The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it's offering $90K bonuses - We Are The Mighty
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The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.


Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Gen. Robert Abrams. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.

Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
US Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.

The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.

The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.

Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.

The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Emmons)

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.

Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.

In some cases, the personal touch can help.

Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo courtesy of US Army

“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”

Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.

But the clock is ticking.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Evans said.

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Today in military history: Berlin Airlift begins

On June 26, 1948, the U.S. began the Berlin Airlift, one of the largest humanitarian relief missions in history.

After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism. 

From 1945 to 1948, rising tensions between the Soviet Union and other Allied powers led to problems in governing post-war Germany.

A plan created by the U.S., British, and French to introduce a new unit of currency ran into stiff Communist opposition, and the Soviets initiated a land blockade of West Berlin on June 24, 1948.

On June 26, a massive airlift was approved to fly over the blockade and land supplies at Tempelhof Airport. Initially, high costs and Soviet demonstrations in the city led some Americans to question the tactic, but pro-democracy demonstrations convinced America to continue. The U.S.-U.K. led operations landed over 270,000 flights carrying over 2 million tons of supplies during an 11-month period.

On May 12, 1949, the Soviets gave in and lifted the blockade, allowing the U.S. to claim victory.

Featured Image: A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MIGHTY TRENDING

China beats Russia and US to hypersonic ballistic missile test

China tested a new missile in November that is equipped with a “hypersonic glide vehicle” (HGV), according to a U.S. government source interviewed by The Diplomat.


HGVs are capsules on the top of a missile that hold the payload. They break apart from the main body of the projectile after it has reached its highest altitude, and glide to the target until impact.

“HGVs are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” according to a 2017 report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
The DF-21D “Carrier Killer” missile batteries roll through China’s 2015 military parade. The DF-21D is one of the weapons that poses a serious threat to the U.S. Navy today. (Image from Wikimedia Commons user William Ide)

“The combination of high speed, maneuverability, and relatively low altitude makes them challenging targets for missile defense systems.”

According to The Diplomat’s source, the test was “the first HGV test in the world using a system intended to be fielded operationally,” meaning the Chinese are no longer in the developing stage, and now have an HGV ready for use.

The US and Russia are also trying to develop HGVs, but neither have flight tested an operational prototype.

Also Read: China tests missile defense system after North Korean nuke test

The Chinese missile, dubbed the DF-17, was reportedly tested twice — once on Nov. 1 and again on Nov. 15. It flew 1,400 kilometers, according to The Diplomat, and the HGV flew at a depressed altitude of “around 60 kilometers.” It is heavily based on the DF-16B missile, which is in operational use within the Chinese military.

After approximately 11 minutes of flight time, the missile impacted “within meters” of its target.

The source said that the DF-17 was a medium-range missile system that had a range between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers. It is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads, and may be able to be configured to have a maneuverable reentry vehicle instead of an HGV.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Amid Russian threats, Marines conduct exercise in Syria

US troops are conducting a major live-fire exercise at At Tanf in Syria, US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported Sept. 7, 2018, just one day after Russia accused the US-led coalition forces operating in the area of harboring terrorists and threatened to launch strikes in the deconfliction zone.

Russia informed the US on Sept. 1, 2018, via the deconfliction line that Russian, Syrian, and other pro-regime forces intended to enter the At Tanf deconfliction zone to pursue ISIS terrorists, CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider on Sept. 7, 2018, confirming an earlier report from CNN. The Russians then warned the US on Sept. 6, 2018, that they would carry out precision strikes in the area, a risky move that could easily spark a larger conflict.


More than 100 US Marines supported by M777 artillery are conducting live-fire drills to send a “strong message” to Russia, Lucas Tomlinson at Fox News reported, citing US officials.

“Our forces will demonstrate the capability to deploy rapidly, assault a target with integrated air and ground forces, and conduct a rapid exfiltration anywhere in the OIR combined joint operations area,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in an official statement prior to the start of the exercises.

The combat exercises involving US troops, as well as Operation Inherent Resolve forces, are being held to send a clear message to Russia: The US does not need their help to take on terrorists in the area.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” Brown explained, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.

“The Russians agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison to avoid accidental conflict between our forces, and to remain professionally engaged through deconfliction channels,” he added, “We expect the Russians to abide by this agreement. There is no reason for Russian or pro-regime forces to violate the confines of that deconfliction zone.”

Were Russia to violate the agreement, it could lead to a serious escalation in an already war-torn region.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown told BI, “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

In early 2018, roughly 40 US troops held off around 500 Russian mercenaries and pro-Syrian regime forces, reportedly killing hundreds.

Featured image: US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only 29 percent of young people are eligible for service

Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.


But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.

According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
And 4,000 new Coast Guardsmen, but they never have to worry about meeting their numbers. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.

But that’s a long ways off.

There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Working hard is a virtue shared by troops. Being fit means they’re one step closer mentally. (Photo by Scott Sturkol)

The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).

If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Not all PTS diagnoses are created equal


Imagine that you’re out playing a game of afternoon football and you fully tear your ACL. No doctor would simply give you a diagnosis and some medications then send you on your way. Instead, you’d likely have surgery followed by regular physical therapy. You’d also learn more effective warm ups and conditioning and use them on a regular basis to stay injury-free in the future.

The same principles apply for recovery from post-traumatic stress injuries, sometimes called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS/PTSD). With the right behavioral health practices, it is possible to experience either total healing or marked improvement for mild to moderate stress injuries.

The idea that PTSD is an unalterable lifetime sentence is neurologically untrue.

Stress Injuries vs. PTSD

Stress injuries are very natural responses to unusual situations and exist along a spectrum. Whether you’ve experienced a single traumatic event or multiple stressors over a long period of time, your body likely responded in a totally appropriate way by adapting to the threat. Your nervous system kicked into high gear – your body and brain woke up and went into overdrive.

Your response was vital to navigating a stressful or dangerous situation well. However, now that imminent danger is past, your stress response may still activate out of context. When this happens, empathy may disappear, your focus may degrade, and you may struggle to make logical decisions.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
(Photo: Army.mil)

It’s true that severe stress injury (also known as PTSD) is a complicated disorder. However, healthcare practitioners often apply the “chronic” label to mild or moderate stress injuries – which are 100% recoverable. This label can be psychologically deadly – sapping resilient people of the agency they need to learn and apply tools to quickly de-escalate the body and brain’s response to perceived threats.

The truth is that PTSD is not everyone’s stress injury. A misdiagnosis suggests irrecoverable brokenness, and can layer on a host of additional anxieties and worries.

Road to Recovery

One of the most empowering first steps you can take toward recovery is to seek out information about stress physiology – work to understand what is happening in your body.

Self education is an incredibly empowering step. You’ll discover that your out-of-context responses are natural, and you’ll simultaneously find ways to calm your body and mind through a variety of self care practices.

When you put these tools into practice on a daily basis, your body and brain will respond in some really interesting ways. Your neurons will fire differently, you’ll shrink the amygdala (the part of your brain that activates the fight or flight response) – your brain will literally start to look different. Stress hormones will drop, too.

Not only will your body and mind change, but so will your behavior. You’ll find that you’re better able to handle a fight with your partner. You’ll be able to focus better and exist with more empathy. Of course, you’re still human. Your stress response will still fire. But by practicing effective self care, you can begin to respond to others in a more deliberate way.

But what if my stress injury is severe?

Some people experience permanent changes to their brains. If your injury co-occurs with a Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, or an anxiety disorder, that is totally normal, but incredibly challenging. When you have a major stress injury and you’re dealing with a chronic condition, the symptoms can be extremely debilitating.

The symptoms of severe stress injuries can be improved upon, but – much like a bad back injury – you may need to accept that your condition will need to be managed for many years to come.

* For severe stress injury, you will need highly individualized clinical help. Seek medical guidance and talk to your clinician about your specific stress injury and wellness techniques.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

About the Author

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.

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China just sent its homegrown aircraft carrier to the South China Sea

There’s a reason certain areas of the South China Sea are hotly disputed. There are an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil just waiting to be tapped down there. There are also 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. 

While many countries lay claim to the vast petrochemical fields underneath the South China Sea, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, only China has the economic and military might to build man-made islands there – and then militarize those islands with scores of troops. 

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s line crosses all the other countries’ lines, and, well… you see where this is going. (Voice of America/ Wikimedia Commons)

The latest military forces China is sending to the region is a first for the Chinese Communist Party: its very own, home-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. 

Until those areas of the South China Sea claimed by China are officially recognized as belonging to anyone, the United States Navy will continue to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” missions right through those areas, daring China or anyone else to do something about it. 

U.S. Navy ships routinely enter the areas closest to the Spratly and Paracel Island chains, just two of many archipelagos which have either been artificially increased in size by China or have been completely constructed by the communist nation. China has artificially added 3,200 acres of land to the sea in the past decade. 

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
If the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) could talk, it’d probably say: “I wish a mofo would…” (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)

While China has as many as 27 military outposts spread out among the islands of the South China Sea, with various ports, airstrips, aircraft and anti-air defenses, the United States sends its combat ships on these exercises on a regular basis because much of the world doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Chinese claims on the region. 

Freedom of Navigation through the disputed area is important because the area claimed by China covers an important sea lane. Conservative estimates say at least $3.3 trillion of shipping per year runs through those lanes, along with 40% of the global supply of natural gas. 

The Chinese carrier Shandong recently departed its homeport of Sanya for the South China Sea to conduct exercises in the disputed areas. The ship finished construction just two years ago and is still in its testing phases according to Chinese news outlet Eastday.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
This screen grab taken from a report by Chinese military channel js7tv.cn on May 3, 2021, shows stock image of aircraft carrier Shandong during an exercise in an unspecified location.

Shandong is replacing China’s other carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, as the latter returns to its homeport for maintenance. China complained about the presence of a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mustin, accusing the destroyer of conducting illegal reconnaissance operations on the Liaoning. 

The United States Navy says everything the Mustin was doing in the South China Sea was legal. The U.S. Navy has increased its presence in the area by as much as 20% over the past year. It flew at least 65 reconnaissance missions in the South China Sea in April 2021, according to Chinese military think tanks. The Chinese Navy has responded with a 40% increase in naval presence. 

Despite the tensions in the region, the proximity of the two navies’ ships is unlikely to spark any kind of international incident. Both countries’ military forces conduct routine exercises there, regardless of the outrage or complaints they elicit from one another’s governments. 

The United States is determined to prevent military escalation in the region as claimants to the territory, especially the Philippines, turn up the heat on their rhetoric. 

Disputes over the region are also unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Though the United Nations and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague have ruled against each and every Chinese claim on the area, China refuses to acknowledge the courts’ authority on the issue. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

A Chinese government spokesman said on Thursday that the US Army may have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” fueling a coronavirus conspiracy theory.


Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called attention to a comment on Wednesday from Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that some Americans who were said to have died from influenza may have actually died from COVID-19.

“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected?” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

In a short thread on Twitter — a social media platform that’s inaccessible in China — Zhao demanded to know how many of the millions of infections and thousands of deaths during the latest flu season were actually related to COVID-19.

The US State Department summoned Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai Friday to protest the spokesman’s comments, Reuters reported, and the Pentagon sharply criticized Zhao’s remarks, calling them “false and absurd.”

The coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and since then, the pandemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people, mostly in China.

As China has faced criticism, Chinese authorities have pushed back, suggesting that the virus may have originated somewhere else. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said in late February that “though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China.”

Zhao stressed the same point in a recent press briefing.

“No conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus,” he told reporters, adding that “what we are experiencing now is a global phenomenon with its source still undetermined.”

One popular coronavirus conspiracy theory that has emerged in China is that US military athletes participating in the Military World Games in Wuhan last year may have brought the virus into China. There is, however, no evidence to support this accusation.

The Trump administration has laid the blame firmly at China’s feet. “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” the White House national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told reporters on Wednesday.

“It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he added.

Geng Shuang, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said O’Brien’s “immoral and irresponsible” comments denigrated China’s efforts to fight the virus. He added that the US should focus on “international cooperation instead of trying to shift the blame.”

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

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The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

The Air Force is 10 days into its “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where four aircraft — AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine — have been strutting their stuff.


Air Force pilots already have flown basic surface attack missions in the A-29 and AT-6, according to the service, and conducted “familiarization flights” in the Scorpion and AT-802L as part of the month-long event.

The live-fly exercises will move into combat maneuver scenarios and weapons drops, some of which have already happened.

“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement August 9. Goldfein, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, stopped by the event, which the service has been putting together for months.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
A Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner

How service leaders plan to evaluate the performance of four very different aircraft — from jet to turboprop plane to an armored cropduster — is still to be determined.

The aircraft were on static display for leaders, including Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, to check out.

Goldfein even flew in the AT-6 and the A-29, according to reports.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Wilson said of the experiment, dubbed OA-X. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

Goldfein added, “We are determining whether a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”

The service has said the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, with the Islamic State and other extremist groups extending their influence in the region, is the impetus for buying another plane — just one that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune.

“We want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in,” Bunch said in March.

But no matter what the outcome, some in Washington, DC are already pleasantly surprised the Air Force has become more hands-on in potential future weapons and aircraft buying strategies.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

“The light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, provides an example for how rapid acquisition and experimentation can help our military procure the needed capabilities more quickly, more efficiently, and more affordably than we have in the past,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain said.

“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the US military advantage — and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” he said in a statement August 9.

The Arizona Republican in January released his white paper assessment on how the Defense Department should move forward in military spending.

The former Navy pilot stressed that, while the Air Force should sustain its A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter fleet for close-air support, “the Air Force should procure 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. USAF photo by Christopher Okula

McCain on August 9 stressed his committee has been supportive of the action, and “included $1.2 billion in authorized spending for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.”

“I am encouraged to see the Air Force using the rapid acquisition authorities that Congress has given the Department of Defense in recent defense authorization bills,” he said. “The light attack aircraft will be an integral part of building our military capacity to combat current threats, and this experiment is a new model for quickly getting our warfighters the capabilities they need to bring the fight to the enemy.”

The event is scheduled to run through August 31.

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Women who saw combat star in new play

It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.


“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.

For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”

Also read: This is how the military is integrating women

She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
USMC photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.

“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.

Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Army photo by Cpl. Mariah Best

Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.

“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”

Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.

Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
DoD Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis

Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.

“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.

Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.

Related: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.

Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Staff Sgt. April Spilde, a pallbearer with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, is one of two women serving in the elite unit during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Paul Bello.

Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.

Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.

A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”

Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
USMC photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.

Women in the Fight: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.

While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Sailors participating in the Riverine Combat Skills course prepare for a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 24, 2012. Navy photo by Specialist Seaman Heather M. Paape

One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”

On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.

Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”

Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.

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The US military’s air conditioning bill for deployed troops allegedly tops $20 billion

A former Pentagon official says the U.S. spends $20.2 billion a year on air conditioning for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – the same amount of money it would take to train, fund, and equip Afghan security forces for a full five years.


The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Russell Dutcher, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron HVAC technician, repairs an air conditioning unit June 30, 2015, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.  (U.S. Air Force photo By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)

To put it in perspective, that $20 billion is also the cost of a new Trump border wall every year, the price tag for supporting fledgling democracies in North Africa for five years, and the amount BP will pay in its settlement for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

(The movie looks awesome, by the way)

Retired Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson was the head of logistics for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He told NPR’s All Things Considered that everything required to get A/C to the troops – escorts, transportation, medevac support … everything – tops out at $20 billion.

The Pentagon has denied his claims.

The $20 billion air conditioning bill estimate includes the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a number that has steadily risen with every passing year. By 2014, the Afghan War cost as much as $2.1 million dollars for every soldier deployed there. Some experts say even the U.S. government doesn’t know for sure where all the money is going.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Airmen from the 27th Special Operations Communications, Contracting and Comptroller Squadrons helped build up an exercise area, including fully functioning tents and offices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams)

In 2013, Harvard economist Linda Bilmes calculated what she calls the “true cost” of the wars, counting “long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs.”

Bilmes, who’s the former CFO of the Department of Commerce, predicted that the final bill for the wars will be as much as $6 trillion. Brown University estimates the cost to be upwards of $7 trillion.

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Navy names Arleigh-Burke destroyer after World War II Marine hero

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus announced the service would name its next Arleigh-Burke class destroyer (DDG 122) after a Marine gunnery sergeant who held off a fierce assault by as many as 3,000 Japanese troops during the Battle of Guadalcanal and was later awarded the Navy Cross and Medal of Honor.



Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone was in charge of two machine gun sections during the Battle of Guadalcanal in October 1942 when the Japanese attacked his lines, cutting him off from resupply and killing or wounding all but two of his remaining machinegunners. Basilone repaired and manned another machine gun and fought off a Japanese regiment for nearly three days and nights until the enemy capitulated.

“Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived,” his Medal of Honor citation reads. “A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”

Basilone later fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima where he was killed by mortar fire trying to help a stranded tank navigate a Japanese minefield.

“Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number 1, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire,” his Navy Cross citation read. “In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.”

Basilone is the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross in World War II, the Navy says.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
A photo illustration announcing that Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, DDG 124, will be named USS John Basilone. (U.S. Navy Photo Illustration/Released)

An iconic Marine, his name has been attached to several landmarks on Marine bases, including a section of highway and a drop zone at Camp Pendleton in California. The Navy previously named a Gearing class destroyer after the gunnery sergeant, but that ship was decommissioned in 1977.

“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” Mabus said at the naming ceremony August 16. “I have no doubt that all who serve aboard her will carry on the legacy of service and commitment exemplified by this Marine Corps hero.”

This is the seventh ship that Secretary Mabus has named honoring a Medal of Honor recipient. Others have included Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) John Finn (DDG 113), Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), Daniel Inouye (DDG 118), and Woody Williams (T-ESB 4).

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This extreme winter survival course teaches troops how to stay alive in Arctic conditions

Few places on the face of the earth can be as unforgiving or as deadly as the frozen Arctic.


Because of the dangers of the Arctic environment, coupled with the growing strategic importance of this part of the world, the US Air Force runs the Arctic Survival School out of Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.

“Mother nature does not like you in this situation,” Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. “She’s violent. She’s harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life.”

The Air Force’s Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: YouTube

The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures …

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: YouTube

… and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: YouTube

One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: YouTube

Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: YouTube

Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron

During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.

The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.

Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.

Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter ‘V’ to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.

The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses
photo: YouTube

You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.

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