Hey, want to make an extra $175,000? Well, if you’re a Navy fighter pilot and you’re willing to spend another five years in the service, that pile of cash can be yours! Now that we have the big-ass headline and the promise of a lot of moolah out of the way, let’s get down to the fine print.
According to a Navy release, the active-duty component is offering big cash in the form of Aviation Department Head Retention Bonuses and Aviation Command Retention Bonuses. The aim here is to keep talented, hardworking pilots on active duty. The Navy, essentially, is looking to avoid ending up in the same dire straits as the Air Force in terms of personnel shortages.
Here’s how the bonuses will work, according to NAVADMIN 065/18. The Aviation Department Head Retention Bonus is open to any aviator selected for promotion to lieutenant commander. Pilots have the option of signing a contract of either three years or five years. Those who sign five-year deals prior to ADHSB selection results going public can get a bonus of up to $35,000. Your best bet for getting the big money is to fly F/A-18C Hornets, F-35 Lightnings, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, or E-2C Hawkeyes. MH-53E Sea Dragon pilots, a minesweeping version of the CH-53E Super Stallion, are also eligible to for big bonuses.
Those who sign up for the Aviation Command Retention Bonus can get $100,000 over three years ($34,000 for the first year, $33,000 for the other two). Eligibility is limited to those officers who hold the rank of commander and who have been screened for becoming the commanding officer of an eligible operational, operational training, or special mission command. They agree to stay on for three years, which will include a tour after their squadron command. The obligation ends at the end of that post-command assignment or 22 years of active service, whichever comes later.
Aviation duty incentive pay (better known as flight pay) is also getting a boost, especially for those who are in administrative milestone billets. That only could net you a cool $1,000 in cash per month!
Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.
Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.
Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”
A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.
The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.
SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.
The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.
An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.
Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.
On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.
After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.
“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.
Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.
ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.
On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.
“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.
“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.
The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.
But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.
“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.
Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.
UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is approaching 230,000 with more than 3.2 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Tajik authorities said they had registered 15 coronavirus cases in the country, the first such cases after weeks of mounting speculation that officials were suppressing information about the disease.
The confirmation of the cases, made April 30 by the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus, poses a dangerous challenge for the authoritarian government.
Tajikistan’s health-care system is underfunded and unequipped to deal with a widespread outbreak of cases. The government, under President Emomali Rahmon, has suppressed opposition parties, civil society groups, and independent media for years, leading to a vacuum of information.
The ministry did not release any further details such as when the cases were discovered or which hospitals the patients were being treated at.
The state-run Khovar news agency said that the task force ordered that all Tajiks must now wear face coverings when outdoors.
Even as infections skyrocketed in other Central Asian nations, Rahmon flouted warnings from international experts to order social-distancing restrictions or other measures to try to curtail any spread of the disease.
Suspicion has grown amid a spike in respiratory diseases that have been described as pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Even though it had not confirmed any cases at the time, the government last week closed schools for two weeks and suspended the national soccer season over the coronavirus.
Adding to the confusion, the country representative of the World Health Organization, Galina Perfilyeva, has for weeks repeated government insistence that there were no cases in the country.
On April 27, she warned that the country must be ready for the “worst-case scenario.” WHO officials said a team of experts were expected to travel to Tajikistan on April 30.
Turkmenistan now is the only country in Central Asia that has not officially reported any cases of the virus.
Other countries across Central Asia have begun to ease restrictions that were suspended over the coronavirus outbreak.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev said on April 30 that the resumption of economic activities will take into consideration priorities and proceed in 10-day stages beginning on May 1.
According to Abylgaziev, his cabinet has allocated some million for measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Kyrgyz Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev told reporters on April 30 that all checkpoints in Bishkek, the capital, will be removed on May 1 and that police will patrol streets to monitor vehicle movements.
The Health Ministry said on April 30 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 746, including eight deaths.
Neighboring Uzbekistan has begun to ease restrictions as well, announcing that, as of April 30, citizens could resume using private cars from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The use of private vehicles was temporarily banned in March because of the pandemic.
A day earlier, the Uzbek government extended the suspension of all flights abroad to June 30. International flights, except cargo flights, were suspended initially for one month on March 30.
According to health officials, there were 2,017 coronavirus cases, including nine deaths, in Uzbekistan as of April 30.
The largest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been officially registered in Kazakhstan, where the latest figures on April 30 were 3,273 cases with 25 deaths.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Kazakhstan to stop harassing journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saying they are being subjected to “interrogation, prosecution, and violation of the confidentiality of their sources.”
“On the pretext of avoiding panic, the authorities are harassing journalists and bloggers who stray from the official line on the epidemic,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on April 30.
“This exploitation of the state of emergency is harming press freedom in Kazakhstan. It must stop,” Cavelier added.
The statement cited the case of Zaure Mirzakhodjaeva, a journalist and blogger in the southern city of Shymkent, who was summoned and questioned by the police for seven hours last week over a Facebook post.
It said Mirzakhodjaeva is now being criminally investigated for allegedly spreading false information.
Media in Kazakhstan have been subjected to “judicial harassment” since the Central Asian country declared a state of emergency on March 16, according to RSF.
The Paris-based media freedom watchdog said the authorities are “monitoring social media and media outlets closely for what they regard as excessive criticism of the government’s handling of the health crisis.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has shortened a three-day weekend curfew to just one day to allow for celebrations of the May 1 holiday amid ongoing public protests over restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“We propose that the curfew begin at 6 p.m. [on April 30] and last until [May 1] at 5 a.m.,” Vucic told state broadcaster RTS on April 29.
An original plan would have imposed a curfew from the evening of April 30 until the morning of May 4 in order to limit gatherings of people in public places. Serbs traditionally celebrate May 1 with large picnics.
Serbia introduced draconian measures last month, including a state of emergency, the closure of borders, a daily curfew from 5 p.m., and total lockdowns all weekend, including all four days of the Orthodox Easter holiday.
Gatherings of more than five people remain banned, Vucic said.
The decision follows three nights of noisy protests by Serb citizens who were stuck at home and resorted to banging tin pans and drums to vent their anger at the government and its tough containment measures against the virus.
The protests are similar to one held in 1996 and 1997 in response to what they saw as electoral fraud attempts by the Socialist Party of Serbia, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, after local elections in 1996.
The coronavirus protests have also provided an outlet for discontent with the policies of Vucic, a former nationalist firebrand and ex-information minister under Milosevic who later adopted pro-European values.
Many Serbs say Vucic, in power since 2012, and his ruling coalition are displaying traits of authoritarianism, employing oppression against political opponents, stifling media freedoms, corruption, cronyism, and ties with organized crime.
Vucic and his allies deny such accusations.
As of April 2, the number of coronavirus infections in Serbia was almost 8,500, with 168 deaths, according to Serbia’s Health Ministry.
Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.
That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.
American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.
The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.
This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for threeattacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.
The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.
A low-flying military plane zoomed between buildings in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, for roughly half an hour on Jan 18, 2019, panicking residents who said they had no warning of the flyover, and feared it might strike a building.
Residents took to social media, sharing photos and videos of the sight. The large, dark gray plane could be seen circling the city’s skyline, flying just over the tops of buildings and past office windows.
But local news outlets reported that the flyover was just part of a training exercise ahead of Governor-elect Bill Lee’s inauguration on Jan. 18, 2019.
One Nashville resident, Madison Smith, told INSIDER she works on the 16th floor of the Fifth-Third Bank building in downtown and her colleagues phoned the police, and later evacuated the building, when they realized the plane kept weaving through the city’s downtown core.
“You kept seeing it circle around downtown,” she said. “So it came back by our building a second time, and the whole building shook.”
Smith said she and her colleagues realized it was a military plane, due to the size and color, and figured it must have been some sort of government operation. But they couldn’t help but think of 9/11, she said.
“What if something malfunctioned and the wing came into one of our buildings? That wasn’t far-fetched because of how low it was,” she said. “Definitely people were concerned. I was concerned. My colleagues were concerned.”
Nashville residents complained on Twitter that the plane was flying too low over the city, and appeared to just barely miss certain buildings and landmarks.
People in the videos can be heard exclaiming and cursing as the plane draws closer. One person can even be heard speculating which buildings the plane might strike.
But the test run may all have been for nothing — The Tennessean reported that Jan. 19, 2019’s inaugural flyover has already been canceled due to weather concerns.
Smith said the idea was “ridiculous in the first place,” adding that she hoped Lee would release a statement reassuring the residents who panicked.
“Congrats on your inauguration, I don’t think that’s a great start. Just to frighten your people straight off the bat,” she said. “A military operation in a city is just striking to me. Especially to have it all for nothing, I wouldn’t have wanted him to do it in the first place. Let’s just have a parade.”
Lee’s transition team did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.
If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.
1. Get in shape.
Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.
In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.
First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.
3. Work on our relationships.
Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.
Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.
We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.
From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.
4. Finally finish our education.
We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…
It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.
5. Spend more time with family.
Because together everyone achieves more!
Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.
After months of praise — calling him “smart”, congratulating his reelection, floating forming a “Cyber Security unit” — President Donald Trump finally called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Twitter April 8, 2018, for the first time since taking office.
Trump placed part of the blame on Putin for the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018. Putin’s government has backed Syrian government forces for years, while the US has sided with the opposition rebels.
“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump tweeted, referring to Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Big price … to pay.”
Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, said that if the US can get confirmation that chemical weapons were indeed used, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in April 2017 after the US concluded Assad’s regime was behind another chemical attack.
“I think he’s probably going to engage in strikes against Syria,” Bremmer told Business Insider on April 8, 2018. “He’s made very clear both then and now that he’s not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime.”
(The White Helmets / Screenshot)
Lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Trump to make the call. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went so far as to say that Trump’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria “emboldened Assad.”
“Trump was quick to call out Assad, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it,” McCain said in a statement. “The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons in 2017. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”
‘A defining moment’
Bremmer said Trump’s “strange” unwillingness to criticize Putin, and Russia in general, finally changed on April 8, 2018.
“None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It’s not like he cares about being nice to people,” Bremmer said. “Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying.”
The Trump administration is already imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities, and has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Bremmer said the US could decide to impose harsher sanctions on the country, conduct cyber attacks, or even release embarrassing information on Putin.
Former President Barack Obama didn’t escalate into this territory, Bremmer said, because Obama “recognized there was a potential for escalation that was quite dangerous.”
Trump also criticized Obama in a follow-up tweet on April 8, 2018, saying that his predecessor should have “Drawn A Red Line In The Sand.”
“There’s one thing we know is that Trump absolutely wants to show that he is the opposite of Obama,” Bremmer said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump has the opportunity to “reset the table” in Syria, and suggested bombing Assad’s air force and setting up so-called safe zones to achieve peace.
“If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Graham said. “So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”
What the international community plans to do about Assad
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
“One of the few things that Trump has done in foreign policy that really the international community widely supported was the strikes that he engaged in April 2017,” Bremmer said.
The US, along with France, the UK and other nations called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held on April 9, 2018, “in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted April 8, 2018.
“This is becoming all too common,” Haley wrote. “Strong action is needed.”
The US could partner with France in the strike directly. Bremmer said French President Emmanuel Macron “recently put out his own red lines against Assad, saying that he would strike any base that lethal chemical attacks were launched from. He said he’d do it by himself.”
Bremmer said “given that Macron and Trump have both made those statements, I think strikes against Assad do make sense,” adding that the US would need to be careful not to hit Russian forces.
One potential downside is that Russia could execute more cyber attacks in response, Bremmer said, which could further deteriorate relations between the US and Russia.
“We’re not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period,” Bremmer said. “If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it’s an appropriate thing to do in this environment.”
As Coast Guard paychecks went undelivered Jan. 15, 2019, as the result of an ongoing partial government shutdown, the service’s top officer urged its members to stay the course.
In a public letter published Jan. 15, 2019 on his social media pages, Adm. Karl Schultz said the day’s missed paycheck, to his knowledge, marked the first time in the history of the nation “that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.”
The Coast Guard, the only military service to fall under the Department of Homeland Security, is also the only service with payroll affected by the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, 2018. The Coast Guard was able to issue final paychecks for the year, but will be unable to distribute further pay until a budget deal is reached or another appropriation agreement is made.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro navigates through the Oakland Estuary en route to the cutter’s homeport of Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
In all, some 55,000 Coast Guard active-duty, reserve and civilian members are going without pay; the number includes 42,000 active-duty service members.
Coast Guard civilians have been on furlough or working without pay since the shutdown began.
“Your senior leadership, including [DHS] Secretary [Kirstjen] Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments,” Schultz said in his letter. “I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf.”
Schultz added that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the service’s official military relief society, received a million donation from USAA to support those in need. The American Red Cross will help distribute the funds, he said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon Adams from Coast Guard Station Venice, Louisiana, tows a vessel that was disabled approximately 25 miles south of Venice.
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo courtesy of Coast Guard Station Venice)
“I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women,” Schultz said. “It is a direct reflection of the American public’s sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.”
The Coast Guard, Schultz said, had already many times proven the ability to rise above adversity.
“Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride,” he wrote. “You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.
It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.
The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.
Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.
Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.
The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.
This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.
Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.
Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.
Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.
“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”
Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.
“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”
Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.
Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.
One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.
Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.
Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.
“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.
“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”
Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.
“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”
In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.
Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.
“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.
He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.
“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.
Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.
“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”
Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.
“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”
“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.
China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.
“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.
“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”
China’s J-20 stealth fighter.
The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.
Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.
“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.
In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.
But it’s unclear how long that process will take.
“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army’s new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter featuring a digital cockpit has made its first flight, a company announced.
The chopper, basically a UH-60L upgraded with the new Integrated Avionics Suite, flew for the first time on Jan. 19 in Huntsville, Alabama, according to a release Monday from Northrop Grumman Corp. The base is home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.
The utility rotorcraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit, but Northrop won a contract in 2014 to upgrade between 700 and 900 L models of the aircraft with the new cockpit design, which replaces older analogue gauges with digital electronic instrument displays. The technology is already included in UH-60M production models.
“This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters,” Ike Song, vice president of mission solutions at Northrop, said in a statement.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based company won the Army deal over such competitors as Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, according to an Aviation Week report at the time.
The new system is nearly identical to the UH-60M interface, according to Northrop. The technology is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements for military and civilian airspace around the world, the company said.
The Army a decade ago began receiving UH-60M variants featuring the new digital cockpits. The M model is the most advanced variant of the helicopter and remains in production.
On August 14th, 1945, as news of the Allied victory over Imperial Japan reached the United States, Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt immortalized an unlikely pair in a photograph which has come to represent the jubilation and relief Americans felt upon the conclusion of the Second World War.
The picture features a sailor planting a kiss on a very surprised dental assistant in the middle of Times Square, New York City, while onlookers smile, laugh, and walk by. On February 17th, one George Mendonsa — widely believed to be the sailor in that image — passed away at the age of 95.
Mendonsa was preceded in death by his paramour in the image, Greta Zimmer Friedman, who died in 2016 of age-related health complications.
Alfred Eisenstaedt signing a print of his V-J Day in Times Square picture.
(Wikimedia Commons photograph by William Waterway Marks)
For years, the identities of the two kissers were unknown, with a number of men and women stepping forward to lay claim to their part in what soon turned into one of the most famous and iconic photographs of all time. Friedman herself did not see the picture until the 1960s, when she came across it in book of Eisenstaedt’s works.
After contacting Life Magazine with her account of what went down that balmy August day in New York, it became apparent that she was undoubtedly the female participant in the picture, though Life only got back to her in 1980 to confirm. It was just around that same time that Life brought along George Mendonsa, who claimed to be the sailor.
V-J Day in Times Square.
(Wikimedia Commons photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt)
Though, according to Friedman, the kiss happened quickly and was a complete surprise to her, she recognized Mendonsa and held that he was the celebrating smoocher from that day, celebrating the end of the war.
Mendonsa served on a destroyer as a helmsman and was, at the time, on shore leave from the USS The Sullivans dreading yet another wartime deployment overseas. As such, the young sailor was with his fiancee (yes, you read that right) taking in shows on Broadway and partying it up before he was due to ship out again.
The news of the war ending was obviously a major relief to the sailor who, living up to the drinking reputation of sailors worldwide, was already sporting an alcohol-induced buzz by early afternoon. He apparently couldn’t help himself amidst the throngs of euphoric New Yorkers and pulled the first woman he saw into a quick kiss.
As it turned out, the first woman he saw was a young dental assistant named Greta, who was told to close the dental clinic and go home to celebrate when news broke about the Japanese surrender in the Pacific Theater.
Greta Friedman and George Mendonsa as the guests of honor at a 4th of July parade in 2009.
George’s then-fiancee, Rita Petrie, is visible in the picture standing there with a laugh watching her sailor’s antics. She must have been greatly caught up in the celebration, as she later recalled, because it didn’t register on her mind that her man had just swapped spit with another woman right in front of her.
Either that, or Rita was in a very forgiving mood, as she spent the next 70 years blissfully married to the love of her life — George Mendonsa — who later joined the family business and became a fisherman in Rhode Island.
Friedman let on that she and Mendonsa maintained a cordial relationship due to their bond as the kissing couple from the V-J Day in Times Square picture, exchanging cards throughout the years before she died in 2016.
Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.
Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.
Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.
“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”
With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.
“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”
For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.
“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”
Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.
U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”
Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.
“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”
When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.
“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.
The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.
“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”
Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.