Over years of watching war films, hearing grandpa’s stories, poring over documentaries, and hanging on the every word of your local veteran bullsh**ters, you built up an expectation of military service that couldn’t possibly be met.
So, by the end your enlistment comes to a close, it’s safe to say that the time spent in uniform did not go as expected. Honorable service? Yes. High standards of professionalism? Absolutely. Reaching a physical apex never before thought reasonable or possible? Check marks the box. But was it anything like the Space Marines in Aliens? Not even close. Did you single-handedly hold off an entire battalion of enemy soldiers? Probably not.
So, now you want out — but be careful what you wish for, because if you thought life on the inside wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, then you’re in for a real surprise once you get out.
These are the seven stages of separation that all veterans go through after getting that DD-214. It’s the response to the physical, mental, and emotional letdown endured when civilian life doesn’t match our high expectations. It’s the process of realizing that maybe — just maybe — leaving the finest fighting force this planet has ever known wasn’t the best idea. At least not yet.
They are as follows:
“You mean I can just… go? Just like that?!”
Terminal leave is approved, you’ve had your final physicals, so it’s time to pack up your sh*t and run! Armed with a DD-214 and a dream, you flee from the nurturing embrace of your second parental institution to pursue all the things you shoulda, woulda, coulda done if it weren’t for that pesky contract.
Growth patterns, colors, and thickness may vary.
(“You Were Never Really Here” / Amazon Studios)
When one is held to a military standard for so long, it is only natural to act out. Separation is furry-faced freedom at its finest. This is a time of discovery for any former service member. Personally, I never knew I could grow a blood-red war beard that doesn’t quite flourish in specific spots. Now, after having experienced this second stage of separation, I know much more about myself, which is what it’s really all about.
(“Captain America” / Marvel)
Delusions of grandeur
Time makes the heart grow fonder — and it also makes you exaggerate the impact you had during your time in. Yes, your service is appreciated and you were definitely an essential cog in the machine, but don’t worry, the military will do fine in your absence. Most of the branches have been around for well over two-hundred years.
That’ll do, warrior. Let the next generation take it from here.
Add some cargo pants/shorts, flip flops, way more tattoos and BOOM!
We know, we know. Everything sucks. Civilians are all lazy and have no concept of discipline. Hollywood movies won’t stop messing up uniforms and military terms and Brad Pitt’s combat tactics are all wrong!
And don’t get us started on these crazy posts on Facebook. It’s up to you to correct the world and set things right.
We call this one, “gettin’ back into it.”
There’s no way around this one: you’ll gain weight. You might lose it later, but you’ll sure as hell gain it first. You will no longer be forced to PT, but you will swallow the same trash calories you did when you were a teenage warrior. The results may upset you.
Have some fun, my brothers and sisters. Life’s too short for your best years to be behind you. Sure, the military was an amazing experience and you earned your memories through by sharing suffering with some of the best friends you could ever have, but now is your time to make an impact on your own terms. Cultivate a strong sense of humor, try not to sweat the small stuff, and remember, it’s all small stuff.
A Russian fighter buzzed a US Navy reconnaissance plane Nov. 5, 2018, coming dangerously close to the American aircraft during a decidedly “unsafe” incident.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement, adding, “The intercepting Su-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 [Aries] and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away.”
The Department of Defense said there was “no radio contact,” explaining that they came “came out of nowhere.” The department explained that these actions “put our aircrews in danger,” stressing that “there is no reason for this behavior.”
Nov. 5, 2018’s intercept is one of many close encounters the US military has had with the Russians over the years, and the US has similar problems with the Chinese as well.
Here are seven times the Russian and Chinese militaries came so close to US ships and aircraft they risked disaster.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea
(US Navy photo)
1. Chinese Type 052 Luyang II-class destroyer nearly collided with US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on Sept. 30, 2018.
In response to a US Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea, the Chinese military dispatched a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship to challenge the USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to alter its original course to avoid a collision with the Chinese ship.
“You are on dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio, according to a transcript of the exchange obtained by the South China Morning Post. The PLAN warship told the US vessel that it was on a “dangerous course,” reportedly stressing that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not change course.
In the video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”
An EP-3E Aries, assigned to the “World Watchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, left, escorted by an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, performs a flyby over aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens)
2. Russian Su-27 Flanker buzzed a US Navy EP-3 Aries surveillance plane over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2018.
During this intercept, the Russian military aircraft came within five feet of the US Navy plane.
“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the US Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, Task Force 67 commander, said in a statement at the time. “The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action.”
The Department of State accused Russia of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law,” CNN reported.
A dramatic photo of a Russian jet coming within a few feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea June 19, 2017, in a maneuver that has been criticized as unsafe.
(U.S. European Command photo by Master Sgt Charles Larkin Snr.)
3. Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on July 19, 2017.
The Russian Flanker “rapidly” approached the US reconnaissance plane, coming within five feet of the US aircraft. The Russian pilot engaged in “provocative” maneuvers, according to US defense officials, who accused the Russians of flying “erratically.”
Intercepts occur frequently, but while most are routine, some are considered “unsafe.” This incident was classified as such “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept,” Fox News reported.
In photos from the incident, the pilot can be seen clearly in the cockpit of the Russian Su-27. At those distances and speeds, the slightest miscalculation increases the odds of a mid-air collision.
U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft is refuelled from an air tanker.
(US Air Force photo)
4. Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets flies inverted over a US Air Force radiation detection plane over the East China Sea on May 17, 2017.
A pair of People’s Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 derivatives came within 150 feet of the aircraft, with one flying inverted over the top of the American plane, US defense officials told CNN at the time.
The incident, which was deemed “unprofessional” by the US military, followed a close encounter a year earlier between the US Navy and a pair of Shenyang J-11 fighter jets. The fighters flew within 50 feet of an EP-3 Ares spy plane.
Two years prior in the summer of 2014, a Chinese fighter flew within 30 feet of a US Navy US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, doing a “barrel roll” over the top.
In this image released by the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19, 2017.
(US Air Force photo)
5. Russian Su-27 Flanker “barrel rolls” over a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on April 29, 2016.
The Russian Flanker flew within 25 feet of the US plane before conducting a “barrel roll” over the top of the American aircraft.
“The SU-27 intercepted the U.S. aircraft flying a routine route at high rate of speed from the side then proceeded to perform an aggressive maneuver that posed a threat to the safety of the US aircrew in the RC-135,” a defense spokesperson told CNN.
In an earlier incident that same month, a Russian pilot “performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers,” including another barrel roll, within 50 feet of another US aircraft.
That April, Russian jets also buzzed the US Navy repeatedly, at one point coming within 30 feet of a US Navy destroyer.
f the Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), forcing the ship to conduct an emergency “all stop” in order to avoid collision.
(US Navy photo)
6. Five Chinese vessels harass a US Navy surveillance ship in the South China Sea on March 8, 2009.
Five Chinese vessels — a mixture of military and paramilitary vessels — “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to USNS Impeccable, in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the US ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The fishing vessels, assessed by experts to be part of China’s paramilitary Maritime Militia, closed to within 25 feet of the Impeccable. One stopped directly in front of the US Navy ship, forcing it to make an emergency “all stop” to avoid colliding with the Chinese vessel.
The US crew members used firehoses to defend their vessel as the Chinese threw wood into the water and use poles to snag the acoustic equipment on the Navy surveillance ship. The Pentagon described the incident as “one of the most aggressive actions we’ve seen in some time.”
A few years later in 2013, China and the US clashed again in the South China Sea, as a Chinese warship forced a US Navy guided-missile cruiser to change course to avoid a collision.
Damaged EP-3 spy plane at Lingshui Airfield after the fatal collision.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
7. Chinese J-8 fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane over the South China Sea on April 1, 2001.
While most intercepts, no matter dangerous, pass without incident, some have been known to be fatal.
During the unsafe incident, the two Chinese J-8 interceptor fighters made multiple close passes near the US aircraft. On one pass, one of the aircraft collided with the US spy plane, causing the fighter to break into pieces and killing the pilot — Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei. The EP-3 was damaged in the collision and was forced to make an unauthorized emergency landing at Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island.
The crash, a definitive tragedy but not the unmitigated disaster it could have been, proved extremely damaging to US-Chinese relations.
The incident was preceded by a pattern of aggressive intercepts that began in December 2000, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Between December 2000 and April 13, 2001, there were 44 PLA interceptions of US aircraft. In six instances, Chinese fighters came within 30 feet of the American planes, and in two cases, the distance was less than 10 feet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.
So yeah, they were invested.
But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.
Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”
In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.
In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”
Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.
The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.
“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”
The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.
Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.
”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”
The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.
Buying a new car when you’re in the military is a daunting challenge, no matter how long you’ve been in. Whether you’re junior enlisted earning your first paychecks and navigating those “Special E-1 Financing Deals,” or your family is about to get bigger and that muscle car of yours suddenly doesn’t seem so practical, or when you finally get that promotion and want your dream car to become your reality car — getting a great deal on a quality car is important. And just as important is finding a car company that will provide both of those to you.
Honda works hard to be that company. They run the Honda Military Appreciation Offer, which salutes your service to our country by offering a savings of $500 on any 2019 or newer Honda vehicle when you finance or lease with Honda Financial Services.
This deal is geared to help you no matter which phase of your military career you’re in.
Who is eligible?
U.S. Military Active Duty, U.S. Military Ready Reserve, and Retirees of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, Coast Guard, and Active Reserve can all take advantage of this deal. Military spouses are eligible, too.
Recently separated? You’re eligible for this deal, too. U.S. Military Veterans and their spouses can also take advantage of the Honda Military Appreciation Offer within two years of separation from active service.
Also, as a really classy move, Honda extends this offer to members of Gold Star families.
As an added bonus, the 2020 models are lookin’ good.
In order to get the deal, visit your local Honda dealership and provide one of the following:
Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) as proof of military status
Military ID and spouse’s LES (if you’re a MilSpouse)
Gold Star Family status documentation
I can personally attest to how well Honda takes care of you. Back in 2006, I was a young LCpl in the Marines and was sharing a car with my then-wife. We both had jobs and struggled to make it work. Money was tight, but we needed a second car. We went to our local Honda (Pacific Honda) and we got a great deal on a nice Honda Civic. It was a perfect commuter car, the price was right, and it lasted for years, enduring deployment and cross-country moves) with no problem. The only issue? We picked a blue car, which led to the car being named “the Blue Falcon” by my Marine buddies.
The Honda Fleet is versatile and reliable across the board. You can choose from the venerable Civic, the flagship Accord, or, if you have a family, the CRV or Odyssey are great options. If you need to haul gear (and don’t mind being always asked to move your buddies in and out of the barracks), the Ridgeline is right up your alley.
Learn more about Honda’s Military Appreciation Offer on their website and in the videos below!
Most travelers have a number of things to worry about during the holiday season.
For TSA agents at the country’s airports, there’s also a variety of things to worry about — knives, fake grenades, swords hidden in canes, knives hidden in guns, throwing stars, and all sorts of other contraband.
The TSA has taken to documenting some of the weapons and other prohibited items it encounters at security checkpoints, posting them on the agency’s Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers and rave reviews.
“I knew it would be popular and I knew we’d have a never-ending source of content,” Bob Burns, who runs the Instagram account, told The Washington Post. “But I didn’t know how popular we’d be.”
Below, you can see a selection of strange weaponry or look-alike weaponry that the TSA has come across and put on its Instagram, which Rolling Stone recently ranked as the fourth-best account on the social-media site.
“We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).”
“Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI).”
“This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.”
“Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?”
“Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.”
“While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”
“While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH).”
“You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).”
“This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull”
“This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags.”
“This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags.”
“This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”
“Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.”
“Your trailer hitch hand grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. So what’s the big deal if it’s inert? First off, we don’t know it’s inert until explosives professionals take a closer look, and that takes time and slows down the line. It can even lead to a complete shutdown and evacuation. Also, imagine the person sitting next to you on the plane pulling this out of their carry-on. For these reasons, anything resembling a bomb or grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. #TSATravelTips This inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag recently at the SBP airport.”
“And yet, another confounded #batarang has been discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was discovered at the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO). Batarangs, along with most other items on your utility belt must be packed in your checked bag. #Bam #Kapow #Zok #Biff #Zowie”
“These swords and throwing knives were discovered recently in a carry-on bag at the William P. Hobby Airport Houston (HOU). You guessed it! Swords and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags. It perfectly acceptable to pack them in your checked bags, though.”
“This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.”
“#TBT November, 2007 – These knives were discovered concealed in a PC/DVD-ROM game case at Gulfport (GPT). Knives are prohibited, and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. You may pack knives, swords, machetes and other bladed items in your checked bags.”
“It’s a cane. It’s a sword. It’s a cane sword, and it’s prohibited from being packed with your carry-on items. Cane swords may be packed in your checked bag. This cane sword was discovered at LaGuardia (LGA).”
America has a car culture. Our country is connected by highways and interstates. For a teenager, a driver’s license and a set of wheels is a passport to freedom on the open road. For service members, packing up the car and driving cross country is just a standard PCS move. As such, the cars we buy need to be dependable, practical and a bit of efficiency never hurts either. USAA put together a list of the top 10 vehicles purchased by service members for 2019. The list is based on internal data from active duty and former military members who purchased a car through the USAA car buying service, obtained an auto loan through USAA, or added a vehicle to their USAA insurance policy between January 1 and August 31, 2019. Note that the list does not cover vehicle specifics like model year or trim level.
Derived from the Subaru Legacy, the Outback is a safe, practical, and reliable mode of transportation which makes it an easy pick for the discerning servicemember. Originally classified as a station wagon, the Outback was reclassified as a crossover in the 2015 model year. It has received the Top Safety Pick Award from the IIHs and a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. With its large cargo space, the Outback is PCS-friendly and its torquay boxer engine mated to an all-wheel drive drivetrain means that you’ll be able to get around just fine when your assignment manager tricks you into moving to the frozen landscape of Fort Drum.
In 2016, the Toyota Corolla overtook the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automobile in the world when it reached 44 million units sold. The name has been used across a range of vehicles over the years, but we know it best in the US as a reliable and affordable front-wheel drive compact car. While it’s not going to win any awards for styling or performance (although Toyota’s marketing would like you to think otherwise), no one can deny the Corolla’s legendary reliability. Even if you buy a used model with your enlistment bonus, a Corolla can last you through to retirement and onwards.
Originally based on the underpinnings of the Corolla, the RAV4 was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the US market. While not a serious off-roader by any means, its reliable 4-cylinder engine provides enough power to move you around town while hauling more of your stuff than you could fit in the aforementioned Corolla. Today, the RAV4 offers a hybrid trim and comes equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Entune 3.0, Apple Carplay, and Amazon Alexa as standard; plenty of bang for your government salary buck.
Yes, there’s been a million-mile Chevy. Of course there’s a million-mile model of the aforementioned Corolla. There’s even a million-mile Porsche out there. But, the Accord can claim two million-mile examples (one from 1990 and another from 2000). Its status as one of the world’s most reliable vehicles has led to the Accord’s inclusion on the Car and Driver 10Best list a record 30 times. In recent years, the rising popularity of crossover SUVs has led to a decline in 4-door sedan sales. Honda responded by refreshing the Accord for the 2018 model year and boy did it work. Beyond its sleek, almost European styling, the latest Accord offers a surprising amount of cargo space for a mid-size sedan and a suite of safety features which earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick and 2018’s North American Car of the Year. For the service member that wants an affordable, practical, and sporty car, the Accord can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine derived from the same block as the famous Honda Civic Type-R. The Accord is also one of the few vehicles you can buy today with the option of a manual transmission. Just keep your head on a swivel for MPs.
Compared to the Camry, the Accord is a sales disaster. In 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by a margin of 392,231 units. In fact, the Camry has been the best-selling car (not vehicle; don’t worry truck fans, we’ll get there) in America from 1997 to 2019 with the exception of 2001 when it was edged out by the Accord with a margin of just over 24,000 units. Like the smaller Corolla, the Camry is famed for its reliability. Suffering from a loss of market share to crossover SUVs like the Accord, the Camry received a refresh in 2017, though the styling cues are not as much of a departure as the Accord’s. However, Toyota did introduce a TRD trim and a two-tone paint scheme for drivers who want to stand out a bit more. Yes, it’s a bit vanilla, but a Camry will ferry you between duty stations no problem and get great gas mileage doing it.
Yes, it’s another Japanese car, but at least this one’s a truck. Originally classified as a compact pickup, the Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup market in the US…partly because it didn’t have much competition until Chevy and Ford revived their Colorado and Ranger pickups respectively. But that’s not to say that the Tacoma hasn’t earned its reputation. After all, its lineage can be traced back to the unkillable Toyota Hilux pickup. In 2005, the Tacoma was named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year. Overall, the Tacoma is a versatile pick for a service member’s vehicle. It’s capable enough to get you through a posting at Minot AFB or JBER, yet economical enough that filling the tank won’t break the bank if you get sent to somewhere to somewhere with a higher cost of living like San Diego or Hawaii.
The Ram marks the end of the Japanese brands on this list. And yes, the Ram Trucks brand has split off from the Dodge brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Whatever you call it, the Ram pickup is a common sight on military bases, often seen in a matte black trim. Ram trucks have been named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year a total of seven times, including 2019 and 2020. Ram trucks also offer plenty of torque if you decide to haul a boat or RV between duty stations.
The Chevy Silverado is arguably the most popular truck in country music, both in lyrics (as Chevy or Silverado) and in music videos. Even if you’re not a fan of country, the Silverado is an extremely popular and capable truck, consistently ranking as one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States. It’s worth noting that the USAA list does differentiate between the Silverado and its upscale GMC counterpart, the Sierra. The Silverado delivers a very capable package of power and performance for your towing needs. It also serves as an excellent candidate for a lift kit so you can cruise around base in style while blasting Florida Georgia Line from your speakers.
These things are everywhere. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single military base in the United States that doesn’t have a Jeep Wrangler driving around it. I’ve even seen one in Japan. Servicemembers love their Jeeps and the Jeep community (see Jeep wave). Some might argue that the military’s love affair with the Jeep is only natural given the use of the Willys MB Jeep in WWII. However, without going into it, the Wrangler is a descendent of the famed military vehicle in name only. Regardless of this, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a cultural icon in its own right. Whether you want two doors, four doors, soft-top, hard-top, doors on, or doors off, Jeep Wranglers offer plenty of versatility and options to their drivers. You can even get a pickup in the form of the Jeep Gladiator. Servicemembers enjoy customizing their Jeeps with militaristic star roundels, reversed American flags, and even the occasional jerry can. Just don’t expect award-winning mpg from one of these.
I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. After all, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle since 1981. If you lined up every F-Series truck variant sold bumper to bumper, they would circle the globe almost four times. In 2017, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds. Ford has achieved such incredible sales figures by providing consumers with the best all-round truck. Fuel efficiency is good enough to drive it daily without bleeding yourmeg wallet dry. That said, the F-150 is still capable enough to haul around the family and your favorite weekend toys. Perhaps its greatest advantage is simply its brand image. Ketchup is Heinz. Tissues are Kleenex. Trucks are Fords. I know this will garner some hate from the Silverado and Ram fans out there, so I’d like to remind readers that this is simply an analysis of the numbers. I’m also not a truck owner, so I’ve got no skin in the game.
So there you have it. Those are the top 10 servicemember vehicles in 2019. It’s worth noting that the USAA list can also be filtered by branch. For example the Toyota Highlander didn’t make the overall military list, but it did take the #8 spots for the Air Force and Coast Guard. Similarly, the Chevy Equinox was ranked #10 amongst Army personnel and the F-250 ranked #10 for the Marine Corps. Only the Navy list featured all 10 vehicles from the overall military list, with the only difference being that the Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado switch spots between #3 and #4. Regardless of what you drive, just make sure it can get you through your next PCS without incident. And if you’re in the market for your first vehicle after joining the military, try to avoid used car lots just off base, loan sharks are not your friends, and a high interest rate is not a good thing.
Ohio is home for Hillary O’Connor Mueri. She was born in Parma and moved to Painesville at three years old. She’s a graduate of Ohio State University and entered the Navy as a Buckeye ROTC midshipman in 1996.
To her, it made perfect sense to run for Congress at home, in Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. And she believes she has the perfect resume for it.
“This is where I’m from,” she told Military.com. “This is where I call home. My parents still live in the house I grew up in.”
Hillary O’Connor Mueri
But running in her home district also opens her up to intense media scrutiny in front of her lifelong friends and family. With the election still nine months away, she’s already seen her opponent and his allies come out hard against her in local media. Like many veterans, she presses on, confident in her abilities. She never thought this would be easy, she says.
“Growing up, I always thought that politics was something wealthy people did. So it was never, you know, an ambition of mine,” she explains. “And I think we really need to change that narrative. We need to make the House for the people again, to make this something that everyone can aspire to.”
That aspiration is just one reason Mueri, a lawyer and former naval flight officer, decided to run for Congress. She felt a desire to serve early in her adult life, while studying aviation engineering. She wanted to use her love for all things aircraft to serve her country, especially after realizing she’d rather be flying planes than building them, she says.
Her grandfathers were both in the Navy, but they died before she was born. Still, the tradition of service, and the Navy in particular, resonated with Mueri. For her, landing on aircraft carriers meant she could always fly on the cutting edge of aviation technology.
“Tomcats forever. First love,” she says. “All the other aircraft have amazing characteristics, but there’s something about the F-14 that’s just gonna stick with me.”
Her career took her to train in Pensacola and to the carrier Theodore Roosevelt. In 2003, she flew Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance missions supporting ground troops in northern Iraq from the Roosevelt. She later became an instructor at what was then the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s (now known as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center) Strike school at Nevada’s Naval Air Station Fallon.
She left the Navy in 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant after getting engaged to her future husband, Simon Mueri. When he was transferred to San Diego, she went too. While there, she struggled with finding meaningful work as a civilian and decided to go to law school. Graduating in 2010, she was hired by the prestigious firm of Perkins Coie in Los Angeles.
Eventually, it was time to move home to be near her family in Ohio. But running for office wasn’t her first thought. She saw an ad for Emily’s List, a reproductive rights organization that supports women running for office. There was something about the idea of running that stuck with Mueri the same way the Tomcat did.
“Watching how chaotic our government has gotten, how it turned from service and lawmaking into partisan bickering, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” she said. “In the military, we talk about the Constitution and how service is so valuable. I want to bring that back to the House. The House of Representatives is the people’s house, and I want to be able to affect real change for everyday people.”
Part of that dedication to service is why she thinks more veterans should run for office. She believes veterans have a “country first, mission first” outlook that drives them from day to day, regardless of political party.
“It’s about identifying what needs to get done and getting it done,” she said. “So you learn how to work as a team and ignore the distinctions between you. I think having more veterans with that perspective focused on the greater good, instead of about the petty day-to-day things, we’re going to be able to really accomplish a lot that is solely for the benefit of the country.”
But it isn’t easy. Running for office is almost a 24/7 job, with nearly limitless pulls on the candidate’s attention. Being a veteran is also good preparation for those problems, she says. The 24/7 mentality is strong with most military members, and the demands of military life are great practice for balancing priorities. What most veterans probably aren’t prepared for is suddenly being in the spotlight.
“Suddenly, you have to realize that there will be a larger amount of attention paid to what you do, as opposed to going about your everyday life,” Mueri said. “That takes some getting used to.”
In her situation, allegations were made by the Ohio Republican Party that, while she was transitioning to civilian life and moving from Nevada to California in 2008, she requested an absentee ballot from the state of Ohio and voted in two primary elections.
“You’re very exposed,” she said. “It’s shocking to see that sort of thing sprung on you. In the end, you have to let it roll off your back and keep moving forward as long as you have the truth on your side. And I do, so I just have to carry on being myself.”
In 15 years in Afghanistan, no counternarcotics effort undertaken by the US, it partners, or the Afghan government has led to sustained reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.
That was one of a number of findings of a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Report issued in June 2018, underlining insufficient, uncoordinated, and at-times counterproductive initiatives in Afghanistan to reduce drug production there.
Between 2002 and 2017, the US government has allocated roughly $8.62 billion to fight narcotics in Afghanistan. But the drug trade remains entrenched. Opium is Afghanistan’s largest cash crop, reaching an export value of $1.5 billion to $3 billion in recent years. In 2017 alone, poppy cultivation was thought to support 590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.
The primary markets are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Opiates from Afghanistan travel through other Central or South Asian states — drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption — to reach destinations in Europe and Asia. Drugs also travel maritime routes to Africa and Oceania.
Ninety percent of the heroin seized in Canada comes from Afghanistan, but scant amounts reach the US — 1% or less of the drug seized in the US can be traced back to the Central Asian country.
The amount of Southwest Asian heroin in the US peaked in the early 1980s, according to the DEA. It was replaced by Southeast Asian heroin — largely from Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The amount of South American heroin found the US started to increase in the mid-1990s, but by the late 2000s, Mexican heroin started to become predominant — in 2015 it was the more than 90% of the heroin seized in the US.
(2017 DEA NDTA)
Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries. It was under royal control from 1933 to 1973, but the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989 crippled the legitimate economy and allowed illegal enterprises and criminal networks to thrive.
Production soared after the Taliban took control of most of the country in 1996. But it banned the crop in 2000, leading to a 75% drop in the global supply of heroin but leaving farmers destitute, as no alternative to poppy cultivation was provided.
Cultivation was at a historic low in 2001, when the US and its coalition partners invaded. Counterdrug work was done in the period that followed, but the vacuum created by the lack of functioning Afghan institutions limited their effectiveness.
2004 saw an increase in cultivation, which was followed by more concerted US efforts to staunch it as well as increased counternarcotics efforts by coalition partners. Cultivation leveled off in 2009 and 2010 — around the time of the US-led surge that brought more attention to combating the drug trade.
A UN survey in 2017 found cultivation had hit a new high, covering more than 810,000 acres. (The Taliban has also expanded its involvement in the drug trade.)
2017 also saw a new Trump administration strategy that brought with it an “unprecedented” level of attention to Afghan drug production by US military commanders, according to the report — marked by a “sustained air interdiction campaign” that included advanced aircraft striking rudimentary drug labs.
(US Air Force photo)
The increases in drug cultivation make clear the failure of counternarcotics efforts, the report says, but it stresses that those failures are not the only factors that have led to the increases.
“The exponential rise in opium poppy cultivation and drug production is rooted in far-reaching, persistent challenges in Afghanistan — namely, lack of security, a poor economy, weak governing institutions, and failures of the wider reconstruction effort,” the report states.
“Given these challenges, there are serious limitations to the US capacity to bring about large-scale, lasting reductions in poppy cultivation and drug production,” it adds, noting the opium economy will continue to undercut US efforts in Afghanistan.
“Therefore, ongoing US reconstruction efforts must effectively address, or at least attempt to mitigate, the drug-related threats to Afghan security and stability.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.
One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.
For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.
The Air Force presented its first “R” devices to airmen, giving them to aircrews from the 432nd Wing/432 Air Expeditionary Wing on July 11, 2018, at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
The Air Force authorized the “R” device, for “remote,” in 2016 and released criteria for it in 2017, “to distinguish that an award was earned for direct hands-on employment of a weapon system that had a direct and immediate impact on a combat or military operation,” the service said in 2017.
The five airmen recognized at Creech were picked for their actions on criteria that included strategic significance, protection of ground forces, leadership displayed, critical thinking, level of difficulty, and innovation.
“It is a great honor to recognize the contributions of these airmen,” Col Julian C. Cheater, 432nd commander, said in a release. “Much of the world will never know details of their contributions due to operational security, but rest assured that they have made significant impacts while saving friendly lives.”
Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
According to the release, the airmen eliminated threats to and saved the lives of US and coalition forces on the ground.
In one case, an MQ-9 Reaper crew from the 732nd Operations Group, identified only as retired Maj. Asa and Capt. Evan, performed attack and reconnaissance missions over 74 days to identify a high-value target and known terrorist, coordinating with other aircraft and successfully carrying out a strike on the target.
“I went home that night and I knew what I did,” the airman identified only as Evan said. “I think to the outside community, something like this will give a sense of perspective.”
In other operation, 1st Lt. Eric and Senior Airman Jason, both MQ-9 Reaper crew members from the 432nd looking for ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, spotted a truck with a large-caliber machine gun heading toward coalition forces.
The two airmen tracked the vehicle, coordinating with personnel on the ground. They noticed a large group of civilians near the truck and held off firing until the truck returned to a garage, at which point they struck with a Hellfire missile.
“In this particular situation, we were able to quickly assess that the enemy was not yet inflicting effective fire on friendly forces which allowed us to completely prepare for the strike,” the MQ-9 pilot identified as Eric said in the release.
A US Air Force medal with an attached remote “R” device in front of an MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, July 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Thompson)
In another operation, a 432nd MQ-9 pilot named as Capt. Abrham and his crew remained on station after poor weather forced manned aircraft to withdraw. The crew continued surveillance amid the deteriorating weather conditions and eventually identified enemy personnel firing on coalition forces.
Abrham fired four Hellfire missiles, taking out three targets, two vehicles, and one mortar, before returning to base.
The decision to add the “R” device — alongside a “V” device for “valor” and a “C” device for “combat” — reflects the military’s increasing reliance on drones and remotely piloted aircraft, which often carry stay on station for extended periods and always without exposing a human to risk.
“As the impact of remote operations on combat continues to increase, the necessity of ensuring those actions are distinctly recognized grows,” Pentagon officials said in a Jan. 7, 2016, memo.
The Air Force has sought to normalize remotely piloted operations. The Culture and Process Improvement Program has been successful at implementing improved manning, additional basing opportunities, and streamlined training, the Air Force said the release, and awarding the “R” device is meant to continue that normalization effort.
“The ‘R’ device denotes that there were critical impacts accomplished from afar — often where others cannot go — and that we are ready to fight from any location that our US leaders determine is best,” Cheater said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration on Dec. 20, 2018, setting in motion the end of what has been a tumultuous tenure working with President Donald Trump.
In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump, without saying his name, that the president has a “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with his own.
But it was the outgoing defense secretary’s warning about the shifting nature of great-power relations he hopes his successor will study closely.
Under Mattis’ watch, the administration has drawn an unambiguous line in the sand. Beginning with Russia and, historically, moving out of engagement with China, and into confrontation.
Members of the 5th Special Forces Group conducting weapons training during counter-ISIS operations at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly at odds with our own,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”
Russia, under its President Vladimir Putin, has already shown its capacity and willingness to reach into the heart of US democracy.
The latest twin reports to front the Senate show in excruciating detail how even the smallest manipulation of social media platforms can meddle in US public life with just a single troll farm — the unit called the Internet Research Agency — tucked away somewhere in a Moscow warehouse.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Opaque and unsettling
While the Trump administration has appeared in an unflattering light amid what US policy expert believe is an unsettling relationship with Russia, Putin has been steadily picking at the edges of Crimea, presenting the greatest military threat to Ukraine in years.
That confrontation has been encouraged by the Trump administration itself, with the tearing down of so many aspects of the rules-based order that has governed global politics in the post-World War II era.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.
Speaking at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a landmark address signaling the US’s intent to challenge an increasingly assertive and belligerent China, directly accusing it of “meddling in America’s democracy.”
Pence accused China of stealing American intellectual property, eroding US military positions, and driving the US out of the Western Pacific.
It was only on Dec. 18, 2018, when China’s President Xi Jinping, the country’s strongest autocratic leader since Mao Zedong, made a gloating speech marking China’s furious economic progress, with more daunting promises of “miracles that will impress the world.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Delivered with slumped shoulders in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi spoke for 90 minutes before touching momentarily on a vision for a new kind of Chinese expansion aimed at exporting its model of technocratic dictatorship to other like-minded nations.
“The past 40 years eloquently prove that China’s development provides a successful experience and offers a bright prospect to other developing countries, as they strive for modernization,” Xi said, about 40 minutes into his speech.
This is exactly where China is now placed as it looks across the Pacific and into Central Asia to covertly or overtly use the One Belt One Road initiative to expand its industrial, technical, and digital prowess into developing neighbors that are vulnerable to the authoritarian siren song of, for example, surveillance techniques now being rolled out in the beleaguered western province of Xinjiang.
China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users, and are harvesting ever-deeper data on behalf of the state — would be happy to do the same for other nations.
In December 2018 Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, told Business Insider that developing nations that do not share the US’s aversion to unreliable actors like the embattled telecommunications giant Huawei, are ready and willing to marry into China’s cheap, buy-now-pay-later model of total autocratic technocracy.
The person Trump chooses to replace Mattis will need to see, with the same clarity that “Mad Dog” could, the chasm between the words of America’s strategic adversaries and their actions in this new, dangerous, fragmented — and increasingly lonely — global theater.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.
“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)
The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.
The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”
Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.
When young men and women join the military, the majority of them dream of making a huge impact, day one, on America’s armed forces — if not the world. From the moment we touch the training grounds of boot camp to the graduation ceremony, we show up ready to make our mark on history by earning different accolades.
Those accomplishments are represented in form of certificates, letters of recommendation, and, of course, ribbons and medals.
Although some of those distinguishments are tough-as-hell to earn, others get pinned on our chest just for making it through boot camp.
One of those earnings, the National Defense Service Medal, or NDSM, is one of the simplest medals you’ll earn.
The NDSM was inked into existence when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10448 on Apr. 22, 1953. It was to serve as a “blanket” campaign medal for service members who honorably served in the military during a period of “national emergency.”
3. You actually earned the medal?
Since the medal’s establishment, there have been periods of time in which the U.S. isn’t been involved a major conflict. Many veterans who served during those times don’t rate to wear this medal since they didn’t serve during “national emergency” periods.
Those who served during the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Global War on Terrorism all rate to wear the ribbon above their heart if they’ve served for more than 89 days — including boot camp.
2. The medal’s front design
The medal features an eagle perched on a sword and palm branch. The eagle, of course, is the national symbol for the United States, the sword represents the armed forces, and the palm branch is symbolic of victory.