“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the biggest films of 2019, earning more than $1 billion at the box office.
The film, which was a culmination of a decade of Marvel movies, featured time travel, heartbreaking moments, and a major battle sequence. Larger-than-life moments were made possible through the use of computer-generated imagery (also known as CGI) and other special effects. And oftentimes, the most exciting scenes in the movie were filmed in front of a green screen.
In a new video shared by Marvel Entertainment, “Endgame” visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw broke down the film’s major battle sequence with Ryan Penagos.
Keep reading to see how different “Endgame” looks without special effects.
The superheroes returned after stepping through portals.
Russia has expressed alarm over President Donald Trump’s pledge to maintain U.S. dominance in space and create a separate branch of the military called the “space force.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova voiced Russia’s concerns on June 20, 2018, a day after Trump said that “America will always be the first in space.” He also said, “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us.”
In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new “space force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces — a proposal that requires congressional approval.
Zakharova said during a news briefing in Samara that Russia “noted the U.S. president’s instructions…to separate space forces from the air force,” saying, “The most alarming thing about this news is the aim of his instructions, namely to ensure [U.S.] domination in space.”
Zakharova accused the United States of “nurturing plans to bring out weapons into space with the aim of possibly staging military action there.”
She warned that if realized, such plans would have a “destabilizing effect on strategic stability and international security.”
While Russia has a branch of the military called “space forces,” their activities are “purely defensive,” the spokeswoman insisted.
U.S. military officials and policymakers are devoting increased attention to the potential for conflict with a near-peer competitor, and they’ve pursued a number of operational and equipment changes to prepare for it.
Among the latest moves is the rollout of more cold-weather gear among the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, underscoring the military’s growing concern about its ability to operate in extreme environments outside the Middle East.
For the last several years, the Army has been looking to update its gear for extremes, mainly jungles and the harsh cold. Included in that search was a new cold-weather boot and a cold-weather clothing system that could be adjusted for various temperatures.
In recent weeks, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York have done winter training operations with new gloves, headgear, socks, gaiters, parkas, and trousers. That new gear was focused on “face, hands, and feet,” 1st Sgt. Daniel Bryan, first sergeant of the division’s Light Fighters School, told Army Times.
The unit also received new skis. Built shorter and wider, like cross-country skis, they were brought in so inexperienced soldiers could strap into them with their cold-weather boots and be able to maneuver in short order. Those new skis were also being deployed among Army units in Alaska, Vermont, and Italy.
Troops at Fort Drum have done cold-weather exercises for some time, but the base’s recent designation as a Zone 7 — the same designation as Fort Wainwright in Alaska and Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont — steered millions of dollars more in funding there so soldiers could undertake more training.
The new equipment has been fielded as part of an effort to prepare troops physically and mentally for cold-weather operations.
“We don’t want [the cold] to hibernate us,” Bryan said. “We want to be physically and mentally prepared.”
‘You’re going to get your skis … so get ready’
The Marine Corps has also been reorienting itself for operations in the extreme cold.
In mid-January, the Corps issued two requests for information for a cap and gloves for intense cold. The Marines want both to be able to withstand temperatures down to 50 below zero and be fast-drying and water repellant, with the gloves able to work with touchscreen devices.
The Corps also plans to spend $12.75 million — $7 million in fiscal year 2018 — to buy 2,648 sets of the NATO ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen, with the first sets arriving at the end of the 2018 calendar year.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in December that the Marine Corps Rotational Force Europe, based in Norway, would be the first to get the gear.
“No Marine is going to leave here unless they know how to ski,” Neller said at the time, according to Military.com. “You’re going to get your skis here in about a week, so get ready.”
U.S. Marines have been in Norway on rotational deployments since early 2017, though they’ve stored equipment there for some time.
The deployments, the first of their kind, have focused on tactical training for offensive operations in cold weather (and irked Russia).
The primary reason for creating the rotational force was improving cold-weather training, one of Neller’s main goals.
Some exercises, done with NATO allies and non-NATO partners, have taken place just 200 miles from Norway’s border with Russia. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has also been conducting cold-weather training in neighboring Sweden.
The adjustment to the region hasn’t been totally smooth.
Marines in Norway’s Arctic region in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear, which was pulled from the service’s inventory of cold-weather equipment. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped, and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings, according to Military.com.
The equipment problems spurred a wave of feedback from Marines, leading the Corps to start looking at upgrades and replacements — including some cold-weather gear used by the Army as well as reinforced backpack frames suitable for frigid temperatures.
The Marine Corps’ overall plans for new gear goes beyond just outfitting a small rotational force, however, and those moves fit in with preparations for a future fight that Neller has said could be on the horizon.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said during a December address to Marines in Norway. Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future and told them to be ready for a variety of missions.
Neller also said he expected the force’s attention to shift to new areas. “I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
Increasing tensions with Russia and North Korea have increased the potential the U.S. military could face cold-weather fighting again — particularly in Northwest Asia.
During the Korean War, brutal cold plagued U.S. troops who lacked enough cold-weather gear and faced problems like frozen rations and gear damaged by subzero temperatures. Decades later, soldiers who recovered from frostbite and other injuries found themselves suffering from new symptoms related to their exposure.
Martial law came into force across a large swath of Ukraine on Nov. 28, following a clash at sea that Kyiv called an “act of aggression” by Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed was ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March.
Ukraine introduced martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — after Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Nov. 25 before seizing the boats and detaining 24 crew members, six of whom were wounded.
Ukraine imposes martial law as tensions with Russia escalate
In two days of hearings, courts in Russian-controlled Crimea ordered all 24 to be held in custody for two months pending possible trial, defying calls from Kyiv and the West for their immediate release and also signaling that the Kremlin wants to cast the incident as a routine border violation rather than warfare at sea.
The detention period can be extended, and the Ukranians face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal border crossing.
Seems #Russia will try to barrel through aftermath of the #KerchStrait confrontation by treating it as a court case. 15 of 24 #Ukraine sailors already sentenced to 2 months pretrial detention, including three in Kerch who must be the wounded. Other 9 expected today.
In his first public comments on the incident that increased already high tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and sparked concerns of a widening of the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Russia’a accusation that the Ukrainian boats trespassed in Russian waters — a claim Kyiv has denied.
“It was without doubt a provocation,” Putin told a financial forum in Moscow.
He claimed that the confrontation was orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who opinion polls indicate faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in an election now officially scheduled for March 31.
“It was organized by the president ahead of the elections,” Putin said, adding that Poroshenko “is in fifth place, ratings-wise, and therefore had to do something. It was used as a pretext to introduce martial law.”
Putin claimed that the Ukrainian “military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer” the Russian coast guard. “What were they supposed to do?”
“They would do the same in your country. This is absolutely obvious,” he said, responding to a question from a foreign investor at the forum.
While laying the blame squarely on Ukraine, Putin — whose country could face fresh Western sanctions over the clash — also sought to play it down, saying it was nothing more than a border incident and calling martial law an exaggerated response.
Opinion polls in Ukraine suggest that Poroshenko faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in a presidential election scheduled for March 31.
Some Kremlin critics suspect that it was Putin who orchestrated the clash, in an attempt to bolster his own approval rating amid anger in Russia over plans to raise the retirement age.
In earlier comments at the same conference, Putin said he hopes he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this week in Argentina, as planned.
Trump cast doubt on the meeting on November 27, telling The Washington Post that he might not meet with Putin as a result of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, adding: “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”
The Ukrainian parliament late on November 26 voted to impose martial law for 30 days in the provinces that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”
The 10 provinces all border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.
Among other things, martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to order a partial mobilization, strengthen air defenses, and take steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”
It is the first time Ukraine has imposed martial law since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 and backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in a war that erupted in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk the following month.
Those moves, which prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia, followed the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by a pro-European protest movement known as the Maidan.
While Russian forces occupied Crimea before the takeover and are heavily involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, according to Kyiv and NATO, the clash in the Black Sea near Crimea was the first case in which Russia has acknowledged its military or law enforcement forces have fired on Ukrainians.
Before Putin made his comments, the Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a “reckless” act that “potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast” of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Russian military said it will bolster the defenses of Russian-controlled Crimea by add one S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the three already deployed there.”
The new air-defense missile system will soon be put on combat duty to guard Russian airspace,” Colonel Vadim Astafyev said. State-run news agency RIA Novosti said the system will be operational by the end of the year.
Moscow claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the overwhelming majority of countries reject that and still consider it to be part of Ukraine.
Poroshenko said that Russia’s actions threatened to lead to a “full-scale war” and accused Moscow of mounting a major buildup of forces near Ukraine.
“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” Poroshenko said in a television interview late on November 27, adding that the number of Russian tanks has tripled. Russia has not commented.
The clash in waters near Crimea was by far the biggest confrontation at sea after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 civilians and combatants have been killed.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait, where Russia opened a bridge leading to Crimea in May.
The strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports.
In comments to The Washington Post published on November 27, Trump said he was considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1.
Trump told The Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” from his national-security team about the incident.
“That will be very determinative,” Trump told The Washington Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting…I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 28 that “preparations are continuing, the meeting was agreed.”
“We don’t have any other information from [U.S. officials],” he said when asked about Trump’s comments.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged European states to do more to support Ukraine and said Washington wants to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.
European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian crew members.
On November 27, Russian courts in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Kerch ordered 15 of the Ukrainians to be held in custody for two months. Hearings for the other nine on November 28 produced the same result.
The mother of detained sailor Andriy Eyder, Viktoria Eyder, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the Black Sea port city of Odesa that her son was “wounded and is hospitalized in Kerch.”
The court rulings put the sailors in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, Interfax, and RIA
Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.
“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”
The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.
Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”
By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.
The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.
“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”
Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.
A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.
“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”
Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.
“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”
On Nov. 15th, Mark Esper was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by a seven vote margin in the U.S. Senate. He was President Trump’s third pick for the position after Vincent Viola, founder of Virtu Financial, and Sen. Mark Green were forced to drop out of the confirmation process before hearings began.
Esper rounds out the final Trump service secretary to be approved by the Senate. Heather Wilson was confirmed as Air Force secretary in May while Richard Spencer was confirmed as Navy secretary in August.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ go-to man for the U.S. Army has a long Army history that includes active and reserve duty as well as time in the National Guard.
The ‘Left Hook’ of the First Gulf War
Esper’s military career began after he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986. He made the West Point Dean’s List and received the MacArthur Award for Leadership. From there, he became an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
In 1990, he deployed in support of the first Gulf War, where his battalion, the 3-187th Infantry Battalion, played a vital role in General Norman Schwarzkopf’s “Left Hook.” The idea was to avoid the heavily fortified Iraq-Kuwait border by coming in through Saudi Arabia to cut off the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard divisions still stationed in Kuwait. For his actions in Iraq, Esper received the Bronze Star and his Combat Infantryman Badge, among other awards.
Esper then commanded an airborne unit in Europe before becoming an Army Fellow at the Pentagon. In 1995, he graduated from Harvard with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Time in Washington
Esper was promoted to lieutenant colonel before retiring through service in the National Guard and Army Reserve. After two years as the Chief of Staff at The Heritage Foundation, Esper became a senior staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Between 2002 and 2004, Esper was the Bush Administration’s deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for negotiations policy, nonproliferation, and international agreements, where he was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal for his work. From 2004 and 2006, he was the Director for National Security Affairs for the U.S. Senate.
He left the military side of Washington to be the executive vice-president of the non-profit trade group Aerospace Industries Association in 2006, but left to be Senator Fred Thompson’s national policy director during his short 2008 presidential campaign.
Time at Raytheon
Esper went on to become the next vice-president of government relations at Raytheon. Raytheon is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles and currently stands as the third largest defense contractor by defense revenue, earning $22.3 billion — with 93 percent coming from government contracts.
As a lobbyist for Raytheon, he was one of The Hill’s top corporate lobbyists for his “influence on major legislation such as the annual defense policy bill” in both 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, he earned $1.52 million at Raytheon, which includes his salary and bonuses, but does not include his stock options and deferred compensation at the company, worth anywhere from $1.5 million to as much as $6 million.
Esper agreed before his confirmation that he would “recuse himself from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him” but the “deferred compensation” after five years mentioned above from Raytheon may still be a conflict of interest.
According to Breaking Defense, he will most likely become “a soft-spoken wingman to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.” Esper’s entire career has been defined by quiet and low-key performance so it would make sense that he would continue to serve as a diligent mediator between Defense Secretary Mattis and General Milley.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Commitee on Nov. 2, Esper reiterated Milley’s readiness first policy. “My first priority will be readiness — ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict. With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority.”
Base leaders greet General Jay Raymond, U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, on their helicopter pad Jan. 10, 2020, on Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota. Raymond arrived to Cavalier after visiting the University of North Dakota, where he toured the new Walking Space Studies facility and spoke with Reserve Officer Training Corps and Space Studies students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Howley)
It’s easy to joke about the Space Force. From their ridiculous motto to their seal, it seems like the leadership for America’s newest military branch is just asking to be the butt of jokes. Space Force is the sixth branch of our military and the first new branch since the Air Force’s creation way back in 1947. At least the Air Force had a precursor (the Army Air Corps) and a definite need. With the Space Force, we’re not so sure.
We’re no closer to getting personnel on the moon than we were back in 1947, and it seems like everyone from Netflix to Star Trek is getting in on the jokes.
Now Space Force just made it a whole lot easier.
In September, a squadron of 20 airmen deployed for Space Force’s first foreign deployment – all the way to far off distant Dubai, UAE. The squad was sworn in as Space Force recruits at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, becoming the military’s newest first foreign deployed trips. What makes this swearing-in unique is that all 20 squad members were already searching overseas with the Air Force. The group of enlisted and commissioned Airmen assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and the 609th Air Operations Center was deployed to Qatar. With their swearing-in comes a new uniform and a new place to call home for a while.
Air Force Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Forces of US Air Forces CENTCOM, said that the group was making history as the 20 members officially switched branches from the Air Force to the Space Force. The ceremony officially transferred Space Operations and Airmen in core space career fields, including space operations and space system operations. In the future, ceremonies will induct professions in common career fields like acquisitions, intelligence, engineering fields, and cybersecurity.
According to a press release, the squad has been stationed in the UAE as part of support for combat operations.
During the swearing-in ceremony at Al Udeid, the newest Space Force personnel were flanked by American flags and massive satellites. Soon more will join the “core space operators” to help run satellites, track enemy maneuvers, and avoid conflicts that happen in space.
Benson reiterated that the missions aren’t new, and neither are the personnel. But what is new is the price tag. The force is expected to grow to at least 16,000 troops by 2021 and have a budget of 15.4 billion. Some leadership worries this entire project is a vanity push for President Trump ahead of next month’s election, though there’s no conclusive evidence to support that.
The growing concerns over the weaponization of outer space are conversations that senior military leaders have been having for decades. As outer space ownership becomes increasingly contested, many cite the need to have a space corps devoted specifically to American interests.
Of course, military presence in the Middle East is nothing new. We’ve been there in some capacity for generations.
But according to historians, the Middle East might just be where the first “space war” was actually fought – that is, if you’re willing to accept the use of a satellite-based GPS mission as a “space war.” During the 1991 Desert Storm operation, US troops used satellites to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, making military history in the process.
Since the 1991 use of satellites in combat, threats from global agitators have grown. In his briefing welcoming the newest personnel, Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations the Space Force will monitor and track. Unsurprisingly, the decision to deploy the Space Force to the UAE comes just months after the ramp-up of tensions between the US and Iran.
The 16th Space Control Flight, part of the 21st Operations Group, was operational from 1967 until 1994. It was reactivated in 2007, and its mission is to protect critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, and report sources of electromagnetic interference.
Amid the extensive flooding in Nebraska and across the Midwest, farms, ranches, and feedlots have seen damages that will likely be far in the millions. Preliminary estimates of the overall damage in Nebraska are about $650 million. But it’s important to remember that the damage is ongoing, and that’s why the Nebraska National Guard delivered hay by air and land on March 25.
(Yeah, we know it sounds weird that getting hay wet can start a fire. In the broadest possible strokes: Wet hay composts in a way that generates lots of heat. The heat builds enough to dry some of the outer hay and then ignite it, then fire spreads.)
Cows fed affected hay, at best, can become malnourished. At worst, they are poisoned by the mold.
Nebraska National Guard soldiers provide assistance during flood relief
(Nebraska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen)
So, when ranchers and farmers in Nebraska reported that they had some cows safe from the floods and rain, but they were susceptible to becoming malnourished or poisoned by the only feed available, the National Guard planned a way to get fresh, safe hay to them.
Deliveries were conducted via helicopters and truck convoy, getting the feed past flooded roads and terrain and into the farms where it can do some good. In some cases, CH-47 Chinooks are rolling massive bales of hay off their back cargo ramps, essentially bombing areas with fresh hay. This allows them to reach areas where cattle might be trapped and starving, but even ranchers can’t yet reach.
Hopefully, this will ameliorate some of the damages from the storms. But the storms have already hit military installations hard and, as mentioned above, are thought to have caused over half a billion in economic damages.
We tend to see leadership as a glamorous and desirable career destination, but the crude reality is that most leaders have pretty dismal effects on their teams and organizations. Consider that 70% of employees are not engaged at work, but it’s their boss’ main task to engage and inspire them, helping them leave aside their selfish interests to work as a collective unit with others. Instead, managers are the number one reason why people quit jobs. As the old saying goes, people join companies but quit their bosses.
As I highlight in my latest book, passive job-seeking, self-employment, and entrepreneurship rates have been on the rise even in places where macroeconomic conditions are strong and there is no shortage of career opportunities for people. For instance, in the US, there are now 6 million job seekers for 7 million job openings, but people appear to be disenchanted with the idea of traditional employment, mostly because it may require putting up with a bad boss.
To be sure, there are many competent leaders out there, but academic estimates suggest that the baseline for incompetent leadership is at least 65% (note this figure is based on analyzing mostly public or large companies), and, even more shockingly, there appears to be a strong negative correlation between the money we spend or waste on leadership-development interventions and the confidence people have in their leaders.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling.
An obvious question this sad state of affairs evokes is how one can work if his or her boss is incompetent. Clearly, it is always tempting to blame our manager for our unfavorable work experiences, but it may also be the case that the problem is us rather than them, with recent research indicating that all aspects of job satisfaction are influenced as much by employees’ own personalities and values as by the actual (objective) working circumstances they are in.
The way we experience our boss is no exception. Here’s a quick five-point checklist to work out what your manager’s probable level of competence might be.
1. He or she is generally liked, or at least well-regarded, by his or her direct reports
This would be consistent with the mainstream scientific view that upward feedback (feedback from those who work for the manager) is the best single measure of a manager’s performance. Conversely, how managers are seen by their own managers is mostly a measure of politics, likability, or managing “up.” If the answer is no, the probability that your boss is incompetent increases dramatically.
2. His or her team tends to achieve strong results compared with similar/competing teams (internally and externally)
Note this may happen even if the answer to question one is no, though generally speaking, both points are positively intertwined: People perform better when they like their bosses, and they like their bosses more when they perform better. Thus, if the answer is no, then your boss is probably not that competent.
3. He or she frequently provides you with constructive and critical developmental feedback to improve your performance
And does he or she do it for others in your team, too? If the answer is no, then chances are your boss is less than competent, as one of the fundamental tasks of any manager is to improve their team members’ performance by providing accurate and helpful feedback on their potential and performance.
A Ranger Assessment Course instructor (right), informs the class leader that he needs to improve his leadership skills at the Nevada Test and Training Range.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler)
4. He or she knows you well and has an accurate picture of your potential, including your strengths and weaknesses
No bosses can do their jobs well unless they are fully aware of what their team members can and can’t do, which is a necessary precondition to assigning each employee to tasks and roles in which their skills and personality are best deployed. After all, talent is by and large personality in the right place. If you think your boss doesn’t know you, then he or she is less likely to be competent.
5. He or she seems truly coachable and continues to improve to the point of getting better on the job all the time
Just like your employability depends on your own ability (and willingness) to continue to develop key career skills and learn things that broaden your career potential, your boss should also be finding ways to get better. This means not just displaying the necessary humility and curiosity to learn — including from his or her own employees and customers — but also finding ways to keep their dark side or undesirable tendencies in check. In short, does your boss show self-awareness and the drive to get better, irrespective of whether that actually advances his or her own career? If the answer is no, then your boss has limited potential.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development, and people analytics. He is the chief talent scientist at Manpower Group, cofounder of Deeper Signals and Metaprofiling, and professor of business psychology at both University College London and Columbia University. He has previously held academic positions at New York University and the London School of Economics and lectured at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, London Business School, Johns Hopkins, IMD, and INSEAD. He was also the CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems. Tomas has published nine books and over 130 scientific papers (h index 58), making him one of the most prolific social scientists of his generation.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force is allowing its pilots, navigators and airmen who wear flight suits to roll up their sleeves whenever they’re not on in-flight duty, according to a new memo.
The latest policy, first published on the popular Air Force blog John Q. Public, mimics what airmen who wear the Airman Battle Uniform are already allowed to do when they’re not performing official duties, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis.
“The flight suit sleeve policy was updated to align with the Airman Battle Uniform coat [shirt] wear policy,” Lewis said in an email Monday.
The change amends Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” which already states in the case of the ABU that “commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle.”
“Regardless as to whether the sleeves are rolled up or unrolled, the cuffs will remain visible at all times,” the AFI says.
Similarly, airmen who wear a Flight Duty Uniform or Desert Flight Duty Uniform can roll or tuck their suit sleeves under, Lewis said, and “are now approved to pull the sleeves up to within 1 inch of the elbow using the Velcro, already incorporated in the suit, to hold them in place.”
Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, enacted the change — effective immediately — on Jan. 23, according to the memo.
Airmen “will still be required to have sleeves rolled down to the wrist when performing aircrew duties in-flight,” Lewis said — for example, while flying or on the flight line.
The previous policy for flight suits stated airmen could have their sleeves rolled under “if not performing in-flight duties.” However, the rolled-under sleeve “will not end above the natural bend of the wrist when the wearer’s arms are hanging naturally at their side.”
Lewis could not say if similar provisions for flight suits were made in the past.
The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.
For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.
Devotion to duty
Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.
Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.
“Again,” he says.
He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.
Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.
“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”
Grit for greatness
In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.
The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.
“Port arms!” commands Spegal.
Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.
Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”
Passion for perfection
Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.
In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.
For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.
“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”
“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.
There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.
As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.
The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.
The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.
To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.
All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.
These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.
Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.
Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.
Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.
“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.
“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”
Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.
It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.
Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.
The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.
The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.
“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”
The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.
More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.
Follow the money
Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.
As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.
So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.
Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.
Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.
“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”
On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.
The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.
The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.
Banks are vulnerable
In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.
They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.
They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.
The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.
The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.
Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.
But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.
The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.
“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”
That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.
They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.
Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?
Waiting until a catastrophe
News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.
Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.
How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.
The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.
“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.
While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.
In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.
Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.
Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.
“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”
But are the deterrents strong enough?
Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.
For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.
But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.
“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”
In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”
Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.
“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”
If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.
Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.
“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”
New York leading the way
The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.
This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.
“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.
In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.
In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.
Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.
Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.