The Army has recently expanded its Not in My Squad initiative as part of its ongoing fight against sexual assault, the Army’s top enlisted leader told lawmakers Feb. 27, 2019.
Introduced in 2015, the program empowers junior leaders at the squad level to reduce sexual assault and violence by building cohesive units through shared and mutual trust.
According to written testimony provided to lawmakers by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, the service has now spread the program to 27 ready and resilient campuses on Army installations.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, Dailey testified that the service has also conducted 17 workshops that showed positive feedback.
Certified resiliency trainers have been embedded at the company level to train soldiers on sustaining readiness and optimizing performance.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey introduces the “Not In My Squad” initiative during the launch of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at the Pentagon.
(Photo by J.D. Leipold)
“The Army strives to provide an environment of dignity and respect for all service members and is fully committed to eliminating sexual assault,” Dailey told lawmakers in Washington, D.C. “We recognize that regardless of the progress that we have made, more work still needs to be done.”
Dailey spoke at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services’ subcommittee on military personnel policies and military family readiness.
In addition to making the service a welcome place for all soldiers, the Army has also seen progress in retention. Dailey cited a 90 percent retention rate in 2018 and said the service is on track for similar results in 2019.
To help improve retention, the Army has made quality of life a top priority.
Army senior leaders have worked to hasten civilian hiring times to provide quality childcare for soldiers and their families. The service recently developed and implemented hiring tools to help childcare providers transition from one installation to another, such as not requiring them to go through the hiring and background check process again.
Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii watch the “Not In My Squad” initiative introduction by Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Daniel A. Dailey.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ondirae Abdullah-Robinson)
Dailey also wrote the service is exploring ways to maximize limited space at childcare centers.
At a family forum on Feb. 5, 2019, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said he supported the idea of having more spouses run childcare businesses from home to reduce backlogs.
Army senior leaders also continue to work on improving the quality of military housing.
Earlier this week, leaders traveled to installations to speak with families living in military housing. The service is currently analyzing data from housing surveys completed by families in February 2019.
Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley even ordered an environmental hazard screening to be performed on Army-owned, -leased and -privatized homes.
By 2021, plans call for the Army to eliminate its lowest level of military housing, known as Q4. Only 190 families are currently living in Q4 housing, Dailey testified.
“We will regain the trust of our soldiers and families through immediate and tangible actions that have already began,” he wrote.
Dailey added there will be no reprisals for soldiers and families who share their concerns about housing and quality of life.
In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.
Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.
Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came tothe site emblazoned with miniature American flags.
But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)
In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used aform to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.
Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.
In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”
To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.
An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.
That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.
In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.
“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.
Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.
The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.
Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.
TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.
It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.
Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.
We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.
The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.
And that “military discount”? All of .
In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.
Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:
The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.
Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.
“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”
We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.
TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.
We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.
We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).
We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.
When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).
On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.
When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .
While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.
On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.
It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”
“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.
Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.
While carrying a ruck sack may sometimes feel like the equivalent of carrying a refrigerator on your back, a ruck sack is not able to provide a stable, temperature-controlled environment for lifesaving blood products that might be needed in remote or deployed environments.
The XVIII Airborne Corps and the Armed Services Blood Program are partnering to identify soldiers with blood type O who have low levels of antibodies in their blood. These individuals have the ability to provide an immediate blood donation to an injured person of any blood type that needs a transfusion at or near the point of injury.
“We are taking individuals with type O blood, who are already considered universal donors for packed red blood cells, and testing the levels of antibodies in their blood,” said Lt. Col. Melanie Sloan, director, Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center. “Everyone has antibodies. They are naturally occurring and can attach themselves to transfused blood cells. The titer testing helps identify individuals with lower levels of these antibodies.”
The Army is currently using the standard of 1 to 256 for the level of antibodies in the individuals identified as low titer O. When a person with blood type A or B needs blood and is receiving blood from a type O donor, the lower level of antibodies will make it easier for the body to accept the different blood type. Low titer O blood can be given to anyone in need, regardless of their blood type.
Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY), June 7, 2019.
(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)
1st Lt. Robert Blough, the physician assistant for the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY) and a former Special Forces medical sergeant, arranged for soldiers in his unit to get tested for low titer O and also helps with mobile training teams to teach others how to perform field blood transfusions. He said he is passionate about implementing this program across the force because he has seen first-hand how it can save a life.
“In 2007, I had an Iraqi get shot in lower abdominal area,” said Blough. “He was bleeding out internally, not overly fast, but there was nothing I could do to stop the bleeding inside him. The MEDEVAC got delayed. We were sitting on a mountaintop with this guy and I did not have the ability to transfuse blood to save his life.”
Blough said that experience led him to volunteer for the working group spearheading the efforts to identify and screen fresh whole blood donors within the XVIII Abn. Corps.
The ability to transfuse blood while on the battlefield or at a remote location is hardly new and its effectiveness has been proven throughout history.
“We were doing this in 1918 during World War I,” said Lt. Col. George Barbee, deputy corps surgeon, Task Force Dragon, XVIII Abn. Corps. “We were still doing whole blood transfusions in World War II up through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.”
Barbee said that the Army transitioned from whole blood to component therapy in the 1970s. He said that while breaking the blood down into components is effective for treatment of some disease processes, it’s not a feasible option for an immediate need for blood in the field.
“We have done a lot of studies to see what the best method was for saving lives through transfusion,” he said. “They pointed back to whole blood.”
Sgt. Charles Moncayo, 82nd Airborne Division Band, get his blood drawn as part of the low titer O testing at a blood drive hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, June 7, 2019.
(Photo by Eve Meinhardt)
The ability to identify low titer O soldiers provides an agile and flexible approach to accessing the lifesaving measures that whole blood provides. The ASBP is increasing the amount of low titer O whole blood that it stocks on its shelves for rapid deployment and emergency measures.
However, blood needs to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment and bags of blood are not always readily available in a time of crisis. The pre-screened and identified soldiers provide an instant supply if one of their peers is injured and needs a transfusion.
Each of the identified soldiers is regularly tested for a variety of blood-borne diseases to ensure their safety and the safety of others. Patient privacy still applies for identified donors. If they are removed from the roster, the information is kept confidential and only revealed to the patient.
While the identification of being a “walking blood bank” might seem a little odd for the soldiers who have this universal blood type, they are instrumental to efforts to improve survivability and mobility for the Army. Barbee hopes to someday see the program implemented across the Department of Defense.
“We completely support the XVIII Airborne Corps’ whole blood initiative,” said Col. John J. Melvin, chief nurse and chief of clinical operations, U.S. Army Forces Command Surgeon’s Office. “It closes the gaps that we see on the battlefield for blood supply at role one and conditions of prolonged field care. In order to provide the best opportunity of survival for our soldiers, the whole blood program is essential for our successful treatment of combat casualties.”
Remember the collective crushing disappointment we all felt as we got settled in to watch Pearl Harbor in 2001, expecting a Saving Private Ryan-level war movie on a grander scale and suddenly realizing it was a love story and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was actually just part of the backstory? The bad news is that Pearl Harbor is still on television.
The good news is that the director of Independence Day just made a movie about the World War II Battle of Midway. And he even remade the attack on Pearl Harbor to get started.
All this and Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz? I’m interested. This still is from Planet of the Apes, but we all wish Nimitz shaved his head like this before combat. I do, anyway.
For the uninitiated, the Battle of Midway may have well been the turning point in the Pacific War of World War II. While the Doolittle Raid featured in Pearl Harbor showed American resolve and boosted morale, it did little to really hurt the Japanese in the Pacific (the Doolittle Raid appears to be in the Midway movie as well). Two months later in 1942, the U.S. Navy struck a decisive blow, delivering a devastating punch to the face of the Japanese Empire at the height of its power – just six months after the U.S. Navy was supposed to be knocked out of the war at Pearl Harbor.
The Americans had a complete intelligence advantage at Midway, having broken the Japanese radio codes and determining they were on their way to attack an island code-named “AF.” In order to figure out what objective “AF” was, American intelligence sent an uncoded message that the water purification system on Midway was down, they heard Japanese radio operators reporting objective “AF” was low on water. The target was Midway, and the Navy laid a trap for the oncoming Japanese fleet.
The United States ended up with the Japanese objective, the days the Japanese fleet would arrive, and the entire Japanese order of battle. What’s more, the Japanese were unaware of the Americans’ positions or that the Navy had broken their codes, so the Japanese Navy took the further steps of so dividing their forces into four subgroups, that they were unable to support each other. This might have been a great tactic in a surprise, but not so much when the Americans knew exactly where every ship would be and when they would be there. The result was, not surprisingly, a complete rout that could only be described as a major ass-kicking.
Japanese forces took massive losses. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost ten times the number of men, along with four aircraft carriers it could not replace, two heavy cruisers, and almost 250 aircraft. The Americans lost just 307 men, 150 planes, the carrier USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Hammann.
Not bad for the first American victory in the Pacific.
We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it’s like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these seven works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict.
7. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them.
6. This Kind of War
The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.
5. Valor in Vietnam
Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal.
4. Goodbye Vietnam
William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam.
3. Eyewitness to World War II
This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed.
2. Special Ops
Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite.
1. In Pharaoh’s Army
A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam.
It’s hardly a secret at this point that there are enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill us all and destroy everything on the planet many, many times over. That was kinda the point of the whole “mutually assured destruction” theory. If someone launched a nuke, everyone would die. Since that would be crazy or stupid, we could be reasonably sure that no one would do anything that crazy… right?
Well, that’s how it all turned out, despite a few of our best attempts to launch a nuclear war anyway — in true American fashion. Nixon even wanted the Communists to think he might just be crazy enough to do it as a way to gain leverage in Vietnam, a strategy he called the “Madman Theory.”
So, being the daredevils we all are, humanity decided some things were important enough to save for all history, just in case we decided to send ourselves back to the Stone Age. Government and businesses wanted to ensure their most important possessions would be there for generations, so these things were just built to last — literally.
Entrance to the Seed Vault at dusk, highlighting its illuminated artwork.
About 800 miles from the North Pole is a Norwegian island that holds more than 1,750 different kinds of seeds from all around the world. It’s an effort to protect the Earth’s biodiversity from accidents, disasters, and — surprise — nuclear wars. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a joint effort on behalf of Norway’s government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. Its Arctic location makes it a perfect place to cold store some 4.5 million seeds, a genetic snapshot of the plants on Earth.
2. Family Genetic Research Records
Deep inside the Granite Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s an underground vault that houses 3.5 billion microfilm images of the world’s family genealogical history. The Mormon Church runs FamilySearch, a non-profit family historian organization. Since 1965, 200,000 members of the worldwide church have gathered records from all over the world. They’ve collected civil registration records, church records, and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources, such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.
3. World Wrestling Entertainment
The WWE owns the single largest library of professional wrestling ever assembled — and it’s not just its original programming. It owns shows performed by ECW, AWA, WCW, and a slew of smaller wrestling federations from around the country. The trove is stored in a massive, climate-controlled bunker that is constantly maintained — in the Iron Mountains of Upstate New York’s Catskills range.
4. Steam Trains
Despite the idea that the country would be totally destroyed in the event of a nuclear war with the United States, The Soviet Union wanted the ability to move around its massive territory. The problem was that nuclear weapons release an electromagnetic pulse upon detonation, destroying electronics within range of the pulse. For the USSR, the answer was easy, just use engines that don’t need electronics — steam power. Only 12 steam locomotives are still intact at the preserved base of the Strategic Steam Resource near Roslavl in Smolensk.
5. The American Economy
While it’s no longer housed at one site (which was then called the Culpeper Switch), the entire American economy was prepared for a nuclear war. A bunker in Culpeper, Va. housed enough cash to replenish the U.S. economy east of the Mississippi River — to the tune of some billion. It also housed a switch that transferred the Federal Reserve Bank’s EFT system and provided data backup for the bank.
That facility has been moved from its original location and spread across the country so you can still owe your student loans in the event of a catastrophe.
6. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence
The foundational documents of the United States aren’t just going to be left on their own in the event of a nuclear war (or, actually, a zombie apocalypse — the responses for each are the same). The National Archives has a security plan in place for the most important documents it houses. The Library of Congress’ Top Treasures Inventory was housed in a special vault during the Cold War to ensure their survival in case of a nuclear attack on Washington — on the National Archives site.
If there was time, however, it was said the documents would be airlifted to another continuity of government site, like the Culpeper Switch. The documents’ current security plan is classified.
The home improvement site used an algorithm to comb through Instagram posts tagged #offgridliving, focusing on posts with location data, to identify where off-gridders are congregating.
Off-grid living involves disconnecting from the electric grid and pursuing an independent lifestyle without relying on municipal services like water supply.
Not all off-gridders are showcasing their life on social media, HomeAdvisor acknowledges, but the #offgridliving hashtag is a good place to go “hunting for signs of life” in the off-grid community, the company said.
Motivations of casual off-gridders vary but generally include wanting to “get away from it all for a while” and lead an “eco-conscious life,” HomeAdvisor wrote.
Here, in ascending order, are the 10 most popular US states for off-grid living, according to HomeAdvisor.
Editor’s note: The legality of living off-grid can vary by county within a given state, so be sure to check local laws if you’re thinking of going off-grid.
10. New York
ercentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.46%
Off-grid tip: Diane Vuković, an author and writer for the blog Primal Survivor who regularly updates a list of off-grid laws relating to water, electric, and waste in each of the 50 states, deemed New York “one of the strictest” when it comes to regulations.
“However, this does not mean it is impossible to go off-grid in New York,” she said. “It just means that you will likely have to do a lot more research to find a place where off-grid living is allowed and get numerous permits, licenses, and inspections.”
Off-grid tip: The Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, is an off-grid community that has made headlines over the years for its eye-catching designs. Founded by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, it consists of self-sufficient, solar-powered homes and buildings made with upcycled material like car tires and glass.
Off-grid tip: Utah Homestead Properties, a brokerage specializing in self-sufficient homes, highlights Utah’s vast wilderness, affordable real estate prices, and “independent, self-sufficient mindset” as reasons why the state is a great place to set up an off-grid life. The arid climate and extreme temperatures require off-gridders to get creative about heating and cooling, but there are “lots” of builders in the state that understand how to work around these challenges, the company writes on its website.
Off-grid tip: Alaska’s microgrid laws are “very progressive,” Vuković wrote for Primal Survivor. “However, off-grid solar may not be feasible in many areas of the state where there isn’t much daylight during winter,” she added.
Off-grid tip: “Although unplugging from public utilities isn’t practical everywhere, the mild temperatures; abundance of sunshine, wind, and rain; and fertile soil make Hawaii an attractive place to go off grid,” LiAnne Yu wrote for Hawaii Business magazine in November 2017.
The Big Island, or Hawaii Island, is home to several established off-grid communities. “Living off the land here is a way of life,” Sean Jennings wrote of the Big Island on his blog Homesteadin’ Hawaii.
Off-grid tip: One of Oregon’s notable off-grid communities is the gated Three Rivers Recreation Area. Spanning 4,000 acres near the Metolius River arm of Lake Billy Chinook, it comes with its own marina and airstrip. It is home to 600 properties and between 75 and 80 full-time residents, according to Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty.
Off-grid tip: In 2019, early retirees Steve and Courtney Adcock settled down at an off-grid home in the Arizona desert powered by solar. “Residential solar energy systems aren’t cheap, but they are game-changers,” Steve wrote in a blog post. “Solar power systems save money in the long run, include a tax credit in the US and, of course, it’s clean energy. We love not having an electric bill.”
Off-grid tip: A popular Colorado destination that draws a steady steam of novice and veteran off-gridders is San Luis Valley in Alamosa County, Tom McGhee reported for The Denver Post. “Mountains carve the sky in all directions, and the promise of cheap land and life beyond the confines of civilization lures many. It is dream land beyond the reach of electricity and other infrastructure considered necessary by most,” he wrote.
“If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, you may well have an off-gridding Instagram-user right next door,” HomeAdvisor wrote of the most popular state for off-grid living, according to its report.
HomeAdvisor describes the #offgridliving asethetic as a happy medium between a plugged-in life and homesteading. “You’ll still find baskets of eggs, but they’re surrounded by bushcraft knives, off-road vehicles, and ornate water filtration systems,” the company said.
When all was said and done, all the American media saw was a presumed dig at President Donald Trump. But in the speech he gave while receiving the 2017 Liberty Medal, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said much more than that. He looked back on his life, his political career, the events that shaped America – and the events America shaped.
The next day, the headlines raved about McCain’s “half-baked spurious nationalism” dig at the sitting president.
The “half-baked, spurious nationalism” isn’t just a dig a President Trump. The world at large is consumed by the same kind of nationalism the senator from Arizona describes in his speech. A wave of far-right populism has especially swept Europe in the past few years.
French President Emanuel Macron just defeated Marine Le Pen, who wanted to ban any display of religious beliefs – including yarmulkes and turbans – which she considered “not French.” In the UK, far-right broadcaster and analyst Nigel Farage led a campaign that resulted in a vote forcing Britain to leave the European Union, for better or for worse. And across Europe – from Spain to Greece – a wave of far-right nationalist populism and isolationism has captured the interest of the population, each looking for a “scapegoat” of its own.
The Senator didn’t mention Europe specifically. He did say that America, “the most wondrous land on earth,” still has a special role to play in the world and should rise above the urge to isolate itself from the rest of the world, that American leadership is going to be as necessary in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.
He also implied that Americans should leave the past behind, a not-so-subtle reference to the resurgence of Nazism and Confederate pride in the U.S.’ recent days.
“This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world,” McCain said. “And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on Dec. 7, 1941.”
The 81-year-old Vietnam veteran and former POW went on to speak like a man who is looking back on his life and leaving us with the parting thoughts of a lifelong public servant. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, and his prognosis was not good.
“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t,” he said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
Presenting McCain with his medal was former Vice-President, erstwhile Senate opposition, and longtime friend, Joe Biden. The two most notably ran on opposite tickets in the 2008 Presidential Election where McCain lost to the Obama-Biden ticket.
Before Sen. McCain began his remarks, he commented on the multi-decade friendship between the two.
“We served in the Senate together for over 20 years,” McCain said, “during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.”
McCain was presented with the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, a medal meant to honor “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
As he closed, McCain recounted the innumerable people he worked with in his 60 years of service in the Navy and in the U.S. government.
“I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me,” McCain said. “I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.”
The head of Australia’s intelligence agency has warned that foreign interference is happening on an “unprecedented scale,” and that there are more foreign agents than ever before.
Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), said in a Senate estimates hearing on May 24, 2018, that espionage and interference activities have reached new and dangerous heights.
“The grim reality is that there are more foreign intelligence officers today than during the Cold War, and they have more ways of attacking us — that is, there’s more vectors, and the cyber vector is a very good example,” Lewis said. “Espionage, interference, sabotage and malicious insider activities can inflict catastrophic harm on our country’s interests.”
Lewis described attempts to access classified information on Australia’s alliances, diplomacy, military, mineral resources, and technological innovations. But the former Department of Defense head appeared particularly concerned about more subtle campaigns targeting “strategically important” commercial, political, economic, defence, security, foreign policy, and diaspora issues.
“Foreign actors covertly attempt to influence and shape the views of members of the Australian public, the Australian media and officials in the Australian government, as well as members of the diaspora communities here in Australia,” Lewis said. “Clandestine interference is designed to advance the objectives of the foreign actor to the detriment of Australia and to our national interests.”
Lewis added this is “not a theoretical proposition.”
“In some instances the harm from espionage and foreign interference is immediately in evidence, and in other instances … the harm doesn’t materialise for years and potentially for decades.”
Despite not naming any countries, Lewis’ comments echo those of John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who spoke to the US House Armed Services Committee in March 2018.
Garnaut, speaking explicitly about Chinese foreign interference, made a clear distinction between the way both China and Russia attempt to interfere with other sovereign nations.
“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time,” Garnaut said.
Garnaut was speaking to the US Senators about Australia’s proposal to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference, after a wave of claims regarding China’s local influence campaigns. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull even cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence.”
The government’s actions have angered Beijing, and relations between the two countries have become severely strained.
The MP said he received the information from US authorities. Nine News’ Chris Uhlmann reported on May 25, 2018, that the information came from an unclassified briefing from the US Attorney’s office and that some officials were “delighted” with the MP’s speech.
Asked about the implications of the public disclosure, Lewis said there has been no fallout from Australian allies.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.
The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.
Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.
“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”
“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.
What did the strikes change on the ground?
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.
Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.
The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.
Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.
Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.
Performative allyship in cruise-missile form
Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.
But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.
The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.
A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.
David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.
“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”
Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.
“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.
A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.
Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.
“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.
“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.
Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.
Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.
Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.
Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.
Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.
The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.
“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”
Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.
The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.
Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.
According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.
France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.
It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.
Chad Hennings played for the Dallas Cowboys and was part of three Super Bowl winning teams. Before his NFL career, he flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II in 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq during two deployments in 1991 and early 1992. (Courtesy photo/Dallas Cowboys)
Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s, and his first appearance was within a year’s time of flying his A-10 Thunderbolt II in a combat sortie in northern Iraq.
Hennings, a 1988 Academy graduate, led the nation with 24 sacks and was awarded the Outland Trophy during the 1987 season — an award that recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman.
Committed to serve
Following graduation, Hennings — now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame — was drafted by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1988 draft. Before he could even suit up in the NFL, Hennings had to first fulfill his military commitment, a move that was initially hard to accept.
“I wouldn’t say there were regrets, (but) it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete,” Hennings said.
From a character perspective, he knew without a doubt what he needed to do because he made a commitment and he was going to stick to it. The drive to compete, however, made his transition from school to pilot training and then into his active-duty squadron a difficult one. That void would eventually be filled with friendly competition as an A-10 pilot.
“We did compete on the range; we competed for performance,” he said. “There (was) always competition and it was a healthy competition.”
After pilot school, Hennings was stationed in the U.K. and deployed twice to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 1991 and 1992. While deployed, he flew 45 combat sorties in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort, an international relief effort after the Gulf War.
After getting settled into the Air Force, Hennings said he contemplated making a career out of it.
“Football was a distant memory and something in the past that I never really thought about until the Air Force went through the reduction in force and they started the waivers in the spring of ’92,” he said.
Hennings separated from active-duty Air Force in April 1992 and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. He continued to serve in the Reserve individual mobilization augmentee program for almost 10 years.
The next month, Hennings found himself in Dallas working out for the Cowboys.
“It was extremely stressful, initially transitioning in ’92, because I’m leaving one career for another,” he said. “I’m moving from one continent to another, taking on a whole new different position. There were a lot of just stress factors there, and it wasn’t assured that I would make the team.”
Hennings said it was tough coming into the league and competing at a level of competition that was much higher than he experienced before.
But all the downtime spent in the weight room and working out when he wasn’t flying during his deployments and TDYs paid off. He would go on to secure a spot on the team, and kick off what would eventually be a nine-year career with the Cowboys, playing in 119 games and recording 27.5 sacks.
In his first season, Hennings and the Cowboys would go on to beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 27.
“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “I essentially flew a combat mission and then played in the Super Bowl all within a year’s time.”
He compared that Super Bowl experience to his first combat mission. He said he knew he had a job to do, and being around a set of guys who were experienced made it easier to navigate and process all of his emotions.
During his next three seasons, Hennings would go onto win two more Super Bowls with the Cowboys.
“You got to a point in our culture of being a Dallas Cowboy, that that’s what was expected. We knew we were the best team out there,”
Hennings said. “I kind of compare that analogy to being a fighter pilot. It’s kind of that confident arrogance, where you know you’re good, you know your abilities; you walk out there, you don’t flaunt it, but you walk with an extreme amount of confidence.”
It wasn’t until the latter part of Hennings’ career that he fully appreciated winning three Super Bowls, he said.
Two decades after he appeared in his last Super Bowl, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30, Hennings has a sincere admiration for those moments in time and truly appreciates how special those teams really were.
“As a kid growing up, all your heroes, the role models that you looked up to on the gridiron — you know those guys — they were able to hold that trophy up,” Hennings said. “I was a Minnesota Vikings fan, so they went there four years and they never won one, and that’s where I realized too how difficult it is, not only to just get to the Super Bowl, but to win one — how truly special that is.”
Hennings said one of the best memories is from Super Bowl 30, where he recorded two sacks — a Super Bowl record that he shared with several other players before it was broken the next year.
Being a solid performer on the gridiron and in his jet, Hennings has always tried to strive for excellence.
Growing up in Elberon, Iowa, Hennings would sometimes put in 12-plus-hour days helping his father and grandfather on their farm, where they predominately raised corn and a feedlot operation for cattle. He’d help wherever needed, whether feeding the cattle, bailing hay, driving tractors, or performing maintenance.
“The work ethic came from watching my father, my grandfather, but a lot of it I can attribute it to my older brother, who really pushed me to workout with him,” he said.
Hennings’ older brother, Todd, was a couple years older and was the quarterback for their high school football team. Hennings said he was a tight end, and he recalled his brother dragging him off to run routes and lift weights.
“When I started to see the success of all the hard work that I put in, then it became more of a self-driving motivation than having somebody externally motivate me,” he said.
That motivation to be a better player and better person carried over when it was time to attend college. Hennings had several scholarships, but said he wanted a “holistic experience.” He yearned to be challenged academically and wanted to have the experiences a typical college graduate wouldn’t have.
Looking back, the leadership skills gained, the experience of flying jets, and the camaraderie within his fighter squadron are things that gave him skills he used on the gridiron and in his everyday life.
“You know, it all worked out great,” Hennings said. “I had an experience flying that I would never trade. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same.”
Where he is now
Today, Hennings lives outside of Dallas, where he’s a partner in a commercial real estate company and does a lot of public speaking, which he said is his way of giving back.
“That’s my passion now in this last half of my life, is to be an evangelist, in essence, for that aspect of a need of character in our community and for us as individuals,” Hennings said.
An author of three books, he’s also married with two children, who are both in college.