These are the states with the largest National Guard units - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

As of December 2018, nearly 430,000 Americans served in the US Army and Air National Guard, according to Department of Defense data.

Guard members sign up to commit one weekend a month and two weeks per year for training — but are often asked to sacrifice much more in service to their state and country.

Between September 2001 and September 2015, some 428,000 members of the National Guard were sent on deployments.

These troops also answer the call when disaster strikes their home states, like the recent fires in California and during Hurricane Harvey.

When it comes to capabilities, no two states are alike — we ranked the top six, measuring everything from sheer size of force to whether the state has special forces, strike, and a brigade combat team. Overall, we found Texas has the most capable National Guard.


These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Texas Army National Guard soldiers from the 143rd Infantry Regiment conduct a live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas in October 2018.

(Texas National Guard photo by Sgt. Kyle Burns)

1. Texas

Don’t mess with Texas’ National Guard.

Texas has a number of capabilities that elevate the Lone Star State to the #1 position.

Its sheer size is a significant factor — the Texas National Guard is host to nearly 21,000 troops, including its army and air components.

Texas is also home to two companies of the 19th Special Forces Group and Air Guard fighter and attack wings that provide strike and drone capabilities.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A California National Guard soldier from the 19th Special Forces Group descends for a landing during a high altitude, high opening training near Los Alamitos, California in February 2018.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

2. California

California’s National Guard forces nearly equal those found in Texas, including Green Berets in the 19th Special Forces Group.

But because the nation’s most populous state only yields roughly 18,000 troops, they fall in at #2.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier looks out the side of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter near Nichols, South Carolina, in September 2018.

(Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Capt. Travis Mueller)

3. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania hosts more guardsmen than California, with a force almost 18,500 members strong.

But because the state does not have Special Forces troops — the most elite forces in the Army, who are called upon for the most dangerous missions — it slid back to take the #3 spot.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, sit on the flight line at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where they fly to conduct training and maintain readiness during winter months.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger)

4. Ohio

Though small in geographical size, census data shows Ohio to be the 7th most populated state in the US, so it’s no surprise that it has a highly capable National Guard.

Its 16,500 guard members include Green Berets, jet pilots, and an infantry brigade combat team that has deployed to Afghanistan.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Soldiers assigned to the 101st Cavalry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard off load from a CH-47 Chinook during cold weather training in January 2019.

(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell)

5. New York

Although New York does not have Special Forces, its force is sizable at 15,500 strong.

It hosts not one but two air attack wings — who fly MQ-9 Reaper drones — and an infantry brigade combat team.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Georgia Army National Guard helicopters fly over the Georgia State Capitol during the inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp on Jan. 14, 2019.

(Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)

6. Georgia

Georgia may not have Special Forces, but it hosts the sixth-largest National Guard in the US, with roughly 14,000 troops including an infantry brigade combat team.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy has new, long-range ship killer missiles for the Zumwalt

The Navy is asking Congress for funding to equip its most technologically advanced surface ships, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers, with new weapons designed to turn them into long-range ship killers, according to budget documents spotted by Defense News.


One of the new weapons is Raytheon’s SM-6 missile, which serves three purposes: anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic-missile defense.

Unlike its older brother, the SM-3, the SM-6 has a proximity charge that explodes near its target, meaning it does not have to make physical contact with whatever it is intercepting.

Also read: Why the new Zumwalt destroyers’ guns won’t work

In a test of the missile’s anti-ship capability in March 2016, an SM-6 from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer took out the decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James.

Back then, the missile’s range was listed as 250 nautical miles, but it’s now expected to be as long as 268 nautical miles. It also has a speed of Mach 3.5.

The SM-6 has had success in its anti-ballistic-missile tests, with the missile intercepting a target in Hawaii in August.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
The USS Zumwalt with the USS Independence and the USS Bunker Hill. (US Navy)

The other new weapon is Raytheon’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a variant of the classic cruise missile designed to destroy moving naval targets.

The missiles would be a much-needed addition to the destroyers, as the ships’ main armament, the 155mm Advanced Gun System, is unusable because it has no ammunition. The kind intended for the guns was deemed too expensive, ranging from $800,000 to $1 million for a single round.

Related: Inside the USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s most advanced warship

The guns will remain on the destroyers, but “in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the budget documents say, according to Defense News.

The Navy decided in November to change the Zumwalt-class ships’ role from land-attack to anti-surface warfare, the documents say. The commander of US Pacific Command said in congressional testimony last week that the change was motivated by China’s increasingly capable navy and the need for more surface ships capable of dealing blows in ship-to-ship combat, Defense News reported.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
USS Zumwalt (US Navy)

All three Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific, the Defense News report says.

More: This is what would happen if the Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser

The new missiles would allow the destroyers to work alongside littoral combat ships, which are expected to soon get upgrades to allow them to take on enemy vessels miles away.

There are two Zumwalt-class destroyers. The USS Zumwalt is now in its homeport in San Diego for overhauls and a weapons installation, Defense News reports, while the USS Michael Monsoor completed its acceptance trials early February 2018.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario’ get right (and wrong) about drug cartels

ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.


“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.

I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
Chapo Guzman

The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.


This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These pilots just got medals for classified 1987 mission

Four Swedish air force pilots received U.S. Air Medals during a ceremony in Stockholm Nov. 28, 2018, recognizing their actions that took place over 31 years ago. Until 2017 the details of their mission remained classified.

During the 1980s, the height of the Cold War was still being felt. The U.S. was flying regular SR-71 aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Baltic Sea known as “Baltic Express” missions. But on June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, an SR-71 piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced an inflight emergency.


Experiencing engine failure in one of their engines, they piloted the aircraft down to approximately 25,000 feet over Swedish airspace where they were intercepted by two different pairs of Swedish air force Viggens.

“We were performing an ordinary peace time operation exercise,” recalled retired Maj. Roger Moller, Swedish air force Viggen pilot. “Our fighter controller then asked me are you able to make an interception and identification of a certain interest. I thought immediately it must be an SR-71, otherwise he would have mentioned it. But at that time I didn’t know it was the Blackbird.”

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, Mobilization Assistant to the commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, salutes the Swedish pilots who are being awarded the U.S. Air Medal in Stockholm, Nov. 28, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor

According to the Air Medal citation, once the Swedish pilots intercepted the SR-71, they assessed the emergency situation and decided to render support to the aircraft by defending it from any potential third-party aircraft that might have tried to threaten it. The pilots then accompanied the aircraft beyond the territorial boundaries and ensured that it was safely recovered.

“I can’t say enough about these gentlemen,” said Veltri, who was at the ceremony. “I am so amazingly grateful for what they did, but also for the opportunity to recognize them in the fashion we are doing. What these guys did is truly monumental.”

Noll, who was not able to be at the ceremony, recorded a message which was played to those in attendance.

“Your obvious skills and judgement were definitely demonstrated on that faithful day many years ago. I want to thank you for your actions on that day,” said Noll. “We will never know what would or could have happened, but because of you, there was no international incident. The U.S. Air Force did not lose an irreplaceable aircraft, and two crew members’ lives were saved. Lt. Col. Veltri and I can’t thank you sufficiently for what you prevented. Thank you for being highly skilled and dedicated patriotic fellow aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, presented the Air Medals to Swedish air force Col. Lars-Eric Blad, Maj. Roger Moller, Maj. Krister Sjoberg and Lt. Bo Ignell.

“That day in 1987 showed us that we can always count on our Swedish partners in times of great peril,” said Williams. “Even when there was both political risk and great physical risk in the form of actual danger, there was no hesitation on your part to preserve the pilots on that day.”

The presentation of Air Medals to the Swedish pilots represented the gratitude from the U.S. and the continued longstanding partnership with Sweden.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10s brought the heat in fight against ISIS

The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.

“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”

Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in formation. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”

“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”

The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”

According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”

Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.

“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”

Articles

The Air Force just shut down ISIS drone attacks

Air Force intelligence analysts and operational leaders moved quickly to develop a new targeting combat plan to counter deadly ISIS explosive-laden drone attacks in Iraq and Syria.


In October of this year, ISIS used a drone, intended for surveillance use, to injure troops on the ground. Unlike typical surveillance drones, this one exploded after local forces picked it up for inspection, an Air Force statement said.

The emergence of bomb-drones, if even at times improperly used by ISIS, presents a new and serious threat to Iraqi Security Forces, members of the U.S.-Coalition and civilians, service officials explained to Sout Warrior. Drone bombs could target advancing Iraqi Security Forces, endanger or kill civilians and possibly even threat forward-operating US forces providing fire support some distance behind the front lines.

Related: ISIS has come up with a new, more diabolical way to use drones in Mosul fight

Air Force officials explained that many of the details of the intelligence analysis and operational response to ISIS bomb-drones are classified and not available for discussion.

Specific tactics and combat solutions were made available to combatant commanders in a matter of days, service experts explained.

While the Air Force did not specify any particular tactis of method of counterattack, the moves could invovle electronic attacks, some kind of air-ground coordination or air-to-air weapons, among other things.

However, the service did delineate elements of the effort, explaining that in October of this year, the Air Force stood up a working group to address the evolving threat presented by small commercial drones operated by ISIS, Air Force Spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Scout Warrior.

Working intensely to address the pressing nature of the threat, Air Force intelligence analysts quickly developed a new Target Analysis Product to counter these kinds of ISIS drone attacks. (Photo: Scout Warrior)

“The working group cuts across functional areas and commands to integrate our best experts who have been empowered to act rapidly so they can continue to outpace the evolution of the threat they are addressing,” Yepsen said.

Personnel from the 15th IS, along with contributors, conducted a 280-plus hour rapid analysis drill to acquire and obtain over 40 finished intelligence products and associated single-source reports, Air Force commanders said.

Commercial and military-configured drone technology has been quickly proliferating around the world, increasingly making it possible for U.S. enemies, such as ISIS, to launch drone attacks.

“Any attack against our joint or coalition warriors is a problem. Once it is identified, we get to work finding a solution. The resolve and ingenuity of the airmen in the 15th IS (intelligence squadron)” to protect our warriors, drove them to come up with a well-vetted solution within days,” Lt. Col. Jennifer S. Spires, 25th Air Force, a unit of the service dealing with intelligence, told Scout Warrior.

While some analysts projected that developing a solution could take 11 to 12 weeks, the 15th IS personnel were able to cut that time by nearly 90 percent, Air Force officials said.

“While we cannot talk about the tactics and techniques that the 15th IS recommended, we can say that in every case, any targeting package sent to the air component adhered to rules that serve to protect non-combatants,” Spires added.

The 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing provides a targeting package in support of the Air Component. (Photo: Scout Warrior)

“The supported command makes the final decision about when and how to strike a specific target. Once the theater receives the targeting package it goes into a strike list that the Combatant Commander prioritizes,” Spires said.

Also, Air Force Secretary Deborah James recently addressed an incident wherein two Air Force ISR assets were flying in support coalition ground operations — when they were notified of a small ISIS drone in the vicinity of Mosul.

“The aircraft used electronic warfare capabilities to down the small drone in less than 15 minutes,” Erika Yepsen, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior.

While James did not elaborate on the specifics of any electronic warfare techniques, these kinds of operations often involve the use of “electronic jamming” techniques to interrupt or destroy the signal controlling enemy drones.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army veteran Nathan Goncalves

On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.

While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.


Rough transition

However, Goncalves’ transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys–involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.

But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.

Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income veterans.

Equal Justice Works Responds to Veteran Crisis

www.youtube.com

Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These anti-sub ships show Japan learned from World War II

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is arguably the second-most powerful navy in the Pacific. With four small aircraft carriers (the Izumo- and Hyuga-class vessels are technically destroyers but, let’s be honest, they’re really carriers) and a good number of modern destroyers, this fleet can kick a lot of butt. But with so much eye-drawing firepower, it’s easy to overlook one particularly important ship.

That ship is the Abukuma-class destroyer escort.


In World War II, American destroyer escorts, the forerunners of the modern frigate, served primarily as anti-submarine assets. The Abukuma-class ships (all bearing the names of Imperial Japanese Navy cruisers from World War II) have the same mission. Now, if you think a destroyer escort can’t do much, we invite you to have a look at what USS England did in about two weeks’ time.

There’s a reason Japan works very hard in the anti-submarine warfare arena: American submarines feasted on the waters surrounding Japan during World War II, starving the country and making life at sea a waking nightmare. Don’t just take our word for it — ask the Kongo or Shinano, two of the most notable kills American subs notched during World War II.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Three of Japan’s six anti-submarine frigates at the dock.

(Photo by Luck-one)

The 16th Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the Abukuma packs a single 76mm gun, two twin Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, an eight-round Mk 112 ASROC launcher, a Mk 15 Phalanx, and two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts. She packs no surface-to-air missiles and has no helicopters.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

JS Abukuma (in the rear) escorting the helicopter carrier JS Ise.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denver Applehans)

Japan planned to build 11 of these ships, but only bought six. Still, these vessels are equipped with sonar and have crews trained in hunting (and sinking) submarines.

Watch the video below to learn more about this Japanese sub-hunting ship!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SY2ZnvSn2o

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the massive new defense bill

President Donald Trump on Dec. 12 signed a massive defense bill that authorizes everything from troop pay raises to military end strength in fiscal 2018.


The Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes about $700 billion for the Defense Department, including $634 billion for the base budget and $66 billion for the war budget. The figures are targets, and Congress still faces a year-end deadline to pass an accompanying spending bill to keep the government running.

Even so, the authorization bill approved by Congress includes numerous policy-related provisions, many of which are in line with what the president requested, though it authorized additional funding for higher pay raises, more weapons, and more troops.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

“History teaches us that when you weaken your defenses, you invite aggression,” Trump said before signing the bill. “The best way to prevent conflict of any kind is to be prepared. Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.”

The president added, “Today, with the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America’s military might. This legislation will enhance our readiness and modernize our forces and help provide our service members with the tools they need to fight and win.”

Trump acknowledged Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for their work in preparing the bipartisan bill. He also called on Congress to eliminate spending caps known as sequestration and approve a “clean” appropriations bill.

So what’s in the defense authorization bill for you? Here’s a rundown of the top changes:

2.4% troop pay raise

Troops will see a 2.4 percent pay raise in 2018. That’s the largest year-over-year increase service members have received since 2010.

20,000 more troops

The military will grow by some 20,000 troops. The Army will increase by 7,500 soldiers, the Navy by 4,000 sailors, the Marine Corps by 1,000 Marines, and the Air Force by about 4,100 airmen. Reserve forces will grow by about 3,400 reservists.

Also Read: With ISIS defeated, 400 Marines will come home from Syria

Higher Tricare co-pays

Previously, many retirees and military dependents paid nothing for many prescriptions. That’s about to change, as co-pays will increase under the Tricare pharmacy program. The increases won’t apply to disabled retirees, their dependents, and dependents of service members who died on active duty.

Cuts “Widow’s Tax”

The bill reduces the so-called “Widow’s Tax” by making permanent the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance, or SSIA, which pays $310 a month to military widows and widowers whose Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments were offset as a result of receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

License rebates for spouses

Military spouses who get a new professional license or certification after a permanent change of station move will be able to apply for a $500 rebate from the Defense Department.

Eases PCS moves

The bill authorizes a program to allow some families of troops who are changing duty stations to move before or after the service member for job, school or other reasons. The initiative also allows the service member to utilize government housing, if available.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Reservist health care

The legislation mandates for all mobilized Reserve Component members to receive pre-mobilization and transitional health care.

Criminalizes revenge porn

The bill allows for court-martial punishment for troops who engage in so-called “revenge porn,” or the unauthorized sharing or distribution of “an intimate visual image of a private area of another person.”

Creates training database

The legislation authorizes the creation of a new database to record all training completed by military members. This information will be made available to employers and states to help veterans get certifications or licenses, or claim their military experience when applying for a civilian job.

Retirees as recruiters

The bill calls for the creation of a pilot program to use retired senior enlisted Army National Guard members as recruiters.

1911s for commercial sale

The bill would allow recently confirmed Army Secretary Mark Esper to transfer 8,000 or more of the Army’s iconic .45-caliber M1911/M1911A1 pistols, spare parts and related accessories to the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety as part of a two-year pilot program.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Things I wish I knew before becoming a MilSpouse

It’s now been a couple of years since my husband retired from 31 years of active military service. I was along for the ride from the beginning, as I met him mere months after he arrived at his first duty station.

We were so young when we married (19 and 22), and I had no idea what I was getting myself into — no, I really didn’t. I hear so many military spouses say the same, even if they grew up in a military family. Being the spouse of a service member is such a unique experience. In the past two years, I think I’ve gained some hindsight and perspective in looking back at those decades of military life, and I’m thinking about what I wish I’d known, what I’d do differently, what surprised me, and what I’m glad for.


Whether you’re a brand new milspouse or nearly at the end of your journey too, see if any of this resonates with you. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.

What I wish I’d known

1. Not to underestimate the effect military life would have on our family.

While by this point in the military spouse world it’s been drilled into us how important it is to create our own identity, pursue our own dreams and passions, that we’re not just military spouses (all good things, of course), it does no good to pretend military life won’t have an impact on the spouse and family. It will have an effect, whether it’s where you’re living, how much you see your spouse, if your kids will change schools numerous times, or the rest of the family stays put while the military member moves. It isn’t just another job, one that can be picked up and put down at will. It’s a completely different way of life.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

U.S. Army Sgt.1st Class Danny J. Hocker, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is embraced by his family during a welcome home ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, Oct. 23, 2008.

(US Army Photo by SPC Pastora Y. Hall)

2. To not look back with rose colored glasses.

Whether location, friends, a church, or community, lingering too long on the things I loved from past assignments did not serve me well in the early days at a new base. While it’s important to grieve and take stock before moving on, at times, dwelling on what was carved out a hollow space within me that refused to be filled with the new. This led to prolonged times of loneliness and disillusion that I think might have been shorter if I hadn’t played the comparison game.

3. To take care of myself.

I think younger spouses these days may have a better handle on this than I did, but I had to learn the hard way that the world would not stop spinning on its axis if I took a nap, planned a walk alone, or said a firm no to the latest volunteering opportunity so that I could make self-care a priority more often.

4. Friendships won’t look the same, and that’s ok.

Back to comparisons. It just stinks to say goodbye to the best friend you’ve ever had and be forced to start over again. Sometimes it’s easier to just…not. It’s exhausting to lay the groundwork for friendships and community connections, knowing it’s temporary anyway. But I wish I could tell young me that making room for others, whether they resemble any friend you’ve ever had or would even look for, is important and can also be surprising.

5. Don’t wait for people to make the first move or make me feel welcome.

There’s no sense in standing to the side and expect people to bring the welcome wagon to you,because you’re the new one after all. Sometimes you have to be brave first.

6. Not worry so much about how our kids would turn out.

I spent a lot of needless worry on this one. A lot. This is not to say that military life isn’t hard on kids–it is. But I had way too many sleepless nights on this. Of course, making sure my military kids had the resources they needed was important and I’m glad I gave attention to that. Heck, maybe they did turn out as functioning adults because I worried so much? We’ll go with that thought.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

(US Army photo)

7. To make space for my husband again at the inevitable end of military life.

I’ll be honest–I wish I had done this better. While you’re in the thick of military life, it’s hard to believe it won’t always be like this. And while I gave lip service to how glad I’d be when he’d be home again regularly, no longer deploying, and become a regular part of the household after literally years of separation, the transition to civilian life was a little bumpier than I’d expected. I’d so carefully groomed my independent side for years (I had to, to survive), that creating space for him and for us as a couple was a much bigger adjustment than I’d expected.

What surprised me

1. How glad I am for the hard times.

They changed me, my perspective, and how I relate to others. It sounds cliche, but I wouldn’t have grown or appreciate life like I do now without the losses and pain that walked hand in hand with years of military life. I’m not sure I would have learned that lesson so well otherwise.

Reunited

2. The utter relief that came with the end of his military service.

The knowledge that we wouldn’t ever have to move again unless we choose to, that I won’t be holding down the fort as my husband deploys or leaves for training, or that military life will no longer define every detail of our existence struck me the day the words “you are relieved from active duty” were spoken at my husband’s retirement ceremony. I didn’t realize how heavy that weight was until it was gone.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Capt. Joe Faraone reunites with his wife, Suk, Jan. 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

3. What I’d miss.

The instant camaraderie, the shared experiences with other military families can’t be understood unless you’ve been there. The unique language, the dark sense of humor that comes with the “deployment curse,” the understanding of what we all go through is hard to replicate. Hearing the notes of reveille played basewide to start the day, the National Anthem at the end of the duty day, and the heartbreaking sound of Taps each night — the sadness of which will forever make tears gather in my eyes–those are some ‘little things’ I still miss. The travel, the adventure, the not knowing what would be around the next corner? Yes, I miss that, too.

4. How strong I am. How strong we all are.

One reason I stay involved in my work with military spouses is because it’s now part of me. Military families are a special breed. Military spouses have my heart, and will forever. I have witnessed families go through unspeakable things, times that would crush a normal person, and come out stronger and also willing to reach out and help others going through the same thing. Whether it’s creating a non-profit to make life easier for other military families, embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and start a pop-up business at a desolate duty station, or simply rolling out of bed each morning to tote kids to school and themselves to work while their spouse serves hundreds of miles away….you inspire me every day.

My husband retired after 31 years in the Air Force. Shortly after, I stumbled across this poem and felt it was written just for him…for us.

The Last Parade

Let the bugle blow

Let the march be played

With the forming of the troops

For my last parade.

The years of war and the years of waiting

Obedience to orders, unhesitating

Years in the states, and the years overseas

All woven in a web of memories.

A lifetime of service passes in review

As many good friends and exotic places too

In the waning sunlight begin to fade

With the martial music of my last parade.

My last salute to the service and base

Now someone else will take my place

To the sharp young airmen marching away

I gladly pass the orders of the day.

Though uncertain of what my future may hold

Still, if needed-before I grow too old

I’ll keep my saber sharp, my powder dry

Lest I be recalled to duty by and by.

So let the bugle blow

Fire the evening gun

Slowly lower the colors

My retirement has begun.

-Author Unknown

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How military families can have a conversation with Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden is a familiar face to military families and Americans alike, with her husband’s role as vice president for eight years. Dr. Biden is once again aiming to open the dialog with military spouses and families and you can join in too.

Speaking to military families isn’t anything new for Dr. Biden. Her own step son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with the 261st Signal Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq for a year, not long after his father took part in the election vice presidential debate.


With Beau serving and being deployed, Dr. Biden experienced the difficulties and challenges of being a military family firsthand as a military mom and as grandmother, watching the struggles of Beau’s children. In previous interviews, she is on record saying that it was the first issue she wanted to work on when President Obama was elected.

Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

As a teacher, Dr. Biden wanted to dive deep into the needs of military families and find ways that the administration could stand in the gap. Alongside the first lady, she championed Joining Forces. That program was widely successful and led to multiple pieces of legislation aimed at improving issues like military spouse employment and education for dependent children.

With her husband now vying for the highest office in the United States, she is turning her focus once again on those who serve the country and their families. Dr. Biden wants to hear directly from military families themselves what their needs are and how her husband, if elected, and his administration can support those needs.

Scary Mommy is widely known and deeply influential in the millennial mother space. Their website, articles and blogs offer a no-holds barred approach to all things parenting, news, stories and trending issues. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm eastern, the organization will host a virtual event and conversation with Dr. Biden. Interviewing her will be military spouse and mother, Kellie Artis.

The theme or title of the virtual event is Helping Families Thrive. Dr. Biden will make the case for a Biden-Harris ticket and what they will bring in the name of support for military families if elected. She will cover the presidential hopeful’s vision for the military community and the plan to uplift all families on day one of a Biden presidency. You can be part of that conversation.

To join the live steam event and listen in on the honest and unfiltered conversation with Dr. Jill Biden and military spouse, Kellie Artis – click here.

Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan organization. Should the Trump Administration plan a conversation with military families, we will let you know!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate under pressure to vote on blue water veterans

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.

During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.


“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.

On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.

Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.

But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.

Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”

“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.

The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.

In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.

Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.

Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.

VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”

The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.