Senior Afghan officials have praised voters who cast ballots in parliamentary elections that were plagued by violence and organizational problems, saying the turnout shows that Afghans are rejecting the ideology of Taliban militants.
“The Taliban wanted to build a stream of blood, but the Taliban was defeated and the Taliban’s thoughts and ideas were rejected,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting on Oct. 22, 2018.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
(US Department of State)
Around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters in a country of more than 30 million cast their ballots over the two-day voting at more than 4,500 polling centers across the country, according to election authorities, despite deadly militant attacks in which dozens of people were killed and delays caused by technical and organizational problems.
The Taliban had issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house of parliament withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
(US Department of State)
Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, which were seen as a key test of the government’s ability to provide security across the country, were expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2018, at the earliest. Final results will likely be out sometime in December 2018, an election commission spokesman has said.
Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.
“The Afghan people want a system based on the people’s vote, and in fact, we have witnessed a historical moment,” said Abdullah, who also admitted there were shortcomings during the vote.
Voting was extended to a second day on Oct. 21, 2018, after hundreds of polling stations were closed on the first day of voting due to technical and security issues.
But only 253 of the 401 polling centers that were scheduled to be open on Oct. 21, 2018 were operational, with the remainder closed for security reasons, election authorities said.
An Afghan man prepares to vote in a villiage near Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson)
At some of the centers that opened for voting, there were insufficient ballot papers and voter rolls were “either incomplete or nonexistent,” Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said, adding, “most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today.”
The ECC said it had received more than 5,000 complaints of irregularities from voters and candidates, and the Interior Ministry said 44 people had been charged with “illegal interference in the election and fraud.”
However, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation after polls closed on Oct. 21, 2018, that the election turnout showed that voters “have the power and will to defeat their enemies.”
Ghani also challenged the Taliban to “show if your way or the way of democracy is preferred by the people.”
In a tweet on Oct. 21, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended “the millions of Afghan men women who have exercised their democratic right to vote the Afghan security forces who have provided security for the elections despite great challenges.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement released on Oct. 20, 2018, that it was “encouraged by the high numbers” of Afghans who braved security threats and waited long hours to cast their votes.
UNAMA said the elections, which it described as “the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001,” were an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft is officially about to get some surround sound.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on Oct. 23, 2019, awarded Terma North America Inc. a $60 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to retrofit 328 3D audio systems for the close-air support aircraft’s cockpit, according to a Defense Department announcement. The company is a subsidiary of Terma A/S, a Danish defense and aerospace company.
Pilots have multiple audio signals coming at them, making it difficult to discern certain radio calls and warnings. The 3D audio system will give pilots the ability to distinguish between signals and discern where they’re coming from.
Last year, the service said it had planned to award a sole-source contract to Terma to integrate the enhancement. The upgrade would “drastically improve the spatial, battlespace and situational awareness of the A-10C pilots,” according to a request for information (RFI) published at the time.
An A-10 Warthog prepares to take off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The 3D audio technology has previously been used in the Danish F-16 Fighting Falcon Missile Warner System upgrade.
The A-10, which entered service in 1976 and has deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, has also played an outsized role in Afghanistan and the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.
The latest news comes after the Air Force made another major investment into the aircraft, demonstrating its willingness to keep the A-10 around longer and boost its survivability in a high-threat environment.
In August 2019, officials announced that Boeing Co. was awarded a 9 million IDIQ contract to create up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and spare wing kits for aircraft that are slated to receive the upgrade. The program is known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK.”
An A-10 Warthog takes off from Al Asad Air Base to provide close air support to ground troops in Iraq.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
The Air Force estimates 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged following a previous id=”listicle-2641104178″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, which began in 2011 and completed this year.
The 3D audio work will be performed in the U.S. and Denmark, the Defense Department said.
The Air Force will use fiscal 2018 and 2019 funds in the amount of .3 million toward the effort; the work is scheduled to be completed by February 2024, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.
U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.
During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.
So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.
First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?
Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.
“Are you willing to kill people?”
Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.
Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.
Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.
But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.
Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.
Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.
But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.
That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.
While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:
While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.
Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)
Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.
This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.
Enter, the M14.
The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.
On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.
But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.
Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.
Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.
Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.
In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.
Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.
Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.
According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.
The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.
The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.
“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.
The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A B-2 Spirit from the 590th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., prepares to take off in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant camps, 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte.
A 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew repairs an E-3 Sentry (AWACS) engine at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 12, 2017.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conducts ceremonial training in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 17, 2017, to prepare for their role in the 58th Presidential Inauguration. The Presidential Salute Battery, founded in 1953, fires cannon salutes in honor of the President of the United States, visiting foreign dignitaries, and official guests of the United States and is the only unit of its kind in the Army, conducting more than 300 ceremonies every year.
Soldiers provide cover fire during an assault on a building during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, N.J., Jan. 9, 2017, part of a series of training events that will culminate this summer at an eXportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Fort Pickett, Va.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 17, 2017) Electrician’s Mate Fireman Sacy Bynoe, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), climbs a ladder. Theodore Roosevelt is conducting basic training off the coast of Southern Calif.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Dylan Mills directs the crew of a C-2A Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The ship is on a deployment with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet into the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit provides the U.S. with a sea-based crisis response force, which is capable of planning and commencing execution of selected tactical operations within six hours of receipt of a mission. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced).
Rct. Maria Daume, Platoon 4001, drags a simulated casualty on a combat training course during the Crucible Jan. 5, 2017, on Parris Island, South Carolina. Daume was born in a Russian prison and brought to Long Island, New York, at the age of 4 when she and her twin brother were adopted.
The helo makes a landing approach. Landing on the flight deck of a 210 is an all hands evolution, requiring two firefighting teams, a first aid team, a fueling team, tie-down crew, landing signals officers, helicopter control officers, and a master helmsman in addition to filling all regular duty positions to ensure a safe evolution.
Members from CGC DAUNTLESS gather to greet students from Stephen F. Austin High School.
Military barracks are just like college dorms, except with more booze and asbestos.
Ok, maybe not the asbestos part (as far as you know). The military has come a long way from Quonset huts and open-space squad-bays that housed an entire unit. Barracks life has improved considerably for troops in recent years, as many troops now enjoy new furniture, keycard entry, and no more than two people to a room.
But regardless of barracks amenities, they can’t really compete with married personnel living in homes on base, or being able to live off-base in an apartment. Still, some troops try to make their rooms way better than everyone else. This is how you know you’re probably one of them.
1. You have a 60″ television set that is four feet away from your face when you watch it.
How can you watch the games on Sunday with anything less? And besides, there is all this money in your bank account from last deployment. What do you think, you’re going to save it!? The key to a great barracks room is having a ridiculously-large TV, lots of DVDs and Blu-Rays, a Playstation 4, and gaming chairs.
2. You have a full kitchen hidden in your desk or wall locker.
No need to get dressed and head to the mess hall for that meatloaf dinner. You have everything you need right here, to include a rice cooker, hot plate, microwave, mini-oven and a skillet*. That drawer over there? That’s where I keep all my spices to go on my Ramen noodles. (*Please don’t burn down the entire barracks. Your first sergeant will be upset).
3. Your fridge is filled with beer. (Extra points if you have a kegerator hidden somewhere.)
Most barracks have rules regarding alcohol. E-3 and below are usually allowed only a six-pack, while E-4 and above can have 12. But rules are meant to be broken, right lance corporal?** No one can have a proper night of fun with just six-pack, and besides, you stocked up on 30-packs because you only wanted to make one trip to the 7-day store. You are actually being responsible by cutting down on your carbon footprint. (**Rules are meant to be followed, according to your squad leader.)
4. You own a 1600-watt stereo system that looks like it was stolen from a Rage Against the Machine concert.
You take your music seriously. While a barracks amateur may get something that could play tunes at a reasonable volume and can fill the room quite nicely, you need to invest in a top-of-the-line stereo system. It probably cost at least a grand, pumps out 1600-watts of sound that rattles the entire barracks, and has the “bass boost” function. Does your clock/radio have that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
5. You have a hot tub.
If you have this, you have completely won the barracks life. We salute you.
The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.
The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.
Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.
A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.
Photo: Tessa Robinson
Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.
And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.
Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.
“Storage Wars” has uncovered thousands of odd things in the depths of overdue storage units during their 12 season span: breast enlargement machines, an Elvis Presley collection, and a disturbingly complete “My Little Pony” collection. There have been a couple things stuck in the crannies of a storage unit, that might as well have been found under the bed of some unkempt barracks room. These are seven of those such items…
A stripper pole
It’s definitely odd that this was lost in storage and not in the dull lamp-shadeless lighting of some recently divorced 30 something’s bachelor pad. Be honest though—if you found a stripper pole stored in an abandoned unit, or in a barracks occupied by a bunch of single military men—you’d be more surprised to find it in a storage unit.
Perhaps not the strangest find by a Storage Wars team, but this one could easily be misplaced in the messy sprawl of barracks across the U.S. It probably would be a personal use mask, not a military use one. Anyone who has ever sat next to a soldier after they’ve just eaten their 6th straight microwaved pulled pork Hot Pocket knows exactly why someone would have one of these bad boys handy in the barracks.
World War II minesweeper
In a unit down in Lancaster, California, the “Storage Wars” gang unearthed this 0 relic inside a tin Army supply box. So this one could easily be lost in a barracks somewhere of some explosive ordnance expert’s bed. You might be thinking to yourself, “why would a modern soldier be holding onto something that was still being used in 1943?” And to that question, the answer is: because it’s the military and it’s probably still currently issued.
In yet another abstract find in Southern California, “Storage Wars” heartthrob Mary stumbled upon a saddle meant for a two-humped camel. I have personally witnessed a particularly wild Marine try to “ride” a wild deer on a hunting trip. The idea that that same man would have a saddle specifically intended for tossing on a wild camel in the middle east in hopes of domesticating the beast—does not sound off base to me.
Fully alive snakes
There is an episode of Storage Wars where they uncovered a bunch of living albino pythons. Buteveryone knows youcannot have pets in the barracks. Everyone also knows the drinking age is technically 21. It would be very reasonable to imagine how these rules might be bent. Maybe a soldier takes a sip of a beer. Seems reasonable enough. Maybe a soldier keeps 8 fully grown albino pythons in a tank so that he could throw rats in it then sit around the tank with 4 or 5 buddies and scream and cheer as the pythons educate the rats on the hierarchyof the food chain.
This find came on the heels of a massive 100 unit auction in (you guessed it) Southern California. The lucky buyer was more than surprised to find a display case featuring a perfectly laid out snake skeleton. Now, you may find this in a barracks, but only as an inevitable result of the previous “item” on the list.
A forgotten limb
Okay so this one is from a documentary called “Finders Keepers” but it was simply too good to pass up. In the movie, a man named Shannon Whisnaut purchased what he thought was a run of the mill storage unit, waiting to be flipped. When he opened the vault, he happened upon a standard barbecue. When he opened the top he discovered someone had some foil-wrapped leftovers on the grill. He removed the foil to unveil—a human leg. He reported the leg to police. The previous owner John Wood, was tracked down, and he immediately copped to knowing about the leg. In quite possibly the most “oorah” twist of the list, he had lost the leg in a 2004 plane crash and opted to keep the severed limb so that it could be buried with him—only to forget where he put it.
The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.
Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.
The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.
According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.
“Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”
In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”
The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.
Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.
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