NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to an alleged violation of a treaty between Washington and Moscow that bans medium-range missiles.
Speaking four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Stoltenberg said on Octo. 24, 2018, that NATO is assessing the security implications of the alleged Russian breach.
“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.”
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.Trump said on Oct. 20, 2018, that the United States will pull out of the treaty.
He and White House national-security adviser John Bolton, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.
White House national-security adviser John Bolton.
European governments including those of NATO members France and Germany have voiced concern about Trump’s stated intention to withdraw from the INF, as has the European Union. Bolton said in Moscow that the United States has not yet made any decision to deploy missiles in Europe targeting Moscow.
Stoltenberg said that the INF is “a landmark treaty, but the problem is that no treaty can be effective — can work — if it’s only respected by one party.”
“All [NATO] allies agree that the United States is in full compliance…. The problem is Russian behavior,” he said.
He also expressed hope that Russia and the United States will agree to extend New START, a treaty that restricts long-range nuclear weapons and is due to expire in 2021.
Russia, meanwhile, repeated its criticism of the U.S. plan to withdraw from the INF.
Trump has suggested that the United States will develop missiles that the treaty prohibited once it withdraws, saying when he first announced the planned pullout: “We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons.'”
President Donald J. Trump.
That is “an extremely dangerous intention,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call on Oct. 24, 2018.
Peskov also said that the Kremlin is “undoubtedly ready” to discuss the possibility of a summit in Washington in 2019 between Putin and Trump, but that there was “no concrete decision on this.”
Bolton has suggested that Trump and Putin, who held their first full-fledged summit in July 2018 in Helsinki, could have another such meeting in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Peskov said the Kremlin is preparing for a “possible meeting” between Trump and Putin at an event in Paris on Nov. 11, 2018, commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I.
At his talks with Bolton on Oct. 23, 2018, Putin mentioned the possibility of a Paris meeting on Nov. 11, 2018, and Bolton said that Trump would like to hold such a meeting.
The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.
But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”
“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.
Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.
Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.
Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.
Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.
Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”
“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.
Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.
“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”
It looks like everyone got promoted this month except for you. Tough break. Better luck next year.
But don’t worry, you’ll probably still get all of the new responsibilities as if you were promoted — just with none of the pay. And you’ll probably take over the old responsibilities of that douchebag that did get promoted instead of you because life sucks like that.
Oh well, maybe these memes will cheer you up. If not, there’s always booze.
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme by WATM)
(Meme via Harambe)
(Meme via Military Memes)
Anyone who’s ever looked at a French history book knows that Phillipe Petain really was the outlier.
And most French people hate him. Not just for surrendering and creating the puppet state of Vichy France, but because he’s the sole reason why French military might is forever mocked.
Facebook is using artificial intelligence software and thousands of employees to weed out terrorism-related content, according to the company’s head of global counterterrorism policy.
In an interview with West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published Thursday, Brian Fishman said that Facebook had 4,500 employees in community operations working to get rid of terrorism-related and other offensive content, with plans to expand that team by 3,000.
The company is also using artificial intelligence to flag offending content, which humans can then review.
“We still think human beings are critical because computers are not very good yet at understanding nuanced context when it comes to terrorism,” Fishman said. “For example, there are instances in which people are putting up a piece of ISIS propaganda, but they’re condemning ISIS. You’ve seen this in CVE [countering violent extremism] types of context. We want to allow that counter speech.”
Facebook is also using photo and video-matching technology, which can, for example, find propaganda from ISIS and place it in a database, which allows the company to quickly recognize those images if a user on the platform posts it.
“There are all sorts of complications to implementing this, but overall the technique is effective,” Fishman said. “Facebook is not a good repository for that kind of material for these guys anymore, and they know it.”
Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.
By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.
ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.
The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)
“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”
Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.
The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.
When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.
“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”
A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.
(University at Buffalo)
This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.
The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.
The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.
“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.
The Army National Guard is using new Hollywood special effects to transform Humvees into T-72 tanks and other Russian combat vehicles to amp up the realism in training exercises.
In 2018, the National Guard Bureau hired WestEfx Military Services in Sun Valley, California, to help improve its Exportable Combat Training Capability program and its 21-day exercises designed to ensure units are ready for mobilization, according to an Army news release.
WestEfx has provided special effects for big-screen movies such as “Taken” and “Men in Black II,” it added.
The firm’s special VisMod kits convert M1097 Humvees into realistic mock-ups of Russian T-72 main battle tanks and BTR-90 personnel carriers.
Military engineers and mechanics have helped WestEfx install 12 kits onto Humvees at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, according to the release. The Guard and WestEfx plan to continue production of 48 more kits over the next three years, it adds.
The upgraded T-72A which appeared in 1979.
“We will be able to train against a realistic enemy,” Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Doramus, Idaho Army National Guard VisMod fleet manager, said in the release. “These kits aren’t going to look and act like a Humvee. They are going to look and act like T-72s and BTR-90s.”
The kits weigh about 1,700 pounds and fit over a Humvee’s chassis to resemble the size and silhouette of the tank or personnel carrier, but use an inflatable canvas-like frame.
Its gas-operated weapon systems simulate the firing of .50-caliber and 125 mm main guns that can be configured to multiple integrated laser engagement systems (MILES) for added realism, according to the release.
“No enhanced battlefield training simulators can compare with the functionality, realism, durability and cost-effectiveness of this new VisMod vehicle,” WestEfx owner and lead designer Erick Brennan said in the release. “They are pretty amazing, and we are really proud of them.”
Army brigade combat teams have used similar technology over the years to replicate enemy vehicles, but these new kits are the “first of their kind,” Maj. Aaron Ammerman, XCTC program manager for the Guard Bureau, said in the release.
“Taking a look at how VisMods are done across the Army, I think these are the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They will provide an exponentially more realistic threat signature for troops to train against as they do force-on-force exercises.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.
Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.
In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.
These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.
In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.
The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.
To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.
But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.
The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.
One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?
But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.
The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.
Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.
But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.
“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.
2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.
Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.
Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.
Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A new national poll shows a huge majority of Americans have confidence in the U.S. military, with that institution topping the list of several government agencies and businesses that have made headlines recently.
The new Fox News poll conducted in mid-February showed 96 percent of those surveyed had “a great deal” or “some” confidence in the U.S. military, with the Supreme Court following close behind at 83 percent and the FBI earning an 80 percent confidence rating.
Surprisingly, a majority of Americans have confidence in the IRS, with 41 percent saying they have some confidence in the taxman and 14 percent having great confidence. Potentially unsurprisingly, the news media came in last, with 44 percent saying that had any confidence in the Fourth Estate.
The Fox poll was conducted Feb. 11-13 among 1,013 registered voters — 42 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican and 19 percent Independent.
More than 15 years of war and deployments hasn’t contributed to much of a shift in America’s trust of the military, with confidence ratings hovering around 95 percent since about 2002, the Fox poll shows. But according to the poll more Americans feel the military is less strong than it once was, with 41 percent saying the services have gotten weaker during the eight years of the Obama administration.
A similar question in 2014 found 32 percent of Americans believed the military was “less effective” than it had been in 2008.
While the military has largely pulled out of Iraq and has a fraction of the troops it once had in Afghanistan, most Americans feel the services are stretched too thin, with 58 percent saying they’re overcommitted. And 45 percent of those surveyed agree that the military needs a budget boost, buttressing President Donald Trump’s reported call for a $54 billion defense spending increase.
The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.
In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.
“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.
IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.
It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.
Wellman and coworkers at the hospital’s opening, April 14, 2020.
Fred Wellman, a West Point graduate and retired public affairs officer, was at home in Richmond, Virginia when he got a call from his friend Kate Kemplin, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing in Ontario, Canada, who was driving to New York.
“She said, ‘we’re building a hospital and we need your network in New York City,'” Wellman, who holds a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, told We Are The Mighty.
Kemplin was referencing what would become the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field, a temporary hospital created to care for COVID-19 patients.
“She needed someone to handle the administrative aspects — things like admin work, bed tracking systems, logistics, not a hospital person, but someone intimately familiar with processes,” Wellman explained. “I was telling my girlfriend about all of this later on and she looked right at me and said, ‘You know that’s you, right?'”
Wellman, the founder and CEO of public relations and research firm ScoutComms, talked to his senior staff and family and called Kemplin back.
“It sounds like you need me,” he told her.
Wellman pauses for a selfie in what would become The Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field.
Courtesy of Fred Wellman
Wellman drove to New York City, where he has been working for a week in his new role as chief of staff at the field hospital, where the staff is composed entirely of former military.
“We put the SOS out to the Special Forces community for medics, and said we need you in New York within a day or two,” Wellman said. “We were able to bring in Special Forces medics as healthcare providers under doctor supervision. It’s never been done in a stateside setting, to use former medics as providers. They’re putting on PPE and taking care of patients. That’s what’s so revolutionary about this. These are former special operations community medics and healthcare workers who have come together on a week’s notice. It’s never been done. Using medics this way is unheard of.”
On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital opened.
Melissa Givens, a retired Army colonel, serves as the hospital’s medical director with over 20 years of experience in emergency and special operations medicine and disaster operation.
“We’re able to let veterans do what they love to do and that’s run at the sound of gunfire, and the gunfire is coronavirus. Here we come and we’re here to help,” Givens, who left her work as a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, D.C. area to aid in NYC, said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.
The temporary hospital, named after Navy SEAL medic Ryan Larkin who died in April 2017, has the capacity to treat 216 COVID-19 patients, as well as staff a 47-bed emergency department outpost.
“Many beds are being taken up at local hospitals by people who are recovering and we need those beds for sicker people,” Wellman said. “Hospitals are using their waiting rooms, cafeterias, as bed space. We have treated a couple dozen patients [here], and that’s growing quickly. Our hope is to get our system working really well and to get sicker patients into the proper hospitals where they belong.”
Despite the enormous physical and mental strain of the work being done, Wellman admits that the military’s ingrained sense of camaraderie has helped.
“We all understand the gravity of what we are doing and why we are here,” he said. “[But] seeing the way all these veterans, from different branches of service, with different experiences, and completely different ranks, just fell right into a unit from day one.”
Speaking through a mask as the interview ended and Wellman headed back inside the bubble, he likened his experience to his former life as an executive military officer.
“I went to Iraq three times and Desert Storm before that. That first deployment, you didn’t know what to expect; it’s planned, you know what you’re going to do, but once you cross that border, all bets are off. Yeah we have systems and processes, but this virus gets to vote, too.”
All Americans welcome the return of remains from the Korean War.
The July 27, 2018, honorable carry ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, transferred 55 boxes of remains covered by the United Nations flag. Now the work of identification begins.
These remains are presumed to be American, but many other nations fought in the Korean War, and it’s possible the remains may come from one of those nations.
The 1950-1953 Korean War was incredibly violent, with 36,940 Americans killed and another 92,134 wounded. Some 7,699 American service members are listed as unaccounted-for from the conflict.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Lance Alan Schroeder)
The remains will be examined at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and experts there will be responsible for identifying the remains. The agency is relatively new — coming into existence in 2015 after the merger of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
Many of the fallen service members died in North Korea and were buried by their comrades where they fell. Other U.S. service members were captured and placed in prisoner-of-war camps, where many succumbed to starvation, exposure and torture. Outside those camps are graves of Americans.
The DPAA Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is the first U.S. stop for the recently returned remains. The lab is the largest and most diverse skeletal identification laboratory in the world and is staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists and forensic odonatologists, United Nations Command release.
Those experts will sort and examine the remains. In the past, North Korea turned over commingled remains.
The lab experts are painstaking in their examination. The age of the remains — at least 65 years old — will complicate the process. The North Koreans collected the remains, and U.S. investigators will have to do the examination without the forensic information they normally would have, such as the approximate place of the burial and the conditions around it.
Examination of dental charts and mitochondrial DNA will be key technologies used to identifying the remains, and the process may take years to complete, DoD officials said.
Featured image: United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from North Korea to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.
The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.
Don’t forget the gifts
If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.
Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.
Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.
Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.
Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.
No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.
Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.
iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.
Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.
And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.
The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.
ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.
Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.
And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.
It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.
Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.
If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.
Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.
But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.
Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.
You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.