Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.


Don’t forget the gifts

If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.

Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

Packing

Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.

Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.

Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.

Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.

Driving

No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.

Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

(live.staticflickr.com)

Other Helpful Apps:

Waze is a navigation app that alerts you to upcoming traffic and offers alternate route suggestions.

Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas nearby.

iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.

Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.

And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.

The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.

ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.

Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.

And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.

Flying

It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.

Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.

Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.

But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.

Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.

You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Paratroopers conduct simulated combat test of new tech

Fort Bragg-based paratroopers recently concluded an intensive training exercise requiring them to test what may be the U.S. Army’s next step in Mission-Command technology.

Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in cooperation with the Joint Modernization Command, recently executed Network Integration Exercise 18.2 from late October to early November 2018.


“The best way to test a paratrooper and his or her equipment is to replicate the demanding crucible of ground combat,” said Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “NIE provided the brigade an excellent environment to evaluate the Army’s future Mission Command Systems and associated technologies, with the purpose of creating shared understanding and enabling the BCT to be more lethal”.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

A paratrooper assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division launches a PUMA Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Vehicle during the recently concluded Network Integration Exercise at El Paso, Texas.

(Photo by Sgt. Cody Parsons)


Network Integration Exercise, spearheaded by JMC, examines concepts and capabilities addressing three of the six Army modernization priorities — soldier lethality, long-range precision fires, and the future network.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

Paratroopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a tethered drone during the Network Integration Exercise 18.2 in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 30, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Andrew Garcia)

“Our main objectives are to facilitate the execution of operationally realistic warfighting assessments for over two weeks and assess multi-domain operations while obtaining feedback from paratroopers on the ground,” said Rodger Lemons, Chief of Strategic Plans at the JMC.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

Paratroopers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a security check, Nov. 2, 2018, during Network Integration Exercise 18.2 at El Paso, Texas.

(Photo by Cpl. Deven Waller)

The exercise’s keystone concept focused on equipping 3rd Brigade paratroopers and units with emerging technology and equipment while setting them through a series of combat scenarios. Those using the equipment were then encouraged to provide candid criticism of the shortfalls and benefits of the technology.

“Paratroopers on the ground are able to give developers immediate feedback,” said Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford, the Army’s chief information officer. “This allows the Army to move away from the monolithic programs of record and move into a more iterative approach that allows us to keep up with technological advancements.”

We are pushing towards a culture of innovation and the role these Paratroopers are playing is a game changer, continued Crawford.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers test out new ghillie suits for future warfare

The camouflaged ghillie suits worn by US snipers are vital tools that enhance concealment, offering greater survivability and lethality, but these suits are in desperate need of an upgrade.

The US Army is currently testing new camouflaged ghillie suits to better protect soldiers and make them deadlier to enemies.

Trained snipers from across the service recently gathered at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to conduct visual testing for several prototypes, an important preliminary evaluation, the Army revealed in December 2018.


Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

The current ghillie suit, known as the Flame Resistant Ghillie System, is shown here. A new suit, called the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, is under development.

(US Army photo)

What are ghillie suits?

A ghillie suit is a type of camouflaged clothing designed to help snipers disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow.

“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard explainedrecently. “Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position, which is partial to our trade.”

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the fire-resistant ghillie suit during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.

(US Army photo)

What are Army snipers wearing now?

The Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) suits currently worn by US snipers were first fielded in 2012, appearing at the Army Sniper School, the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School and the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course.

The Army has decided that these suits need a few critical improvements.

The FRGS suits are heavy, uncomfortable, and hot, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Program Executive Office Soldier, said in a statement in October 2018.

“The current [accessory] kit is thick and heavy and comes with a lot of pieces that aren’t used,” Maj. WaiWah Ellison, an assistant product manager with PEO Soldier explained, adding that “soldiers are creating ghillie suits with their own materials to match their personal preference.”

But, most importantly, existing US military camouflage is increasingly vulnerable to the improved capabilities of America’s adversaries.

“The battlefield has changed, and our enemies possess the capabilities that allow them to better spot our snipers. It’s time for an update to the current system,” Sgt. Bryce Fox, a sniper team leader with 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, said in a recent statement.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

A southern black racer snake slithers across the rifle barrel held by junior Army National Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit at Eglin Air Force Base, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

What is the Army developing to replace the existing suits?

The Army plans to eventually replace the FRGS suits with Improved Ghillie System (IGS) suits.

The new IGS suits, part of the Army’s increased focus on military modernization, are expected to be made of a lighter, more breathable material that can also offer the stiffness required to effectively camouflage the wearer.

The ghillie suits will still be flame resistant, a necessity after two soldiers from the Army’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment burned to death after their camouflaged sniper gear caught fire in Iraq; however, that protection will primarily be provided by the combat uniform worn underneath.

The new suits will also be modular, which means that snipers will be able to take them apart in the field, adding or subtracting pieces, such as sleeves, leggings, veils, capes, and so on, as needed.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

An Army sniper scans the terrain in front of him as part of the Improved Ghillie System visual testing at Eglin Air Force Base in November 2018.

(US Army photo)

How are the new suits being tested?

Snipers from special forces and Ranger regiments, as well as conventional forces, came together at Eglin Air Force base for a few days in early November 2018 for daytime visual testing of IGS prototypes, the Army said in a statement in December 2018.

The testing involved an activity akin to a game of hide-and-seek. Snipers in IGS suits concealed themselves in woodland and desert environments while other snipers attempted to spot them at distances ranging from 10 to 200 meters.

In addition to daytime visual testing, the IGS suits will be put through full-spectrum testing carried out by the Army Night-Vision Laboratory and acoustic testing by the Army Research Laboratory.

The Army Research Laboratory will also test tear resistance and fire retardant capabilities.

Once the initial testing is completed, a limited user evaluation ought to be conducted next spring at the sniper school at Fort Benning in Georgia. The Army is expected to order 3,500 IGS suits for approximately 3,300 snipers with the Army and Special Operations Command.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.

During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.


Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.

“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.

“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”

Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.

“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.

Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.

Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.

Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.

Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.

“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”

Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”

At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.

Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.

He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.

“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Several soldiers and a Navy SEAL testified Oct. 25 about the risky, all-out efforts to find Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier’s 2009 disappearance in Afghanistan. Troops and commanders went without sleep. Shirts and socks disintegrated on soldiers during weeks-long patrols. And several service members were seriously wounded — including the Navy commando whose career was ended by AK-47 fire.


The testimony came at a sentencing hearing for Bergdahl, who walked away from a remote post in Afghanistan and was held by Taliban allies for five years. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy last week and faces a maximum of life in prison.

Related: This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

The wounded SEAL, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, said his team’s helicopters came under fire as they landed in an area near the Pakistan border where they had information on Bergdahl’s possible whereabouts. He said the mission in the days after Bergdahl disappeared was hastily planned, and their only objective was the Bergdahl search.

A military dog leading them through a field located two enemy fighters that the team had seen at a distance. Hatch said the fighters sprayed AK-47 bullets at them, killing the dog. He was hit in the leg.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
Former Navy SEAL James Hatch. Photo from Facebook.

“I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad … I thought I was dead,” said Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a limp and a service dog.

Hatch said he believes he would have died if a comrade hadn’t quickly applied a tourniquet. Hatch has subsequently had 18 surgeries.

Also Read: Why alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl doesn’t want a jury trial

He was largely stoic and spoke in measured tones except for several times when he talked about the slain military dog, Remco. Hatch said the dog helped protect his team by locating enemy fighters after the SEALs lost sight of them.

As the hearing got underway, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance, said he was still considering a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense has argued that President Donald Trump’s comments about Bergdahl prevent him from having a fair sentencing hearing.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
President Donald Trump speaks to US service members and their families. Prior to his election victory, Trump made several harsh statements about Bergdahl. USMC photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra.

Other soldiers who testified described an exhausting and dangerous around-the-clock effort to find the soldier in the weeks after his disappearance.

Army Col. Clinton Baker, who commanded Bergdahl’s battalion at the time, said one unit on patrol for nearly 40 days straight had their clothing start to disintegrate on their bodies.

“We had to fly socks and T-shirts to them because they had literally just rotted off them,” he said. “We were all doing the best we could.”

Evan Buetow, who served as a sergeant in Bergdahl’s platoon, said he was among three soldiers who were left behind for 10 days to guard the outpost that Bergdahl walked away from near the Afghan town of Mest. The rest of the platoon embarked on a frantic search in the nearby areas.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.

Sitting in a fortified bunker, Buetow and another soldier suffered stomach flu-like symptoms while trying to stay awake and be vigilant.

“Every single day I think about it,” he said of the heat and ever-present dung beetles. “It was miserable.”

Buetow, who rejoined his platoon on subsequent search missions, broke down in tears when a prosecutor asked him why the guard duty and searches were important.

“I mean, my guy was gone,” he said before reaching for a tissue.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
Bowe Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag in this still from a Taliban-released video.

Several more days of testimony are expected.

Prosecutors made no deal to cap Bergdahl’s punishment, so the judge has wide leeway to consider their words in deciding Bergdahl’s sentence.

Related: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, has said he was caged by his captors, kept in darkness, and beaten, and tried to escape more than a dozen times before President Barack Obama brought Bergdahl home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Nance said Oct. 23 that he would be fair and hasn’t been influenced by Trump, but that he does have concerns that the president’s comments are affecting public perceptions.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
USAF Photo by Donna L. Burnett

While campaigning for president, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he be shot or thrown from a plane without a parachute. Nance ruled in February that those comments didn’t constitute unlawful command influence, noting that Trump was a civilian candidate for president at the time. The defense argued that Trump revived his campaign comments the day of Bergdahl’s plea hearing, by saying at a news conference that he thinks people are aware of what he said before.

Also Oct. 25, the defense said they plan to present evidence that Bergdahl’s mental health should be a mitigating factor in his sentence. He washed out of the Coast Guard after panic attack-like symptoms before enlisting in 2008 in the Army. In July 2015, after his return from captivity, Army evaluators concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these vets give advice on dating in the military


In this episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of former service members about how to manage relationships in the military.

Be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.

Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.

Articles

Watch the US Navy test its new ship against 10,000 pound bombs

When the US Navy fields a new ship, they don’t just take the engineer’s word for it that it can withstand nearby bombs — they test it out.


The USS Jackson, an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) meant for patrols in shallow water, just passed the first of three scheduled “shock trials.” The shock trials are composed of the ship sailing along as the Navy carefully detonates 10,000 pound bombs on either side of it. The results are then measured.

“The shock trials are designed to demonstrate the ship’s ability to withstand the effects of nearby underwater explosion and retain required capability,” according to a Navy statement.

“This is no kidding, things moving, stuff falling off of bulkheads … Some things are going to break. We have models that predict how electronics are going to move and cabinets are going to move, but some things are going to happen, and we’re going to learn a lot from this test,” US Navy Rear Adm. Brian Antonio told USNI News.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
USS Jackson (LCS 6) successfully completed the first of three scheduled full ship shock trials June 10. | US Navy photo

So far, the Jackson has passed the trials handsomely.

The Independence class, along with the Freedom class LCSs, represent the Navy’s vision of the future of surface warfare. Though both classes have suffered significant engineering difficulties, their modular design promises to revolutionize the way US Navy ships equip, train for, and deploy capabilities.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways to choose your next duty station as a family

Moving to a new base is a family decision as much as it is a career move. When considering where to go, there is so much to think about beyond career path; for instance, health and well-being, proximity to family, available health services and more.

Besides, sometimes it’s just fun to live somewhere new! As a military family, you’re likely used to frequent moves. But you can also find the right move that suits your interests, career changes, and more. Moving is a given, but when you get a say in where to go, it can make all the difference in mindset and family unity.


Consider finding a duty base that best suits your family needs for your next stop by:

Fulfilling family needs

First things first, what does your family need? Do you have a family member with certain medical needs? What type of amenities need to be nearby? Look at the proximity and quality of services close to each possible duty station. This information should be available online, with reviews so you can consider a move from afar. Military bases themselves might also offer this information, letting you know in advance what types of treatments are approved at each base. Or, find those who live there already and ask around.

Other things to consider include unique aspects to an area, preferences for climate, distance to important landmarks in your life (family, facilities, etc.).

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Considering adventure

Of course, moving somewhere new can be a great deal of fun! If you’re ready to try out a new location, think about what can be done and how it’s different from your current duty station. What activities are available that you can’t do now? (Snow skiing, hockey, sailing, rock climbing, and more.) Can you easily travel to landmarks that interest your family? Will you be able to adapt to weather changes easily?

Look at the option for adventure when considering your next base and what type of activities each family member can take on. Keep fun and adventure in mind so you can experience new cultures as well as all there is to be seen.

Looking at career moves

It’s also important to keep career changes in mind with a potential PCS. How will the move affect your military member’s career path? Is there a compromise for their best move that will also help the family? Look toward a solution that helps — or at least doesn’t hurt — a career projection in years to come.

This, of course, is based on you or your spouse’s job in the service. Some jobs will have more location choices than others, while others might head to various bases, depending on the point they are at in their career.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

Taking a vote!

If your kids are old enough, consider a family vote to decide where you might PCS. After all, they’re being affected by this move, too, so it’s only fair to consider their wants! It may or may not make a difference in the long run, but it’s worth having a discussion.

Besides, a good old fashioned family vote just seems fun! While parents have final say (and ultimately the military has final final say), it can help kids to feel included and welcomed as part of the family when voting on upcoming PCS locations.

All in all, there is much to consider when looking at military moves. Look at responsible aspects, such as infrastructure and promotion path, but also consider just how much fun is to be had at potential addresses.

How does your family decide where to move next? Tell us below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.


U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.

Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed
The Taliban Flag. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.

Related: American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.

According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.

The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America accelerates research in space race against China

The United States isn’t out of the game yet when it comes to space, but if it wants to remain on top, it will need to do more and do it faster, a senior Defense Department official said Jan. 8, 2019.

“China is integrating certain new technologies and fielding those capabilities faster than the U.S.,” said Chris Shank, director of DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “That means we have to be more responsive.”


Shank spoke during a presentation in San Diego hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where he pointed out some statistics regarding space launches in 2018.

“China had 39 launches, the U.S. had 31, Russia had 20, [and] Europe had eight,” Shank said. “And [China] landed a robotic mission on the dark side of the moon — a first.”

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A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., April 14, 2018. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiments system was onboard and is one of the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron’s primary missions.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

Shank said that while he doesn’t think the U.S. has lost leadership in space, it is losing ground. After all, he noted, the United States isn’t without its own recent achievements in space.

Space Development Agency

“In the same week that they land on the moon, we are at the furthest reaches of the solar system at Ultima Thule,” he said. NASA’s New Horizons probe flew by and observed the trans-Neptunian object about 4 billion miles from the sun in January 2019. It’s the farthest object ever explored in space.

Shank said to stay relevant in space, the United States will need to speed up its development cycle for space-based technologies significantly.

“The DOD is committed to creating a Space Development Agency,” Shank said. “That would be a joint organization… to rapidly develop and field the next generation of space capabilities. I think that a Space Development Agency will represent a real investment in experimenting and prototyping of the rapid field of capabilities. … So buckle up — 2019 is going to be busy.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The Army is close to fielding a weapon sight straight out of science fiction

In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.


First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.

The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.

Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.

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Photo from US Army

Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.

Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.

Rapid Target Acquisition

“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”

Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.

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Photo Credit: PEO Soldier

“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”

Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.

A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.

In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.

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Army photo by Jalen Brown

“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.

Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.

Steep Learning Curve

At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.

Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.

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Army photo by Jalen Brown

Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.

“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.

Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.

“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”

Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

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USMC photo by Cpl. AaronJames B. Vinculado

“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”

A Family of Sights

The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.

The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.

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Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.

Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.

For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.

“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s ‘best tank’ is stuck on mothballs

The Armata family of vehicles, with the flagship T-14 main battle tank, were supposed to be the future of armored warfare, tipping the balance of conventional forces in Europe back towards Russia and ensuring the country’s security and foreign might. But now, Russia has announced that it will be buying only 100 of them, far from the 2,300 once threatened and a sure sign that crippling economic problems are continuing to strangle Putin’s military.


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Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank was supposed to put Russian armor back on top, but the design and tech are still questionable and Russia is only buying 100 of them, meaning very few of them will be available for operations at any one time.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

All of this will likely be welcome news for U.S. armored forces who would have faced the T-14s in combat if Russia used them against American allies and NATO forces.

The signs of trouble for the Armata tank were hidden in the project’s debut. It’s always suspicious when a tank or other weapon project seems too good to be true. Snake oil salesmen can profit in the defense industry, too. And there were few projects promising more revolutionary breakthroughs for less money than the T-14.

It is supposed to weigh just 70 percent of the Abrams (48 tons compared to the Abrams’ 68) but still be able to shake off rounds from enemy tanks thanks to advanced armor designs. Its developers bragged of an extremely capable autoloader, a remote turret, and an active protection system that could defeat any incoming missile.

When something sounds too good to be true, maybe check the fine print.

Still, it wouldn’t have been impossible to come up with a breakthrough design to shake up the armored world. After all, while the Abrams was expensive to develop, it featured some revolutionary technology. Its armor was lighter and more capable thanks to ceramic technology developed in Britain, and its engines, while fuel-hungry, delivered massive amounts of power. These factors combined to create a fast, agile beast capable of surviving nearly any round that enemy tanks could shoot at it.

But the T-14 doubters gained fuel when one of the tanks broke down during preparations for a Victory Day parade.

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The Russian T-90 tank is good, but few people believe that Russia went through all the trouble of developing a new tank but doesn’t want to buy it.

(Photo by Hargi23)

Still, the advanced systems on the T-14 might work. Drive trouble in a single prototype doesn’t mean the entire program is a failure.

Whether the tank works or not, Russia has discovered that it overreached. Officially, Russia is buying only 100 of the new tank because the T-90 it has is already so capable, but experts doubt it. Russia gave a similar rationale for severely scaling back orders of the Su-57 fifth-generation aircraft. It has ordered only 12.

That project, like the T-14, had been plagued by doubts and setbacks. India was originally a co-developer of the jet but backed out of the project after 11 years of sunk costs over concerns about the plane’s stealth characteristics and engine performance as well as economic concerns about how large a role Indian manufacturers would have in production. India is still vetting bids for its next jet purchase.

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Russia’s Su-57 has design flaws and under-strength engines, causing many to wonder if it would really rival American fifth-generation fighters if it even went into serial production.

(Photo by Anna Zvereva)

None of this money problem is a surprise. Russia is subject to a slew of international sanctions resulting from actions like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and meddling in European and U.S. elections. While sanctions generally act as a minor drag on healthy economies, they have a compounding effect on weak economies.

And make no mistake: Russia’s economy is weak. It is heavily tied to oil prices which, just a few years ago, would’ve been great news. From 2010 to 2014, oil often peaked above 0 per barrel for days or weeks at a time and was usually safely above a barrel. Now, it typically trades between and a barrel and has slumped as low as .

Russia has attempted to maintain military spending through the tough times but, in 2017, something finally gave and spending dropped 17 percent.

Keep in mind that, typically, military strength trends with economic strength; more money, more might. But Russia has struggled to maintain its world-power status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its annual GDP is actually smaller than that of Texas, California, or New York. That’s right. If Russia was a state, it would have the fourth largest economy in the country.

Still, Russia can’t be written off. It’s either the second or third most powerful military in the world, depending on who you ask. And the other slot is held by China, another rival of American power. With thousands of tanks and fighters in each country’s arsenal, as well as millions of service members, both countries will remain major threats for decades or longer.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Oscars forgot R. Lee Ermey in this years Memoriam

Marine Corps veteran and beloved character actor R. Lee Ermey was missing from the “In Memoriam” segment of the 2019 Academy Awards telecast.

Ermey, who passed away in April 2018, is best remembered for his role as Gunny Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie “Full Metal Jacket,” a legendary performance that should have made him a lock to be included in the video segment.

Ermey also played memorable roles in “Se7en,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The X-Files,” “Toy Story 2” and that 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He also hosted the TV shows “Mail Call” and “Lock ‘N Load With R. Lee Ermey.”


Other Hollywood legends left out of the tribute include Verne Troyer (Mini-me in the “Austin Powers” movies); the incredible Dick Miller (best known for playing a WWII vet in the “Gremlins” movies); Danny Leiner (director of the classics “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”); Carol Channing (Oscar-nominated for her role in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”); Sondra Locke (Oscar-nominated for her role in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”); and the director Stanley Donen (“Charade,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and the unfortunate 80s sex comedy “Blame It on Rio.”).

We can all take a moment to remember Ermey with the “Left from Right” clip from “Full Metal Jacket.” RIP, Gunny.

Left from Right | Full Metal Jacket

www.youtube.com

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