8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

To My Fellow Veterans (Open Letter #2),

I’ll never forget the conversation I had several years back with a retiring Marine Command Sergeant Major, who insisted that his nine-page resume (not a typo) was justified because of his long and amazing career. He was your prototypical superhero, channeling his inner “Mad Dog;” chest full of medals, a Marine’s Marine. As you might imagine, he didn’t take too kindly to someone like me telling him his baby was ugly. In hindsight and for my own personal safety, I was glad this was over the phone and not in person…I never heard from him again.


Fast forward to today: As I said in my first open letter to veterans, the hardest thing you’ll ever do in Corporate America is tell the truth. As I’ve watched, listened, and learned in the trenches…in hand-to-hand, corporate combat, with veterans, recruiters and hiring managers, I noticed small, repeatable patterns of success emerge – THE SECRET SAUCE! I’ve accumulated and battle tested many of these key insights over the years, transforming them into actionable intelligence to help accelerate your transition.

One such battle-tested insight is the 8-digit grid coordinate outlined below that will help frame your thinking and influence your decision making. If you can resist the temptation to skip to it and read the insights that come next, I promise you, it will illuminate your thinking that much more, so read on!

Insight #1: Understand that profits will trump patriotism almost every time.

Ouch! Did I just say that? When it comes to hiring veterans, many of us have been duped into thinking that waving the flag in front of employers gets us special treatment. We’ve been wonderfully naïve, or dare I say “entitled,” far too long in our thinking and need to adjust fire. Notice, I said, ‘almost’ as there are always exceptions with several great companies getting it right, but they are still the exception, not the rule. I’m not here to debate the merits of this being good or bad…it just “is.”

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Again, this is NOT a license to bash Corporate America, so all of you card carrying members of the Piss Moan Club, please exercise your first amendment rights respectfully in the comments below. What I’m offering is a hard truth not easily understood, but IS a harsh reality in the corporate combat you’re experiencing. I’ve seen it show up countless times when frustrated transitioning military and veterans complain about what is affectionately known as the “Black Hole” in hundreds of applications made with an occasional rejection email several months later. Sound familiar? More on this in another open letter…

Insight #2: There is a disturbance in the Force.

As any good subject matter expert is prone to do, connecting the dots and recognizing patterns helps create the right insights at the right time. Recently, the University of Cincinnati published a sobering article that puts the elephant in the room, in a head-on collision course with Corporate America.

If you take a minute to study this infographic and read other data points, then triangulate your own experience, a collective conscious begins to emerge that there is a “disturbance in the force.” Tough question to ask is are you “Civilian ReadyTM On Day One”? Tougher yet is the question of what employers might do once they figure out the higher cost of veteran turnover, but more on this elephant in another open letter…

Insight #3: Become the civilian superhero you were meant to be.

About six months ago, a truly impressive special forces soldier pinged me on LinkedIn seeking my advice on his transition. He was a high speed, low drag operator with a brilliant career that was winding down. After swapping war stories, we began talking about what it takes to become a civilian again and in a moment of clarity, it began to dawn on him the enormity of the mission ahead.

I know what you’re thinking, “Thank you Captain Obvious for enlightening us with your wisdom…” but stick with me on this and learn to read between the lines: Many of you want your “civilianhood” served up on a military platter, just the way you like it, but it just doesn’t work that way. This is a subtle, imperceptible truth that most of us don’t recognize and very few understand.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Like CSM ‘Mad Dog’ above, your ego is directly proportional to the quality and length of your transition. Did you catch that? In other words, sometimes the bigger the ego, the longer the transition AND the longer it takes to get locked into the right career pathway. Rebuilding your muscle memory is key, but more on that in another open letter…

As you enter your corporate combat phase of transition, let this 8-digit grid coordinate be the strategy and framework to accelerate your employment success:

1. Start your transition earlier than the norm – Like the SF soldier, the smart ones know this intuitively and seek me out time and time again. The earlier you start is directly proportional to the success you achieve. This alone is worth the price of admission. I realize many of you may be out already out, but it still applies, so read on!


2. Rebuild your muscle memory – With #1 in mind, you must begin to win the inner battle of “self,” by understanding the psychology of “re-entry” in the areas of cultural assimilation, emotional intelligence and vocational alignment. Transforming into the civilian superhero you were meant to be is critical to your success and should not be underestimated. The ability to accelerate your transformation in the workplace will be centered on your new civilian identity and new civilian destiny.

3. Target by vocation – With #1 – 2 in mind, discover and assess your purpose and passion and align it to a civilian career pathway that will put food on the table. There are many assessments, tools, skill labs, mentors, and programs to give you great insight on what truly excites you. Investing heavily in rediscovering “self” will enable better decision-making with less pressure.

4. Target by industry – With #1 – 3 in mind, what are the best industries that align to this vocation? Are there specific growth industries that make the job hunt more target rich? All industries go through cycles. Find the ones that are trending up.

5. Target by geography – With #1 – 4 in mind, many of us go back to our home of record because it is familiar to us, but is that the best decision you can make? Be open to other locations. It’s critical to manage your own expectations, so don’t make this decision lightly. Having more than one geographic location increases your chances of meaningful employment.

6. Target by company – With #1 – 5 in mind, select those companies that align well and that attract you the most. Leverage “Military Friendly” and “Best for Vets” employer lists as well. Do your homework on what attracts you to them – do they align to your values? If so, why? The temptation here is target by company first and forget the rest because it is shiny and new. Do the hard stuff first and the rest will follow.

7. Target fellow veterans – With #1 – 6 in mind, connect with veterans in those vocations, industries, locations and companies so your shot group is extra tight and target rich. This now becomes your new network and I encourage you to build these relationships accordingly. LinkedIn and RallyPoint are great tools here.

8. Target VSO’s and/or civilian organizations – With #1 – 7 in mind, join one or two that you’re passionate about so your relationships and contributions are authentic. You would be amazed how leads are developed and opportunities present themselves over time. The new currency of trust in a global marketplace is “authentic relationship.”

Taking each of these actions separately will certainly yield some success but taken in this progressive order will accelerate your transformation in the workplace like no other!

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘1917’ dethrones ‘Rise of Skywalker’ at the box office

We like to make fun of the Golden Globes. With awards given out by a voting body of around 90 people, it’s easy to take shots when it comes to its relevancy during award season. But one thing we can’t dispute is the award show can be a huge marketing tool, and that was evident this weekend with “1917.”

Universal’s World War I drama from director Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”), that is told in stle that resembles the look of having continuous shot (in reality there were multiple shots), won the Globes’ top prize, best motion picture — drama, and that catapulted it to must-see-status this weekend.


The result: “1917” dethroned “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” from the number one spot at the domestic box office with its estimated .5 million take.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

(Lucasfilm)

Mendes’ movie had been in limited release since Christmas (to date, “1917” has brought in .39 million, worldwide), building awareness as well as award season buzz, but this weekend was its coming out party. Clearly moviegoers wanted to catch a glimpse of the movie that beat out the likes of “The Irishman” and “Joker” at the Golden Globes (Mendes also won the best director Globe). They also wanted to see for themselves how in the world Mendes and the movie’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, pulled off the one-shot look of the movie.

We’ll find out Monday morning how “1917” will be received by Academy voters, as Oscar nominations are announced then. But for now, you have to tip your hat to Universal for how it has released its latest original title.

That’s the other element of this box office win. Universal has cracked the code when it comes to getting top dollar out of its non IP/sequel titles. In 2019 it did better than any other studio by having three original titles top the box office their opening weekends (“Us,” “Good Boys,” and “Abominable”), and it’s continuing that in the new year.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

(Universal)

There are only so many weekend slots on the calendar that are not gobbled up by big tentpole titles, but recently Universal has been the king of finding those spots where its original titles can shine. And in the case of “1917,” with its big Golden Globes night, that just amplified things. Its .5 million take tops its early projections of million to million, and updated projection of million.

Disney’s “Rise of Skywalker” came in second place with .1 million. The movie’s global cume to date is just under id=”listicle-2644736909″ billion, 9.6 million. But Disney also had to deal with a dud this weekend, too, with its release of Fox’s “Underwater.” The thriller starring Kristen Stewart only took in million on over 2,700 screens.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has selected bases for its future stealth bomber

On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.

The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.


Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.

The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.

“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.

“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.

The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.

The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.

Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

There was another suicide bomber attack that wounded 2 US troops in Afghanistan

Officials say a suicide bomber in an explosives-packed vehicle has attacked a NATO convoy north of Kabul, wounding two U.S. soldiers and at least three civilians.


“We had two U.S. soldiers wounded and their injuries are not life-threatening,” Navy Captain William Salvin, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on September 11.

Local Afghan officials said at least three civilians were also wounded in the attack, which took place near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which comes on the 16th anniversary of the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks in the United States. The attacks triggered the U.S.-led military operation that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

On September 6, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Bagram Airfield, wounding several people. The Taliban claimed the attack was in revenge for a U.S. leaflet deemed highly offensive to Muslims.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

As U.S. moves to exit Afghanistan, rivals prepare to swoop in

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.


Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.

Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.

Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.

But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.

Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.

Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.

With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.

Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.

Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.

Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.

“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”

Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.

Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.

‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.

Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.

Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”

‘Buffer Zone’

Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.

Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.

Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.

“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

‘A Great Power’

For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”

But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.

In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.

Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Humor

6 differences between machine gunners and riflemen

Contrary to what your higher-ups probably wanted you to believe, not every Marine is a rifleman. That’s just a bedtime story they tell POGs so they stop crying about the mean grunts on the other side of sh*t creek.


But, when it comes to rivalries, there’s none greater than the one between the different infantry jobs — namely between machine gunners and riflemen. Their jobs may seem similar to civilian or POG eyes but, realistically, they’re very different.

The Marine Corps infantry rifleman is the centerpiece for combat operations, and machine gunners, essentially, exist to directly support riflemen so they can move around the battlefield without being overwhelmed by enemies.

Here are just a few of the major differences that riflemen and machine gunners fight each other over.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

6. Machine gunners have to carry the heavy stuff

While riflemen just have to carry their puny rifles and tiny bullets, machine gunners have to lug around a 24-pound (when unloaded) machine gun on top of their big bullets.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty
This one does NOT look happy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

5. Machine gunners have bigger muscles

Riflemen are generally skinny guys because, as you probably guessed, they don’t have to carry such large weaponry most of the time. Machine gunners, on the other hand, carry the big guns, and they have the big guns from lugging them around.

Make no mistake, there are some skinny machine gunners out there who do the job just as well as their bodybuilding brothers, but they usually end up becoming just as bulky over time.

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The brain of a machine gunner can be found in their arms.

4. Riflemen have bigger brains

A rifleman’s job may not be extremely physically demanding all the time but it can certainly be mentally demanding, so they can’t eat their brains for protein like some machine gunners might.

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They need those brains to read those maps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

3. Machine gunners get to sit on a hill somewhere

Since the job of a machine gunner is to directly support the rifleman, they don’t always have to be embedded within a rifle squad. They can just sit on a hill with a vantage point and shoot from afar while the rifleman runs around and clears trenches.

This gives a machine gunner the opportunity to catch their breath momentarily, whereas riflemen get to catch theirs as they wait to move from one objective to the next.

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Meanwhile, the tiny riflemen are running around. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)

2. Machine gunners have the most pride in their job

Most riflemen only choose to be such because, when the time came, they decided they wanted the easiest possible life in the infantry. The job isn’t as physically demanding and you don’t have to memorize all the separate parts of the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun in order to graduate from the School of Infantry.

But, on the other hand, within the standard infantry, machine gunners take the most pride in their jobs. You gotta love what you do.

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Why wouldn’t they? They have a tough job. (image via Armchair General)

Also read: 5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

1. Machine gunners make better riflemen

Because handling a fully automatic machine gun takes a lot of marksmanship and the job requires extensive physical and mental conditioning, machine gunners can make great riflemen. They’re used to taking a much harsher physical beating, so the job of the puny riflemen is not challenging to them in the least. In fact — they find it extremely fun.

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They don’t care about diving into the mud. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Apache will fly for 30 more years, says major general

The U.S. Army has no current plans to replace its Cold-War era AH-64 Apache, a still-lethal attack helicopter that the service plans to fly into combat for at least another three decades, according to the head of Army aviation.

“Right now, it’s an incredibly capable aircraft that we know we are going to be flying well into the 40s,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, who commands the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience Sept. 5, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Aviation Hot Topic event.


Gayler’s comments on the future of the AH-64 offer a new perspective on the Army’s evolving Future Vertical Lift program. FVL is the third priority under the Army’s bold new modernization plan, and until now Army leaders have focused on talking about the program’s goals of building a new long-range assault aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and an armed reconnaissance aircraft — leaving the future of the AH-64 an open question.

Senior Army leaders continually hammer away that the service’s modernization vision is to begin fielding a new fleet of combat platforms and aircraft by 2028 that will replace the Cold War “Big Five:” the M1 tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk, Apache, and Patriot air defense system.

“Does it mean you now have to have a replacement for the AH-64? I would say somewhere in the future, absolutely, 64s will no longer be in the inventory, just like [UH-1] Hueys are no longer in the inventory … they have a lifespan,” Gayler said. “But the timing of what replaces it and the affordability what replaces it has yet to be seen.”

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty

An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

The new armed reconnaissance aircraft, or ARA, is designed to take on a burden that AH-64 has long shouldered, Gayler said.

“What that armed reconnaissance aircraft is designed to do is replace an AH-64 used as a reconnaissance and security platform in an armed reconnaissance squadron,” Gayler said. “That aircraft was not designed to do that, therefore that’s why we are pursuing something does it optimized for that mission.”

For the long range assault aircraft, the Army selected two firms to develop demonstrators in 2014. Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter created the V-280 Valor, which completed its first test flight in December 2017. Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, a medium-lift chopper based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The FVL family will also include an advanced unmanned aerial system to deliver targeting data to long range precision fires and launch electronic attacks on enemy radar systems.

Future Vertical Lift is competing with five other modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.

To be successful, Army aviation leaders have to focus on “what you can afford to do and prioritize where you have greatest need,” Gayler said, pointing to the ARA and “long range assault aircraft.”

“That Apache is still very, very capable … made more capable by the armed reconnaissance aircraft that complements it and the long range assault aircraft that further enables it to be successful,” Gayler said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Navy upgrades 8 valor awards for SEALs

On Jan. 13, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented eight Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars to active-duty and former members of East and West Coast Naval Special Warfare Commands at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.

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U.S. Navy file photo of Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The upgrade for Keating was first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”

These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.

The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.

According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.

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A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.

The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.

The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.

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A ‘Lone Sailor’ statue is now in place at Normandy

It’s a sight seen all over the United States; a bronze casting of a sailor waiting by the ocean, next to a single duffel bag. His hands are in his pockets, his eyes are out to sea. The statue is a replica of the original Lone Sailor created for the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. He stands watch over the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Calif. in the West, the USS Wisconsin in the North, Charleston in the southeast, and West Haven Connecticut in the northeastern United States, and many more.

Now, for the first time, he has the watch outside the U.S., looking out to the English Channel over what was once called Utah Beach.


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Long Beach, Calif. Lone Sailor memorial.

 

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, U.S. Navy Frogmen – combat demolition units, forerunners to the modern-day Navy SEALs – landed on the shores of Hitler’s vaunted Fortress Europe. It was the first mission of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious landing in history, and the most daring operation of World War II. Their mission was to destroy mines and clear obstacles and barriers, to clear the way for the D-Day landings.

They came ashore in the dark from the cold waters of the channel, outnumbered and outgunned to work through the night to give the U.S. 1st Army division the fighting chance they needed to capture those beaches. Their hard work and sacrifice is being honored with the first “Lone Sailor” outside the United States.

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The original Lone Sailor at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Memorial. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The Lone Sailor Memorial is a way to honor such deserving sacrifices. Since its 1987 debut at the Washington Navy Memorial, the statue has been replicated 15 times throughout various areas of significance in the U.S., including the Great Lakes Naval Training Center – where all Navy recruits pass to begin their career.

“This statue will serve as a reminder of the historic day the United States and Allies arrived from the sea to free the world from tyranny and repression, forging a lasting relationship with the people of Saint- Marie-Du-Mont, the first city to be liberated in France during WWII,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, at the statue’s dedication ceremony on June 6, 2019, 75 years after the landings took place.

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Retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV holds a miniature version of the “Lone Sailor” statue during a United States Navy Memorial and Frogmen Association of Utah Beach dedication ceremony in Normandy, France, June 6, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Jonathan Nelson)

 

This latest iteration of the statue will stand on the plaza at the Utah Beach Museum, where the United States’ invasion first appeared the morning of June 6, 1944, looking out to sea as a sign of respect to all the sea service personnel who passed through here on D-Day as well as those who served in the decades after through today.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

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Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.


Cash was born J.R. Cash and was raised in a hardscrabble family in Arkansas. He was forced to begin working at the age of 5 and he began playing and writing his own songs at the age of 12 after one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

At the age of 18 in 1950, J.R. Cash joined the Air Force and was forced to change his name to John. He rose through the ranks and served as a Morse code operator. He spent much of his time quickly decoding communications between Soviet officials.

On March 3, 1953, he was a staff sergeant manning his post in Landsberg, Germany, when a surprising message beeped into his ears. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, who had suffered from ill health for years, had died.

8 quick tips for success after you separate from active duty
(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

The leader of Russia had suffered a massive heart attack that day and died quickly.

The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.

The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.

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Johnny Cash as a newly signed musician at Sun Records in 1955. (Photo: Sun Records. Public Domain)

Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.

He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.

Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.

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US Official says alliance with Philippines solid despite leader’s ‘colorful’ anti-US statements

The top U.S. diplomat in the Pacific told reporters this month strong anti-American statements by the president of the Philippines are more rhetoric than reality, calling them “colorful” and arguing there has been no substantive change in the military relationship with the U.S. ally in the Pacific.


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Philippine Marine Pfc. Japeth Inocencio, from Jamindan, Philippines, shakes hands with U.S. Marine Cpl. Todd Jenkins, from Long Beach, Calif., at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, during Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX), Oct. 10, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nelson Duenas/Released)

In September, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte called for severing military ties with the U.S., saying he would end joint Philippine and U.S. counterterrorism missions in Mindanao and stop joint naval patrols in the South China Sea. More recently he has forged a closer relationship with China, saying his country was “separating from the United States” and would be dependent on China “for all time.”

But U.S. officials caution that Duterte has made no moves to sever its ties with the U.S. military and that what he’s saying in public doesn’t match his actions behind closed doors.

“I’m not aware of any material change in the security cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines,” said Assistant Sec. State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russell during an Oct. 12 interview with reporters in Washington.

“President Duterte has made a panoply of statements … the operative adjective is ‘colorful,’ ” he added. “But what that will ultimately translate to in terms of the ability of the Philippines to work with the United States on issues directly germane to its security and the regional and global challenges that it faces — from piracy to illegal fishing to disaster relief and counterterrorism — is a question that we don’t have an answer to just yet.”

No matter how strongly Duterte denounces the U.S. and its leaders in public, Russell added, the close historical bond between America and the Philippines is something that transcends the politics of the day.

“For our part, we love the Philippines. The relationship between Americans and Filipinos is as warm as you can get,” Russell said. “We’re very close with each other not only by these cultural and personal and historical ties but also by shared interests and by some common threats.”

Russell added that early conversations with the Philippine president, who assumed office in June, indicated he was committed to the U.S.-Philippine military and trade alliance.

But more recently, Duterte has begun to forge closer ties with China despite a decision in July by an international Law of the Sea tribunal that ruled in the Philippines’ favor against China’s control of certain sea lanes close to the island nation — a conflict Russell warned could have led to a war between Manilla and Beijing.

China has rejected the international court’s ruling.

On a recent trip to China, Duterte reportedly forged a $13 billion economic deal with Beijing, calling it the “springtime of our relationship” with China. The apparent shift away from the U.S. and toward the communist nation has caused alarm in some diplomatic circles in the U.S.

But Russell urged calm.

“There’s clearly increased dialogue” between China and the Philippines, Russell said. “In principle that’s a good thing. … As long as that dialogue is … consistent with international law.”

“There’s a lot of noise and stray voltage in the media,” he added. “But ultimately the decisions about the alliance operationally are going to be taken in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”

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