More than 440 senior enlisted leaders, representing all services — active, reserve, and retired — descended on Houston, Texas, June 20-22, 2019, from all parts of the United States to attend the Great Sergeants Major Reunion, the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in America.
Out of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) classes 1 through 10, there was only one Sergeant Major in attendance. Gene McKinney, who served as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army, was among the many sergeants major to participate in this year’s event. Sadly, 16 sergeants major have passed since the last gathering in 2017.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was well represented, with two Veterans Experience office employees–both retired command sergeants major (representing classes 53 and 55)–on site to share MISSION Act and suicide prevention and awareness information, and hand out the VA Welcome Kit.
CSM (Ret) Eric Montgomery speaks with SMA (Ret) Gene C. McKinney at the event in Houston.
As the conference room filled, VA staff were there to welcome attendees and hear their concerns and feedback about VA. One attendee, Larry Williams, said “the White House hotline is the best resource in place.” Others similarly expressed wishing they had this information before leaving service, and that VA’s presence at the reunion convinced several to enroll in VA. Even those still serving, or soon to be retiring as sergeants major, reported a desire to share the VA Welcome Kit information with their soldiers.
It was an invaluable opportunity to attend, to share what’s happening inside VA, knowing that these senior enlisted leaders will be VA advocates to their soldiers all over the country.
Retired SGMs from USASMA class 55 at the GSM Reunion 2019.
Command Sergeant Major (retired) Ivanhoe Love Jr., who also served three terms as the mayor of Liberal, Kansas, was the keynote speaker. His spoke about living healthy lives, the importance of annual checkups and the power of positive thinking. He also stressed the importance of having personal relationships, staying connected and informed, and how these factors impact life longevity.
Although he was not in attendance due to health reasons, fellow Sergeant Major (Ret) Ernest Colden, a World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veteran from South Carolina who turned 95 on June 23, 2019, was recognized.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The US, Russia’s main nuclear rival, had no answer for this weapon— no defenses in place can stop it, no emergency-response plans in place address it, and no forthcoming projects to counter or neuter it.
On the surface, the doomsday torpedo represents unrivaled capability of nuclear destruction, but a nuclear arsenal’s worth rests on many factors, not just its ability to kill.
Eight nations control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, and another nation holds an additional 80 or so as an open secret.
Nuclear weapons, once thought of as the ultimate decider in warfare, have seen use exactly twice in conflict, both times by the US during World War II.
Since then, nuclear weapons have taken on a role as a deterrent. The US and Russia, Cold War rivals for decades, have not fought head-to-head since the dawn of the nuclear era, owing the peace at least in part to fear that a conflict would escalate into mutual, and then global, destruction.
What makes a good nuclear arsenal?
First, a good nuclear doctrine. Will a country strike first, or only in response?
Second, safety. Are the nukes secure? Does the country participate in nonproliferation treaties?
Third, do the nukes work as intended? Is the arsenal sufficient? Can the nukes survive an initial attack?
In the slides below, Business Insider has weighed these questions with the help of Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to rank the world’s nuclear arsenals.
9. North Korea: the fledgling force
North Korea fails by virtually every metric used to measure nuclear arsenals. North Korea’s nuclear missiles may not even work, and the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, diverts money from essential services for his own people to foot the bill. The nation is a constant proliferation threat.
Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as pieced together from decades of saber rattling, amounts to essentially saying it will nuke the US, South Korea, or Japan if it wishes, and as a first strike. In the 21st century, only North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, introducing the threat of radioactive fallout to a new generation.
North Korea serves the world as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear proliferation. Every day, intelligence officials investigate whether the poverty-stricken country has helped another rogue state acquire missile or nuclear-bomb technology.
North Korea remains an international pariah under intense sanctions for its nuclear activity, so why bother?
Because North Korea has a hopeless disadvantage in nonnuclear forces when compared to South Korea, Japan, or the US. Because Pyongyang can never hope to defeat any of its enemies in conventional fighting, it turned to nukes as a guarantor of its security.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 60
Weapons count rank: 9
North Korea has a number of short- to intercontinental-range ballistic-missile systems thought to operate off the backs of mobile missile launchers.
One analyst has warned that North Korea’s mobile launchers may simply distract from the real threat of hidden nuclear silos, but no evidence of such silos has ever appeared in US intelligence reports made public.
North Korea has tested a number of submarine-launch platforms and fields a fleet of older submarines, but this capability is thought to be far off.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal comes down to a few older ballistic-missile systems in the field and some long-range systems in development, according to Kristensen.
It’s completely unknown if North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons mated or with the warhead affixed to the missile.
8. Pakistan: loose nukes?
Pakistan built nuclear weapons in response to its bitter regional rival, India, testing and proceeding with a relatively simple nuclear mission: deter or defeat India.
Pakistan managed to develop what’s known as a “credible minimum deterrent,” or the lowest number of nukes possible while still credibly warding off India, which has much stronger conventional forces and many times Pakistan’s population.
Full on shooting wars and frequent cross-border skirmishes have broken out between India and Pakistan since World War II, making the relatively smaller country fear for its sovereignty.
“Pakistan has concluded that India can use its more advanced conventional forces to push into Pakistan and Pakistan wouldn’t have a choice except to use nuclear weapons,” Kristensen told Business Insider.
Pakistan would score highly for having a simple nuclear mission, and not going overboard in meeting it, except for two glaring issues: safety and responsibility.
Additionally, “Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use,” by building smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.
Pakistan Air Force Chengdu JF-17.
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 150
Weapons count rank: 6
Pakistan has ballistic missiles with ranges just long enough to hit anywhere in the country of India. It has built nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can travel more than 400 miles.
Pakistan’s air force has reportedly practiced dropping nuclear bombs with its foreign-made planes. The US has specifically given Pakistan permission to modify its F-16 fighters to drop nuclear weapons.
Pakistan has no nuclear-missile-capable submarines, but has reportedly started work on one in response to India’s first nuclear submarine.
Pakistan is thought to keep its nuclear warheads separate from its missiles and delivery systems.
7. India: between a rock and a hard place
“India is still a nuclear posture that’s still in vivid development,” according to Kristensen.
While India had early success creating advanced nuclear devices, the rise of China and Beijing’s aggression in the region has made India divert its focus from one regional rival, Pakistan, to a second.
Just as Pakistan fears India’s greater strength and numbers, India has come to fear China’s growing and modernizing conventional forces.
But unlike Pakistan, India has sworn off nuclear first strikes and not looked into tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, India is considered to be more responsible with its nuclear weapons and is assumed to keep them more secure.
India doctrine succeeds for the most part by having a credible deterrent that’s not overblown and good cooperation with other nuclear powers.
But India’s submarine fleet remains a dream at the moment, lowering its overall score.
India’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 140 (stored)
Weapons count rank: 7
Like Pakistan, India has air-dropped and land-launched nuclear weapons. Initially, India built shorter-range weapons to hold Pakistan at risk, but has since evolved to take aim at China with longer-range systems.
India is testing the Agni V, a land-launched missile that can range all of China, but as Kristensen said, “once they develop them they have to build up their base infrastructure.”
India recently launched its first nuclear-powered submarine for a supposed deterrence patrol, but Kristensen said the patrol lasted only 20 days and did not bring armed nuclear missiles with it.
“India has to be able to communicate reliably with a ballistic missile submarine at sea, possibly under tensions or while under attack they have to maintain secure communications. That will take a long time,” said Kristensen.
As it stands, the missiles and submarine India has picked out for its underwater nuclear deterrent can’t range China’s vital points or most of Pakistan.
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.
6. Russia: bomb makers gone wild
Russia ended World War II with the Red Army outnumbering any force on Earth. But throughout the nuclear age, it saw Europe turn away from it in favor of the West.
Russia feared it was conventionally weaker than NATO, which has grown to include 29 nations, and started building the world’s most vast array of nuclear weapons.
“Russia seems to sort of be driven by a frantic exploitation of different options,” Kristensen said. “You have a very prolific sort of effort to bring in more experiments with many more and new systems, more so than any nuclear weapons state does.”
Russia is mainly focused on stopping a US or Western invasion and holding US cities and forces at risk. To combat the US with forces all over the globe, Russia needs a lot of nukes. Russia has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, but stands accused of violating other arms agreements with the US.
Putin frequently looks to the country’s nuclear strength for propaganda purposes, announcing in 2018 no less than five new nuclear offensive and defensive systems meant to defeat the US in a nuclear war that nobody seriously thinks Russia wants.
No country needs five new nuclear weapons in a year.
While Russia has about the same number of nukes as the US, Russia’s have higher yields and could end all life on Earth more quickly and with great spectacle than any other nation.
But because Russia explores all kinds of ridiculous nuclear weapons, bases nuclear warheads near population centers, uses nuclear weapons to threaten other countries, and because the fall of the Soviet Union led to the greatest episode of loose nukes in world history, Russia sits on the low end of this list.
Russia has the full nuclear triad with constantly modernized bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines. The triad is a true 24/7/365 force with submarines on deterrence patrols at all times.
Additionally, Russia has a high number of tactical nuclear weapons with shorter-range and smaller-explosive yields, which arms-control advocates say lowers the threshold for nuclear war.
According to Kristensen, most of the supposedly revolutionary Russian nuclear strategic systems hyped by Putin will see limited deployments. While Putin hypes a new hypersonic, maneuverable intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) warhead, Kristensen notes that most ICBMs will remain the old type. Furthermore, all ICBM warheads travel at hypersonic speeds.
Russia routinely sinks needed cash into “really frivolous exploratory type systems that make no difference in deterring or winning,” according to Kristensen.
One “excellent” example of this, according to Kristensen, is the Poseidon underwater 100 to 200 megaton nuclear torpedo.
This weapon, potentially the biggest nuclear explosive device ever built, just doesn’t make sense.
The weapon would essentially set off tidal waves so large and an explosion so radioactive and punishing that continents, not countries, would pay the price for decades.
The US has not found it useful to respond to these doomsday-type devices.
Russia stores its nuclear warheads mated to missiles and ready to fire. Additionally, it has surrounded Moscow with 68 nuclear-tipped missile interceptors meant to protect the city from a US strike.
5. Israel: Who knows?
“Israel is interesting because it’s a semi-dormant nuclear program, but it’s not dormant,” Kristensen said.
Israel, unlike others on this list, finds itself mainly in conflict with nonnuclear foes. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, but it has sworn off building nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, Israel’s conventional military, with its top-of-the-line air force and close coordination with the US, easily overpowers its regional foes in traditional fighting.
Instead of reaching for nuclear weapons to threaten a more powerful foe, Israel has a “very relaxed nuclear posture, truly what you could call a last resort posture,” according to Kristensen.
Secrecy surrounding Israel’s nuclear program has made it hard to evaluate, so it gets the middle spot.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 80
Weapons count rank: 8
Truly, nobody knows what weapons Israel has or doesn’t have, and that’s the way they like it.
That said, Israel has fairly advanced weapons systems, including land-based systems that remain unmated from nuclear warheads.
Kristensen said Israel has mobile missiles and aircraft that can launch nuclear bombs.
“Rumor is Israel has a cruise missile for their submarines and there are writings about nuclear land mines and tactical nukes, but they remain in very much in the rumor box,” he said.
Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard.
4. UK: USA lite
Weapons count: 215 (120 deployed; 95 stored)
Weapons count rank: 5
During the Cold War, the UK labored to create its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UK has withdrawn from that posture and essentially become a client of the US.
The UK operates four nuclear submarines that fire can fire 16 Trident missiles made by the US. That’s it. The UK won’t get an “arsenal” page for this reason. The warheads on these patrols are mated to missiles.
The UK belongs to NATO and draws Russia’s ire sometimes as a loud voice in the West, but doesn’t have a very big or powerful conventional military.
Nor does the UK have any clear-cut enemies. While the recent UK-Russia hostilities may have reminded the island it’s not without opposition, Russia’s horns are mainly locked with the US.
As far as doctrine goes, the UK vows to use nuclear weapons only defensively and has signed the nonproliferation treaty, meaning it has agreed not to spread nuclear technology.
The UK has “very close coordination and nuclear targeting planning with the US,” Kristensen said. “It’s not a standalone nuclear power in the same way that France considers itself to be.”
The UK has determined it doesn’t need a very big nuclear arsenal and didn’t overdo it, giving it high marks on its small force.
A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
France has a long history with nuclear weapons, like the UK, but has maintained more independence and control over its stockpile and doctrine.
“The French have a very open ended strategy that looks at potential use against any significant threat against crucial French interests,” Kristensen said. This includes using nuclear weapons against a state that launches a weapons of mass destruction attack on France.
In 2015 after the tragic Paris attacks by ISIS fighters, France sent its aircraft carrier to fight the militants in Iraq and Syria, but they used conventional weapons.
France’s nuclear doctrine allows first use in a broad range of circumstances, and while its weapons are not as aligned with NATO’s posture as the US or the UK’s, “it’s assumed they would pick a side and somewhat contribute to the deterrence posture of NATO,” Kristensen said.
Also, France collaborates less with the US on nuclear issues, though their targeting objectives probably broadly align with the US’s, Kristensen said.
Essentially, France’s strong conventional military allows them to avoid much discussion of using nuclear weapons. Additionally, the French seem more able to stomach paying for nuclear weapons and infrastructure, which the British have often been uneasy about.
France’s participation in the nonproliferation treaty and its relative stability with its nuclear program earns it high marks for such a limited arsenal.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
Weapons count: 300 (290 deployed; 10 stored)
Weapons count rank: 3
France mainly breaks with the UK on nuclear weapons in that they have 50 or so aircraft that can launch missiles with a range of about 300 miles that deliver nuclear warheads, according to Kristensen.
Like the UK, France has four nuclear-powered submarines, one of which stays on a constant deterrence patrol ready to fire mated nuclear missiles.
While it’s not a nuclear weapon outright, outside of the US, only France operates a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
2. US: the big boy
The US’s nuclear warhead count falls short to only Russia, and like Russia, the US swelled its arsenal to surpass 30,000 weapons during the height of the Cold War.
The Cold War saw the US explore a wide, and sometimes exotic, range of nuclear-weapons delivery options, including cruise missiles and artillery shells.
But since then, US has attempted to sober its nuclear ambitions, and has become the source of many nonproliferation regimes and attempts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons globally.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was the US that took on accounting for the loose nukes spread across places like Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The US leads the diplomatic pressure campaign to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons.
From 2015 to 2017, the US led an effort to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
The US invented nuclear weapons and remains the only country to have ever dropped them in anger, but the US’s conventional-military supremacy curtails any need for nuclear saber rattling.
Today, the US allows for nuclear-first use and has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
While the US has come a long way from the arms-race madness of the Cold War, it still spends a world-record amount of money on its nuclear arsenal and could stand to lose about a third of its force, according to experts.
Because the US tries to be a transparent, responsible nuclear force, it scores the highest out of any country with greater than a “credible minimum deterrent.”
Today the US’s nuclear arsenal has narrowed down to a triad in constant stages of modernization.
The US operates two nuclear-capable bombers, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress, originally built in the 1950s and slated to fly for 100 years.
The US operates a fleet of nuclear submarines, which it keeps on constant deterrence patrols.
The US also has nearly 400 intercontinental-range missiles in silos around the country, mostly aimed at Russia’s nuclear weapons for an imagined “mutual destruction” scenario.
Recently, the US has come under intense criticism for President Donald Trump’s proposal to build more smaller or tactical nuclear weapons. Experts say these weapons make nuclear war more likely.
The US has tactical nuclear weapons stored around Europe and Turkey, which, like the bigger strategic weapons, are stored mated.
Type 094 submarine.
1. China: True minimum
In 1957, before China had nuclear weapons, its leader, Chairman Mao, said the following horrifying quote about nuclear war:
“I’m not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn’t matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I’m not afraid of anyone.”
In 1967, China had tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. To prove its systems worked in the face of Western doubts, it fired the only nuclear-armed ballistic missile in history to an unpopulated region within its own borders.
Given China’s early enthusiastic attitude toward nuclear combat, it developed a surprisingly responsible and calm force.
China has just 280 nuclear warheads, and none of them are mated to delivery systems. China flies bombers and sails submarines that it calls nuclear-capable, but none of them have ever actually flown with nuclear weapons.
China’s nuclear doctrine forbids first strikes and centers around the idea that China would survive a nuclear strike, dig its bombs out of deep underground storage, and send a salvo of missiles back in days, months, or years.
This essentially nails the idea of “credible minimum deterrence.” Everyone knows China has nuclear weapons, that they work, and nobody doubts China would use them if it first received a nuclear attack.
Also, China has spent a fraction of the money the US or Russia has spent on weapons while conforming with nonproliferation treaties.
China has continued to build up its missile, submarine, and bomber fleets, but all without the scrutiny afforded to nuclear systems.
Because China’s nuclear warheads don’t sit on missiles, if China attacked another country with ballistic missiles, the attacked country could be fairly sure the missiles were not nuclear armed and resist returning fire with its own nuclear weapons.
China has more big cities than any other country and stands to lose more than anyone in a nuclear exchange, but the incredible restraint shown by the Chinese earns them the top slot in this ranking.
China’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 280 stockpiled
Weapons count rank: 4
China operates three types of ballistic missiles, some of which out-range their US counterparts.
China has nuclear-capable submarines and bombers, but they do not ever travel with nuclear weapons on board.
China relies on a growing and modernizing conventional military to assert its will on other countries and virtually never mentions its nuclear arsenal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military vehicles in an underground facility at US Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, September 9, 2015. US Defense Department/Glenn Fawcett
A major Marine Corps force redesign is bringing big changes that could soon filter down to a secretive cave complex in Norway that the Corps has used since the Cold War.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said last year that the Corps needed to get rid of “big, heavy things” and build a more mobile force for naval expeditionary warfare in contested areas — namely the Asia-Pacific.
The Corps plans to cut its overall force 7% by 2030, shedding infantry battalions, eliminating helicopter squadrons, and getting rid of all of its tanks.
Marines in California have already said goodbye to their tanks, and more could leave soon, including those in a cave complex in Norway’s Trondheim region, where the Corps has stored weapons and other equipment for decades.
Entrances to the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway with equipment outside to be taken to Estonia for a military exercise, June 30, 1997. US Defense Department
The Corps’ Force Design 2030 “is a worldwide program aimed to make our force posture around the globe even more strategic and effective. As such, it calls for a divestment of certain capabilities and increases in others,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for Marine Corps forces in Europe and Africa, said in an email.
The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway “will continue to support US Marine Corps forces for bilateral and multi-lateral exercises” in European and Africa, Rankine-Galloway said.
“We expect that Marine Corps prepositioned equipment will be updated to meet our service’s needs, with excess equipment to be removed and newer equipment to be added to the prepositioned facilities,” Rankine-Galloway added.
Rankine-Galloway didn’t say what equipment that might be, but in the Force Design 2030, Berger said the Corps is “over-invested in” weapons like “heavily armored ground combat systems (tanks) [and] towed cannon artillery” and had “shortfalls” in rocket artillery, air-defense systems, and long-range unmanned aircraft.
Marine Corps leaders say savings from those cuts will pay for high-tech gear needed to counter China, Russia, and others.
M1A1 Abrams tanks and other equipment during a modernization of equipment at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, August 13, 2014. US Marine Corps/Master Sgt. Chad McMeen
A changing strategic game
The Marines’ underground storage in Norway’s Trondheim region dates to 1982, when the US and Norway agreed to preposition supplies and equipment in six climate-controlled caves there, allowing the Corps to store equipment closer than the US East Coast and “minimize the time necessary to form for combat.”
Much of the equipment there was withdrawn for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A decade later, the Corps expanded its stocks, reportedly allowing tanks and other heavy vehicles to be stored there for the first time.
Changes to what the Marines store in Norway would come as the Corps alters its troop presence in the country.
US Marine Corps High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle stored at Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, February 10, 2020. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Joseph Atiyeh
Hundreds of Marines have been stationed in Norway on six-month rotations since 2017, but Norway’s military said earlier this month that the US would reduce that force.
Rankine-Galloway told several outlets the Corps wasn’t drawing down but rather adopting shorter, “episodic” deployments aligned with exercises — sometimes bringing more troops to the country than are there now — that allow it to balance Arctic warfare training with larger-scale training “as a naval expeditionary force.”
“We expect US Marine Corps forces deployed to the Nordic region to train and be prepared to fight in accordance with the Commandant’s vision for the force and that this transformation will make both US Marine Corps, allied, and partner forces more lethal and capable together,” Rankine-Galloway told Insider.
The Marines’ year-round presence in Norway angered Russia, whose border with Norway is near sensitive sites on the Kola Peninsula belonging to the powerful Northern Fleet, which oversees Russia’s nuclear ballistic-missile subs.
Russian missiles have changed “the strategic game” in the region, according to Thomas Nilsen, editor of Norway-based news outlet The Barents Observer.
“Living on the Norwegian side of the border, we don’t see a scenario of a Russian military invasion trying to capture” northern Norway, Nilsen said at an Atlantic Council event in February.
Weapons like the Kinzhal hypersonic missile could be launched from Russian fighter jets and within minutes strike airbases in those Scandinavian countries, Nilsen said.
Aircraft at those bases, like Norway’s F-35s, are “what Russia is afraid of,” Nilsen added. “Those capabilities on the Scandinavian side that might … disturb their deploying of the ballistic-missile submarines.”
More than four decades later, the military’s premier culinary training event has evolved into something much greater than its meager beginnings.
It is larger — more than 200 competitors compete yearly, substantially more than the few dozen who competed at the start.
It is more inclusive — over the years, the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and foreign countries have all thrown their hats into the competitive ring.
Its appeal to spectators combined with the camaraderie, spirit and competitiveness of participants has made it one of the most unique military training opportunities in the Defense Department, despite ongoing budget restraints, said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 J.D. Ward.
“This event is healthy despite a fiscal climate of zero growth,” said Ward, the coordinator for the annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event scheduled at Fort Lee, Virginia, March 4-9. “We’ve had to reduce the size of the competition and the overall expenditures in order to remain fiscally responsible, but it still remains the largest culinary competition in North America.”
The MCACTE, in its 42nd year, was created specifically to improve the culinary skills of participants — and thus the readiness of the force — in an environment that is intensely competitive yet nurturing and educational. Featured among the American Culinary Federation-sanctioned events, are the Armed Forces and Student Chef of the Year competitions as well as a team event pitting installations and services against one another to determine an overall winner.
In addition to the competitive events that will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, MCACTE features live cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and food displays that can be described as varied and illustrative.
Furthermore, the popular Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge — the event in which the public is invited to try out gourmet-inspired meals prepared during the competition — will make a return appearance. The meals are $5.55 and seats are available on a first-come basis.
Among the changes to this year’s event is a change in venue. The MacLaughlin Fitness Center here will accommodate this year’s competition rather than the Post Field House, which has hosted portions of MCACTE for more than a decade. The change is expected to have minimal impact on the competition from a competitor and spectator perspective, Ward said.
Among the differences this year include a change in cooking facilities used in the Military Hot Food Kitchen Challenge. The mobile trailers that were standard in the event will not be used this year, but competitors still employ the same cooking equipment. Diners may not even notice the change, Ward said.
“In fact, it may be easier for them to better observe competitors’ cooking,” he said.
Ward, who first competed in MCACTE as a private first class, said the competition is full of highlights, but from his viewpoint, the student team of the year event is the most inspirational.
“These are groups of less-experienced, younger soldiers competing and demonstrating advanced and fundamental cooking skills for the judges,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event because it exposes young service members to the profession in an entirely different light.”
The winners in the student event go on to compare their skills against regional winners at the American Culinary Federation competition in July.
“It’s an opportunity for those young chefs to compete against their civilian counterparts and demonstrate to the civilian sector just how talented military culinarians can be,” Ward said.
The student chef of the year winner also will go on to compete at the same ACF event with the possibility of representing the United States at a 2018 international event in Switzerland.
The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”
Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.
Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.
The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.
Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.
Steve Houghton’s rugged face shone orange in the firelight as he pulled in a deep breath of the frigid Montana backcountry air and shifted in his chair before taking his turn at a personal story. The stress lines of an often-furrowed brow and eyes tinged with sadness advertised the toll of an especially bruising year for the former motor transportation Marine.
The snipers and special operations soldiers around the campfire were half-expecting a familiar tale of combat trauma and trouble transitioning to civilian life. If anyone in the group of 17 military veterans had a thousand-yard stare, it was Houghton.
A crackle from the fire disturbed the brief silence as the circle waited for him to speak.
“You know, I didn’t know how much I needed this,” Houghton said with a somber Montana drawl as he opened up to the men and women who two days earlier were complete strangers. “It’s been a rough 2020 for me, and before I came out here, I was in pretty bad shape. I went through a divorce, and I’ve struggled with other issues. But the last two days have put a smile on my face even while I was sleeping.”
Houghton and 16 other military veterans traveled to eastern Montana’s vast swath of public lands Nov. 6 through 10 for an inaugural event hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a nonprofit committed to preserving North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and advocacy on behalf of wild public lands and waters.
After launching its Armed Forces Initiative in June, BHA developed its first-ever Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp, where BHA mentors covered skills such as e-scouting, shot placement, field-dressing, meat considerations, carcass disposal, and education about public lands and related legislative issues. But as Houghton and the others quickly learned, the best parts of camp weren’t listed in the promotional materials that drew them to the event.
“I’ve been on my own for quite a while now, and I was kind of getting into a real rough spot just before I came out here,” Houghton continued. “But getting out in the woods with a bunch of veterans has made a world of difference. I feel supported on multiple levels, and it just feels really good. I’ve learned so much, and I think this is about the most therapeutic stuff I’ve experienced since I got out of the Marines. It gives you back that sense of camaraderie and that mission that, once you’re out, you just lack in life.
“This gives me hope for the future with myself and other veterans that are struggling to find a sense of meaning again. Just being around everybody and seeing that you’re not alone, it’s been absolutely incredible — absolutely lifesaving. You’re saving lives with this.”
Knowing nods and grunts of approval from Houghton’s newfound tribe validated his sentiments. There was the sergeant major from the 19th Special Forces Group, the recently retired special operations pilot, Marine snipers and grunts, Army snipers and other soldiers, sailors, National Guard members, and an Air Force member who cheerily absorbed all the standard trash talk that always gets heaped on extra thick for members of the “Chair Force.”
Morgan Mason, BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative coordinator and a former Army intelligence analyst, coordinated the camp. Mason was 20 when he participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“When I left the Army, I just wanted to head West and break free of everything,” Mason said. “I spent a lot of time on public lands, and they were my source of decompression. I thought it was amazing that I could go do all these outdoor activities — whitewater rafting, mountain biking, climbing, hunting.”
Mason said his experiences led him to the path he’s on now. His passion and mission are to make sure all military members and veterans can have the same experiences outdoors that were integral to his transition and that continue to enrich his life. For BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative, he focuses on three pillars: active-duty programming, veteran programming, and legislative efforts.
BHA has forged a unique relationship with the US military to develop its active-duty programming initiative. It has partnered with several major military installations, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California, to promote outdoor activities on public lands among military members at those locations and others.
“Spending time outdoors is like a reset button for your brain,” Mason said. “For military members and veterans who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, or opioid addiction, outdoor activities like hunting aren’t a cure-all, but having these experiences makes you a better person because they destress your mind by dumping some dopamine into your brain and making you feel good. We want people to feel the weight of the world drop off their shoulders and feel that stress melt away, and public land makes that possible for everyone.”
Mason put together the veteran camp as a pilot program for the veteran programming pillar, picking a diverse group of veterans — both mentors and mentees — from a pool of candidates who applied for the mule deer and whitetail hunt in Montana.
“We tried to bring folks of various skill levels and experiences,” Mason said. “Some are first-time hunters — never shot a deer until this camp — and some have been hunting since they were kids.”
Mason organized the camp around two focus areas: tactile and cerebral. The tactile portion covered skills such as stalking, glassing, and other field tactics. The cerebral portion consisted of campfire talks and bonding over shared experiences and public lands education.
One of the topics around the campfire was the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, which advanced through the US Senate Nov. 10. The bipartisan legislation would require the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide health and wellness for veterans through outdoor recreation. That means if President Donald Trump signs the act into law, the federal government will study the health benefits of trips and activities like BHA’s veteran hunt.
It didn’t take long for fast friendships to form in the teams and hunting parties Mason organized. Houghton hooked up with BHA mentor and former Idaho National Guardsman Matthew Carlock and husband-and-wife-duo Andrea and Patrick Nofio — both Navy veterans — to form “Team Send It.”
Carlock’s stocky frame and boundless energy in the backcountry terrain earned him the moniker “The Mountain Goat,” and after Houghton bagged his first of four deer, Carlock helped pack the whole animal back to camp so he could give a demonstration on how to field-dress a deer, a vital skill that several first-time hunters put to use in short order.
On the second day of camp, Andrea earned her nickname, “Eagle-Eye Andrea,” when she spotted at about 300 yards a beautiful six-pointed mule deer buck at the 11th hour of a long day of following the Mountain Goat up and down endless ridges and valleys in frigid conditions. The Alaska native said she “saw every wild animal you could ever see” growing up in the Great North State, but her father, who raised four daughters, never took her hunting.
“I’d been thinking about it for a long time, but there’s so many barriers to entry,” Andrea said about finally learning to hunt with BHA’s support. “Hunting is expensive. You need a mentor, and you need to just be really intrepid.”
Andrea said she and Patrick jumped at the opportunity when they heard about the Montana hunt because it removed a lot of the intimidation factor they felt.
“The vast knowledge that is shared freely by everybody here has just been amazing,” Patrick said. “We’re checking off bucket list items with this trip, getting out here and finally putting the miles down, and being able to share in the pride and camaraderie of harvesting an animal with all these awesome veterans — it’s really meaningful and just an absolutely phenomenal experience.”
Around the campfire each night, a common theme kept permeating the conversation: Nobody gets veterans like other veterans.
Healthy competition, trash talk, and crude humor were sources of bonding throughout the weekend.
After former Army sniper Jim Vinson shared his personal story around the fire one night, he couldn’t help but end with a flex: “I smoked a doe last night at 511 yards, so somebody needs to top that.”
On a long hunt the day after Andrea bagged her buck, Carlock — The Mountain Goat — promised Team Send It they’d likely find deer if they’d follow him for yet another long push to a far-off ridge.
“Yeah, we’ve heard it before, Matthew,” she said. “Just the tip, just for a second, just to see how it feels.”
Houghton, who needed eight rounds to bag his four deer and was dubbed by his Team Send It brethren “Two-Shot Steve,” howled at the joke. “I love veterans,” he said.
Andrea, who is currently enrolled as a college student in Montana, said, “Yeah, I don’t usually get to make those kinds of jokes these days. I really miss being around veterans.”
After three days, on the Marine Corps birthday, the veterans broke down the camp. A handful of them held a small ceremony, taking down the American flag that had flown proudly at the entry path and folding it in accordance with military tradition. Together, they had killed 18 deer over three days and would feed their friends and families for months to come.
They shared some hot coffee on a final cold morning together, traded hearty hugs, handshakes, and contact information, and left for home — batteries recharged by new friendships and experiences and with plenty of great stories and newfound respect for public lands to share with friends and family.
These are the guys who have lived the American dream. Five former enlisted warriors from various services who raised their right hand when it was time to serve, then got out and hustled to earn what they knew could be theirs.
Mr. Edson’s service began during the Korean War when he enlisted in the Army, where he spent three years in the signal corps.
Once out, Edson began selling his own racing boats from a parking lot in Seattle, Washington. He eventually bought the rights to Bayliner Marine for a reported $100.00 and developed the company. Edson sold it to Brunswick for $425 million.
He joined the billionaire’s club through sound investing and now reportedly spends his days flying helicopters and cruising yachts.
When Abraham finished his service with the infantry in 1947 Europe, he returned stateside where he bought the Thompson Medical Company. At the time, the company had revenue of $5,000.00 annually. Today, the company is still around and is doing quite well.
He joined the billionaire’s club through his interest in the weight-loss industry, which led to his development of Slim-Fast Foods. You may have heard of it.
Mr. Murdock dropped out of school in the 9th grade and was drafted into the Army during WWII. Once out, Murdock moved to Detroit and was homeless for a time, but he managed to get a $1,200 loan to buy a failing diner.
He flipped it for a small profit that he used to move to Arizona. There, Murdock began a career in real estate, acquiring many businesses, including the pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company, which he developed into the giant it is today.
Murdock joined the billionaire’s club by selling his 98-percent share of the sixth largest Island of Hawaii. He believes in health and has vocal plans to live to see his 125th birthday.
As a millennial myself, I’m the first to admit that my generation is just as imperfect as those who came before us. We’re all influenced by our upbringing, whether we like it or not; how we think, set goals, and look at life are all tied to how we grew up.
For more reasons than one, younger generations tend to be more individualistic than previous generations. They’re often highly motivated to reach leadership positions and meet personal bests, but military life can impart some priceless lessons.
1. Take baby steps.
When you grow up with 24/7 access to Pinterest, YouTube and Google, it’s easy to believe that you can learn to do anything overnight from a 12-minute tutorial. Achieving true mastery, however, requires diligence.
In the military, recruits are taught how to make their bed and wear their uniforms correctly, long before they see any action. Imagine if you joined the Army, had one hour of combat training, and then got tossed into battle. Even if you learned a few skills first, you would be woefully unprepared. By perfecting each small step, members of the military build a foundation for success- which they’ll rely on when it really counts.
Breaking things down into pieces and mastering them is a skill that millennials and zoomers can apply anywhere; work, the gym, even in relationships.
2. Take pride in your work, regardless of what it is.
We grew up being told that we could be whatever we wanted to be if we just tried our best. Disney movies glossed over the fact that in real life, you usually have to try your best for a while. Like, for years. Meeting your goals doesn’t happen during the course of a 2-hour movie. You might have to put up with jobs you don’t like to get to the one you really want.
When you’re in the military, you learn that no job is insignificant. Others are depending on you to do your job well, so take pride in your work. Even if your work is cleaning toilets. Think you’re beneath doing such menial labor? Prove it by doing a damn good job.
3. Discipline is the key to long term success.
Like we said — success doesn’t happen overnight. This isn’t a fairytale. Millennials tend to think they’re failing if they don’t meet their goals quickly, but achievement takes persistence. You have to show up every day and work hard. In the military, a lack of discipline can later mean the difference between life and death. In civilian life, discipline means the difference between meeting your goals and fizzling out after a few weeks of effort. Your pick.
4. Millennials, pay attention to how you present yourself.
College students in pajamas, we’re looking at you. The way you show up every day leaves an impression. In the military, your uniform tells your superiors a lot about you. If it’s sloppy, wrinkled and ill-fitting, they’re not going to trust you as much as the guy standing next to you with a perfectly pressed, spotless ensemble. Why? Because it seems like you don’t care. If you don’t care enough to present yourself well, what else are you careless about?
While it’s totally possible to write a brilliant essay in sweatpants, the way you present yourself sends a message to your teachers, your boss and everyone around you. Even if you’re working from home, the way you dress will influence how you view yourself. Are you put together or a mess? You get to choose the message to send.
5. Roll with the punches.
Military life isn’t always predictable, and neither is any other lifestyle. Sh*t happens. When you take a hit, you can either collapse, or you can get back up and keep going. Joining the military teaches you to be adaptable so that you can thrive in any environment you run into.
6. Even millennials can’t do everything alone.
If you went into battle alone, you’d die. The movies lied to you. There’s rarely a single, beloved hero who gets all the glory. Winning a war takes a literal army. The same goes for civilian life. You can absolutely choose your own goals, but you’ll need support to get there. Your family, your coworkers, your classmates…you’re all team members in one way or another. Be a solid member of the team, and others will be there to support you when you need it the most.
7. Don’t be a d*ck.
There’s no way to sugar coat this one. People remember how you treat them. In the military, being a good guy and taking care of your team is invaluable, and it’s no different anywhere else. While millennials and zoomers tend to focus more on empathy than older generations (and we’re great tippers), our drive for personal accomplishment can limit our perspective.
U.S. Special Operations Command has set the wheels in motion for a new Advanced Sniper Rifle to replace the organization’s current Precision Sniper Rifle setup.
It appears SOCOM will continue using a modular, bolt-action, multi-caliber rifle design; but will switch up calibers on the ASR. Though 7.62×51 NATO will remain in use, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum will replace SOCOM’s current .300 WinMag, and .338 Lapua cartridge selection.
Black Hills Ammunition is working closely with the government to lend “surrogate cartridges” to companies interested in developing an ASR contender. The rounds are not a spot-on representation of the final government approved ammo, instead serving as a starting point for gun makers to craft their ASR platforms.
SOCOM implied earlier this year that it was looking to switch up its rifle platforms, but held off on offering specific details. The ASR pre-solicitation came down the official pipeline last week. Still in its early stages, the formal solicitation with rifle requisites are expected to drop in February 2018.
SOCOM’s current Precision Sniper Rifle system took the government nearly two and a half years to award. The PSR was first announced in November 2011 and after extensive testing and fielding was eventually awarded to Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle in March 2013. Remington took the top spot over Sako’s TRG M10. The 10-year contract with Remington, worth $79.7 million, called for 5,150 rifles and over 4 million rounds of ammunition.
The selection process for the ASR will likely mirror that of the PSR. Once selected, the ASR will serve SOCOM for five years with an initial order of 10 rifles to include ancillary equipment. The government alluded that more than one contract might be assigned, stating that it reserves the right to grant multiple awards.
SOCOM is currently prepping an industry day for manufacturers to gain insight on the ASR program. SOCOM says the event will cover the official timeline as well as addressing rifle specifications and test equipment. In addition, SOCOM is using the event to discuss future needs of Special Operations Forces. The ASR event is scheduled to run Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at NSWC Crane.
A U.S. attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 in the country’s north on Feb. 8, and the regime came roaring back with airstrikes of its own on rebel forces near Damascus.
The airstrikes from Assad killed 21 and injured 125, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Feb. 8.
The U.S. responded with artillery, tanks, and rocket fire.
In the exchange, no U.S. forces were reported hurt or killed, but 500 of Assad’s were said to be engaged, many wounded, and 100 dead.
“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
The pro-Assad forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017.”
But Syrian state media characterized the event differently, saying the U.S. had bombed “popular local forces fighting” ISIS, and that it was a U.S. “attempt to support terrorism.” The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn’t support the regime a terrorist.
Though some of the anti-Assad resistance has become entwined with Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, the U.S. vets the groups it works with and maintains that the SDF are moderate rebels who were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS.
Syria wants the U.S. out, but it won’t go without a fight
Syria’s air offensive on rebel-held areas near Damascus has been going on for days, with local reports claiming that airstrikes from the Syrian government and Russia killed scores of civilians.
Activists and first responders said that at least 55 people were killed after the airstrikes on Feb. 6.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December 2017, the recent rash of renewed strikes shows they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.
In January 2018, Syria vowed that it would eject U.S. troops from the country, but since then the U.S. announced plans to stay there long enough to counter Iran’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began a more vocal campaign of accusing Syria and Russia of using chemical weapons in the conflict.
The Army used to have a powder chock full of electrolytes to add to water for rehydration. But there was a problem.
“It was terrible — tasted so bad that nobody would use it,” said Gregory Sumerlin, senior director of Government Military Accounts for DripDrop ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions).
Enter DripDrop, with packets of lemon-, cherry- and watermelon-flavored powders that were on display Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington.
Sumerlin said the packets, which cost about $1.82 a piece, have been used by the Army for about four years. The other services also have shown interest, he said.
Medics in Afghanistan and Iraq have carried a supply of the packets, and troops also can keep a few stuffed in their packs, he said.
According to DripDrop’s website, the powders have “proven to hydrate better and faster than water or sports drinks, and are comparable to IV therapy.”
“By solving the taste problem, DripDrop ORS has made the most highly effective oral hydration solution known to medical science, practical for use by anyone who finds themselves with a hydration need where water and sports drinks just aren’t enough,” the site says.
The packets contain a balanced amount of electrolytes, including sodium citrate, potassium citrate, chloride, magnesium citrate, zinc aspartate and sugars to provide what DripDrop called “a fast-acting, performance-enhancing hydration solution.”
The product also has an endorsement from Bob Weir, co-founder of the Grateful Dead:
“There is no better test of a hydration drink’s effectiveness than a summer tour. If I didn’t have DripDrop, I’d have to rethink about how I would go about performing a 3.5-hour show.”