicked out.

“As I’ve said before, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military,” Spencer said.

Articles

This is one idea on how the US military could fight a war in space

A major strategic think-tank suggested that assuring US victory in a space war requires the military to develop a network of small satellites capable of rapidly replacing destroyed space assets.


During a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that took place on June 22nd, military experts and space industry representatives suggested the US invest in the technology to launch swarms of small satellites into orbit as an insurance policy for larger military satellites in the event of a conflict in space.

Developing the capacity to rapidly launch small and cheap satellites would create a “layer of resiliency,” preventing any disruption to space assets by quickly replacing any destroyed satellites.

The current network of large US military and intelligence satellites provide a major war-winning advantage over other countries, but “was really built in an uncontested environment,” Steve Nixon, vice president for strategic development for the satellite firm Stratolaunch, told SpaceNews. “It’s no longer resilient to threats and probably cannot operate through a contested military environment.”

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
The International Space Station. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The military relies on a network of Global Positioning System satellites to provide precision navigation, communications, weather monitoring, and to find intelligence assets. But those satellites could be vulnerable to Chinese and Russian weapons, according to General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command.

“We believe that for just one percent of what we spend on national security space, you could add this layer, both in terms of satellites and launch systems,” Nixon said. “One percent is your insurance or deterrent capability that preserves the rest of your architecture. It seems like a really good deal.”

Nixon’s company is developing technology to launch satellites into space from small aircraft, which could be done much more rapidly than a full rocket launch.

Experts believe the threat against satellites has been obscured in today’s asymmetric warfare against terror cells that lack the ability to target US space assets, according to a report published in August by the US National Academies.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Hyten wrote in a white paper published in July.

The Trump administration seems interested in maintaining space dominance. The Air Force requested $7.75 billion, a 20 percent increase, in their space budget from last year. The service could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.

Articles

This is what it’s like for families of terrorists

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”


In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
USAF photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
A young boy pushes a cart outside of a market in Mosul, Iraq, July 4, 2017. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

The Internet is absolutely chock-full of military memes. Who knew? Check out 13 of our favorites from this week below.


1. The only piece of tech we got from Star Wars was the PT belt (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Chewie’s crossbow might’ve been more useful.

2. Wanna know why your navigation system messed up?

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

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UNSAT.

SEE ALSO: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

3. We’re sure the Rangers have almost caught up (via Team Non-Rec).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

4. Force Recon has no mercy.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
If that’s painful for you, too bad.

5. Dig deep, embrace the suck (via Squidable).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Also, no double dipping.

6. After all you’ve been through together, you leave them on the shelves!? (via Marine Corps Memes)

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Go help a battle buddy today.

7. Most effective protection in the known world (via Hey Shipmate).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Plan B has nothing on those Coke bottles.

8. “Tape can’t stop me! I’m in officer in the Navy!”

(via Hey Shipmate)

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

9. Why are you guys laughing? Those are pretty nice digs.

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

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Check out how much of the wall is still there.

10. The “gentleman” part applies to some generals more than others.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Luckily, the rank-and-file Marines don’t care.

11. Yeah! Tear it up, ground-pounder!! (via Grunt Nation)

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
Wait. Is that an airman?

12. It’s a pill on a Navy ship, of course it’s Motrin (via Sh-t my LPO says).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
But it looks more like a big Mike and Ike.

13. Keep pushing through (via Hey Shipmate).

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
That day is totally worth it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 craziest ways you could fight in the World Wars

The two World Wars were some of the first true industrial wars, forcing leaders to innovate so they would lose fewer troops and have a chance at victory. While some were slow to change, some leaders figured out truly novel ways of using everything from bicycles to railroads to artists. Here are just seven of the crazy jobs that were created:


New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

German bicycle troops in World War I.

Bicycle troops

Believe it or not, bicycles were a huge part of World War I. France and Britain has about 250,000 troops in bicycle units by the end of the war, and most major combatants had at least a couple thousand. This included bicycle couriers, reconnaissance cyclists, and bicycle infantry, all of which were exactly what they sounded like.

But there were also more surprising applications. Some bicycles were welded into tandem, side-by-side configurations that allowed cyclists to create silent, mobile machine gun platforms, ambulances, and even vehicles with which to tow small artillery.

American motorcycle Corps Train

www.youtube.com

Motorcycle tank repairman

Want to work on two wheels but don’t want to pedal so much? Fair enough, maybe the motorcycle corps was for you. Motorcycles were used for everything that bicycles were, and occasionally even pressed into service as anti-tank weapons. But the craziest way to use motorcycles was definitely tank recovery.

See, before a random tank operator thought to convert some tanks into recovery vehicles, the Army used motorcyclists to deliver tools and spare parts to tanks under fire on the battlefield. While this was fast, it meant that a motorcycle rider had to tear through No Man’s Land under fire that had just crippled or bogged down a tank.

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A fake M4 Sherman, an inflatable decor, sits on the ground in World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Fake Army/city creator

On both sides of World War II, artists were put to work creating decoy forces or, in the case of Britain, decoy cities to draw away attackers and waste the enemy’s resources. The most famous of this is likely America’s “Ghost Army,” a collection of mostly inflatable military hardware complete with fake radio traffic that caused the Germans to overestimate the enemy they were facing and even got them to think D-Day was a feint.

But perhaps the most ambitious program was in England where engineers created entire fake cities and landing strips, complete with lights, ammo and fuel dumps, and planes. They were able to convince German bomber crews at night that they had reached their targets, resulting in thousands of tons of bombs dropping on fake targets.

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British Chindits, guerrilla fighters from Britain who fought in Burma, discuss operations in a captured town.​

(Imperial War Museum)

Guerrilla warfare fighter/trainer

For major combatants with lots of territory to fight over, it’s always easier if you can put a small number of troops or trainers into position and force a much larger enemy force to remain there to fight them. That’s what America achieved with guerrilla trainers like Detachment 101 and the British achieved with guerrilla units like the Chindits.

In both cases, sending in a couple dozen or a couple thousand men tied down entire Japanese divisions and inflicted heavy losses. The situation was similar in Europe. A Marine guerrilla warfare unit of just six men provided support to French resistance fighters and killed so many Nazis that the Germans assumed they were an entire battalion. And they achieved this despite losing two Marines on the jump into France.

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“Mad” Jack Churchill leads his troops off the boats during a training exercise while preparing for D-Day. He’s the one with the sword at far right.

(Imperial War Museum)

Bagpiper/swordsman/bowman

Granted, these jobs only came up under one commander: Jack “Mad Jack” Churchill, a British officer who led his men onto the beaches of Normandy while carrying a claybeg (basically a smaller claymore) and a longbow. And he did use the weapons in combat, at one point riding through France on a bicycle with his quiver hanging from the frame.

And, on D-Day, British soldier Bill Millin, a personal piper to Lord Movat, was ordered to play his bagpipes as his unit hit the sands of Normandy. The Millin wasn’t shot and asked a group of Nazi prisoners of war why no one hit him since he was such an obvious target. The German commander said “We thought you were a ‘Dummkopf,’ or off your head. Why waste bullets on a Dummkopf?

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Poison gasses float across a battlefield in World War I.

(Public domain)

Chemical warfare operator

The first large-scale deployment of chemical weapons came at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, but, luckily, was largely outdated by changes in international law before World War II, so there were just a couple of years in history where offensive chemical warfare operators were a real thing.

That first attack required hundreds of German soldiers to bury 6,000 steel cylinders over a period of weeks, but allowed them to break French lines across an almost 4-mile front. But it was hard to exploit gaps from chemical attacks since, you know, the affected areas were filled with poison.

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U.S. sailors fire a 14-inch railway gun in France during World War I.

(U.S. Navy)

Railway gun operator

If you’ve never seen one of the railway guns from World War I and II, then just take a look at the picture. These weapons were massive with 14-inch or larger caliber guns mounted on railway carriages. When the U.S. joined the war, they immediately sent five naval railway guns across the Atlantic.

Railway artillerymen were usually outside of the range of enemy fire, so it was relatively safe. But expect some serious hearing loss and even brain damage. Massive amounts of propellant were required to launch these huge shells.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea exports its citizens to be slave labor for cash

Hundreds of North Korean nationals in Europe and Russia are forced to undertake manual labour without breaks, sleep at their workplace, and send their earnings to prop up Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle, BBC Panorama has reported following an undercover investigation.

An unidentified North Korean worker in Vladivostok, Russia, told the programme: “You’re treated like a dog here. You have to eat trash. You have to give up being human.”


He added that he and his fellow workers had to hand over most of their earnings back to North Korea via an intermediary, known as a “captain.”

“Some call it ‘Party Duty.’ Others call it ‘Revolutionary Duty.’ Those who can’t pay it cannot stay here,” he said. “Ten years ago it was about 15,000 Robles ($242/£170) a month, but now it’s twice as much.”

These wages, combined, can generate as much as $2 billion (£1.4 billion) a year, The Washington Post reported.

It is then used to finance Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle and nuclear development programme, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK said.

Thae Yong Ho, who defected from the regime in 2016, told the BBC: “It financed the private luxury of the Kim family, the nuclear programme, and the army. That’s a fact.”

The North Korean leader recently travelled to China in a bulletproof train containing flat screen TVs and Apple products — a great show of luxury while millions of his citizens remain undernourished or lack basic access to healthcare. He also tested multiple short-range, medium-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017.

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A North Korean supervisor in Sczcecin, Poland.

North Korean slaves in Poland, are also forced to live where they work and aren’t allowed to take any breaks, the BBC reported.

A North Korean supervisor in charge of foreign workers at Szczecin, northwestern Poland, told the programme:

“Our guys are stationed in Poland only to work. They only take unpaid holidays. When there are deadlines, we work without breaks. Not like the Polish. They work eight hours a day and then go home.

“We don’t. We work as long as we have to.”

There are about 150,000 North Koreans foreign workers worldwide, many of whom are in Russia, China, and Poland. About 800 are in Poland, mostly working as welders and manual laborers.

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing

The UN in December 2017, ordered countries to stop authorizing visas to North Korean workers and to send them home within two years.

Poland said it stopped issuing visas to North Korean workers, but that doesn’t mean the activity has stopped.

A Polish manager secretly filmed by the BBC acknowledged that he continued to employ North Korean workers, but complained that it was getting harder to get permits for them.

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Air Force pilots drop bombs from F-35s for the first time

New multi-branch plan to improve military housing
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


Air Force pilots attached to deployable squadrons have started dropping real bombs off of their F-35s during training missions, according to a report posted at CNN.com.

“This is significant because we’re building the confidence of our pilots by actually dropping something off the airplane instead of simulating weapon employment,” Lt. Col. George Watkins said in an Air Force statement.

The inert precision guided bombs were dropped from airplanes based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, could use whatever good publicity it can manage at this point. The test program has been plagued with failures at every turn, from wrestling with the millions of lines of code needed to make the cockpit suite communicate with the $500,000 helmet the pilot is supposed to wear to having to redesign the tailhook so the airplane will actually catch the wire across the flight deck and stop when trying to land on an aircraft carrier.

The program’s original “initial operational capability” or “IOC” date was in 2012, but that goal was missed due to setbacks. The overall program cost is currently at $400 billion, and that’s expected to go up to more than $1 trillion over the life of the airplane.

F-35 supporters marvel at the fighter’s “fifth generation” capability, which includes radar-evading stealth technology and data sharing between airplanes.  Critics say the Joint Strike Fighter is a procurement nightmare that can’t match the A-10 as a close air support asset or the F-16 as a dogfighter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This shotgun-wielding legend is the only woman to earn the Medal of Honor

After the war, President Andrew Johnson presented her with the Medal of Honor to recognize her dedication and loyalty to the US.

Walker became known for her “radical” views on women’s rights and was regarded as a living legend.

Her medal was rescinded in the early 20th century because of changes in the award’s regulations, but she refused to give it up and wore it until she died in 1919.


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Dr. Mary Walker wearing her Medal of Honor, circa 1866.

(U.S. Army Mathew Brady Collection)

Mary Walker was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York.

Her parents were abolitionists, and they encouraged her to flaunt the rules of women’s fashion. She soon began wearing pants, a habit that continued into her adult life.

In 1855, Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College and became a doctor.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Walker was barred from being an Army surgeon because she was a woman. She volunteered instead, working without pay at hospitals in Washington, DC, and Virginia.

Walker spent four months as a Confederate prisoner of war in Richmond, Virginia.

Despite her service tending to Union Army wounded and her imprisonment, Walker received a smaller pension than that given to war widows.

President Andrew Johnson presented her with the Medal of Honor in November 1865 to thank her for her contributions and her loyalty.

Also read: Why ancient German women yelled at men during combat

In 1917, due to changes in the medal’s regulations, her award was rescinded because she did not engage in direct combat with the enemy.

Walker refused to return her medal and continued to wear it.

According to one legend, when federal marshals attempted to retrieve it in 1917, she opened the door holding a shotgun — and wearing her medal.

She died in 1919 — one year before women were finally allowed to vote.

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Dr. Mary E. Walker, circa 1911.

(Library of Congress)

Walker also attracted public scrutiny for her views on women’s rights, which were seen as radical. She reportedly voted as early as 1871 — a half-century before women were legally allowed to do so in the US.

President Jimmy Carter reinstated her medal in 1977 to honor her sacrifice and acknowledge the sexism she fought.

In 2012, the town Oswego dedicated of a statue in her honor, drawing people from around the country remember her, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York.

“I have got to die before people will know who I am and what I have done. It is a shame that people who lead reforms in this world are not appreciated until after they are dead; then the world pays its tributes,” Walker once said. That quote is inscribed on part of the statue.

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