Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.
Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.
Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.
Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.
As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.
President Donald Trump’s administration is warning Syria that further chemical attacks will be met with a strike like the salvo of 59 cruise missiles that lit up a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Syria would be “ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, the Washington Examiner notes.
Two senior administration officials warned that the US could take military action against Syria following a new rash of reports of chemical weapons used against civilians supposedly carried out by the country’s government, The Cipher Brief reported.But even bigger than another strike on Syria — which, while eye-catching, changed little geopolitically — the officials said the US was on to Syria’s backer and enabler: Russia.
“They’re not trying to fool us. They know what we know,” one of the officials said, meaning that Russia isn’t even trying to hide its role in the chemical attacks. “They’re trying to fool you.”
The official was referring to Russia’s media offensive to deny its connection to chemical weapons use in Syria.
An agreement between the US in Russia in 2013 bound Moscow to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, but as repeated instances of chemical weapons attacks show, that was simply not the case.
The officials’ statements to The Cipher Brief follow Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements that Russia “bears responsibility” for the chemical warfare still unfolding in Syria.
But while the Trump administration has resolved to punish Syria’s use of chemical weapons with military force, a change in tactics from Damascus may complicate things. Instead of the sarin gas used in April, which requires sophisticated assembly and deployment by an air force, the recent attacks have used chlorine gas, which can simply be dumped out of a truck.
Former US ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute fellow James Jeffrey told BI that there have been persistent reports of chlorine attacks in Syria since 2013, and it’s not as clearly banned by international agreements as sarin.
Additionally, Jeffrey pointed out that the attacks have not been independently verified by an international agency, meaning it would be harder to build an international consensus around a strike.
“We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use,” said Mattis. “We are looking for the evidence.”
But with Russian and Iranian influence growing in Syria and posing a direct threat to US foreign policy interests, it’s possible that the Trump administration may look to make a statement that it’s not buying Russia’s excuses anymore.
The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is here, and no one is really sure what that means. Since the changes were announced last fall, there have been more questions than answers about what the new ACFT is going to look like and, well, how hard it truly is. Hint: It’s pretty freaking hard.
How it started
Old school soldiers are all very accustomed to the three-event Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) that involves running, sit-ups, and pushups, and even if all you did was PT with your unit, you could probably muscle through well enough to pass. Now, that’s not exactly the case.
Back in 2013, senior leadership began exploring the physical demands of “common soldier tasks.” This review, along with an examination of a study funded by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, showed that the old APFT standards were super outdated. Not only was the APFT based on age and gender, but it also didn’t take into account the actual job functions a soldier might perform with their unit.
The study’s final conclusion revealed what lots of soldiers have known for a long time: a tanker’s on the job requirements are much different from a 68-series soldier. The new ACFT aims to change that.
The ACFT is a six-event test, and it’s tough. Senior Army leadership says that the revisions to physical standards will help increase combat readiness and ensure a more highly trained, disciplined, and physically fit military. The new ACFT has been designed to improve soldier and unit readiness and transform the Army’s fitness culture from fringe to mainstream.
Not only are the events different in this new version, but the scoring has changed as well. Revised standards show scores for each of the six events up to a max score, and highlights the minimum score a soldier must meet based on MOS, categorized by how physically demanding jobs are. This is a nod to the Marine Corps fitness standards testing that tests based on MOS.
The New Events and their standards
The new ACFT includes the following six events in this order:
The old APFT gave soldiers a max time of 2 hours to complete the testing. Now, the new ACFT has a strict time limit of just 50 minutes.
The challenge for many soldiers and units is the training that’s required for the new ACFT. In addition to needing a strong deadlift to get a high score and serious throwing power for the Standing Power Throw, the new version requires a lot of discipline and focus as well.
New Challenges Emerge
It’s no secret that recruitment is down right now, and one of the biggest hurdles facing the Army is the ACFT. In the pursuit of combat-ready soldiers, some have argued that the Army has placed new barriers on success, especially for non-combat arms MOS.
After all, the new ACFT came in part from former SecDef Mattis’ push for a more lethal force in the Army and a wider attempt to take a harder stance on obesity. Of course, physical fitness needs to be at the foundation of military culture, standards, and bearing. It’s part of what sets the military aside from the rest of the population.
But some are asking if that means that the best soldier needs to be the fittest soldier. As the ACFT rolls out and testing begins Army-wide, more revisions may come from on high. For now, most units are just continuing to train.
As part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support to provide support and security to the Afghan National Government in the face resurgent terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the US has provided A-29 light air support planes to the fledgling Afghan Air Force.
Throughout the video, you can hear US Air Force trainers instructing the Afghan pilots.
The A-29s in the video are firing off rockets, as well as the .50 calibre guns.
The planes have five hardpoints on each wing and can carry up to 3,300 pounds of additional ordinance, like AIM-9X missiles, rocket pods, 20 mm cannons, smart freefall bombs, and even air-to-air missiles, according to IHS Jane’s.
Watch the full video below (the firing starts at around the 3:10 mark):
Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.
At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)
If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.
A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)
They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”
These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.
A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?
Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.
3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.
To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.
Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.
2. Balancing legacy and prevention.
Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.
While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?
These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.
1. Leaders also need the tribe.
Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.
As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.
Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.
When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.
TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.
For a special tribute to the troops during the NFL’s Salute to Service month, Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis joined a few military members and Redskins special teams coordinator and former Army Apache pilot Ben Kotwica for what he thought was going to be a normal meal.
However, little did Vernon know that while the military members would be treated to a regular meal, Vernon would get a literally get a “taste” of military life, chowing down on a standard-issue Meal Ready to Eat, or MRE.
In a meal filled with laughter, Vernon dutifully tries to assemble his MRE, gaining a first-hand appreciation for our nation’s service members. The experience was hosted by USAA, the Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL, as part of its commitment to bringing authentic football experiences directly to the military.
US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on May 20, 2019, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced May 21, 2019, that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight May 20, 2019, near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.
It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.
NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.
“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”
The bomber flights May 20, 2019, came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.
“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”
The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
British Army recruiters have embraced 360-degree videos, where the viewer can decide what direction they want to look at any given moment, and are using them to let potential recruits see different army jobs.
“Army Urban Ops” follows a squad as the men clear a series of buildings. It is the most watched of the 360-degree videos despite the big yellow blank adapters.
The tanker video is also great. The default view is down the gun as a Challenger II Tank races through the countryside, but swipe your finger on your phone or click and drag with your mouse to look left and see another tank firing its cannon and machine guns.
The airborne version puts the viewer into the middle of a paratrooper drop and a mountaineering one allows them to climb along a narrow ridge with soldiers.
Towards the end of WWII, allied forces gained much-needed ground on diminished German forces while Adolf Hitler was carefully concealing a dark secret from his devoted followers.
Years prior, Hitler was seen in several propaganda films walking tall and strong. As time progressed, detailed media footage was limited as the Führer showed signs of a major debilitating disease.
The German leader tried to hide his declining posture, stumbling walk and hand tremors during his public appearances. Theodore Morell was Hitler’s devoted personal physician for nine years but missed the critical condition — Parkinson’s disease.
My mother’s friend Akemi was beautiful. Gentle, with a lightness in her presence and the way she moved. She had a quiet home and taught me how to use chopsticks. She was Okinawan and married a soldier that my father served with.
Lydia lived two doors down from my family. She was German and had married an American soldier, too. I assume that if you didn’t know her she would come off as gruff and difficult but I loved her as if she were a blood relative. She smoked cigarettes and yelled at the huge Rottweiler whose head bounced off the underside of her dining room table.
Anna married my team sergeant when he was an upstart infantryman stationed in Panama. She spoke Spanish around us and I could usually understand the scolding that she gave to her husband and kids. She put up with our young, dumb soldier antics and let us drink too many beers in her living room while we watched the pay-per-view fight where Tyson bit Holyfield‘s ear off.
These women are just a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of women, and increasingly men, who have married America’s uniformed representatives stationed around the world; brave women who relinquished their cultures, families and pasts in order to embark on new adventures as part of the US military family. Their stories continue today but there are fewer of them, with younger sailors, airmen and Marines marrying spouses originally from Europe and Asia, but we must assume at a much lower rate.
Why assume? Because no one keeps records – not the Defense or State departments – that might tack down how many foreign born people have married American service members over the past century, though we can assume it to be a significant number. In the 1980s, in one New York City neighborhood alone, there were more than 100 British-born war brides who gathered in fellowship as a group known as the Flushing Crumpets. However impossible it may be to put hard numbers on the population of foreign-born military spouses over the years, there can be no dispute that there are fewer international spouses marrying men and women who wear America’s military uniforms than during the height of the Cold War.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, is my adopted hometown. It lies just outside of Fort Bragg – the Army’s most populated installation and was long one of the main debarkation points for newly arrived, foreign-born military spouses. The United States is a nation of immigrants, but there is something extra-special about Fort Bragg, and the dozens of communities across the nation that sidle up next to the posts and bases. Or at least there has been for most of the post World War II era. Fort Bragg in particular is the home base for the Army’s airborne and special operations forces, which draws soldiers back to the post from the corners of the planet like a tractor beam, and with them spouses from a rainbow of nations – Vietnam, Germany, Korea, Panama and Thailand.
Even with its diverse military population of more than 50,000 soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines, Fort Bragg isn’t dealing with a rush of foreign spouses in need of help navigating a transition to American military spousehood. According to Stacy Williams, the post’s Multicultural Readiness Programs coordinator, even before the restrictions mandated by COVID-19, the post had no more than 2-3 foreign spouses attend bi-monthly International Spouse Orientation courses, and only one person was currently scheduled to attend the course that resumed from its COVID-mandated pause in January 2021.
Why does this matter? Maybe it doesn’t but I think who our service members choose as spouses tells us quite a bit about how the US government arrays its military influence around the globe.
General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made minor headlines Dec. 3, 2020, after suggesting that he would rather not have the U.S. military permanently station large numbers of service members and families in partner nations in Europe and Asia. But he also balked at having large numbers of units on rotational deployments as has increasingly been DoD policy in places like Poland and the Baltic nations, to counter Russian aggression, and the Pacific Rim in Guam and Australia.
Peacetime, strategic deployments of the US military, whether permanent stationing or rotational assignments, are more the experiences of a Cold War military and with the international upheaval of the post-Berlin Wall collapse, and increasingly less of a reflection of current American foreign policy. Milley’s comments, then, are less hints of a new American deployment strategy than they are a recommitment of the past two decades of geopolitical gamesmanship.
Economists use leading and lagging indicators as a kind of weathervane to gauge the health and direction of an economic system. One of these lagging indicators of how US military policy has affected international diplomacy might come from the changing nature of the international make up of the communities that surround military installations Stateside. The demographic shifts around US posts and bases over the past three decades might tell us as much about where America has decided to spend its diplomatic capital as well as how many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are stationed for three years in places like Okinawa and Ramstein.
The American government, up until the post-World War II era, had exhibited an incredible bit of self-restraint in terms of expansionism. Other than short stints to claim territory during the Spanish American war, American administrations were generally loathe to commit the American military outside of its borders. President Woodrow Wilson famously dragged his feet during World War I and made every effort to keep America out of the conflict in Europe. The bitter taste of the First World War in Congress’ mouth led to the enactment of neutrality acts, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt found ways to work around before America’s involvement in World War II was assured by the attack at Pearl Harbor. After the Axis Powers were defeated, though, America’s isolationist past was exactly that – a thing of the past.
At the height of the Cold War in the middle of the 20th Century, there were more than 400,000 Americans in uniform stationed across Europe, from Greenland to the tip of Italy, which has drawn down to about 75,000 as of early 2020. In the Pacific Theater, there are still nearly 78,000 service members, mainly split between South Korea and Japan. In the decades following the end of World War II and the signing of the Armistice that ended the Korean War, more than 70,000 service members were station in South Korea alone, where soldiers and Airmen were, like their compatriots in Germany, England and Italy, often free to spend their free time in local communities, often in the company of local young women.
Engagements, and eventually marriage, between service members in post-World War II Europe and Asia had become enough of a concern for the military, and the American government as a whole, that the US Congress passed the American War Brides Act in late 1945 that allowed for the immigration to the United States of more than 100,000 military-connected newly-weds and fiancés outside of the strict immigration quotas emplaned after the war.
But with the retrenchment of American foreign policy, the ability for service members to have direct, often very direct, contact with foreigners while deployed has been curtailed. The challenge to validating military marriages as a lagging indicator of US foreign policy, though, is that no one keeps records on how many German and Korean and Japanese and Italian brides have left their homes on the uniformed arms of soldiers, sailors and Airmen over the years.
For nearly all of the 20th Century, the US military assumed a dominant position along the rim of the South China Sea in the Philippines with thousands of American stationed at Clark Naval Base Subic Bay and then Clark Air Base near the Philippine capital of Manila. Following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, the US Air Force made a hasty retreat and the Navy followed suit by sailing from Subic Bay in 1992 when an agreement for stationing US Naval forces fell through. With China making inroads in the South Pacific, the US government made a recent play to return the Navy to Subic Bay, which was nixed by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte in July 2020.
In 1999, American forces similarly withdrew from a nearly century-long mission in Panama to serve as a regional presence and to guard over the Panama Canal. When President Jimmy Carter signed the 1977 agreement to relinquish control of the canal to the Panamanian government, he also severed a pipeline that saw Panamanian brides join their American husbands, who were part of a 10,000-strong American military force in Central America, from stationing at Fort Clayton to new homes at places like Fort Hood, Fort Lewis and Washington, DC.
The reduction in permanent stationing of the US military across the globe, combined with a lessening of American political and economic dominance, has diluted the international make up of many military communities here in the States. There are parallels to the ways that service members were deployed to South East Asia during the Vietnam War and how soldiers and Marines have been dispatched to the post-9/11 Middle East and Southwest Asia. Almost anyone in Vietnam and Iraq could be considered a threat. Shorter tours with little to no interaction with the communities that they patrolled and monitored meant that young American men and women have had almost no chance to woo potential romantic partners. Low-intensity conflict zones with daily guerrilla attacks aren’t typical hookup hotbeds for young Americans dressed head to toe in their finest Kevlar body armor.
And I don’t think that we have even considered the vast cultural differences that removed invading American forces from the dating pools in Kandahar and Anbar and Mogadishu and what that means for the cultural makeup of military-connected communities. Since the Departments of Defense and State don’t keep specific records on who service members marry, it becomes a challenge to know how many may have married natives of Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries following American warriors back from combat deployments. But anecdotes show that there are probably just a handful, including an Army Civil Affairs officer who was felled in combat shortly after settling his Iraqi wife in her new hometown near Fort Bragg, NC.
The vast cultural differences that exist between Americans and the residents of the communities in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa that those Americans have occupied in the past two decades can’t account for the majority of the reduction in foreign-born spouses immigrating to the States. Economics, and America’s status as a dominant force on the world stage, may have just as big a role to play.
Elke Steele, a German who married an American soldier stationed near Stuttgart in 1990, now works for a match-making website that helps to connect Germans living near Wiesbaden with Americans and other non-German residents. She agrees that there are fewer fraulines marrying soldiers and Airmen, but suggests that it’s more than just a matter of fewer Americans being stationed in Europe.
Steele says that German women have “their own careers, a good lifestyle (with) free universal health care” and that they don’t want to leave their families and friends behind for the promise of a new life in America. Complicating matters, she says, are restrictions based on the threat of terrorism that keep GIs confined to their installations and the simple fact that “the dollar isn’t worth anything anymore.”
The promise of a better life in the States for German women isn’t so promising, Steele feels. But perhaps it is for women from Eastern Europe and Russia, women whom Steele feels are prized by young American men for being “more feminine and still believing that the woman stays at home raising the kids, while the man is the breadwinner of the family.”
Steele’s ground level appreciation for the shift in romantic partnering between American service members and foreign nationals holds true for Dr. Morton Ender, a sociology professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Ender notes that “German, Italian and British women don’t marry up anymore when they marry a soldier – unless they bag an officer” and that military officers generally take partners who are college educated, which shrinks the pool of potential war brides immigrants even further. Ender’s analysis of demographic data also suggests that currently many soldiers are already married or in serious, long-term relationships before they deploy.
America is asking its warriors to soldier in ways that they haven’t been asked to in the past – more one-year and shorter deployment, more unaccompanied deployments and missions to countries and cultures that are not welcoming of American soldiers on an individual and romantic level. And while the Biden administration has promised more robust foreign policy positions and a greater willingness to engage in diplomacy with partners and adversaries alike, there is no hint that that the US military will engage in a wholesale redeployment of its forces to Europe and Asia to counter the continuing belligerence from Russia and China.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 didn’t end the great powers competition for influence and resources, but it did crumble the need for the US government to maintain mini-Americas across the globe that served as way stations for young women, and increasingly young men, to immigrate to the States as a soldier’s spouse. As a nation of immigrants, it seems unlikely that the rich jumble of culture and language that collects on military installations and just outside the gates will completely wither away, but the high water mark of the Cold War’s long-term deployment is well faded and with it, the sounds and smells of the cultures of America’s 20th Century war brides.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if we have foreign-born spouses who add richness and texture to our military communities and beyond. But it makes me lament there are kids growing up today who might never have their own Akemis, Lydias and Annas who will help them to know the world is much more than strip malls and carbon-copy chain restaurants, and that our immigrants – many who come to the States on the arm of an American in dress uniform – are the people who continue to feed life into the American experience.
Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.
It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.
The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)
Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.
The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.
“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.
Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.
Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.
On Nov. 15th, Mark Esper was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by a seven vote margin in the U.S. Senate. He was President Trump’s third pick for the position after Vincent Viola, founder of Virtu Financial, and Sen. Mark Green were forced to drop out of the confirmation process before hearings began.
Esper rounds out the final Trump service secretary to be approved by the Senate. Heather Wilson was confirmed as Air Force secretary in May while Richard Spencer was confirmed as Navy secretary in August.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ go-to man for the U.S. Army has a long Army history that includes active and reserve duty as well as time in the National Guard.
The ‘Left Hook’ of the First Gulf War
Esper’s military career began after he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986. He made the West Point Dean’s List and received the MacArthur Award for Leadership. From there, he became an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
In 1990, he deployed in support of the first Gulf War, where his battalion, the 3-187th Infantry Battalion, played a vital role in General Norman Schwarzkopf’s “Left Hook.” The idea was to avoid the heavily fortified Iraq-Kuwait border by coming in through Saudi Arabia to cut off the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard divisions still stationed in Kuwait. For his actions in Iraq, Esper received the Bronze Star and his Combat Infantryman Badge, among other awards.
Esper then commanded an airborne unit in Europe before becoming an Army Fellow at the Pentagon. In 1995, he graduated from Harvard with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Time in Washington
Esper was promoted to lieutenant colonel before retiring through service in the National Guard and Army Reserve. After two years as the Chief of Staff at The Heritage Foundation, Esper became a senior staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Between 2002 and 2004, Esper was the Bush Administration’s deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for negotiations policy, nonproliferation, and international agreements, where he was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal for his work. From 2004 and 2006, he was the Director for National Security Affairs for the U.S. Senate.
He left the military side of Washington to be the executive vice-president of the non-profit trade group Aerospace Industries Association in 2006, but left to be Senator Fred Thompson’s national policy director during his short 2008 presidential campaign.
Time at Raytheon
Esper went on to become the next vice-president of government relations at Raytheon. Raytheon is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles and currently stands as the third largest defense contractor by defense revenue, earning $22.3 billion — with 93 percent coming from government contracts.
As a lobbyist for Raytheon, he was one of The Hill’s top corporate lobbyists for his “influence on major legislation such as the annual defense policy bill” in both 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, he earned $1.52 million at Raytheon, which includes his salary and bonuses, but does not include his stock options and deferred compensation at the company, worth anywhere from $1.5 million to as much as $6 million.
Esper agreed before his confirmation that he would “recuse himself from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him” but the “deferred compensation” after five years mentioned above from Raytheon may still be a conflict of interest.
According to Breaking Defense, he will most likely become “a soft-spoken wingman to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.” Esper’s entire career has been defined by quiet and low-key performance so it would make sense that he would continue to serve as a diligent mediator between Defense Secretary Mattis and General Milley.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Commitee on Nov. 2, Esper reiterated Milley’s readiness first policy. “My first priority will be readiness — ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict. With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority.”