After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates 'staying put' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates ‘staying put’

I’ve developed an itch.

No, not like that time in college.

The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.

It’s time to move again. PCS.

It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.

It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.


You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”

You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.

You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.

“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…

It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.

Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.

Regardless — it’s time to go.

Except it’s not.

We’ve been extended.

For an indeterminate amount of time.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)

It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.

Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.

Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”

One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…

And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)

Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.

But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.

The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.

Now I have to clean my damn house.

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

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These 14 expert tips will help you nail your military transition

The military is a tough act to follow and finding the right job takes effort and focus. And just like life in the fleet, having a battle buddy or a wingman to help get it right is important. So to get you thinking right, here are 13 tips from transition experts, recruiters whose job is to get you a job.


1. Approach the job like long-term relationship, not a rebound

The question I most often am asked is “How much am I going to make?”. That question is a natural reaction because people are nervous when transitioning, but statistically many leave their first transition job within nine months because they jumped at the first dollar amount that met their requirements. To avoid this, you need to be thinking long-term. Look deeper than the paycheck and ask about a company’s growth potential. Research their culture and values. Where you start within a company is not where you’re going to finish.

Don’t self-select out of job descriptions that say you must have corporate experience or degree. Look for ways to circumvent or meet those requirements. The military is one of the largest corporations in America, and you worked for it. If a job requires a master’s degree, start pursing your masters and indicate that on your resume.

LinkedIn offers premium membership to veterans so you can find geo-specific job opportunities and obtain certifications. You can find a list of veteran friendly companies on Hiring our Heroes’ website.

— Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Hiring our Heroes, Senior Director for Events and Programs

2. Use your spouse as an asset

Greatest assets a transitioning service member has is their military spouse. So when they are in their final stages of transition, if we are empowering spouses with jobs and employment, it allows the service member to be more selective in their selection and oftentimes a spouse has flexibility – if they need to move ahead to wherever they have decided to retire (from the military) to, they have that option and flexibility.

Military, military spouses and veterans can sign up for a free account at Hiring Our Heroes Dashboard for resume building tools, job listings, and more.

— Elizabeth O’Brien, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Director of Military Spouse Program

(Photo: U.S. Army)

3. Leverage your military status

Be confident. Military applicants hold a stronger position in the hiring process than ever before. You’re a valuable asset. There are companies that offer mentorship programs for transitioning servicemen and women. They are prepared to assist you in you fine-tuning your resume and can help you tell your story in civilian terms. Start identifying those companies six months before you transition, they will want to see a first draft of your resume, so be ready for that.

Military, military spouses and veterans looking for a job in the transportation industry can check out Trucking Track.

— Stan Hampton, VP Driver Personnel, J.B. Hunt Transport

(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)

4. Tailor your resume for each submission

A common mistake that veterans make is they will generate a generic resume that applies to everything and they use they same resume for every job they apply for.  Instead, take your time, read the job description and really highlight your skills as it relates to that role that they are applying to.

US Chamber of Commerce and My Next Move for Veterans are great resources for veterans.

— Michael A. Alexander, Military Recruiting and Engagement Lead, Comcast NBCUniversal

Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)

5. Answer interview questions like a S.T.A.R.

Most organizations tend to use behavioral based interview questions. When answering your interviewer’s questions, try to use the ‘S.T.A.R.’ format: Situation, Task, Action and Result.  This will help differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Afsheen Saatchi, Military Recruiter, Starbucks

(Click here to find career opportunities at Starbucks.)

6. Spouses, own the gap in your resume

I encourage military spouses to indicate somewhere on their resume that they are a military spouse. Some are nervous to do that because they think companies may discriminate against them, but I tell them – you don’t want to work for a company with that kind of culture anyway. There are companies that do look out for military spouse resumes, and will overlook those gaps and take their volunteer experience into consideration.

— Lauren Bacon, Hilton Worldwide, Manager of Military Programs

(Check this site to find military spouse friendly companies: MSEP Jobs.)

(Click here to find career opportunities within Hilton Worldwide.)

(Photo: J.B. Hunt)

7. Look for a company that provides a path

You need a process that allows you to transition and progress. Many companies are inviting veterans to apply, but make sure they are able to do more than just hire you. When you’re speaking with company representatives be looking for them to provide a path for you – a detailed timeline that provides a clear sequence to a meaningful career. Avoid companies that are unable or unwilling to do this.

— Dave Harrison, Military Program Management, J. B. Hunt Transport

(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)

8. Find a career coach

As a recruiter, many approach me a job fairs and say: “Here’s my resume, what do you have?” Transition is a time where military service members have a choice to make. They can work for the government or get defense contracting job, or move to an entirely different industry, at which point they don’t have the expertise to move into a lateral position. It’s good to have a career coach, they can rely on their MOS, and can also reach out to others who have transitioned and begin a dialogue.

Here’s an online resource for transitioning military and veterans to find an industry-specific virtual mentor: ACP AdvisorNet

— Abie Chong, Military and Veteran Recruiter, Hilton Worldwide

(Click here to find career opportunities within Hilton Worldwide.)

9. Start the application process a year before you get out

Understand no employer will wait for you, but the more you apply, the more practice you get, and the more confident you will become. You may even get a few pre-screening interviews, do them for practice, it will take out the nerves out of the whole ordeal. Applying for jobs sooner than later will also help you gather information on what skills are needed in the field you’re looking to transition to, and will give you ideas on how to fine-tune your resume.

Jonathan Morales, Production Standards Training Specialist, Lufthansa Technik

(Click here to find career opportunities within Lufthansa Technik.)

10. Explore industries you may never have considered

Expose yourself to different industries, because you may have a preconception about a particular industry and when you delve into it, you may be surprised on how many different career paths and jobs there are.  For instance, running a hotel is like running an Army base where all different departments that come together to make it operational. Military personnel can really translate what they do currently into any operations position when they transition. It’s all logistics.

If you’re about to transition or transitioning watch:  Reinventing Michael Banks

Melissa Stirling, Director of Military Programs, Hilton Worldwide

(Click here to find career opportunities within Hilton Worldwide.)

11. Lead with your leadership experience

Think beyond your MOS, AFSC, or whatever. Whether you’re getting out after two years or a thirty-five year career, be able to break down how you lead and how you manage. For example, if you’re a cook, explain what you do in that role because recruiters who don’t have military experience may not know what that job really entails – you handle food safety, quality control, acquisitions, and leadership management of a time-pressed, no-fail team. Military are able to plan and analyze future threats and opportunities, showcase that on your resume and talk about it in interviews.

Turn your military skills into a certificate: Institute for Veterans and Military Families

Dave Gualin, Director, Military Veteran Affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal

(Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)

12. Focus on companies that have committed to hiring veterans

There are companies who have committed to hiring a certain number of veterans a year, so make sure your service is in the objective (top section) of your resume so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

— Grant Johnston, VP Business Development, Airsteams Renewables, Inc.

(Click here to find career opportunities at Airstreams Renewables.)

13. Take the time today to plan for tomorrow

You 16 hours or more a day, but planning for your transition is essential in ensuring your success.  As you get closer to retirement from the service, let your friends and family know that you’re looking, they can be a great asset for you. Set a timer for thirty minutes a day to focus on what you’re going to do when you get out of the military. Purpose to apply for one job a day.

Jeff Duff, President, Airstreams Renewables, Inc.

(Photo: U.S. Army)

14. Remember, you’re not alone

There are resources out there for all the challenges you face during your transition and beyond. Find them and don’t be afraid to call on them. For example, the American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran’s organization and has a presence in each community with over 14,000 posts across the country.  If you’re about to transition into a new community, find the post nearest to where you will be and let them know you’re coming. They are there to help. We are more than a banquet hall, we are a community resource.

Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion

(Click here to find career opportunities and other resources through the American Legion.)

 

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Mattis orders separate reviews of F-35, Air Force One programs

Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.


In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

Related: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.

The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.

“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.

“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.

How many people view the F-35 program at this point. | WATM /U.S. Navy photo

Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.

Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.

On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.

Also read: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“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!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.

While it hasn’t caused quite the media firestorm the F-35 program has caused, Air Force One still has its share of cost overruns. | Wikimedia Commons photo

Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.

“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.

“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The new pizza MRE has everything you could want

For all those troops who get the munchies in a war zone, the Army is about to deliver.

After years of development, the Army says that its Meal, Ready to Eat pizza will be in soldiers’ hands by 2019, with availability in some areas before the end of 2018.


Soldiers have been requesting a pizza MRE since the 1980s. By 2012, new technology allowed scientists at the Combat Feeding Directorate at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Massachusetts to begin developing the pizza MRE, seeking to turn the longstanding request for a ready-made pie that troops can heat up in the field into ” a piping-hot reality .”

To qualify as an MRE, the meal has to last three years when stored at 80 degrees or below. Most frozen pizzas will maintain best qualifty for about 18 months , though they usually remain safe to eat after that.

The main course of the Army’s new pizza MRE.

“The real trick is to get bread, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni inside of a pouch, happily together for at least three years,” said Jeremy Whitsitt, the deputy director of the CFD, in an Army release .

“With each of those individual components on their own, we can achieve the shelf life, but when you put them together — chemistry happens,” Whitsitt added. “You have four very distinct food matrices all interacting with each other, which can cause some unwanted results. That’s why developing a shelf-stable pizza has been so hard.”

The Army was able to produce a prototype, and field-testing began in August 2014, but expanding production while maintaining quality was a challenge.

In early 2017, the CFD said that during testing to simulate a three-year period on the shelf, which involved putting the pizza in a 100-degree box for six months, the pizza had turned brown, causing an indefinite delay in the development process.

A soldier enjoys a Meal, Ready-to-Eat pizza during field-testing.

(US Army photo by Michael Stepien)

The browning wasn’t a safety issue, a CFD spokesman said at the time, but the Army wanted to ensure it was giving troops a quality product. The problem was resolved by adding rosemary extract, which prevented the oxidation that caused the browning, a CFD food technologist told Army Times in early 2018.

“We’re able to do a lot of things in the lab, but sometimes when you scale up, working with a producer making these by the thousands, especially with a product that’s never existed before and is not available in the commercial market, replicating the process and coming up with the same results is difficult,” Whitsitt said in the release.

“But we overcame challenges and we’ve got a good product now,” Whitsitt added. “And soldiers will be seeing pizza pretty soon.”

The pizza MRE is expected to be available in some locations before the end of 2018, but most soldiers will likely be able to get their hands on it in 2019.

The new MREs arrived at the Defense Logistics Agency in March 2018, from which the meals ship out on a ” first in, first out” basis. Army installations will get the new MREs based on how many they have and how they’re issued.

US soldiers load MREs onto a helicopter in September 2005.

(DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, US Air Force)

A standard MRE comes with a main course, side dish, a dessert or snack, crackers or bread with cheese, peanut butter or jelly, and powdered drink mix. Each item is fortified with vitamins, and the whole things comes to about 1,200 calories.

The pizza MRE — which will be limited to pepperoni at first — will come with cherry or blueberry cobbler, a cheese spread with either cheddar or jalapeño cheese, Italian bread sticks, cookies, and chocolate protein powder mix.

The CFD has said MREs aren’t loaded with preservatives or chemicals and their shelf life comes from the processing and packaging. Longevity was only one consideration, according to Whitsitt.

“When you break it down, food is fuel. The fuel that powers the soldier,” he said in the release. “We’re doing a lot of work into what naturally occurring ingredients are needed to increase, and sustain, high performance for an extended period of time.”

Reviews of the pizza MRE have already appeared online, one of which you can watch below:

www.youtube.com

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

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The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider “all options,” including military strikes.


To be fair, the US has always considered all options.

If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.

Related: Here’s what would happen in a war between North and South Korea

But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.

“There is no plausible military option,” Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. “To remove the North Korean government is general war.”

North Korea has a large amount of massive fixed guns trained on South Korea. | KCNA

Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there’s simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.

“This is not a case where you’re striking a nuclear program in its early stages,” said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. “The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago.”

Last month, North Korea tested a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that could be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes. And though the country’s nuclear arsenal is still in its early phases, the country reportedly commands 100 missile launchers with several missiles for each.

Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.

While North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.

But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.

KM-101 105mm artillery firing exercise of Republic of Korea Army 6th Division (ROK photo)

“It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster,” Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. “But that’s nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea’s ability to inflict damage has gone way up.”

As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US’s patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.

Stratfor

However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

“The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations,” Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Toner suggested that comparing the US’s transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea’s 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of “apples to oranges.”

North Korea’s position is “not crazy,” according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia did.

“The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they’re there for an exercise, but you can’t take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion,” said Lewis.

Marines wait for the command to advance after rushing out of a Republic of Korea Marine amphibious assault vehicle March 31, 2014, during Ssang Yong 2014 at Dokseok-ri beach in Pohang, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II

Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.

Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.

Related: New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They’re not going to stop cause they get bored,” Lewis said.

The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to “maximize pain” on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.

Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines and sailors prepare for chemical emergencies

U.S. Marines, sailors, and civilians participated in the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, 2019.

The class is meant to teach students how to both fully understand and effectively respond to emergency situations where dangerous chemicals, substances, and materials are found on military installations.

The week-long class consisted mostly of classroom lectures in addition to an entire day devoted to practical application training exercises where the students worked together to solve applicable, but difficult scenarios.


“I think this class is a big learning curve for a lot of the students here,” says Ashley Hoshihara Cruz, the Camp Foster chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive specialist. “However, the students are really putting in the resources, time, and effort to make this a quality class.”

U.S. Marines prepare to enter a mock-contamination site during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

To encourage teamwork and strengthen leadership capabilities in the class, Wood said that the junior Marines in the class may be placed in leadership roles and find themselves guiding officers and staff noncommissioned officers through tasks the senior Marines may primarily fill.

“It’s really rewarding,” Wood said. “To see these students take the information we, as instructors, gave to them and extract that out to things that we have not talked about, but figured out, nonetheless.”

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathan Hale, a native of Washington D.C. and an explosive ordnance and disposal chief for U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, attaches an oxygen tank to a fellow student during the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response course at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Pulliam)

The HAZWOPER class is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School and has been taught in Okinawa for the past eight years.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A real Nazi hunter was just given one of France’s top awards

In 1968, Beate Klarsfeld jumped up during a political rally and slapped German Chancellor Georg Kiesinger in the face.

On Oct. 8, 2018, the 79-year-old received one of France’s top awards, the National Order of Merit. In the same ceremony, her husband Serge Klarsfeld, 83, received the highest national award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. The couple were recognized by French President Emmanuel Macron for their lifelong dedication to tracking and exposing war criminals.

The Klarsfelds call it their family business. Their enterprise: hunting Nazis. And they’re good at what they do.


Chancellor Kiesinger, who worked in the Nazi’s radio propaganda arm under Joseph Goebbels, was never charged with war crimes. But the couple — who focus on higher-level Nazis, many of whom fled Germany after the war — has helped bring to justice at least 10 war criminals.

Notorious Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, nicknamed the “Butcher of Lyon,” was arrested in Bolivia in 1983. Beate Klarsfeld had tracked him down there over a decade earlier. Barbie was responsible for a reign of terror in France during World War II, and for the arrest and torture or death of tens of thousands of people during that time, including the deportation of 44 Jewish children from the village of Izeu.

Serge Klarsfeld.

The Klarsfelds specialize in tracking down Nazis who found their way out of Germany after the war. They campaigned for the arrest of both Walter Rauff and Alois Brunner. Rauff, who invented the mobile gas chamber while working under Reinhard Heydrich, ultimately made his way to Chile, where he died before he could be extradited and tried. Klarsfeld claims she traced Brunner to Syria, where he reportedly died years ago. Brunner served as the assistant to Adolf Eichmann — the architect of Hitler’s “Final Solution” — and is responsible for sending tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps.

Serge Klarsfeld has previously been awarded with a lower rank of the Legion of Honor. Their son Arno, who is named after Serge’s father, a victim of murder at Auschwitz, now helps them prosecute some of the Nazis they track down.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s deck guns are getting a hypervelocity upgrade

The Navy is revamping its Mk 45 deck-mounted 5-inch guns to enhance near-term combat performance while also exploring long-range, hypervelocity projectiles for the guns in the future.


The Office of Naval Research is currently conducting a Future Naval Capabilities program to mature hypervelocity projectile technologies that support range extension of 5-inch gun capabilities, Colleen O’Rourke, Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

“This effort could potentially transition to a development program; initial studies are being assessed,” she added.

Upgraded Mk 45 guns can, when fired from Navy cruisers and destroyers, not only attack surface and land targets but also, as technology evolves, increasingly attack enemy drones, helicopters, or even incoming enemy missiles.

The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

In existence since the 70s, Navy 5-inch gun weapons can be used to attack enemy targets or lay down suppressive fire so that maritime forces can better maneuver or reposition while in battle.

More reading: Navy looking for more lethal deck-mounted guns

However, current 5-inch guns, called Mk 45, have a maximum effective range of up to 13 or 15 miles, and the current rounds are unguided and lack precision, so many rounds need to be fired in order to ensure that targets are destroyed.

Updates to the Mk 45 Mod 4 configuration, awarded to BAE Systems by the Navy, include a structurally strengthened gun mount and more advanced electronics.

“With its stronger mount, the gun can achieve 50 percent higher firing energy, allowing munitions or projectiles to travel faster and farther. Its new fully digitized control system also provides significantly greater computing power and features a touch-screen user interface,” a BAE Systems statement said.

Meanwhile, Navy officials say the future-oriented program is leveraging commercial electronics miniaturization and computational performance increases to develop a common guided projectile for use in current 5-inch guns and future high-velocity gun systems. The HVP effort will seek to increase range and accuracy of the 5-Inch Gun Weapon System in support of multiple mission areas, service developers told Warrior.

Particle debris ignites as a test slug exits the Office of Naval Research 32 MJ Electromagnetic Railgun laboratory launcher located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (US Navy)

Developed initially for an Electromagnetic Rail Gun next-generation weapon, a Hyper Velocity Projectile, or HVP, is now being examined for a range of additional applications. The HVP can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second when fired from a Rail Gun, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons.

The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute. Also, due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary.

Development of the HVP projectile can take place apart from its use in an actual Rail Gun, as is the case with efforts to adapt it to Navy 5-inch guns.

While the precise speed, range and rate of fire for a HVP fired from Navy 5-inch guns may still be a work in progress, the use of the projectile brings the possibility of a number of unprecedented combat advantages.

Related: The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are getting hellfire missiles

Using a HVP for 5-inch guns such as an increased ability to quickly attack long range targets. The speed of the HVP could naturally give Commanders a better opportunity to make real-time, combat-relevant decisions by virtue of being able to hit targets farther away at faster speeds. The projectile could be fired for both offensive and defensive missions, attacking enemy anti-ship missiles, land targets or ships.

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, Navy developers explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round, officials said.

Also read: China just mounted a futuristic railgun onto one of its ships

The HVP effort is in keeping with existing Pentagon strategy which aims to harness promising emerging technologies and integrate them with existing weapons systems; the concept is designed to take advantage of next-generation weapons technology on a faster timeframe by connecting them with existing systems, instead of waiting years for a developmental program to mature. This concept informed former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s creation of the Strategic Capabilities Office.

In fact, the SCO has also test firing the HVP from an Army Howitzer to leverage the technical and combat advantage of the projectile in near term operational scenarios.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Hospitals desperate: If you can sew, we need you!

With the influx of COVID-19 patients, hospitals across the country are critically short of personal protective equipment. Doctors have equated the dire situation to being at war with no ammo; walking into rooms knowing their skillsets are necessary and yet completely vulnerable.

A nurse who asked not to be named shared the horror story of wearing the same disposable mask all day, soaked with condensation from her own breath, knowing that it very well was likely rendered useless after only a short time on her overnight shift. “It’s borderline criminal,” she said. “We are being asked to walk into the fire without basic PPE. You see full hazmat suits on the news overseas, and we can’t even get the basics. This is the United States of America and our supply rooms look like that of a third world country.”

Now, they’re begging for your help.



In World War II, citizens were asked to pitch in for the war effort. Women became Rosies, children collected scrap metal and held tin drives, families grew Victory Gardens.

Our current war on COVID-19 is certainly different. The enemy wears no uniform, takes no sides and is invisible to the eye. But the collective efforts needed from our country to step up remains the same. First, stay home. We’ve heard it over and over again but the importance of physical and social distancing in order to flatten the curve will protect these medical workers and facilities from being overwhelmed with patients at the same time.

Second, hospitals are asking that if you can sew, to make masks. While homemade masks are nowhere near the standards and protections offered by medical grade masks, something is certainly better than nothing. This document put together by UC Berkeley School of Public Health lists hospitals that are currently accepting masks, standards that they’re using and how to drop off. This list is ever-growing, but not exhaustive. If you don’t see your local hospital on the list, reach out to them via social media or call them to see if they’re accepting masks.

How to Sew a Surgical Face Mask for Hospitals

www.youtube.com

Don’t have fabric? JOANN fabrics launched a program last week that provides free fabric, elastic and other essential materials so that customers can make masks at home to donate.

This is our time to come together as a nation, pitch in where we can and help our soldiers on the front lines: our medical community.



MIGHTY CULTURE

‘From Cradle to Career’: Special Operations Warrior Foundation Leaves No Child of America’s Fallen Special Operators Behind

Alicia Sims was at her neighbor’s house to get some Tylenol when she heard a knock at the front door. At first she thought it was one of her five children.

“Come in,” she hollered.

There was no reply.

“It’s unlocked, come in,” she yelled.

Again, no answer.

She went to the door and there stood a chaplain and another man. Immediately, Alicia’s thoughts turned to her husband, Jacob, a 36-year-old MH-47G Chinook pilot in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time, in October 2017.

“Is he okay?” Alicia asked.

The two did not immediately reply.

“Is he okay?” she asked again, clinging to the hope that her husband was only wounded. “Just tell me where I have to go.”

“If he was okay, I wouldn’t be here right now,” the chaplain replied.

Then, he delivered the news: Jacob’s Chinook had crashed during a nighttime raid in Afghanistan’s Logar Province. Six crew members were injured. Jacob was dead.

Alicia and Jacob Sims. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

High school sweethearts, the couple began dating when Alicia was a sophomore. She married Jacob the day after she graduated. As a married couple, they’d been through thick and thin. Five children, countless deployments, moving across the country. Not an unusual story for military families in the post-9/11 era.

A chief warrant officer in the Army’s elite aviation outfit the “Night Stalkers,” based at Fort Lewis in Washington, Jacob had steadily advanced in his career over the years. Having dedicated her life to her family, Alicia, for her part, had never gone to university or had a career of her own. Instead, she’d held down the home front while her husband deployed over and over again — more times than she can now remember — to the war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places such as Kosovo. And now the nightmare had come true. Her husband, the father of their five children, wouldn’t be coming home this time.

Alicia was devastated, and she would grieve. Yes, that would come. But not yet. In the immediate roil and tumble of the single worst instant of her life, the first thing that went through Alicia Sims’ mind was how she was going to give her children the news that their father had died.

“My first thought was, Now I’ve got to tell my five kids this,” Alicia says in a telephone interview with Coffee or Die Magazine from her home in Clarksville, Tennessee.

“I’d been with Jacob half my life, and I was a stay-at-home mom,” she continues. “All I could think was: What am I going to do? How am I going to support these kids? I don’t even have an education. How am I going to pay bills? There were a lot of things running through my mind.”

In the first days following Jacob’s death, Alicia’s needs revolved around simple things like food, laundry, and getting the children to school. She also had to go to Dover, Delaware, to receive her husband’s body.

“I had to come back and plan his funeral and do all of that. And when you’re being pulled in all those different directions, you don’t think about grocery shopping or food or anything else,” she says.

Jacob Sims with two of his five children. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

As time went on, however, the immediacy of the tragedy faded and the long-term reality of being a single mother set in. Consequently, Alicia’s worries evolved to encompass larger issues — more complicated problems than a simple check or a home-cooked meal by a neighbor could fix. Above all, she needed a college degree to land a job that could support her and her five children. But how would she ever find the time to go to school? Their youngest child, a daughter named Harper, was just shy of 2 years old when Jacob died, and Alicia couldn’t afford day care or preschool. Plus, in a few years the two oldest daughters would be thinking about going to college — how was she ever going to pay for all that?

The walls seemed to be closing in until something incredible happened — an unexpected encounter that forever changed the course of Alicia’s life. At an event for families of the fallen, a Special Operations Warrior Foundation representative approached Alicia, informing her that the organization had begun funding preschool programs. And then the magic words: “Are you interested?”

“And so the youngest of my five was one of their first kids that they put through preschool, which is very fortunate for me,” Alicia later explains. “None of my kids have ever been in preschool or anything like that, so Harper is the only one. Last year she was in preschool and this year she’s in pre-K, fully funded by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.”

Today, Alicia Sims is a single mother, raising three daughters, aged 15, 14, and 4; and two boys, aged 11 and 10. The youngest daughter, Harper, will have her education paid for by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation from preschool to university. Her two older daughters are enrolled in a college preparation academy, and her son has been receiving math tutoring — all paid for by the foundation.

With her children’s educational needs provided for, Alicia has been able to pursue a college degree in social work.

“Knowing the [Special Operations Warrior Foundation] is just an email away if we were to need anything education-wise, it puts my mind at ease. Because I don’t have to worry about what to cut this month to pay for tutoring or anything like that,” Alicia says.

She adds: “Because my youngest gets to go to preschool, and I don’t have to worry about day care, it’s allowed me to better myself to further my own career so I can take care of myself and my kids and not have to rely on other people.”

The Sims family’s five children, now aged 15, 14, 11, 10, and 4. Photo courtesy Alicia Sims.

Typically after a tragedy, the immediate outpourings of grief and sympathy taper off as time goes on. And it is the family, the survivors, who are left to live with the enduring consequences of their loss, while others — no matter how well intentioned their initial expressions of sympathy may have been — are able to move on.

“Everybody else goes on with their lives, while our lives are still kind of at a standstill,” Alicia says. “But one thing I can say about the [Special Operations Warrior Foundation] is that they have never lost contact. Every few weeks, you know, they’re reaching out to make sure I don’t need anything. That the kids don’t need anything. ‘Is anybody struggling? Do they need a tutor?’ There’s a constant outreach just to make sure we’re okay.”

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is an organization that provides college scholarships, as well as educational assistance as early as preschool, for the children of special operations soldiers killed in combat or training. The 40-year-old 501(c)(3) charitable organization distinguishes itself from other nonprofits by committing its resources to the children of the fallen for the long haul — from “cradle to career,” as the organization’s CEO and president, Clay Hutmacher, tells Coffee or Die Magazine.

“Our kids, I think, need this holistic approach because they’ve been through a traumatic event,” Hutmacher says. “They’ve lost a parent and most of them are in a single-parent home. Our strategy is to invest in these kids up front. And, you know, preschool statistically significantly enhances your kid’s chances of going on to higher education.”

That “holistic” approach is yielding results. Some 90% of the children sponsored by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation go on to pursue a college education immediately after high school — 20% above the national average. Moreover, between 92% and 93% of the foundation’s sponsored children graduate a four-year institution in five years or less — about 30% above the national average.

Currently, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation counts 882 children in its programs — the average age is 7. With up to $8,000 available per year for a child to go to preschool, the foundation also pays for tutoring and for specialized high school programs such as the college preparation courses in which Alicia Sims has enrolled her two oldest daughters. The organization also provides benefits to about a dozen children in need of special education.

“We pay for college visits, and we pay for study abroad,” Hutmacher says. “We help with internships just to defray some of the costs of relocating and all of that. And then we run [the students] through a program to prep them for college study skills, financial management, writing their essays, all that kind of stuff. And then, of course, we fully fund their [college degrees], and we don’t care where they go. We don’t care if they go to Harvard or to community college to be an auto mechanic.”

A 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) MH-47 in flight. Photo by Staff Sgt. Reed Knutson, courtesy of DVIDS.

Our nation will always need special operators. And those elite warriors will likely remain perpetually engaged in combat, whether covertly or overtly, to hold the world’s dark forces at bay beyond the edges of America’s borders, guaranteeing the peaceful life we enjoy and so often take for granted.

Each day when Hutmacher arrives at work, he takes a minute to pause in the main hallway of the foundation’s Tampa, Florida, offices. The walls are covered with photos of the college graduates the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has sponsored over the years — a stark testament to the toll of our nation’s wars, no doubt. But also a measure of all the good the foundation has done for the families left behind in the wake of those tragedies.

“You walk in this building every day and we’ve got pictures on the wall of kids that we’ve helped. The job satisfaction is off the chart,” Hutmacher tells Coffee or Die Magazine.

After a military career that spanned some 41 years — from his days as an enlisted Marine to retiring as an Army major general at the upper echelons of the special operations community — Hutmacher understands the reality of the threats facing our nation, as well as the constant expenditure of courage and sacrifice needed to keep those threats at bay.

“Behind every name, there’s a whole family whose lives are changed forever. Their struggle is just beginning. You know, their lives were changed in the blink of an eye and not for the better. And there’s many, many challenges ahead,” Hutmacher says.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Clay Hutmacher, president and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Photo courtesy of Clay Hutmacher.

Thus, each morning, as Hutmacher stands in that hallowed hallway and takes stock of the good work his organization has done, he also understands there’s a lot of work left to do. In this endless endeavor, Hutmacher says he is continually inspired by the exceptionalism of the men and women who’ve stood up to fight for our country.

“You have unique men and women that have chosen a life of service, and they are generally very, very talented and they could have done many other things,” Hutmacher explains. “But they chose a life of service. So I feel like it’s the least we can do to take care of their children.”

For her part, Alicia Sims says that thanks to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, her children are not simply surviving the trauma they’ve experienced. Rather, they’ve been galvanized to lead uniquely successful lives in honor of the legacy of their father’s heroic service and sacrifice.

“There’s a whole group of people standing in their corner, cheering them on, wanting them to succeed in life,” she says. “It is definitely putting more of an importance on furthering their education because, like I explained to them, you know, if your father hadn’t have died, we wouldn’t have been able to ever pay for all five of our kids to go to college. So this is an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They see the importance of that. And they want to make sure he didn’t die in vain, and they’re making him proud, and they use the benefits they have to their fullest potential.”

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation was founded in the wake of Operation Eagle Claw — an April 1980 operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter to attempt to rescue the 52 hostages held at the US Embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Five Air Force personnel and three Marines were killed in the ill-fated mission, leaving 17 children without a father.

At first, the charitable organization was focused on providing college scholarships to the children of special operators killed in combat or training. Yet, as its financial resources have improved over the years, its mission has expanded. Apart from the “cradle to career” philosophy espoused by Hutmacher, the foundation now also supports the children of living Medal of Honor recipients (if they’re associated with special operations forces), as well as the families of special operators who have been gravely wounded in training or combat.

“It’s a very amazing foundation. There’s no questions asked. You simply fill out a form just so they kind of know what’s needed, where the money needs to go. And it’s taken care of,” Alicia Sims says. “If the foundation wasn’t a part of our lives, I don’t know what we’d do.”

A helicopter in ashes during Operation Eagle Claw. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A triathlete and an outwardly laid-back guy (despite his six and a half years as a Marine and rising to the rank of major general in the Army), Hutmacher has a passion for his work that radiates through the telephone connection. In short, the man embodies the spirit of service, displaying a boundless drive to better others’ lives and to draw his own quiet happiness from that selfless endeavor. One small example: Hutmacher writes — by hand — a congratulatory note to every college student sponsored by the foundation who earns a 3.5 GPA or higher.

“I want to encourage the students to continue and to succeed. That’s my passion,” Hutmacher says. “I’m not a professional fundraiser, I’m a stick wiggler. But I get fired up about this job. Especially when I see the impact on these kids. It’s awesome.”

Hutmacher’s anecdotes exemplify his personal commitment to the foundation’s mission. He recounts the story of Josh Wheeler, a 39-year-old Army master sergeant who served with Delta Force and was killed during a hostage rescue mission in Iraq in 2015.

Throughout the course of his storied military career, Wheeler earned 11 Bronze Star Medals including four with Valor Devices. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Medal of Patriotism.

When Wheeler left behind a wife and four sons, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation stepped in to help. And when one of Wheeler’s sons started having trouble in school, Hutmacher organized a cruise for the two of them around Tampa Bay as a “team-building” opportunity. Later, Hutmacher visited Wheeler’s family at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He brought them takeout Chinese food like their father used to do. Seemingly small gestures, perhaps, but in the end they made all the difference.

The son who had once been struggling in school went on to study at North Carolina’s Sandhills Community College. He earned a 3.5 GPA in his first quarter. Last quarter, he earned a 4.0 GPA, Hutmacher proudly says.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he explains. “You see, these are kids that have been through some tough times. So, to me, that’s why we’re here. We invest in each and every child to make sure they succeed.”

Army Sgt. Cameron Meddock, a Ranger, died in combat in Afghanistan in January 2019. After his daughter, Brinley, was born the following April, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation immediately reached out and enrolled her in their program. Next year, Brinley is set to attend preschool under the foundation’s sponsorship.

“I was six months pregnant when my husband was killed in Afghanistan,” said Meddock’s widow, Stevie, in a statement. “Looking or planning for the future seemed impossible. Special Operations Warrior Foundation reached out to me to help ease some of that stress for me. Knowing that my daughter will have the opportunity to have an education without the associated financial burden has taken a huge weight off my shoulders and given me something positive to look forward to.”

Starting in eighth grade, years from now, Brinley is slated to attend a college success academy. If she chooses to go to college, she’ll graduate in 2040.

“It’s a lifetime commitment,” Hutmacher says. “We pour our hearts and souls into these families.”

Army Sgt. Cameron Meddock, a Ranger, seen here with his wife, Stevie, died in combat in Afghanistan in January 2019. Photo courtesy of The Darby Project/Facebook.

A native of Wenatchee, Washington, Hutmacher commanded at every level during his three tours with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He rounded out his illustrious career serving as commanding general of Army Special Operations Aviation Command, deputy commanding general of Army Special Operations Command, and director of operations at US Special Operations Command in Tampa.

When he retired in 2018 — just one month shy of 41 years of active-duty service — Hutmacher briefly considered working for a military contractor. However, an unexpected opportunity arose to take the reins of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation as president and CEO. It was a fork in the road, but after some careful consideration, he knew where his heart lay.

“It’s the dream job,” Hutmacher says. He admits, however, that fundraising is a “constant struggle.” For one, the foundation doesn’t pay for TV advertisements — its only paid advertising commitment is a $5,000 spread in the Air Commando Journal.

“The worst part of this job, to be honest with you, is asking for money. I’m not shy, but I hate to ask,” Hutmacher says. And this year, COVID-19 hasn’t helped matters. Many of the foundation’s annual fundraising events were canceled due to the pandemic.

“It’s not only us, everybody’s in the same boat,” Hutmacher says. “This is going to be a struggle for us to maintain our revenue, but it is what it is.”

To recoup a portion of its lost fundraising, the foundation has added some virtual events this year — including a virtual bourbon tasting hosted by Bardstown Bourbon Co. Additionally, Hutmacher lauds the efforts of veterans and active-duty personnel who occasionally embark on audacious fundraising endeavors on the foundation’s behalf. After all, service to one’s nation doesn’t necessarily end when the uniform starts collecting dust in the closet.

“We get a lot of current and retired special operators who feel driven to support us,” Hutmacher says.

One notable example is David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL who has run numerous ultramarathons and performed other mind-boggling athletic feats — such as multiple world-record attempts to complete the most pullups in 24 hours — to raise money and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

In some ways, Alicia Sims and her children were prepared for loss in ways that civilian families aren’t. The children, in particular, had gotten used to dad not being around due to the nonstop pace of deployments and training, which became part and parcel of life in the special operations community in the post-9/11 years. The couple’s youngest child, Harper, who was almost 2 when Jacob died, spent precious little time with her father.

“I mean, he maybe saw her four months out of those two years. Between training and deployment,” Alicia says. “Everybody asked me shortly after why the kids were adapting so easily. And the reality of it is, they were used to him being gone. You know, it wasn’t abnormal. He was gone more than he was there.”

Special operations forces bore a heavy burden in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And despite all the talk these days about so-called great power competition, America’s special operations units remain embroiled in counterterrorism combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as various other sites in Africa and Asia.

Irregular warfare may not be the topic du jour in the Pentagon’s polished hallways, but America’s special operations forces remain engaged in nearly endless combat in some rough corners of the world. Consequently, the need for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation’s mission isn’t going away. Last year, the foundation added 79 children to its programs — roughly an even split between commissioned and enlisted families — representing 39 fatalities. And this year, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has added 40 new children to its programs, with some 12 to 16 more pending.

Alicia Sims, bottom left, at a memorial ceremony for her husband, Jacob. Photo courtesy of Alicia Sims.

Clearly, the toll of counterinsurgency warfare has not abated — even if the lion’s share of that war effort occurs in the shadows. Overall, nearly 400 children supported by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation have graduated from college. And the foundation currently has 190 students enrolled in college programs. Overall, since its inception in 1980, the organization has provided benefits to more than 1,400 children, representing more than 1,130 fatalities.

Hutmacher explains that he had been a “benefactor” and a “big fan” of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for years. While he was on active duty he saw firsthand the value of the foundation’s work to the families of the fallen, as well as the peace of mind it gave special operators as they went into the breach, again and again, on their country’s behalf.

“We had a lot of missions where we lost a lot of people,” Hutmacher says, going on to highlight how the foundation’s work reaches beyond the families it directly benefits.

“I’ve had dozens and dozens of active special operators from all the services share with me that it gives them peace of mind to know that if something happens to them the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will be there for their kids,” Hutmacher says. “You’d be hard pressed to find anybody in the special ops community who doesn’t get some peace of mind knowing that we’re out there.”

Similarly, Alicia Sims is confident that her personal experience with the foundation has sent a positive message to those men and women in the special operations community who are still fighting our country’s wars.

“I’m actually still in contact with everyone who survived that night,” Alicia says of the helicopter crash that killed her husband. “Knowing that there will be people there to take care of their families, God forbid something happens, helps them to not dwell on the ‘what-ifs’ when they’re going into combat. They know that their families will be taken care of. And that’s a huge relief.”

“When I flew AH-6 attack helicopters, there were a couple of times when I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be on some of those missions,” Hutmacher says. “And, you know, my first concern was always about my kids … if I had one wish, it would be that my kids were taken care of.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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91-year-old twins finally getting medals earned during World War II

The Barrett brothers before Richard’s medal ceremony. (Screen grab of Fox 4 News broadcast.)


Twin brothers who went to war together are receiving medals 70 years after they took off their combat boots.

Richard and Robert Barrett, 91-year-old veterans of World War II, never knew they supposed to be getting medals nor were they looking for these accolades. A family member happened to discover the oversight after requesting replacement copies of their Army records – the originals had been destroyed.

The crowd gave a standing ovation after Richard received the Silver Star and Bronze Star with additional military honors from Congressman Sam Graves, who had expedited the process for them.

The brothers, who were 18 when they shipped off to war, recalled their time in combat:

“We were just kids when we heard our first machine gun fire and [we said] ‘Oh that’s great, that’s fun, machine gun fire,'” said Richard, “But a little later the Germans started shooting those 88 artillery shells, and things changed after that.”

He was also quick to point out that he is 5 minutes older than his brother Robert, and joked, “Of course, I had to take care of him in combat; he was kind of a puny kid.”

The Barretts showed humility as they talked with Fox 4 News about being honored for their service:  “It’s nice, but we’re both kind of humble about it,” Richard said. “We don’t let it get to be a prestigious deal for us. Awards or no awards, I’d do it again.”

“We saw some rough times,” Robert added. “We slept on some cold ground, but there are other men that did so much more than we did too.”

Robert will receive his medals in a separate ceremony.

Articles

The Navy will soon order a new submarine that’s deadly AF

The Pentagon is trying to finalize an order for 12 new ballistic missile submarines, the lead ship of which will be named USS Columbia (SSBN 826).


The Navy hopes to place the order before the Trump administration takes office.

Concept art of USS Columbia (SSBN 826). Image by Naval Sea Systems Command

According to reports by the Daily Caller and USNI News, the order will permit the Navy to start the process of designing and building the submarines. The Congressional Research Service reports that the sub will carry 16 Trident ballistic missiles, a decrease from the 24 missiles carried by the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines presently in service.

Four other Ohio-class submarines were converted to fire BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and to support SEALs with covert commando raids.

According to the CRS report, the Columbia-class submarines are expected to be 560 feet long and 43 feet in diameter, roughly the size of the Ohio-class submarine. The vessels will have technological improvements, notably a reactor that will not require refueling as well as taking advantage of techniques used to build the Virginia-class submarines, including modular construction and the use of open architecture to make upgrades easier.

Earlier this year, BreakingDefense.com reported that the vessels will be built by Electric Boat.

Concept art of the Columbia-class submarine. (US Navy graphic)

This would be the ninth ship to carry the name USS Columbia in U.S. Navy service. The eighth, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, is still in service and has the hull number SSN 771.

A 2013 Navy release states that the first Columbia-class boomer is expected to begin construction in 2021, enter service in 2027, and undertake its first deterrence patrol in 2031. According to a report by USNI News, each sub is expected to cost about $8 billion.