Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.
The US Army has opened an investigation into allegations that some active-duty soldiers may be involved in the online sharing of nude photos of their colleagues, Business Insider has learned.
The inquiry by the US Army’s computer crime investigative unit comes one day after Business Insider reported that the scandal initially believed to be limited to the Marine Corps actually impacts every branch of service.
The report revealed a public message board where purported male service members from all military branches, including service academies, were allegedly cyber-stalking and sharing nude photos of their female colleagues.
Special agents from US Army’s criminal investigation command “are currently assessing information and photographs on a civilian website that appear to include US Army personnel,” Col. Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the Army, told Business Insider. “They are currently assisting to determine if a criminal offense has occurred.”
Seiber said there was no evidence at this point suggesting the site was related to the “Marines United” Facebook page. That page, which was reported on by journalist Thomas Brennan, had some 30,000 members that were found to be sharing nude photos of female Marines.
“Army CID is speaking with [the Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and US Air Force Office of Special Investigation to ensure all investigative efforts are fully coordinated,” Seiber said.
According to the Business Insider report, members on a website called AnonIB often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of the victim.
The site features a dedicated board for military personnel with dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom asked for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.
In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some users who appeared to be Army cadets shared photos and graduation years of their female classmates.
“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user said, apparently referring to photos taken surreptitiously in a women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.
A Pentagon spokesman condemned such behavior as “inconsistent with our values” on Thursday, and Defense Secretary issued a statement Friday calling it “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”
The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.
A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.
“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”
Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.
The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.
“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”
Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.
“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.
“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”
When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.
The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.
“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”
At any United States Postal Service location, you can grab boxes for your care packages. You do not need to pay for them until you mail it out, and I always grabbed Priority Mail boxes. It will be incredibly more expensive if you use a box that is not Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express, as those already have set prices and you can ship domestic or international for same price.
Create a theme for your care package.
Scrapbooking paper is a great and easy way to decorate the inside of your box. Pinterest is also a great resource for looking up different ideas for care packages. For instance, decorating the inside of the box with candy corn scrapbook papers, a quote from Hocus Pocus, stuffed with candy and beef jerky topped with fake spider webs and fake spiders.
Some examples for decorating the inside of Thanksgiving boxes may be decorating the inside of the box with brown and orange scrapbook paper with cut-outs of pumpkins and leaves. Another fun thing to add to your box is a secret message at the very bottom. Whether it is something funny or simple like “Gobble Gobble” or “I’m thankful for you.”
For Christmas care packages it could be themed around How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Merry Christmas. Take a look at Instagram and Pinterest for various ideas of fun ways to decorate your box.
NEVER decorate the outside of the box if they are packaged in the Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express boxes. The USPS staff will ask you to remove it, so don’t waste your time in the first place.
For domestic packages ensure that you are following the guidelines in the US to ship and do not include items such as; aerosols, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, cigars tobacco, cremated remains, dry ice, firearms, fragile items, glue, lithium batteries, live animals, matches, medicines prescriptions drugs, nail polish, paint, perfumes, perishable items or poisons. For more information make sure to visit here.
Below are ideas that you can add to your care package that are military approved. If shipping overseas, make sure to add a general overview of what items are the package to your customs forms.
Deck of cards
3M wall hooks
Photos from home
Packets of condiments
Water flavoring packets
Hot cocoa mix
Non-chocolate candy (it melts way to easy in the packages)
Fresh baked holiday treats
Change up your care packages and add fun surprises every once in a while. Always add extra items for the service members to share with their battle buddies.
Make sure to tape up the sides of your box to be nice and secure and mail off. If you need assistance filling out the customs forms the staff are very helpful.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.
The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defense), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyze enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.
Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, 2018, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.
Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1, 2018:
Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):
Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the U.S. Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.
For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
USA Best Selling Author Jason Kasper just released his newest book series, Shadow Strike. Enemies of My Country is his tenth book in four years since walking away from the Army to pursue writing.
In 2016 Kasper released his first book, Greatest Enemy. Despite his relative success since beginning a new journey and his quite obvious talent for story-telling – he didn’t set out to be an author. The military was always it for him. He was the young boy playing GI Joes and then a 17-year-old signing up for the Army before he’d even graduated high school.
“I enlisted in a ranger contract and went to basic and infantry training. It was towards the end of our infantry training for a job qualifier that 9/11 happened,” Kasper shared. He described a quiet and somber scene where recruits who’s families worked in the World Trade Center or lived in New York City were pulled out and then everyone else was told of the attack.
After those events, there was no slowing down. Kasper attended Airborne school and was picked up for the Ranger Regiment and assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion. He’d deploy to Afghanistan in 2002 and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, he was picked up for West Point. It was a dream realized.
He completed his four years and became an Infantry Officer. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne for three years and did another deployment to Afghanistan. Not long after that, he found himself in Special Forces Selection and eventually became a Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg. There were many deployments and he found himself leading a team.
“That was the high water mark of my career. I had the perfect storm of guys and missions, it couldn’t have gotten any better,” Kasper shared. Despite his happiness and success, he walked away from it all. “I got out and made the full-time transition to writing.”
Leaving after all of those years of active duty service was easier for him than you’d think, he said. But he didn’t always want to do it, it just happened. “I found it by accident at West Point where I sort of went into war withdrawal. I went from being a ranger to a rigid academic environment,” Kasper explained. To make up for what he was missing, he went all in on adrenaline sports. Skydiving and base jumping, which wasn’t legal. He started writing about his experiences.
“Those descriptions became longer and longer and I began to relieve those experiences of standing at the edge of a building and looking down. I was reliving the rush as I was writing. That’s where I kind of wanted more of that,” he said.
Jason Kasper developed a protagonist and wrote the first scene. “After that, I was completely jacked. Adrenaline was flowing and I was like ‘Man, I want more of this’. After that, I was a closet writer for about 10 years,” he said with a smile. He had one book ready to go when he began his terminal leave in November of 2016. “That day, I hit publish on Amazon.”
Despite how good it was, he was pretty terrified when it was go-time. “It was pretty daunting, I am not going to lie … I committed fully and there was no backing out,” Kasper said. “The only people who said I was crazy were people who’d never been in the military themselves… Everyone I went to war with and my command, they were and are incredibly supportive.”
The publishing house he writes for is a veteran-owned business, making the fit even smoother for Kasper. “The founder is an author and Navy veteran and he built the company from the ground up by hiring both veterans and military spouses as employees,” he explained. “Severn River Publishing has a great portfolio of mystery and thriller authors, many of which served in the armed forces or law enforcement prior to starting their writing careers.”
Four years in, he’s found his grove. His tenth book and new series starter, Enemies of My Country, is riveting, from start to finish. Kasper truly has a talent for weaving words that come alive off the page. Reviews for his new book are steller, one on his website saying “…this book slaps you with a weapon, helmet, and body armor, and screams ‘You’re coming with me!’ Buckle up and enjoy the ride.”
So, what’s it about? “David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world,” Kasper explained. “But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.”
It isn’t long before the character discovers a sinister plot, this time against his own country, hometown and his much-loved family. “The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book is in the works now, and will be released later this year,” Kasper said.
From the start of his writing and still today, Kasper gives a portion of all of his sales to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. For the new series, he matched every dollar for preorders. “We ended up getting a little over $4,000 prior to the launch,” he shared.
Although there are still those who can’t believe this Green Beret walked away with only nine years left until full retirement benefits, he’s never looked back. “I am a pretty domesticated suburban dad right now,” Kasper said with a laugh. He shared his happiness at home with his wife, child, new baby coming and his two cats. “It’s about as manly as it gets. I kind of took a hard right from the military but it’s been great.”
Despite leaving the thrill and excitement of serving, Kasper has found his new purpose and that same rush he once craved. Writing one page at a time.
To learn more about Jason Kasper and his thrillers, click here.
Bell Helicopter’s next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-280 Valor, has made its first flight, the company announced in a release Dec. 18.
The black prototype, which resembles the older V-22 Osprey, also made by Textron Inc.’s Bell unit and Boeing Co., completed the roughly maiden flight around 2 p.m. local time at the company’s Amarillo, Texas, facility, according to the company.
“This is an exciting time for Bell Helicopter, and I could not be more proud of the progress we have made with first flight of the Bell V-280,” Mitch Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Bell Helicopter, said in a statement.
“First flight demonstrates our commitment to supporting Department of Defense leadership’s modernization priorities and acquisition reform initiatives,” he added. “The Valor is designed to revolutionize vertical lift for the U.S. Army and represents a transformational aircraft for all the challenging missions our armed forces are asked to undertake.”
Bell’s V-280 Valor is slightly bigger than a UH-60 Black Hawk and hold a crew of four and carry up to 14 passengers. By comparison, the Black Hawk can hold a crew of four and transport 11 troops fully loaded or 20 lightly equipped.
The Valor is competing against SB-1 Defiant, a more conventional helicopter with a pusher-prop for added speed designed by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit and Boeing, for the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program.
The demonstrator effort is designed to hone requirements for a Future Vertical Lift acquisition program to fill the Army’s requirement for a mid-sized, next-generation rotorcraft with twice the speed and range of a conventional helicopter to replace its UH-60 Black Hawks probably in the 2030s.
Bell wants to sell the V-280 to all the services, but the Army — with its thousands of Black Hawks alone — offers the biggest potential market. To land the deal, the firm will have to overcome the service’s traditional opposition to tilt-rotor aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a conventional propeller-driven aircraft.
The SB-1 Defiant, meanwhile, is expected to make its first flight in the first half of next year. Lockheed’s Sikorsky earlier this year released footage showing a smaller coaxial design, the S-97 Raider, undergoing flight testing.
The Raider was initially designed for a $16 billion U.S. Army weapons acquisition program called the Armed Aerial Scout to replace the OH-58Kiowa Warrior, one of the smallest helicopters in the fleet, which was retired from Army service this year.
While the Army put that acquisition effort on hold due to budget limitations, Sikorsky, maker of the Black Hawk helicopter and other aircraft, still plans to sell the coaxial design in the U.S. and abroad, and the firm along with its suppliers have spent tens of millions of dollars developing the technology.
On December 2, 1899, Colonel Gonzalez Bingham woke up with a smile. As the quartermaster of the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he had plans to attend the first Army Navy Game to be played in that city. Adding to the excitement and anticipation of a big game was the fact that the Army-Navy Game had not been played in six years. President Grover Cleveland decided to halt the game when fights broke out after the 1893 game, believing that the interservice rivalry had gotten out of control. Slowly, over the next few years, support for resuming the game grew, and it was decided to renew the tradition on December 2, 1899 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, one of the few places with a stadium large enough to handle the expected crowds.
When the big day arrived, everyone was on their best behavior. Army and Navy sent bands down Philadelphia’s Market Street prior to the game. Debutantes, city officials, old Civil War veterans and cabinet officers up from Washington, DC made their way to the stadium. It was the biggest day in sports the nation had seen, and tickets had long ago sold out.
What fans did not know was that Bingham had a secret. A big one! He had been scheming and planning for weeks to do something to delight the crowd, rally the cadets, and inspire the team. Colonel Gonzalez Bingham was about to introduce the very first Army Mule as the mascot of West Point. Up until the 1899 game, Army had never had a mascot. Worse yet, Navy had for several years adopted a goat as their mascot. In fact, legend has it that the first Navy Goat was actually a pet goat “borrowed” from the backyard of a West Point faculty member by a Navy fan and dragged off to the game, which was the first Army-Navy Game played on the West Point Plain. While the details have been lost and history has turned to legend, all West Pointers know that the story fits everything they know about Navy, so the tale must be a stone-cold fact! West Point grads might feel some lingering outrage from the theft of a goat on the grounds of West Point, but then again they also have to question the wisdom of any Army officer who selects a goat as a pet, so it’s best to leave the story for another time.
Getting back to Bingham’s insightful brilliance in December 1899 and the Army Mule, that story actually begins much earlier with Bingham’s father, Judson Bingham, Class of 1854. Upon graduation, Judson Bingham worked his way up as a quartermaster and found himself in support of Major General Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843, and Major General William T. Sherman, Class of 1840, during the Civil War. In fact, it was the efforts of quartermasters like Judson Bingham that largely allowed Grant to take the audacious gamble of slipping loose from his supply chain, floating down the Mississippi, and successfully attacking Vicksburg. It was one of the brilliant campaigns of the Civil War, but to be successful, Grant depended upon the abilities of inspired quartermasters to feed and supply an Army that was living off local supplies once traditional supply lines had been cut. Later in the war, Sherman would adopt a similar strategy in his famous march through Georgia. Sherman also relied on Judson Bingham for managing the complex supply lines. And what did Judson Bingham rely upon?
Mules could carry large loads and could live on most any fodder. As Sherman’s quartermaster, Judson Bingham used them with great effect, and his ability to supply and sustain large armies operating far away from traditional supply lines was brilliant. Interestingly enough, one of Judson Bingham’s greatest challenges was to keep his mules from being captured by the Confederate raiders led by one of his classmates, Major General J. E. B. Stuart of the Confederate Cavalry.
Without any doubt, Judson Bingham owed much of his success to the effective use of mules. Grant certainly knew it, and he felt a great admiration for mules and would often intervene when he saw anyone mistreat a mule. Sherman did too. Long after the Civil War was over, when Sherman was serving as Commanding General of the U.S. Army, he got word that a favorite mule that had served with distinction was about to be sold off. Sherman forwarded the information to Robert Todd Lincoln (President Abraham Lincoln’s son), the Secretary of War, who quickly responded with the following message: “The Quartermaster’s department will be charged with ingratitude if that mule is sold or the maintenance of it is thrown on the charitable officers of the post. I advise he be kept in the Department, fed, and maintained until death.”
Judson Bingham retired as a brigadier general and had a son, Gonzalez Bingham, who also joined the Army and went into the Quartermaster Corps. The young Bingham would have heard the many stories about the effective use of mules in Civil War campaigns, and he also knew that his father loved West Point (Judson Bingham is buried in the West Point Cemetery). Like his father, Bingham also had a successful career in the Army. In 1899, he oversaw the sprawling Schuylkill Arsenal, which functioned as the Quartermaster Center for the Army.
And so, on December 2, 1899, fortune smiled on West Point, because Gonzalez Bingham was the right guy at the right place, at the right time. He had heard his father talk about the great service of mules in the Civil War. He also knew that his dad loved West Point and had almost certainly heard the shameful story of the filched Navy Goat. Best of all, Bingham was willing and able to take initiative. He knew that Army had never had a mascot and was about to change all that.
Bingham’s job as a quartermaster put him in the perfect place to commandeer one of the many mules that served the Schuylkill Arsenal. His selection was a big mule that pulled an ice wagon. Based on his color, the mule went by the name “Big White.” The next inspiration of genius came from Bingham’s wife, Nettie, whom he had met while serving in the West. Nettie was the daughter of an Army officer serving at the same post on the western frontier as then Lieutenant Bingham and she knew that if a thing is to be done in the Army, it best be done well.
It was Nettie who came up with the idea to fully outfit the mule in the proper attire. Under her guidance, a special “uniform” was fashioned in the cadet colors of black, gray, and gold. Nettie also organized a group to attach silk ribbons to Big White’s tail, and when they had finished the mule was escorted into Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. Cadets and other Army fans went wild!
The next day newspapers noted that the mule “carried the West Point colors with an air of mulish superiority to anything in his vicinity.”
Big White not only warmed the crowd and inspired the cadets, but also helped Army overcome a Navy team that was heavily favored to win the game. Navy had a much better record, and few thought Army had much of a chance. But immediately after the arrival of Army’s first Mule, the game was never in doubt, and Army went on to a convincing 17-5 win, having never trailed in the game.
When the game was over, Nettie Bingham had hoped to salvage the silk ribbons she had bought, along with the cadet uniform that she had pieced together, but the first Army mascot was such a sensation that fans literally tore the mule’s uniform apart trying to grab a piece as a souvenir. From those humble beginnings in 1899, the Army Mule has served as the official West Point mascot. He fulfilled his duty to the Army with honor by securing a win over Navy. Then, he gave up his uniform and returned to civilian service, hauling ice to help build and grow our country. Mules would continue to serve as the Army mascot following the 1899 game, but they were just loaned or rented for game day: West Point would not have a fully enlisted Army Mule with dedicated duties until the 1930s. Bingham continued to serve with distinction and had a son, Colonel Sidney Bingham, Class of 1912, who taught history and English at West Point. Sidney Bingham’s son, Sidney Bingham Jr., also attended West Point and graduated in 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic action leading the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment at Normandy on D-Day,
June 6, 1944.
As learned from this origin story, Army’s mascot is not some cartoonish figure nor a random animal typical of other college mascots. Nor was he shamefully purloined from someone’s backyard. Instead, our mascot is a warrior that was selected because of great service to the nation, a battle-tested beast called upon to do hard things, in hard times, and that did so with distinction.
Mules have earned the honor of serving as Army’s mascot, and the Army Mule is a living example of Duty, Honor, Country.
This piece was originally featured in the West Point Association of Graduates Winter Magazine and was submitted by the author for WATM’s republish.
Please spare some sympathy for the member of the Special Operations Research Office who, in 1964, was ordered to take a good, hard look at the impact of “witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other psychological phenomena” during the civil war in the Republic of the Congo.
Yup. This poor soul was actually tasked with investigating the burning question of, “Are we losing because of the witches?“
The surprising answer was, to paraphrase, ‘At least partially.’
Except, of course, the U.S. didn’t actually believe magic was affecting the physical world. Instead, it was studying how the belief in magic affected the morale of troops fighting on each side of the conflict, and then it had to decide whether to engage in some play-acting; doing fake magic in order to affect the enemy’s perceptions.
A Swedish soldier with U.N. forces on duty in Congo during the crisis.
(Pressens Bild, public domain)
This wouldn’t be the Army’s only flirtation with the supernatural at the time. In 1950, a U.S. Army colonel helped fake a vampire attack to terrify communists in the Philippines, and psychological operations soldiers pulled a similar (but less effective) trick in Vietnam when they played ghost sounds over enemy troop concentrations.
The magical beliefs in the Congo revolved around two supposed classes of powers. There was sorcery, a system of magic that relied on rituals that were usually performed while mixing ingredients for a traditional medicine or preparing a charm. And there was witchcraft, a method of doing magic that relied on an innate ability that some people had from birth. These witches could simply wish for certain things to happen and, for some inexplicable reason, they would.
This magical belief was deep-seated in the Congolese. It had survived and even flourished despite nearly 100 years of economic and religious colonization. What missionaries and Belgian representatives sent to the country always found was that when push-came-to-shove, the bulk of the Congolese people would only incorporate European beliefs and power structures into their belief in magic. European beliefs were never able to replace traditional, magical ones.
A Shona witch doctor in Zimbabwe.
(Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)
When Belgium finally began relaxing its stranglehold in 1957 over what was then the Belgian Congo, this struggle had resulted in a deep rift between the Congolese who embraced European education and methods and those who were more dedicated to tribal beliefs and power structures. But both sides held magical beliefs. The European-influenced évolués, as they were known, simply hid those beliefs.
The Belgian Congo collapsed in 1960 and U.N. forces were eventually sent in to try and keep a tentative peace after repeated fighting and clashes. The stakes there were high. Certain parts of the Congo were quite resource-rich, including one of the breakaway zones. It also had Uranium that would be quite valuable to either the Soviet Union or the U.S., depending on who tied the emerging but troubled Republic of the Congo to their sphere of influence.
Hence U.S. military planners debating on twisting magical beliefs to their own ends. The rebellious forces often had the sorcerers (and the occasional witch) prepare magical defenses that were supposed to stop harm from European weapons.
Swedish soldiers from the U.N. man a fighting position near a road in Niemba.
(Pressens Bild, public domain)
Upon deeper study, though, the 1964 paper recommended against weaponizing these beliefs against the Congolese rebels. There were a couple of major concerns. One was that these évolués were the ones most likely to be Congolese leaders that the U.S. would work with. Since they still believed in magic, they would probably balk at a U.S. mockery of it.
But they would balk even harder if their forces or their Western allies began dabbling in magic. Their entire political brand was built on not being superstitious and backwards like their peers (even though they did believe in the same magic).
Even more troublesome, though, was that while the belief in magic was near universal across the country, the exact details of the belief varied wildly between tribes and, sometimes, even between sub-tribes. As the paper described it, “Literally, one man’s charm might be another man’s potion.”
So, if a psychological operations unit were sent to capitalize on these beliefs, they would have to surreptitiously gather data on every targeted tribe and keep detailed records of it. Then, when crafting their messaging or other plots, they would have to adjust it for each tribe and then take care to keep the messages from sabotaging each other.
Irish forces on duty in Congo during the Crisis.
(Irish Defence Forces)
But the most awesome concern with the program was the author’s worry that, if the U.S., Western, and government forces began openly engaging in magical operations against tribal leaders and insurgent witch-doctors, and the witch-doctors engaged in open counters, then the one near-guaranteed result would be an increased belief in magic.
In the post-war Congo, that would grant a ton of power to tribal leaders and witch-doctors, potentially necessitating power sharing that the évolués and their Western backers wouldn’t necessarily want. And, while there were government-friendly tribes, nearly all the insurgents were part of traditional tribal structures, so potentially strengthening the belief in magic would be a long-term problem for the West whether they won or lost.
Instead, the paper recommended overturning magical beliefs by showing them to be false. The biggest magical claim that witch-doctors made was that they could make troops invulnerable to Western weapons. So, every enemy soldier killed with a Western weapon weakened belief in magic. As the paper states it:
In the Congo, as elsewhere in black Africa, there is every reason to believe that disciplined troops, proficient in marksmanship, and led by competent officers, can handily dispel most notions of magical invulnerability.
In the end, it appears that no magical campaign was launched. But that hasn’t prevented decades of rebellions, coups, and other violence.
The U.S. Navy is pursuing a massive, fleet-wide upgrade of a shipboard defensive weapon designed to intercept and destroy approaching or nearby threats such as enemy small boats, cruise missiles and even low-flying drones and aircraft, service officials said.
The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.
The weapon is designed to counter incoming enemy attacks from missiles, small arms fire, drones, enemy aircraft and small boats, among other things. It functions as part of an integrated, layered defense system in order to intercept closest-in threats, service officials explained.
“Phalanx provides a ‘last ditch’ gun-based, close-in defense to the Navy’s concept of layered defense,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng told Scout Warrior.
The weapon is currently on Navy cruisers, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, among other vessels. The upgrades are designed to substantially increase capability and ensure that the system remains viable in the face of a fast-changing and increasingly complex threat environment, Navy officials said.
The overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.
The Block 1B configuration provides defense against asymmetric threats such as small, fast surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles through the addition of an integrated Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor.
The Navy is now upgrading all fleet Phalanx Block 1B Baseline 0 and 1 Close-In Weapon Systems to the latest Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 configuration, Eng said. The plan is to have an all CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 fleet by fiscal year 2019, he added.
The Navy has also embarked on a series of planned reliability improvements (known as Reliability-Maintainability-Availability Kits) in order to keep the CIWS fleet population viable and affordable for the next several decades, Eng said.
An upgrade and conversion of an older CIWS Phalanx configuration to Phalanx Block IB averages around $4.5 million per unit and a Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade kit averages $931,000 per unit, Navy officials said.
The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC), service officials added.
Navy officials said Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer, officials added.
Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.
And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.
For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.
An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.
But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.
While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.
And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.
There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.
There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.
There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.
And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.
Roald Dahl is often considered to be one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Among his most popular publications are classic stories like “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda,” “Fantastic Mr Fox,” “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even if you haven’t read the books or seen their film adaptations, the titles of these stories have achieved a mythical status in the world of children’s entertainment. Those that have read his second autobiographical publication, “Going Solo,” will know that Dahl served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force during WWII. In the book, he details his service to King and Country and his combat experiences against Axis forces.
After finishing school and taking a hiking trip through Newfoundland in 1934, Dahl went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in Britain, he was assigned to Mombasa, Kenya and then Dar es-Salaam, Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania); the former German colony was still home to many Germans. In August 1939, as a second war with Germany loomed on the horizon, Britain made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar es-Salaam to prevent any sort of rebellion or uprising. Dahl joined the King’s African Rifles, receiving a commission as a lieutenant and command of a platoon of indigenous askari soldiers.
In November of that year, Dahl joined the RAF as an aircraftman and made the 600-mile drive from Dar es-Salaam to Nairobi where he was accepted for pilot training. Of the sixteen other men that joined with him, only three would live to see the end of the war. After just seven hours and forty minutes of instruction in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, Dahl made his first solo flight.
Following his initial flight training, Dahl received advanced flight training at RAF Habbaniya outside of Baghdad. He trained there for six months on Hawker Harts before he was commissioned as a pilot officer on August 24, 1940.
Dahl was assigned to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, with No. 80 Squadron RAF. Though he received no training on the Gladiator nor any specific instruction on aerial combat, Dahl received orders on September 19, 1940 to fly his Gladiator from Abu Seir to No. 80 Squadron’s forward airstrip near Mersa Matruh. On the last leg of his flight, Dahl could not locate the airstrip and was running low on fuel. With night approaching, he attempted an emergency landing in the desert. The undercarriage of his Gladiator hit a boulder and Dahl crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose, and emerged from his aircraft’s wreck temporarily blinded. He passed out and was rescued by friendly forces who took him to the aid station at Mersa Matruh before being transferred to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. An RAF inquiry later revealed that Dahl had been given an incorrect location and was mistakenly sent to the no man’s land between the British and Italian forces.
In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from the hospital and returned to flight status. By then, No. 80 Squadron had been transferred to Eleusina, near Athens, as part of the Greek campaign. The squadron had traded in their Gladiators for the new Hawker Hurricane and Dahl was ordered to fly one across the Mediterranean in April after just seven hours in the aircraft. Luckily, Dahl made it to Greece without incident and rejoined his squadron. At this point in the Greek campaign, the RAF combat aircraft in the operating area consisted of just 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers.
On April 15, Dahl got his first taste of action flying solo over the city of Chalcis. He intercepted a formation of six Junkers Ju 88 bombers that were attacking ships and managed to shoot one of them down. The next day, he scored another kill on a Ju 88.
On April 20, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens alongside his friend David Coke and Pat Pattle, the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of the war. The battle was an absolute furball which Dahl described as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side.” Five of the twelve Hurricanes involved in the battle were shot down and four of their pilots were killed including Pattle. Greek observers counted 22 German aircraft shot down, but because of the chaos of the aerial melee, none of the pilots were able to take credit for specific kills. Dahl received credit for one kill, though he likely shot down more.
In May, as the Germans closed on Athens, Dahl and No. 80 Squadron were evacuated to Egypt and reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew daily sorties over the course of four weeks. On June 8, he shot down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 heavy fighter, and on June 15, he shot down his third Ju 88.
Following this period, Dahl began to suffer from headaches that caused him to blackout and he was invalided home to Britain. He would serve the rest of the war as a diplomat and an intelligence officer, attaining the rank of wing commander by its end. In 1946, he was invalided out of service with the rank of squadron leader. His combat record of five aerial victories, confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced with Axis records, qualify him as a fighter ace.
Dahl would go on to write the aforementioned children’s stories and many more besides. His kindhearted books and their warm sentiment serve as the antithesis to his violent wartime experiences.
The Trump administration has decided not to send the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into retirement two decades early, Vice President Mike Pence announced from the carrier’s decks April 30, 2019.
“We are keeping the best carrier in the world in the fight. We are not retiring the Truman,” Pence said, The Virginia-Pilot reported. “The USS Harry S. Truman is going to be giving ’em hell for many more years to come,” the vice president added.
President Trump asked Pence to deliver the message, he revealed.
The Navy announced in its FY 2020 budget proposal that it had decided to mothball the Truman rather than go through with its planned mid-life refueling. The move was intended to free up funds for the purchase of new systems to give the US Navy an edge against rivals China and Russia, technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed-energy weapons, among other things.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“Great power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity, demanding prioritization and hard strategic choices,” the US Navy had explained.
US military leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, have defended the move before skeptical lawmakers in recent weeks. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke in favor of the Navy’s decision April 29, 2019.
“The most mortal sin we can have right now is to stay stable or stagnant,” he said at a security forum in Washington, DC. “We’re trying to move, and that is exactly the decision dynamic with respect to what’s more relevant for the future. Is it going to be the Harry S. Truman and its air wing where there’s a lot of innovation taking place, or is it something else?”
But the Trump administration took a different view after overruled its military leaders.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.